Damascus & Council

Saul’s conversion dramatically changed the missional focus of the early Church and Christianity as a whole. During that time, the gospel opened the door to both Jews and Gentiles, and the Jerusalem Council ensured it would stay that way.


Saul’s Background

  • Saul was a pivotal member of the Pharisees and possessed an impressive religious resume (Acts 22:2-5; Philippians 3:4-6).
  • Saul catalyzed Stephen’s martyred death (Acts 7:58; 8:1).
  • Saul began an aggressive campaign to hunt down Christians to silence the movement (Acts 8:3; 26:10-11).

Saul’s Conversion

  • Jesus dramatically gained Saul’s attention while he was “still breathing threats and murder” (Acts 9:2).
  • Jesus indicated that Saul’s persecution of His disciples was a direct offense against Him (Acts 9:4).
  • God led Ananias to approach Saul and lead him into his next steps of obedience (Acts 9:15).

Saul’s Ministry

  • Saul meets with Peter and other Jerusalem leaders, indicating his official inclusion (Acts 9:26-30).
  • Luke begins to reference this missionary as “Paul,” which is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Saul” (Acts 13:13).
  • Paul’s ministry focuses on mission endeavors to unreached people and clarifying letters sent to church connections.


The Reason for the Council

  • The Holy Spirit sent Peter to a Gentile man named Cornelius and taught him that there is no partiality regarding salvation (Acts 10).
  • The Church at Antioch had successfully seen many Gentiles receive the gospel (Acts 11:20-21).
  • Paul and Barnabas had led many Gentile conversions on their mission trips (Acts 14:27).

The Ruling of the Council

  • A vocal group believed that Gentile Christians couldn’t convert to Christianity until they were circumcised according to Old Testament Law (Acts 15:1).
  • Since the Holy Spirit came on the Gentiles, they agreed that all people are saved only by grace (Acts 15:11).
  • After James’ clarifying suggestions, they agreed and wrote a letter explaining the expectations for all believers (Acts 15:22-35).

The Result of the Council

  • This unifying ruling from the Church leaders fanned the flame for missions toward Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15:30-35).
  • Paul recommended Timothy to be circumcised (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Cor. 9:20) but forbade Titus to do the same (Gal. 2:3-5) based on each pastor’s missional focus.
  • The dividing distinction between Old Testament believers and New Testament disciples was removed at the cross (Eph. 2:11-22).