The text for this lesson is Acts 15:1–16:5.
- Just as many in Paul’s day thought, we think we must do something to be saved. Yet the answer is always Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus, whose resurrection from the dead sealed our salvation and absolved the world.
- Law: I sin when I believe that Jesus is not enough for my salvation, when I think that I must do something, however small, to contribute to my salvation.
- Gospel: Jesus has done it all perfectly for me. My salvation is complete.
- This lesson is about the constant temptation to change “justification (salvation) by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone” into “justification by grace + works, faith + obedience, for the sake of Christ + our efforts.” But God’s Word won’t allow such nonsense! How does Ephesians 2:4–10 keep us from adding anything to grace, faith, and Christ?
- According to John 5:24, what is saving faith? What argument does Romans 4:1–8 use to prove that faith is not a human work, but rather a divine gift of grace?
- How does St. Paul show, in 1 Corinthians 15:1–7, that we are saved by Christ alone?
- To cut the foreskin off of a male, though bloody and temporarily painful, does not really seem a major issue. Yet this rite, which God gave to Abraham (Genesis 17:1–14) and required of all Israelite males in the Old Testament, became a divisive issue when Jewish converts to Christianity began to teach in the Church that circumcision was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1). But more important than the physical act of circumcision is a spiritual issue: being circumcised also obligates a person “to keep the law of Moses” (v. 5). What is so problematic about making obedience to the Law a requirement for salvation? See James 2:10; Galatians 3:10; Acts 15:10–11.
- The Book of Galatians deals with a situation like that of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1–33. A group of legalistic Jewish Christians known as “Judaizers” introduced the idea of salvation by circumcision and the Law into the Church at Galatia. What does St. Paul say to those who are tempted to follow the Judaizers? See Galatians 3:10–14; 5:1–6.
- What arguments against requiring circumcision of Gentile converts are put forth by Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James at the council? See Acts 15:7–19.
- According to Romans 4:8–14, what was the true significance of circumcision in the Old Testament? How does Paul demonstrate that Abraham was the father of all the faithful?
- Compare Acts 15:28–29 with 1 Corinthians 11:20–22. What would have been the main setting in which the Gentiles’ consumption of “things polluted by idols, . . . what has been strangled,” and from “blood” (Acts 15:20) gave offense to Jewish Christians? In light of 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, 18–20, why would “sexual immorality” (Acts 15:20) in particular be highlighted by the apostles? How were the prohibitions from the council received in Antioch?
- According to Colossians 2:6–15, what sort of circumcision have we all—male and female alike—received? What brought it about? What is our new situation because of it?