Acts15 and Amos 9

Acts 15:16‐Amos 9:11,12


The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 serves as a turning point in the book of Acts. It is here that
the realities of Jew/Gentile relations are established and declared and it is from here that
Paul springboards from Jewish/Gentile areas to areas of no Gentile influence. James’
masterful use of the Old Testament prophet Amos connects the prophecies of old with the
realities of the present and thus declares the implications they have for the early church
and for eternity.

Context of Amos passage

Failure of Israel as a nation of the covenant‐

Amos is written in covenant lawsuit form and he addresses the Israelites, bringing them to
court, in a sense, for their failure to uphold the covenant. Amos prophesies during the time
of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jereboam II of Israel. For the kindgdom of Israel there was
much prosperity and affluence during this time. They were not turning to the Lord because
they felt no sense of need.

Discussion of the Tent of David

The Lord often refers to the dynasty of David as the house of David (2 Sam. 7:11, 13, 16; 1
Kings 12:19, 20, 26). This does not refer to the temple but rather “booth” signifies the
weakness and temporariness until God sees fit to restore it. 33 The dynasty of David will
completely fall. The promise to David that his inheritance will forever sit on the throne (1
Kings 8) will have to be “repaired,” “rebuilt,” and raised up once again.

The Restoration of Israel

In 9:11 Amos begins the conclusion of his prophecy and it takes on the form of promise and
restoration. 34 In the midst of judgment, there is a promise: the captives will return to enjoy
a united and prosperous kingdom.35 This will happen when the eternal David is installed as
King according to Ezekiel 37:24 and Hosea 3:5.

The redemption of the World

In this passage as well, there are undertones of World redemption. The restoration of the
tent of David does not only restore the Jewish people but the nations. This restoration is
defined in the statement “over whom my name is pronounced.” The same phrase is used in
2 Samuel 12:28. More often however, it is used to “denote Yahweh’s ownership of his
covenant people (Deut. 28:10, Jer. 14:9) of Jerusalem (Jer.25:29) and of the temple (1Kings 8:43) .” 36 The implication in the prophecy is therefore, that the nations will not just come under Israel as they did before, but rather God’s name will be pronounced over them, they
will become one with God’s people.

Context of the Jerusalem council

The Problem of the Pharisees

Paul and Barnabas had already been confronted by the teaching that “unless you are
circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (15:1). The debate and
dissension that arose because of this caused them to travel into Jerusalem to discuss the
issue with the church apostles and elders. Paul and Barnabas backed their argument by
relaying their experiences among the Gentiles (15:3). However, there were still “some
believers” who wanted to cling to the ways of Moses (15:5).

Peter’s Argument

Peter first brings forth his argument that is grounded mainly in his encounter in Acts 10
with Cornelius in Caesarea. The thrust of his speech is found in the phrase, “why are you
putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our
fathers nor we have been able to bear?” The word yoke is used in Matthew 23:4 and
denotes a heavy and unnecessary burden, something that is galling or unbearable.
37(15:10). To follow through with what the believers in verse 5 desire is to “sit in judgment
on the Almighty. It would be to provoke His displeasure and even invite His chastisement
(Acts 5:9).”38 Peter then encapsulates the gospel with one phrase, “But we believe that we
will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (15:10). This reality is
declared throughout the epistles by Paul (Ephesians 2:13‐14, Galatians 3:28) and is
distinctly reminiscent of Galatians 2:16. Peter is also pointing out that even in the Old
Testament the saving means was the promise of the Messiah and not the Law. “Grace is the
favor of the Lord Jesus and the redemption in wrought for the sinner and now applies to
him...the aorist “to be saved” is effective, “actually and effectively to be saved” rescued
spiritually and placed in the condition of safety.”39 The grace of Jesus saves.

Paul and Barnabas’ Argument

Paul and Barnabas also argue from experience. They reiterated all that they had seen God
do (15:12). They are thus, building on Peter’s declaration. Beyond talking of their success
among the Gentiles (verse 4) they now focus on the “signs and wonders that God had done
among them” (15:12). The emphasis is not on the signs and wonders but rather on the fact
that what was happening was a work of God.

James’ Gentile argument and Amos in Acts

James now builds on what Peter, Paul and Barnabas have declared but changes the angle of
the argument. James looks back to scriptural fulfillment. Thus, what Peter, Paul and
Barnabas are experiencing is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It is happening now.

Agreement of the prophets with James’ argument‐Fulfillment of promise

Beyond the testimony of Paul and Barnabas, James takes the assembly back to the
prophets. The issue is no longer circumcision, for that is a physical reality. The bottom line
argument is that the Gentiles can indeed be known by the God of the Jews. James quotes
Amos 9:11, 12 with some distinct variations.

James recites the passage saying “after this” rather than “in that day.” Some believe “after
this” to refer to verse 14, “to take from them a people for his name.” However, the phrase is
reminiscent of Hosea 3:5 “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord
their God.” “After” refers to the turning away of God from judging Israel. After he has
punished and judged them as he declares in Hosea and in Amos 9:9‐10, he will return to the
Israelites and consequently, the Gentiles will turn to him (Acts. 15:19). 40
James also adds Jeremiah 12:15 into his prophecy quotation when he uses the word
“return” instead of “raise up.” This goes hand in hand with Yahweh’s return following his
judgment of them. This passage as well goes on to discuss the fact that the Gentiles will be
“built up in the midst of [God’s] people.”

The final passage James adds is an allusion to Isaiah 45:21 in the phrase “known from of
old.” This passage as well refers to the nations “assembling together” (45:20). James points
the listeners back to the prophets. This signifies that what God does in accordance with his
predetermined purpose. (cf. Isaiah 45:21). 41 The arguments the apostles are bringing to
the skeptical believers are not new ideas. Rather, they are the fulfillment of hundreds of
years of prophecy and promise. The Gentiles were a part of the plan from the very

The discussion above on the phrase “over whom my name is pronounced” now also comes
into play. God’s is expressing ownership of all peoples and this intersects the Gentiles at
this point in history. What Christ did claims them. It claims the Jews and the Gentiles as a
whole. They all belong to Yahweh.


James overcomes the problem on the table in the Jerusalem Council by declaring a greater
reality. In light of what he communicates, the circumcision of the Gentiles becomes a minor
matter. James is saying “We cannot be in opposition to the express will of God, as evidenced
by Peter’s testimony and the prophets’ words.” 42 The Gentiles are a part of God’s plan and
he possesses them. Paul now goes into the Gentile world with the backing of the church.

33 Beale, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament.
34 The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich:
Baker Book House, 1992).
35 The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich:
Baker Book House, 1992).
36 Ibid.
37 Harrison, Acts.
38 Ibid.
39 Lenski, The interpretation of the Acts of the apostles.
40 Beale, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament.
41 Ibid.
42 The Expositor's Bible Commentary.
There are no longer proselytes to Judaism but rather “Christ is all and is in all” (Colossians


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