Acts + Letters Lesson 12 Day 2

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Acts 15:1-11

Questions for Acts and Letters of the Apostles Lesson 12

Conflict over circumcision

3.  Controversy over law versus grace

“Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” (vs. 1)

This same question about circumcision came up in Acts 11:1-18 when the apostles and other believers confronted Peter because he “entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them.” (Acts 11:3 NLT)

Paul and Barnabas disagreed with the men from Judea.

In fact, they argued “vehemently (NLT).” “Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.” (vs. 2 NLT)

4. a. The Jewish Christians insisted that the Gentiles must be circumcised.

It was very difficult for some Jewish Christians to accept that Gentiles could be brought into the [body] as equal members without first coming through the Law of Moses. “It was one thing to accept the occasional God-fearer into the [body], someone already in sympathy with Jewish ways; it was quite another to welcome large numbers of Gentiles who had no regard for the law and no intention of keeping it.” (Williams)

b. Jews and Gentiles are “saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (vs. 11 NLT)

The Jews focused on the covenant of circumcision between God and Abraham, forgetting that God justified Abraham because of his faith thirteen years earlier. “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Genesis 15:6 NLT)

5. Salvation by faith

If circumcision and keeping the commandments can save us, Jesus’ sacrifice was unnecessary.

Peter points out that God knows our hearts, and he gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. “Once again, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was used as a proof of salvation. This is because only those who have already been born again can receive the Holy Spirit.” (AWLC) (vs. 8)

The argument didn’t go away, but this meeting decided the matter among the apostles.

Paul, himself a Pharisee, later wrote to the Philippians,

Look out for those dogs [Judaizers, legalists], look out for those mischief-makers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

3 For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances— (Philippians 3:2-3 AMPC)

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Scripture references are from the public domain WEB translation unless we identify another source.

My answers to BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Acts + Letters of the Apostles Lesson 12 Day 2