Why We Must Obey God's Silence: Acts 15

The Hermeneutics the Apostles used!
Click to ViewSee also: The Hermeneutics of the Bible and United States History!

God's Road map on how to determine doctrine from the Bible
Click to ViewThe doctrinal dispute in Acts 15
Click to ViewExamining the four argumentation methods
Click to ViewGeneric and specific authority

Click to View




A. Men are not divided over what the Bible says but what it doesn't say.

B. Alexander Hamilton, (1st Sec. of Treasurer) of USA proposed to establish a national bank in which the government was to be a major stockholder.

1. Thomas Jefferson objected and Hamilton asked why.

2. Jefferson said that the constitution is supreme law of the land and it contains no provision for a national bank.

3. Hamilton replied, here is nothing in the constitution prohibiting the establishing of a national banks. The constitution says not a single word about a national bank. There is not a line that in it that says: "Thou shalt not have the government engage in the banking business"

4. These two ideas laid the foundation for two political parties:

a. Republicans or Anti-federalists or "Strict constructionists") "Proposed being governed strictly by what was written, and declared there was danger in going beyond." This is the approach Christians use towards the Bible that leads to eternal life!

b. Democrats or Federalists or "Loose constructionists") "We are at liberty to do anything not specifically forbidden." This is the approach liberals and modernists use towards the Bible that leads to death.

Click to ViewClick for more detail: The Hermeneutics of the Bible and United States History!

C. The Bible is a precise and calculated revelation:

1. Chain of inspiration:

a. Jesus spoke ONLY what he heard: Jn 12:49-50

b. Holy Spirit speaks ONLY what He hears: Jn 16:12-13

c. If Jesus and HS had no choice but to be "Strict constructionists" how such less us: 1 Pe:4:11

2. All sufficiency of scripture: Jn 16:13; 2 Pe 1:3; Jude 3

3. Do not add: 2 Jn 9-11; Prov 30:5-6 do not add to words

4. Faith comes by hearing: Rom 10:17 (If you can't hear it from the Bible, then it is wrong! Rom 10:17 supports the "Strict constructionist" interpretation method of the Bible.)

a. Cain and Able: Only able offered by faith: Heb 11:4

b. If we can't "hear it in the Bible" it is not "Bible faith"!

D. Two powerful Bible examples to prove our point:

1. Nadab and Abihu: Lev 10:1,2: were told to get the fire from altar: Lev 16:12; 6:12,13; Num 16:46

2. Jesus could not be priest: Heb 7:13,14 + 8:4

a. Jeriboam ordained non-Levites priests: 1 Ki 12:31

b. God forbid non Levites: Num 18:22-23

c. The Hebrew writer doesn't say God forbid Judah (even though he had), but rather stated that God spoke nothing about Judah being priests. This proves that God expects men to respect His silence.

I. The Doctrinal Dispute In Acts 15: Circumcision = Saved?

A. Acts15 serves as a model or blueprint for determining the truth on doctrinal teachings.

1. The Apostles, elders & whole church (multitude) were involved: 15:6,12,22

2. Four different arguments were made to prove that circumcision was not necessary:

a) Peter used "necessary inference" argument method v7-11

b) Barnabas and Paul used "approved example" argument method v12

c) James used "direct Biblical statement" argument method v13-21

d) The letter used the "silence of Scripture" argument method v24

3. The apostles, elders and church "became one mind" on the issue. They came to unity!

C. Basic outline of Acts 15: "Silence broken, Silence restored!"

1. v1 circumcision essential for salvation: This broke the principle of silence of Scripture

2. v2 they all gathered for the purpose of dealing with this point

3. v7,12-13 Four men testify why circumcision is not essential

4. The sent a deciding letter (the first recorded inspired letter in NT)

a. v24 "we gave no such commandment'': The principle that had been violated was the silence of God. Remember that circumcision was commanded under OT!

b. Notice that Nowhere in the letter is circumcision even mentioned?

c. The letter again re-establishes the principle of silence: v28 "It seemed good to us & HS to lay no greater burden than these...''. Again the point is "respect the silence of God''. "We shouldn't have to forbid circumcision, we never authorized it!''

5. The NT is a distinct revelation, clean slate, separate law book from OT.

a. 40AD: Silence was not respected when circumcision made essential: Acts 15:1

b. 2000AD: Silence not respected: Instrumental music: Eph 5:19

6. v31 Gentiles rejoiced when they read the letter

7. Silence of scripture restored: Notice the letter to the Gentiles did not say, "You don't have to be circumcised!"

C. The dispute in Acts 15 seems silly and simple to resolve for Christians today: "Unless you are circumcised by the custom of Moses you cannot be saved." 15:1,5. For us today we can clearly see that this is false and an addition to God's word. But to the Jewish Christians who had practiced circumcision for 2000 years it wasn't clear! Yet today we have the same type of disputes over the exact same subject of "how to be saved":

What Must I do to Be saved?


Jewish Christians in 50 AD

Circumcised according to Moses: Acts15:2


Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican

Infant Baptism + Confirmation


United Pentecostal

Believe, baptized + speak in tongues


TV Evangelists

Place hand on TV set & give lots of $



Be a basically good moral person



Through faith & commitment of spouse



Priest absolves you of sin after death



Preached into heaven at funeral


Baptist, Pentecostal, Alliance

Pray sinners prayer & ask Jesus into heart


Presbyterian, Calvinist

Wait for direct action of the Holy Spirit


Methodist, Calvinist 1850AD

Mourners bench to "get religion"



Nothing: hell doesn't exist!


Baptist, Pentecostal, Alliance

"Faith only"


Some false teacher

Believe & wear red socks



Believe, repent, confess, baptized, faithful

II. Examining The Four Argumentation Methods of Acts 15 (Four different methods to determine Bible authority)

A. NECESSARY INFERENCE: 15:7-11 Peter converted Cornelius

1. Definition: drawing a sure conclusion from divinely orchestrated events

2. There are examples of unnecessary inferences in the Bible

Bible Text


Unnecessary Inference

Jn 21:21-33

"If I want him to live till My return"

Disciples: "Apostle John wouldn't die"


"he/she & entire household baptized"

Today: "must have baptized infants too"

Mt 17:1-8

"Moses, Elijah & Jesus transfigured"

Peter: "I will make 3 tabernacles"

3. Biblical examples of "necessary inference"

Bible Text


Necessary Inference


Communion on Sun. (only place time mentioned)

Communion every Sunday only

Mt 22:23-33

"I am the God of Abraham"

Abraham lives *there is a resurrection

Heb 7:1-10

Abraham paid Melchizedek tithes

Christ's priesthood greater than Levi

4. How Peter used necessary inference to prove circumcision was wrong for salvation


Necessary Inference

Vision of sheet: Peter told to eat unclean animals

10:28 "God has shown me

Spirit told Peter to go with gentiles without misgivings

that I should call no man

Peter told of angel's appearance to Cornelius

unholy or unclean"

God sent HS as Peter began to preach gospel

10:34 "I most certainly understand" gentiles OK

Peter retells story to Jewish Christians in Acts11

11:17-18 "stand in God's way?...life granted to Gentiles"

Peter retells story to Jerusalem brethren in Acts15

Proof: Circumcision is not necessary for salvation

God didn't tell Peter directly that Gentiles could be saved without circumcision, but such was inferred from events


B. APPROVED EXAMPLE: 15:12 Paul converted uncircumcised Gentiles on 1st miss. journey

1. The example of Paul's work:

a) Paul was sent out by Holy Spirit to convert uncircumcised Gentiles: Acts13:2

b) Paul preached to uncircumcised Gentiles: Acts13:44-49; 14:1-2

c) Paul reported to church how "God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles": Acts14:26-27

2. Paul converted Titus, an uncircumcised Greek, who later became evangelist: Gal 2:1-10

a) Paul took Titus to Jerusalem in Acts15 as proof that Gentiles don't need circumcism: Gal 2:1

b) Paul's knockout punch could have been asking Titus to stand up from within the audience as an example of a living uncircumcised Christian approved of God: Gal 2:3

C. DIRECT BIBLICAL STATEMENT: ACTS15:13-21 James quoted Bible verse to prove

1. This is the most common type of Biblical authority also called, "thus sayth the Lord authority"

2. James quoted the OT to prove that uncircumcised Gentiles would one day be acceptable

3. V16-18 was a quote of a prophecy in Amos 9:11-12

D. SILENCE OF SCRIPTURE: ACTS15:24 God never commanded Christians to be circumcised

1. V24 Sums the whole controversy up: "we gave no instruction" about circumcision

a) Important note: this false teaching crept in because men were speaking where God was silent

b) The principle that had been violated was disobeying God's silence regarding circumcision.

c) Peter, Paul & Barnabas & James give three arguments why God's silence must be obeyed

Circumcision Is Unnecessary Because...


"We must infer it from events"

God was silent with Peter

Paul & Barnabas

"Our example shows it"

God said nothing to Paul


"Bible passages teach it"

The Bible is silent in requiring it

2. The first recorded inspired letter (Acts15:23-29) re-establishes the principle of silence.

a) It is very unusual to note that the letter nowhere says "circumcision is not necessary"

b) Rather it gives "these 4 essentials" required of the Gentiles v29

c) Thus the principle of obeying God's silence is re-established. "obey what God says"

3. Religious leaders today make the same mistake by introducing false doctrines into the church

NT Doctrinal Practice

OT Verse?

NT Verse?

Human Reasoning

God's View

Circumcision practiced: Acts15:1

Gen 17:11




Instrumental music 1850A.D.

Ps 150




Tithing 10%

Lev 27:32




Church world headquarters

God Silent




Church bingos & bake sales

God Silent




4. A blueprint tells you where to draw, not where not to draw, likewise, we must speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.

5. Faith comes from hearing the Word: Rom 10:17 If we practice things we "can't hear from the Bible" then the practice is not of the Bible faith but the inventions of man!

Click to View

III. Generic And Specific Authority

Rules of using Specific and Generic Authority:

A. Every command and example is both specific and generic at the same time.

1. The specific part rules out all other specifics

2. The generic part includes all specifics in the general category

Examples From Old Testament

A. Identify what is specified, excluded and expedient:

1. Gen 6:14-16 ark of gopher wood

2. Ex 12:1-10 sacrifice

3. 2 Ki 5:10 dip seven times in Jordan

Applications Examples

1. Circle expedients

2. Cross out violations

3. Identify what cannot be determined by S & G authority)

Determine the doctrine of Freewill Giving every Sunday:


1 Cor 16:1,2

Sunday (authorized by specific authority: "every 1st day")
Monday (prohibited by specific authority: "1st day" Sunday)
7 AM (authorized by generic authority: anytime on 1st day)
Weekly (authorized by specific authority: "every 1st day")
Wed (prohibited by specific authority: "1st day" Sunday)
Fri (prohibited by specific authority: "1st day" Sunday)
Sat (prohibited by specific authority: "1st day" Sunday)
4PM (authorized by generic authority: anytime on 1st day)
First Sunday of month only (prohibited by specific authority: "every 1st day")


2 Cor 9:7

Freewill (authorized by specific authority: "as you determine in your own heart")
5% (authorized by generic authority: "you determine the percentage")
Tithing (prohibited by specific authority: "not under compulsion")
Church Business: (prohibited by specific authority: "freewill offerings of Christians")
10% (authorized by generic authority: "you determine the percentage")
Bake sales: (prohibited by specific authority: " freewill offerings of Christians")
Raffles: (prohibited by specific authority: " freewill offerings of Christians")
20% (authorized by generic authority: "you determine the percentage")

Determine the doctrine of Singing without instrumental music:


Eph 5:19-20

Sing (authorized by specific authority: "sing")
Play instruments: (prohibited by specific authority: "Sing" prohibits play)
echo style (authorized by generic authority: "sing")
4 part harmony (authorized by generic authority: "sing")
2/4 time (authorized by generic authority: "sing")
4/4 time (authorized by generic authority: "sing")


Eph 5:19-20

Heart (authorized by specific authority: "heart")
Harp (prohibited by specific authority: "heart" prohibits harp)
Guitar (prohibited by specific authority: "heart" prohibits harp)

Determine the doctrine on the Lord's Supper (Communion) with grape juice and unleavened bread every Sunday while gathered together:

TIME: Acts 20:7

Sunday (authorized by specific authority: "1st day")
Every week (authorized by specific authority: "came together on 1st day")
5 AM (authorized by generic authority: "any time on 1st day")
Monthly (prohibited by specific authority: every first day)
only yearly at Easter (prohibited by specific authority: every first day)
10 PM (authorized by generic authority: "any time on 1st day")

Body: Mt 26:26-29

2 Cor 5:7

Bread (authorized by specific authority: bread)
leavened (prohibited by specific authority: unleavened)
Cheese (prohibited by specific authority: bread only)
Rye flour (authorized by generic authority: any type of bread)
Meat (prohibited by specific authority: bread only)
unleavened (authorized by specific authority: "unleavened")
Carrots (prohibited by specific authority: bread only)
corn flour (authorized by generic authority: any type of bread)

Blood: Mt 26:26-29

Fruit of Vine (authorized by specific authority: "fruit of the vine")
Milk (prohibited by specific authority: "fruit of the vine")
White grape juice (authorized by generic authority: any kind of "fruit of the vine")
Wine (prohibited by specific authority: contains leaven "unleavened")
Cola (prohibited by specific authority: "fruit of the vine")
Water (prohibited by specific authority: "fruit of the vine")


All of you (authorized by specific authority: "every one of you")
Women (authorized by generic authority: "every one of you")
Catholic Priests only (prohibited by specific authority: "every one of you")
Men (authorized by generic authority: "every one of you")

ORDER: 1 Cor 11:33 (Ex 12:19; 34:25)

Individually at different times of day (prohibited by specific authority: "when you come together")
Together within assembly (authorized by specific authority: "when you come together")

 Steve Rudd


Click Your Choice