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Acts…Lesson 9: The Council at Jerusalem

Memory Verse:Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled and from blood” Acts 15:19-20.

Daily Bible Readings: Exodus 20; Psalms 119; Acts 14:24-15:21, Acts 15:22-35; Acts 15:36-16:5; Romans 14

Scripture Reading: Acts 15:1-21


Throughout history, the church has faced many controversies. These controversies were present in the early church as well. Luke did not try to gloss over these disagreements. In this study, we find a doctrinal dispute that still goes on today in churches.

In the First Century, this dispute was great enough that the church convened a council of elders to address it. The outcome was positive for both sides of the argument. The council, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, produced a decision that was well received by both Jews and Gentiles.

What was the dispute? It begins when some Jewish Christians come to Antioch from Jerusalem. These Christians are concerned that for Gentiles to be saved they must receive the sign of circumcision. Paul and Barnabas “had no small dissension and disputation with them…” Do we have any disagreements today over what is necessary for a person to be saved? To describe the disagreement in our modern language, “once a person has accepted Jesus as his Savior, what must he do to be a sanctified growing Christian?” This is an often-discussed topic in our church. How about yours?

Our author Luke seems to hold the same opinion on the argument as Paul and Barnabas, as is seen by his comment about the joy the conversion of the Gentiles brought to the believers at Phoenicia and Samaria on the trip to Jerusalem.

Lesson Questions:

Acts 14:23-28. Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch

  1. The Bible shows that God takes care of the spiritual state of His people through godly men. Do you have elders in your church who are a blessing on your life? Numbers 11:16-17; Acts 14:23; 20:26-31; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-5.

Acts 15:1-21. The Jerusalem Council

  1. Were the men from Judea commissioned by the Apostles to go to Antioch to preach to the church there? Acts 15:1-2, 24.
  2. Did the teachings of the men from Judea match the Apostles’ teachings? Acts 10:47-48; 13:39; 15:7-8.
  3. What do you think was the argument made by the men from Judea for circumcision? Genesis 17:7-14.
  4. What was wrong with requiring circumcision of the Gentiles? Romans 2:25-29, 1 Corinthians 7:17-19, Galatians 5:1-5.
  5. Do we have deeply ingrained beliefs and customs that seem right, but that may be only followed because they are comfortable? How do we know that we are making His ways, our ways?
  6. What was the guide for the leaders at the Jerusalem Council in making their decision? Acts 15:28. Did they have any other indication that God was behind their decision? Acts 15:7-9.
  7. Who was the James who speaks in the meeting? Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12.
  8. In Acts 15:19-20 we see James giving instructions to the Gentile Christians. This instruction is also given in Acts 15:28-29. Since we are Gentile Christians, are we following these rules today? Why or why not?
  9. What steps did the apostles and elders take to be sure that the right message got back to the church at Antioch? Acts 15:24-26, 30-34. What were the qualifications of Judas and Silas?

Question for thought:

Observance of the Sabbath was not mentioned as a requirement for the Gentiles. Would the Gentiles in Antioch have observed the Sabbath? Why or why not?