In Acts 15:17 James finds confirmation of Peter's assessment that "God has granted repentance to the gentiles" in Amos' prophesy:

NIV Acts 15:17 that the rest of mankind may seek [out] [ἐκζητήσωσιν] the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name,

The term "seek out the Lord" is used a great many times of the Jews, often in exile. Does the term have a "technical" usage? That is, does it refer to:

  • specific situations (such as being in exile)
  • specific activities (prayer, fasting, etc.)
  • other specific meaning?

Or is it simply a broad term for "piety" or something?

It certainly seems very lackluster, indicating only that the gentiles may perhaps seek to be righteous rather than a robust notion of "being saved".

We see the same here:

NIV Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Optional question:

Am I correct that this is because this is in fact a pre-Pauline gospel and pre-Pauline salvation (as was Jesus' gospel and salvation) as the Israel-kingdom-law age had not yet ended nor the body of Christ begun?

3 Answers 3


As you allude, Jesus is quoting (at least in Luke's recall) almost verbatim the prophesy from Amos 9:11-12 found in the Septuagint:

ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἀναστήσω τὴν σκηνὴν Δαυιδ τὴν πεπτωκυῖαν καὶ ἀνοικοδομήσω τὰ πεπτωκότα αὐτῆς καὶ τὰ κατεσκαμμένα αὐτῆς ἀναστήσω καὶ ἀνοικοδομήσω αὐτὴν καθὼς αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ αἰῶνος, ὅπως ἐκζητήσωσιν οἱ κατάλοιποι τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, ἐφʼ οὓς ἐπικέκληται τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐπʼ αὐτούς, λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιῶν ταῦτα

In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and will rebuild the ruins of it, and will set up the parts thereof that have been broken down, and will build it up as in the ancient days: that the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, saith the Lord who does all these things (Amos 9:11-12, Brenton translation)

μετὰ ταῦτα ἀναστρέψω καὶ ἀνοικοδομήσω τὴν σκηνὴν Δαυῒδ τὴν πεπτωκυῖαν, καὶ τὰ κατεσκαμμένα αὐτῆς ἀνοικοδομήσω καὶ ἀνορθώσω αὐτήν, ὅπως ἂν ἐκζητήσωσιν οἱ κατάλοιποι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸν Κύριον, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐφʼ οὓς ἐπικέκληται τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐπʼ αὐτούς, λέγει Κύριος ὁ ποιῶν ταῦτα πάντα.

After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things (Acts 15:16-17, KJV)

Regarding the meaning of ἐκζητέω (ekzēteō), most Lexicons agree that it means something like "seek diligently" or "search diligently" (e.g. Barclay, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament; Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament); Louw-Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains). The NIV alternately translates the word (in the active voice) as seek (Romans 3:11, Hebrews 12:17), earnestly seek (Hebrews 11:6), and search intently (1 Peter 1:10).

ἐκζητέω is a stronger form of ζητέω (zēteō), which is usually simply translated as seek. The contrast can be found in the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 4:29:

καὶ ζητήσετε ἐκεῖ κύριον τὸν θεὸν ὑμῶν καὶ εὑρήσετε, ὅταν ἐκζητήσητε αὐτὸν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου ἐν τῇ θλίψει σου

And there ye shall seek the Lord your God, and ye shall find him whenever ye shall seek him with all your heart, and with all your soul in your affliction

Other examples from the Septuagint (where ἐκζητέω appears over 130 times):

ἕνεκα τοῦ οἴκου κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν ἐξεζήτησα ἀγαθά σοι.

Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have diligently sought thy good (Psalm 121:9 LXX)

Ἔτι ὢν νεώτερος πρὶν ἢ πλανηθῆναί με ἐζήτησα σοφίαν προφανῶς ἐν προσευχῇ μου. ἔναντι ναοῦ ἠξίουν περὶ αὐτῆς καὶ ἕως ἐσχάτων ἐκζητήσω αὐτήν

When I was yet young, or ever I went abroad, I desired wisdom openly in my prayer. I prayed for her before the temple, and will seek her out even to the end (Sirach 51:13-14)

καὶ ἥξουσιν λαοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ ἔθνη πολλὰ ἐκζητῆσαι τὸ πρόσωπον κυρίου παντοκράτορος ἐν Ιερουσαλημ καὶ τοῦ ἐξιλάσκεσθαι τὸ πρόσωπον κυρίου

And many peoples and many nations shall come to seek earnestly the face of the Lord Almighty in Jerusalem, and to obtain favour of the Lord (Zechariah 8:22 LXX)

As noted above, there is a difference between ζητέω ("seek") and ἐκζητέω ("seek out", "seek diligently"). As such, I don't see Acts 15:17 (or Amos 9:12 LXX, which it quotes) as describing something "lackluster" on behalf of the Gentiles. As Amos also wrote, Seek (ἐκζητήσατε, LXX) the Lord and you shall live (5:6). In this scheme, seeking out the Lord - diligently until one finds Him - is in the end what amounts to salvation.*

* Theologically, however, this interpretation perhaps highlights the difference between the eastern Christian view of salvation as a synergistic process and the largely western view of salvation as an event


The "Body of Christ" started after Jesus Christ died on the Cross. To be "in Christ," according to Paul's epistles, is to be "in the Body of Christ," or "a part of the Church" (The Body of Christ), and Paul on many different occasions said that he "persecuted the church" before his conversion in Acts 9.

Hyperdispensationalists make the claim that the Body of Christ started with Paul, but this is an erroneous teaching when you consider that Paul, out of his own mouth, in Romans 16 says that there were people "in Christ" before him in Romans 16:7:

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who were also in Christ before me.

This shreds the idea that Hyperdispensationalists claim that "Paul was the first one in The Body of Christ." Romans 16:7 is very clear, and there are other passages as well that confirm this, etc. Paul, in verse 7 there, is essentially saying:

"There were people in the Body of Christ before I came along."

The Book of Acts is a "transitional book" and people can get really confused if they don't rightfully-divide. Hyperdispensationalists chop-up the Book of Acts and create dispensations within dispensations, seemingly, and it becomes a cornucopia of seemingly infinite messes.

Interesting, too, that the people Paul mentions in verse 7 of Romans 16 are Jews. Many Hyperdispensationalists claim that the Jewish people that were receiving the Holy Spirit before Paul came along and started preaching the revelation that he received from Christ (salvation by grace through faith in the Blood Atonement) "weren't in the Body of Christ" and that they were merely "a called-out assembly," etc. This is wrong for so many different reasons.

Hyperdispensationalists also teach that Paul and Peter preached two different Gospels (Les Feldick is a major proponent of this, which of course derives from Bullinger and Stam, etc.) and that since Paul's mystery was "to the Gentile" and Peter's ministry was "to the Jews," that they must have been preaching two different messages of salvation, when this is clearly erroneous, especially in light of Acts 15:11 where Peter stands up and basically agrees that Paul is correct, and that from them on, they should all preach what was revealed to Paul (that Paul had revealed to them at this council at Jerusalem): that, through the Shed Blood of Jesus Christ, a person only needs to believe in what Christ did, by shedding His Blood, but believing 'the gospel' as it says in 1st Corinthians 15:1-4: believing that Christ died, was buried and rose against the third day. It's belief/faith in that message that was revealed to Paul and to Paul only, and that is what we must believe today (Jew and Gentile, alike), and this is the message that Peter agreed with in Acts 15, and so this is what they all went out and preached thenceforth. The idea that there are Two Gospels is heretical.

  • Hi Derrick. What question are you answering?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2018 at 12:12
  • What did James mean by "seek out the Lord"?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2018 at 12:40
  • Hey, Ruminator! I was answering your last question: "Am I correct that this is because this is in fact a pre-Pauline gospel and pre-Pauline salvation (as was Jesus' gospel and salvation) as the Israel-kingdom-law age had not yet ended nor the body of Christ begun?" -- I wasn't really answering it as a tie-in to your previous comments/questions, but I suppose as an 'aside' or 'just a thought'-type of response. At first, I thought that I shouldn't comment at all, since I didn't really answer your original question, but felt compelled to, in any event, for what it's worth, Ha! Dec 13, 2018 at 22:57
  • As for "seek out the Lord," I commented on another post about vs. 6 in this chapter, in ref. to the "After this" at the beginning of the verse, & verse 17 is a continuation of that. From my understanding, the "After this" is referring to the calling out of the Gentiles. Here's the link to my answer there: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/22566/… -- it seems that "the residue of men might seek after the Lord" is referring to Jews? because he then says, "...AND all the Gentiles,..." Thoughts? Dec 13, 2018 at 23:03

Rather than a “lackluster” its is one of the most important phrases in the Bible because, as you note, its about people from the gentile nations turning away from pagan gods named Zeus, Isis, Apollo, Diana, Hermes, Jupiter, Ares, Amon, etc. etc., to worship the “true God” that Jesus prayed to at:-

Texts from ‘The Divine Name King James Bible’ (DNKJB) & The N.W.T..

DNKJB John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.( Isa 43:11; Mrk 12:11 ).”

NWT John 17:3 “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”

As you also note The Jews were to “seek the LORD (Heb. "YHWH")” examples at:-

DNKJB Jer. 50:4 “In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek Jehovah their God.”

NWT Jeremiah 50:4 “They will weep as they walk, and together they will seek Jehovah their God.”

And at:-

DNKJB Zec. 8:20-22 "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts: I will go also. 22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before Jehovah. "

NWT Zechariah 8:20-22 ““This is what Jehovah of armies says, ‘It will yet come to pass that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come; 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to those of another and say: “Let us earnestly go to beg for the favor of Jehovah and to seek Jehovah of armies. I am also going.” 22 And many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to beg for the favor of Jehovah.’”

As the Jews had left the worship of the true God and turned to pagan gods named Baal, Chemosh, Molech, Ishtar etc. etc., so Jehovah (“The LORD”) called them back to him so as to gain forgiveness and worship him again. This was the situation in the first century but now God was reaching out to the gentile nations to turn away from the worship of false gods to the worship of him as the almighty and true God whom Jesus prayed to in John Ch. 17 on the behalf of the Jews and Gentiles that followed him. Acts Ch. 15 is an example of recounting how the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12 (see below) was being fulfilled in that the Gentiles turned away from pagan gods to the worship of Jehovah.

DNKJB Acts 15:17 That the residue of men might seek after the LORD, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the LORD, ( Jehovah Amo 9:11, 12 ) who doeth all these things.”

NWT Acts 15:17 “…so that the men who remain may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things,”


DNKJB Amos 9:11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith Jehovah that doeth this.( Act 15:16,17 ).”

This was after the time when salvation had been preached to the Gentiles by Paul and other apostles, c.49 C.E.:-

DNKJB Acts 15:12 “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.”

NWT Acts 15:12 “At that the entire group became silent, and they began to listen to Barnabas and Paul relate the many signs and wonders that God had done through them among the nations."

  • So become proselytes?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2018 at 14:38
  • @Ruminator No. To become Christians disciple of Jesus.
    – user26950
    Dec 13, 2018 at 15:34
  • So when he said "seek the Lord" he meant what... water baptism?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 13, 2018 at 15:39
  • @Ruminator That is only part & start; it is to seek how to worship Jehovah in a pure way that he will except!
    – user26950
    Dec 13, 2018 at 15:50

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