Sunday Mar 19, 2023

Acts 15:18

Sunday, 19 March 2023


“Known to God from eternity are all His works. Acts 15:18


The previous verse cited Amos, concluding with the words, “Says the Lord who does all these things.” With the end of the citation, James now speaks, saying, “Known to God from eternity are all His works.”


As a note for clarification, the wording of the previous verse and of this verse are not the same in various texts normally used by more modern versions. The difference is more noticeable when they are taken together and placed side by side –


“’So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’
18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.” (NASB)


“’So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.’
18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” (NKJV)


As can be seen, the NASB and other translations make the verse a part of the citation of Amos with words added as a part of the citation by James. On the other hand, the NKJV, et al., have more words in James’ additional thoughts which form a separate sentence altogether. 

Going with the latter thought for commentary purposes, the meaning is that everything God has done or will do has been known from beginning to end by God, even since the very beginning. This thought is fully supported throughout Scripture, but an example from each testament will show this –


“Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’” Isaiah 46:9, 10


“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8


As the words of Amos agree with the thought that the Gentiles were to be a part of what God was doing before the raising up and rebuilding of the “tabernacle of David,” meaning re-establishment of the Davidic rule, then it would be wrong for the apostles to judge against that by demanding that Gentiles observe the Law of Moses.

God had poured out His Spirit upon the Gentiles in the presence of Peter apart from the law. Paul and Barnabas had seen many converts and the Lord had worked signs and wonders through them on behalf of the Gentiles apart from the law. As these things were indisputable, it would be working contrary to God to suddenly stop this work of the Lord and impose a law upon them that had been fulfilled and set aside by the work of Jesus.


Life application: Various commentaries on Acts 15:17, 18 make a claim that “the best texts” support their translation which varies in content from the other texts. That is a subjective claim. Who is to determine the “best text” when they have no idea which is original?


Rather, unless their view is supportable by the original, which isn’t available and cannot be known, they need to simply state that there is a variation in source texts and state why they support one over the other. If this is not done, then a bias in the mind of the reader of the commentary will arise.


This is not a sound approach when explaining the Bible. This same thought carries through to one version or another. Even if the same source texts are used for two translations, it is inappropriate to say “This is the better version” without providing a full explanation as to why it is so. If it is true, that is fine, but to arbitrarily make the claim without support will lead to bias in the mind of the one being instructed.


Be careful to not inject subjective thoughts into your teaching. This is important because if those thoughts are found to be incorrect, it will often be too late to undo those biases in the minds of students who have moved on.


Heavenly Father, help us to look at Your word with a passion and desire to know it more each day. And if we are going to instruct others in what we have learned, help us to do so from an objective point of view, telling what we know is certain and not being dogmatic about what is uncertain. Be with us in this, O God. Amen.


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