Metaphysical Bible Interpretation of Acts Chapter 15
Metaphysically Interpreting Acts 15:1-21
15:1And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 15:2And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them, the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 15:3They therefore, being brought on their way by the church, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 15:4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the elders, and they rehearsed all things that God had done with them. 15:5But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.
15:6And the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider of this matter.15:7And when there had been much questioning, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 15:8And God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; 15:9and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 15:10Now therefore why make ye trial of God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 15:11But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as they.
15:12And all the multitude kept silence; and they hearkened unto Barnabas and Paul rehearsing what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them. 15:13And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Brethren, hearken unto me: 15:14Symeon hath rehearsed how first God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15:15And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
15:16After these things I will return,
And I will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen;
And I will build again the ruins thereof,
And I will set it up:
15:17That the residue of men may seek after the Lord,
And all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called,
15:18Saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from of old.
15:19Wherefore my judgment is, that we trouble not them that from among the Gentiles turn to God; 15:20but that we write unto them, that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood. 15:21For Moses from generations of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath.
Sunday, July 26, 1925: Acts 15:1-11
What is the main idea in today’s lesson? The main idea in today’s lesson is that man is to be saved, not by his observance of outer religious rites, but by doing the will of God.
Moses taught circumcision as a commandment from Jehovah to be observed by every Jew. What does circumcision represent to one in spiritual understanding? Circumcision is a symbol of the elimination of sex lust from consciousness.
Does physical observance of the law of circumcision eliminate the sin of sex lust? No. All sins originate in the mentality. The desire for sensation crops out in physical lust and its cause is not removed by mere physical mutilation. “Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter.” Paul says that one may be circumcised in the flesh and still be unrighteous. The important thing is that one become a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Why was there contention among the early disciples of Jesus in regard to the relation which the observance of symbols bears to inner righteousness? Why does the same contention prevail to this day among the followers of Jesus? Lack of spiritual understanding is the cause of contention between those who hold for an outer symbol and those who see the fulfillment of the law in spiritual consciousness. When the followers of Jesus attain the real spiritual consciousness they will perform in Spirit the rites and ceremonies of the church.
What do we mean by performing rites and ceremonies in Spirit? Every outer thing represents some spiritual idea or principle. Through the development of his spiritual that lie back of material symbols. When these faculties are brought into action they fulfill the spiritual law, which is the law of God. When the spiritual law is fulfilled, the reform which the outer symbol represents is made complete, and the external ceremony becomes unnecessary.
Peter taught that Jews and Gentiles were equal under the divine law; that the Holy Spirit cleansed the hearts of the Gentiles exactly as it cleansed the hearts of the Jews. What great Truth is involved in this teaching? Peter's teaching revealed the universality with which the one Mind works, regardless of the religious status of the individual. God is no respecter of persons. “And he made no distinction between us, and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.”
June 22, 1941: Acts 15:6-21
What two aspects of the Christ life need to be considered by one who is undertaking to follow it? The individual and the social aspects should both be taken into consideration. He who tries to follow the Christ receives a rich reward of blessings. This individual inflowing of good fits him to bless others, to give as he has received.
Does faith play a part in settling the question whether principles or ceremonies are the more vital? Faith appeals to the conviction of man (the heart). In fact faith and conviction are one and the same thing. He whose faith is in principles holds to them and sees ceremonies as unimportant.
What determines whether one is to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? The measure of one's faith in the Christ.
Are any rites or ceremonies necessary in connection with this baptism? Baptism with water is a rite, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a flooding of the whole mind, heart and soul, with the presence and power of divine love, and with this, rites and ceremonies have nothing to do.
What effect have needless rites and ceremonies on man's observance of the divine law? They make the keeping of the law more difficult for man. Giving much thought to rites and ceremonies obscures the principles they are intended to symbolize. “Why make ye trial of God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
Why are the imagination and the will (Barnabas and Paul) not more generally recognized as having power to transform the worldly side of man's nature (represented by the Gentiles)? Because rites and ceremonies are often accepted as the receptacles of religious truth and because these have little connection with the practical side of life, men sometimes keep their religious life and their worldly life of every day in separate compartments. As they realize that the imagination and the will, when illumined by faith in Christ, have power to transform all life, they give these faculties broader scope with good results.
What metaphysical meaning have the words “grace of the Lord Jesus” (by which man is “saved”)? The grace of the Lord Jesus here means the good will or favor of the Christ. All who follow the Christ way of life come to know this good will or grace as an overflowing consciousness of good.
On what basis did the abstinences rest that were required of Gentile converts to Christianity? On the basis of the principle that to be a child of God man must serve Him with the whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, and be willing to give up whatever interferes with such whole-hearted service as an individual or as a member of society.
Was the keeping of the Mosaic law discouraged by the apostles and elders? No. On the contrary they called attention to the fact that the law of Moses was preached and read every Sabbath in the synagogues of every city. The Jewish Christians could still attend these services and keep the Mosaic law and thus preserve an untroubled conscience. Any Gentile who wished to embrace the Jewish faith likewise had an opportunity to attend.
February 19, 1950: Acts 15:1-6
Under the law of Jesus Christ what is circumcision? It is purification of a person from the law of sin and death, purification of the soul.
What is the effect of this purification? The purification of the soul is expressed outwardly in the body and affairs and sets a person free from all sensual, corrupting thoughts and activities. Man thus becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus, manifesting wholeness and perfection throughout his being.
What fundamental principle of Truth was acknowledged by implication at the council of Jerusalem? The right of the individual to follow the dictates of his conscience, instead of being forced to observe traditional religious rites.
Should the observance of traditional religious rites and customs be insisted upon in Truth? The observance of traditional religious rites and customs is of spiritual value to the person observing them, only to the extent that he perceives and is inspired by their inner spiritual meaning. Observing them merely from a sense of duty does not help the individual to grow spiritually.
September 17, 1950: Acts 15:13-20
What faculty do we find most prominent in this lesson? Order, which is represented by James, the brother of Jesus.
Why are law and order of such prominent importance? Both law and order are absolute necessities to a state of peace.
What was the purpose of the conference outlined in the lesson text? The insuring of freedom in Christ for the Gentiles and peace among all the brethren. When all the thoughts are gathered together in the abiding place of peace (Jerusalem) under the authority of the Christ, they are lifted up and set free from bondage to the limitations of the sense consciousness.
What do the Gentiles represent? They represent an unregenerate state of mind that is unaware of Truth (the Christ).
Is the state of mind subject to the influence of the Christ? Yes. It is to be lifted up and reclaimed by the Christ “Galilee of the Gentiles, The people that sat in darkness Saw a great light.”
Metaphysically speaking, what “people for his name" does "God take out of” the Gentiles? The whole of life outside of the domain of the religious thoughts, ideas, and aspirations (the Jews). If only the latter are developed and made a “chosen people” in consciousness, life lacks poise and balance, but, when the intellect, the emotions, the will, and the other faculties ordinarily expressed in everyday living are called into full expression through the mind and heart of the Christ, our world becomes irradiated with the light of the Holy Spirit.
What freedom in Christ is accorded the so-called secular side of our life that is not accorded to the religious instinct? We are not required to surrender the secular altogether, but all that we do is to be permeated by the mind and Spirit of the Christ. Our religious instinct is to be dedicated wholly to God.
September 16, 1951: Acts 15:1-2
Are the bonds of custom and tradition easily broken? They are often very difficult to break, for inbred religious convictions take deeper root in the soul than almost anything else.
What is our best defense against fear? The stabilizing of our faith in God, which will lead us to rest in the assurance of divine love and power. We need a change of consciousness and of thought away from the fearful attitude that brings dread and insecurity.
Metaphysically Interpreting Acts 15:22-35
15:22Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 15:23and they wrote thus by them, The apostles and the elders, brethren, unto the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting: 15:24Forasmuch as we have heard that certain who went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment; 15:25it seemed good unto us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 15:26men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15:27We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves also shall tell you the same things by word of mouth. 15:28For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 15:29that ye abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which if ye keep yourselves, it shall be well with you. Fare ye well.
15:30So they, when they were dismissed, came down to Antioch; and having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle. 15:31And when they had read it, they rejoiced for the consolation. 15:32And Judas and Silas, being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 15:33And after they had spent some time there, they were dismissed in peace from the brethren unto those that had sent them forth. 15:34But it seemed good unto Silas to abide there.15:35But Paul and Barnabas tarried in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
May 23, 1909: Acts 15:1-35
The early Christians were divided into two classes: First, the Christian Jews of all kinds, and the Gentile Proselytes who had become Jews, accepting their laws, ritual and hopes. Second, the Gentile Christians, who accepted Jesus as their saviour, but refused to submit to the peculiar rites of Jewish life. It will be seen at a glance that this difference has its foundation in forms of worship, and not in essential principles.
In the individual consciousness a similar division is at first set up. The form of words in which a truth is stated seems of great importance to the new disciple, and he cannot understand how there can be so many statements in apparently diverse words, of exact principles. The Jewish thought is the intellectual perception, which is usually wedded to certain set ways of expressing Truth, and gives careful attention that the same idea be stated in exactly the same way every time. If allowed to dominate, this Jew forms a religious caste, which separates itself from its fellows in factions and sects, based upon the form of Truth, instead of its essence.
- UNITY magazine.
May 23, 1909: Acts: 15:22-29
The real Christian spirit is opposed to this caste system. It Is broad and free in that higher spiritual understanding, which recognizes Truth in principles rather than words.
“Forasmuch as we have heard that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls.”
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;”
“That ye abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled and from fornication.”
This means: Withdraw your thought from the idea that religious forms and ceremonies have any essential effect upon your relation to God. Deny that these forms have any life in them. Withdraw your thought from all lifeless things; do not unite yourself to any illusion of sense.
– UNITY magazine.
Sunday, September 20, 1931: Acts 15:22-29
What is the central idea in today's lesson? The establishing of the Spirit of peace in the individual and also in the church forms the central idea in today's lesson. Outwardly, peace is a state of quiet or calm existing in nature or among the members of society. Spiritual peace is a condition of mind, or a consciousness of harmony between the soul and its Source. In this lesson peace is symbolized by Jerusalem, where the council of the disciples was held.
How is spiritual peace made known to man's entire consciousness? Peace is the normal condition of the inner spiritual church, from which thoughts of peace (apostles and elders) go out as delegates to the outer or Gentile consciousness, represented by Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
In the outer consciousness is it possible to distort ideas of peace and harmony? Yes. Lack of spiritual understanding on the part of those who teach and preach is often the cause of discord and inharmony in man's mind and also in religious organisations.
When such a condition exists, what is the remedy? The remedy is a new influx of ideas (or teachers) that are thoroughly established in the consciousness of Truth.
In the letter that the apostles and the elders took with them to the Greek church, there was this expression: “Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Explain. To hazard means to risk, to imperil, to endanger. It was characteristic of the early followers of Jesus Christ that they were willing to sacrifice even life itself in the cause of Truth. Today the sign of a thoroughly consecrated worker is one who has sacrificed everything of a worldly nature to the work of the Lord.
It is recommended that certain things, such as sacrifices to idols, shedding of blood, things strangled, fornication, be avoided. What do we understand from this? The things mentioned accompanied pagan religious rites, which had been carried over into the worship of the new Christian church, and from which its members were advised to abstain. The present Christian church has been cleansed of these heathen practices.
Sunday, September 13, 1936: Acts 15:22-29
How does one attain peace? By working to harmonize his religious thoughts, ideals, and impulses with those of a secular nature, transforming both through the Christ Spirit, man may “create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace.”
In the harmonizing process does it become necessary for one to give up any part of one's religious life? Only such traditional dogmas, superstitions, and interpretations of spiritual things in terms of personality as hinder the dawn of true understanding must be given up.
Is evolution apparent in the history of religious thought? Evolution applies equally to the thought life and the physical life. It is especially evident in the advance made in religion from narrow, personal creeds to a broad, general teaching of principle.
When outgrown religious beliefs have been denied out of consciousness, what is the next step that man takes in the direction of peace? He transforms the natural or sense consciousness. To begin with he denies material-mindedness, fear, and all else that is of the personal in order to clear the way for the entrance of the Christ Spirit.
Sunday, April 23, 1939: Acts 15:23-29
What does this lesson undertake to do? It undertakes to determine the essentials of the Christ faith by shearing away personal beliefs that men have attempted to add to it from time to time.
Is it wise for man to discard all the beliefs that seemed vital to him before he came into the Christ way and hold to the fundamentals of Truth only? It is not wise for him to violate his conscience in matters of faith. He is not ready to lay aside the beliefs that seemed so essential to him before he embraced the study of Truth, if to give them up would leave him with a feeling of wrongdoing.
What men were chosen to visit the Gentile disciples and to define the fundamentals of their new faith as then conceived? Barnabas (imagination), Paul (will), Judas (appropriation), and Silas (sturdiness) were sent to the Gentile Christians with a list of what were deemed fundamentals of the Christ faith at that time. We see the qualities represented by the four delegates as fundamentals of the true way today.
What part does conscience play in man’s life aside from that of monitor respecting right and wrong? Conscience orders man's life under divine law. He may disregard its direction, but sooner or later he reaps the results of his disregard. What he holds to be right he must do.
What point is in the fact that the Jewish Christians determined the fundamentals of faith for the Gentile Christians? The Jews represent man's religious beliefs, the Gentiles his worldly ideas. We see from this that man’s religious convictions fix the routine of his secular habits. He lives according to his faith.
November 25, 1945: Acts 15:22-29
Of what practical use are conferences or councils? They are a help toward realizing unity of mind, heart, and purpose. Their main object is to promote understanding, and as this becomes complete, unity is attained.
Where the Holy Spirit is active is the weaker person or group compelled to give way to the stronger? No, the reverse is true. In the council held in Jerusalem between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians the majority made concessions to the minority.
What do “apostles” and “elders” represent in the individual? They represent the individual's developed faculties after they have been brought under the control of the higher self and made to function as an undivided whole.
How does the divine law function through the mind and heart? As love and wisdom. When love motivates our activities, and wisdom guides them, we live in accord with the law, and enjoy life, health, peace, and prosperity.
November 3, 1946: Acts 15:23-29
Of what practical use are conferences or councils? They are a help toward realizing unity of mind, heart, and purpose, where unity is desired. Their main object is to promote understanding, and as this becomes perfect, complete unity is attained.
What is symbolized by the conferences of the apostles and the elders who wrote the letter to the Gentiles with which today's text opens? This conference symbolizes the drawing together in conscious unity of all the intelligent directive powers of the spiritual self around the standard of peace and harmony.
Where the Holy Spirit is active, is the weaker person or group compelled to give way to the stronger? Not always. Sometimes the reverse is true. In the council held in Jerusalem between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians the majority made concessions to the minority.
What do “apostles” and “elders” represent in the individual? They represent the individual’s faculties after they have been brought under the control of the higher self, developed and made to function as an undivided whole.
How can we make our life more effective in service to others and at the same time more satisfying to ourselves? By harmonizing all our powers in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
When do the faculties need to be especially active and alert? At the times when we are called upon to exercise our understanding of Truth. Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James and the other elders (symbolizing the higher faculties) attended this conference for the fixing of the fundamentals of faith that were to be binding on Jews and Gentiles alike.
September 16, 1951: Acts 15:22-23
In a metaphysical sense what do conferences represent?They represent the marshaling of the individual's forces, the redefining of his allegiances, and the reappraising of the essentials of his faith, as well as the discarding of outworn notions or nonessentials.
What is the remedy for bigotry? Greater understanding and enlightenment, greater selflessness and more complete emotional control. When we realize that every child of God is seeking to attain the same goal that we are, each in his own way and according to the degree of his understanding, we set ourselves free from bigotry, and become more receptive channels for the light and love of God.
September 16, 1951: Acts 15:28-31
Why should we consider others, when faith is a matter that concerns each person's relation to his Source? We should consider others in order not to cause them offense or impair their faith, and because we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Paul said, “If meat causeth my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I cause not my brother to stumble” (I Cor. 8:13).
How can we gain the greater understanding and enlightenment that make for tolerance? By consistently praying for other nations, other peoples and their leaders, as well as for other persons individually, and by working for peace and security in the world according to our ability. It is helpful also for us to study the history of other nations and their contemporary events, so that we can understand them better, and can try to enter into the interests of peoples other than our own.
Metaphysically Interpreting Acts 15:36-41
15:36And after some days Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us return now and visit the brethren in every city wherein we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they fare.15:37And Barnabas was minded to take with them John also, who was called Mark. 15:38But Paul thought not good to take with them him who withdrew from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 15:39And there arose a sharp contention, so that they parted asunder one from the other, and Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed away unto Cyprus; 15:40but Paul choose Silas, and went forth, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 15:41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
August 21, 1921: Acts 15:36-41
Jesus sad to his disciples: “Ye shall be scattered.” Why this prophecy? The same law that brings increase, when the seed is scattered in the soil, is operative, when ideas are scattered among the peoples of the earth.
Was there evil in the seeming contention and separation between Paul and Barnabas? No, there was no evil. They went different ways, and reached more people than they could have reached, had they remained together.
What lesson do we gain from this? Regardless of all apparent friction, we should see the work of Divine Law in whatever we do with the right motive.
September 9, 1923: Acts 15:36-40
Explain: “Let us return now and visit the brethren of every city wherein we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they fare.” Metaphysicians find that in soul development they have to go over the same ground again and again. Regeneration is reeducation, not only of the conscious mind, but also of the subconscious mind, and those who follow Jesus find that they must visit often the various cities and villages (centers and sub-centers throughout the organism), speaking the word with love, zeal, wisdom, power, and all other qualities that enter into the Logos, or embodied mind of God.
Why did Paul think it unwise to take John Mark with them? Paul had discovered that enthusiasm and zeal have their reactions. John Mark had deserted them at Pamphylia “and went not with them to the work.”
August 9, 1925: Acts 15:36-41
What lesson in regeneration is taught in the Scripture text for today? Metaphysicians find that by repeated visits to the various centers in the body temple, the I AM and its thoughts regenerate the body in Truth. Paul and Barnabas, in their visits to the various cities in which they had established churches, symbolize this process of regeneration.
What do Paul and Barnabas represent in spiritual consciousness? In spiritual consciousness Paul represents the will and Barnabas represents the word.
What is the meaning of the contention between Paul and Barnabas over the plan of taking John Mark with them? The name “John Mark” means God’s gift. John Mark represented a certain spiritual receptivity, meekness, and obedience. The will (Paul) is dominating and dictatorial; it has little patience with the as yet unestablished meekness. Because meekness (John Mark) has failed on former occasions to stabilize itself in certain mixed states of mind (Pamphylia), the will refuses to have anything to do with it.
Is zeal to carry on the work of the Lord, as manifested by Paul, an evidence of the highest wisdom? The light of Spirit reveals that mere obedience on the part of Paul would have carried out the divine law more perfectly. Paul exercised tremendous executive ability and did a great work in sowing the seeds of Christianity, but he was even more aggressive in teaching Truth than his Master, Jesus Christ, had been.
What is represented by Paul’s choosing Silas? The name, “Silas,” means “woody, a forest.” We might interpret Silas as representing the spirit of the pioneer, who is willing to suffer the hardships that come to one who overcomes materiality by force, instead of by meekness and love. The meanings of the names of the cities which Paul and Silas visited, Cilicia (rolling), Derbe (sting), Lystra (dissolving), indicate that the work of the two required great effort and that it was not altogether pleasant. Forceful thoughts often stir up opposition, while gentle thoughts bring a peaceful victory.
Sunday, September 10, 1950: Acts 15:36-40
When grace, mercy, and love are lacking, what is the effect on the imagination (Barnabas) and the word of Truth (Paul)? The imagination and the word of Truth no longer work in harmony and soon part company. The imagination, together with the traits of tolerance, forgiveness, kindness, and intuition (Barnabas), takes to itself grace and mercy (John Mark), whereas the word of Truth aligns itself with a sturdy faculty denoting “abundant growth” (Silas) and follows an opposite course.
Has the name Cyprus a meaning that lends significance to the visit of Barnabas and John Mark there? The name means “a measure of corn, fairness,” and Cyprus signifies a fair, frank, honest, just, unbiased state of mind established in a degree of substance. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus. Tolerance is native to fairness.
Paul and Silas went “through Syria and Cilicia.” What does this signify? Syria (“highland, swelling up, increasing”) signifies the intellect. Cilicia (“treacherous, cruel”) together with certain Cilician cities visited by Paul and Silas signify the opposition that is stirred up by forceful thoughts. Tarsus, the birthplace of Paul, on the other hand, means “tranquility, pleasantness,” and it was a very celebrated city, classed with Athens and Alexandria as a seat of learning and art. Paul called himself “a citizen of no mean city.”
What is indicated by the fact that on this journey both Paul and Barnabas went to their native places? The place where we first relate ourselves consciously to our environment is always dear to us, associated as it is with parental love and care, as well with the delight of the awakening mind of childhood. After sharp contention Paul and Barnabas each went to his own place in order to regain the poise and confidence that love and affection engender.
Transcribed by Lloyd Kinder on 12-06-2013