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12. Acts 15:1-15:35

The First Church Conference
Acts 15:1-15:35

“Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound...” Do you understand grace? Do you understand the difference between living under law and living under grace? Is grace the air you breathe and the portion that sustains you? If not, you have missed the essence of Christ. We all would have missed it if the results of the first church conference had been different. Pray before you start studying. Ask God to give you deep insight into the amazing mystery of grace.

The First Church Conference
Acts 15:1-15:35

“Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound...” Do you understand grace? Do you understand the difference between living under law and living under grace? Is grace the air you breathe and the portion that sustains you? If not, you have missed the essence of Christ. We all would have missed it if the results of the first church conference had been different. Pray before you start studying. Ask God to give you deep insight into the amazing mystery of grace.

Read Acts 15:1-35.

    (A conference, seminar, retreat or any place you meet with God for an extended period of time can reap giant steps in faith. This conference was a prime example.)

    1. In your opinion, what is grace? How does grace affect the way you relate to God and to others?

    2. Are you under law any longer? What do you think is the relationship between righteous living, doing good works and grace?

The Conference Theme---”No, Gentiles Allowed!”

    3. A. Who brought in confusing teaching on law and grace? (15:1, 5)

    B. How did Paul and Barnabas feel about this threat? (15:2a)

    C. When were you last in "sharp dispute" with someone over a theological issue? What are you like when you strongly disagree with others? Share any lessons you have learned.

    D. How did the church at Antioch decide to deal with this problem? (1 5:2b)

    4. A. As they traveled to Jerusalem, they told the churches of the great "harvest" among the Gentiles. Compare the reaction of the Phoenician and Samaritan brethren (15:3) with the believers in the “party of the Pharisees.” (15:5)

    B. After a warm welcome, what did Paul and Barnabas do first? (15:4)

    C. What method was chosen to deal with the issue? Were all sides allowed to speak freely? (15:6, 7a)

    Luke specifically records the final arguments of Peter, Barnabas and Paul, and James. The latter led the Jerusalem church and was probably officiating the conference.

    5. A. Peter reminded the Council of his life changing experience some ten years earlier. What was the experience? (15:7b-9) (Note: This is the last mention of Peter in Acts.)

    B. (Digging Deeper) Review chapter 10 for details of Peter’s testimony.

    C. How did Peter, who had always kept the Law, describe the Law? What did he say was the only requirement for salvation for both Jew and Gentile? (15: 10, 11)

    6. A. What evidence did Barnabas and Paul offer to defend their view that Gentiles could be saved without becoming Jews first? (15:12)

    B. (Digging Deeper) Specifically what experiences were they referring to in verse 12? Review Paul’s first missionary journey in chapters 13 and 14 for details.

    7. A. James, the brother of Jesus, was known for his strict observance of the Law. What resource did he use to argue for Gentile inclusion through the ages? (15:13-18)

    B. What was the Council's conclusion through James? (15:19)

    8. A. Imagine you are a gentile believer in the first century church. What impact would this conference have made on your life? How does their decision affect you today?

    B. What does Romans 10:4 reveal about the relationship of the Christian to the law?

    C. (Digging Deeper) Study Romans 10:1-21 for greater understanding of the difference between grace and the law.

    D. (Summit) Study Galatians chapters 3-6 for added understanding of this theological debate.

    The issue of salvation by grace alone was settled. (15:11) However, there was another issue effecting the unity of the church: Jews and Gentiles came from extremely different backgrounds. The Council decided that for them to enjoy fellowship together, the Gentiles would have to be careful not to offend Jewish sensitivity in a few key areas.

    9. A. The Council made four requirements regarding habits to which Gentiles were especially prone but which especially disgusted the Jews. What were they? (15:20, 21, 28, 29)

    B. Can you think of any "gray" areas today which are not biblically wrong, but nevertheless may offend others and are sometimes "given up" as a result? If so, what are they?

    C. (Summit) Paul elaborates on this issue in great detail in Romans 14 and 15. Discuss the relationship between freedom, sensitivity to a "weaker brother," and unity in the church. How much legalism should be tolerated, if any?

    D. Although Christians are saved by grace alone, they are still commanded to develop Godly character, to live righteous lives and to do good works. Read Ephesians 2:8-10 and Titus 2:11-15. What is the relationship between grace and good works?

    10. A. What method did the Council choose to communicate its decisions? (15:20a, 22, 23a, 25-27)

    B. What did the Council say concerning those teaching the necessity of circumcision in Antioch? (15:24)

    C. To what extent do you require other believers to follow your lifestyle and religious customs?

    D. How were the letter and its bearers received? (15:30-32)

Let’s be perfectly clear!

    11. A. Has your opinion about grace changed since you began this lesson? If so, in what ways?

    B. Do you tend to put yourself back under law? If so, in what areas? What can you do to enjoy the liberation of a “grace awakening” in your life?

    C. Do you understand the place of good works and righteous living in your faith? If so, write out a clear statement and share it with the group.

    D. What is the most relevant lesson for you from this passage? What action step can you take to apply what you have learned?

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.

Eugene O’Neill

Suggested Reading:

Grace Awakening by Chuck Swindoll

What’s So Amazing About Grace? By Philip Yancey

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Curriculum