Summary of Acts 15:1-11:
Men from Judea (Judaizers) came down to Antioch and began preaching that people must be circumcised to be saved. Paul and Barnabas disagreed strongly with these men so they traveled to Jerusalem to debate the issue with the elders. On their way, they told how the Gentiles had been converted (basically stirring up the troops for their cause).
Upon arrival, Peter got up and recounted his vision given to him from God some 10 years earlier. He told them God accepted the Gentiles as proven when He gave them the Holy Spirit, which purified their hearts just like the Jews. He asks them why are they testing God with a yoke not even they could bear? It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus alone that everyone is saved. Paul and Barnabas backed up Peter’s vision with the telling of the wondrous signs and miracles God has performed amongst the Gentiles.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 12, Day 2: Acts 15:1-11
3) The dispute in the church was whether Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved. The church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to get answers.
4a) Because ever since Abraham, circumcision was what separated the Jews from the Gentiles. It was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Salvation is a heart issue; not an outward sign issue.
5) This was at the heart of Christian belief and what saved Christians. Simply put, the only requirement to be saved is to believe in Jesus as their Savior. However, we must remember that the Jews were used to following all of the rules to be saved, such as blood sacrifices, eating certain foods, cleansing themselves, etc. It had to be made clear in order to spread the Gospel
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 12, Day 2: Acts 15:1-11
We see the First Church Council as Christians struggle to piece together Jesus’ death and the Old Testament and covenant. However, this was important because the Gentiles are quickly beginning to outnumber the Jews. This was also important to note that all is required is to believe in Jesus.
For my history of circumcision: HERE
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 12, Day 2: Acts 15:1-11
These men just could not let the Old Covenant laws go. So adamant were they that the Gentiles submit to all Jewish rituals, including circumcision, that they traveled all the way from Judea to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had been bringing in Gentiles without using the Mosaic Law. So Paul and Barnabas were sent to find out the answer to this dispute.
As Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, they found plenty of other Christians who rejoiced at what God did among the Gentiles.
Many of those who opposed Paul and Barnabas were Christians who had been Pharisees who obeyed the law.
Paul himself was a former Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) who became a Christian. He knew that Jesus was his salvation, not the way to his salvation. Paul wrote: knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
Pharisees believed two things in this dispute:
- Gentile converts must be circumcised.
- Gentile converts must live under the law of Moses if they were to be right with God and gain eternal salvation.
The Council had to decide if faith alone was enough to be saved.
Peter Steps In
Peter began with a history lesson, recounting the work God had already done. He then made the point that God had fully received the Gentiles apart from their being circumcised (God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us). If God had acknowledged these Gentiles as full partners in His work, then why shouldn’t the church? If God received them, so should the church!
Peter made an important observation from his vision of the clean and unclean animals, from which God taught him this principle: God has shown to me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28). Those of the sect of the Pharisees who believed thought that the Gentiles were inherently “common” or “unclean” (in the sense of unholy) and had to be made holy and clean by submitting to the Law of Moses.
At the birth of the nation at Mount Sinai, they broke the law by worshipping the golden calf. At the end of Old Testament history, they still broke the law by disregarding the Sabbath and marrying pagan women (Nehemiah 13). From beginning to end, Israel broke the law.
Paul made the same argument in Galatians 3:2-3. If the law does not save us, why would we return to it as the principle by which we live? In light of the finished work of Jesus, it offends God to go back to the law. This is why Peter asked, “why do you test God?”
Peter concluded with the observation that it is through grace that all are saved – both Jew and Gentile – and not by obedience to the law. If we are made right with God by grace, then we are not saved by grace and law-keeping.
Peter also insisted there is only one way of salvation: We [Jews] shall be saved in the same manner as they [Gentiles]. Jewish Christians were not saved, even in part, by their law-keeping; they were made right with God the same way Gentiles were: Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.