When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.”
James was the pastor/bishop of the Church of Jerusalem, the chief of all the elders and the brother of Jesus.
In addition, James had written what was quite possibly the only book of the Bible to be circulated by this time—the Epistle of James had gone out widely. And it seems from some of the evidence that the Judaizers who had stirred up all this trouble were claiming to represent James or possibly using James 2:10 as evidence for their position.
So James’ voice—which would have always been the critical voice in the debate, as the presiding Elder—carries extra weight in this case as he is the one whom the Judaizers are claiming as their authority.
Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for His name from the Gentiles.
James begins by restating Peter’s calling.
The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things—things known from long ago.”
Decisions of the eldership are not made in a vacuum. Wise counsel and insight is taken from all the elders, but ultimately it must all come back to Scripture. In this case, James references Amos 9:11-12. He does not claim that this event was prophesied by Amos. Instead, he points that this passage (about the final restoration of Israel) will also include a salvation of the Gentiles.
However, note that these are shown here as two different groups—God will restore Israel and “the rest of mankind [that] may seek the Lord.” It does not say that the Lord will turn the Gentiles to the Jews; it instead said that both would be part of salvation.
So James here comments that Peter and Paul’s descriptions are not out of bounds of Scripture, that we already knew that the Gentiles would come to follow God apart from Judaism.