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Before we begin this chapter, let’s look at some “introductory” questions.

  1. Christ speaks much about the unity of believers.  The church will be recognized by its unity.  As a matter of fact, the world will know Christ through the unity they see in the church.  What does “unity” mean to you?

   

What are some of the characteristics that would define this unity?

   

  1. How do you react to disagreements?

   

How do disagreements in the church affect you?

 

 What is the best way to deal with disagreements?

   

Do disagreements reflect a lack of unity?  Please explain.

   

Now, let us look at chapter 15.  As we read and study this chapter, let us remember we are witnessing a church that is growing.  

  1. Notice that the “argument” mentioned in the opening verses was not about whether Gentiles could be saved; instead, it was about how they were to be saved.

 

Is this still an issue in the church today?  Please explain.

   

The central issue was circumcision.  Why was this so important to the Jews?  Please list some scripture references if possible.

   

What do you believe motivated these men?

   

Without being judgmental, can you think of similar instances in the church today where we put “requirements” on people before they can be saved?

   

Have you ever felt, or do you now feel, that your salvation was more meaningful or certain if you did specific things or believed a specific way?   Did this help or hinder your decision to become a Christian?  Please explain.

   

  1. Why did Paul and Barnabas disagree with these Jews so heatedly?

   

Adhering to the law of Moses was a very important issue to the Jews.  Are there any doctrines or beliefs that are vital to your faith?

   

What did Jesus have to say about the relationship between the law and salvation?

   

Is “legalism” still and issue in the church today?  In what ways have you encountered this idea, if any?

   

Does this “sharp dispute” mean there was no unity in the church at this time?  Please explain.

   

  1. How did those involved decide to settle this matter?  (Read vv 2-3.) 

   

What did Paul and Barnabas do while they were traveling to Jerusalem ?  Why do you believe they did this?

   

What usually dominates our conversation, the good news of what Jesus is doing or sharp disputes?  Please explain.

   

How did the brothers react to this news?

   

What two groups were they going to see in Jerusalem ?

   

What is the difference between an apostle and an elder?  In other words, what is an apostle?  What is an elder?

   

Do we still need apostles and elders in the church?  Please explain.

   

What is the church body’s relationship with apostles and elders?  And vice versa?

   

Why were they sent to Jerusalem ?

   

  1. How were they treated when they finally in Jerusalem ?

   

What three groups welcome them?  (See verse 4)

   

Remember, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to settle this dispute concerning Gentiles and circumcision.  However, upon arriving in Jerusalem , what did Paul and Barnabas do first?

   

  1. What can you find out about the Pharisees?  Please be as specific as possible.

   

In verse 5, we learn that those who were speaking for circumcision were Christian Pharisees.  How might you define a Christian Pharisee?

   

Do we still have “Christian Pharisees” in the church today?  Please explain.

   

The comment has been made that we all, at one time or another, suffer from a Pharisaic attitude.  What does this mean to you?

   

Do you agree?

 

 How did you overcome this attitude?  Or, if you are still dealing with it, what steps are you taking to overcome it?

 

  1. After listening to both sides, who met to discuss or consider the issue further?

   

What does it mean to you to discuss an issue?

   

What is the difference between a discussion and an argument?

   

  1. Read verses 7-11.  Why do you believe Peter was the one who addressed the council?

   

What was Peter’s view on the matter?

   

What were his arguments to support his viewpoint?

   

Do you notice anything about Peter’s statement in verse 11?  (Hint:  About whom is he speaking?)

   

According to Peter, how are we saved?

   

What does this mean to you?

   

How do we know we are accepted by God?  (See verse 8.)

   

  1. What is a yoke?

 

Peter says that keeping the law was a yoke to both the Jew and the Gentile.  What does he mean? 

 

Compare this verse with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 11:30.   What makes one yoke a burden and the other light?

   

What does it mean to you to test God?

   

How do we test God today?

   

  1. What is Peter’s conclusion concerning this matter?  (See v. 11)

   

What does it mean to you to be saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?

   

  1. According to verse 12, what were the others doing as Paul and Baranbas told their story?

   

How common is it for people to listen seriously to both sides of an issue before making a decision?

   

What can the church learn from this council?

   

  1. Read verses 13-21.  Earlier we said that two groups, the apostles and elders, were overseeing this council.  It is common to think that the apostles made all the decisions and were the ones with all the authority.  However, who addresses the council?

   

What can you learn about James?

   

What was James’ view concerning the matter of circumcision? 

 

How did James support his view?

   

Do the apostles submit to the decision of James the elder?

   

What, then, is the relationship between apostles and elders?

   

  1. What do vv. 16-18 mean to you?

   

  1. James states his decision in vv. 19-21.  What was his reasoning for this decision?

   

How can we make turning to God less difficult for people in our community?

   

What was James’ primary motivation?

   

  1. Paul, Barnabas, and James were not in favor of requiring Gentiles to be circumcised because it would be too much of a burden and legalistic.  However, what does James suggest they tell the Gentiles?

   

What is the difference?  In other words, why are these suggestions not a burden like circumcision?

   

Do we have certain “criteria” today that people must meet in order to turn to God?  If not, should we?  Please explain.

   

  1. Look carefully at the four points James makes.  What does the law of Moses say about abstaining from food polluted by idols?

   

…from sexual immorality?

   

…from the meat of strangled animals?

   

…from blood?

   

Why are these four areas so important that the Jerusalem council would send them to the Gentiles?

   

  1. What is the significance of verse 21?

 

Should we still be preaching Moses?

   

  1. Who made the final decision to send the letter to the Gentiles?

   

How did they decide to send it?

  

Why did they send Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas to deliver it?

   

  1. Let’s take a minute to review the first part of chapter 15.  We hear of a serious disagreement that could separate the early church and turn believers against each other.  Instead, we read that all agreed with the decision and the church continued to grow.  Look over the events once more and list the steps the church and its leaders took to deal with this situation.  Be as specific as possible.

   

 

   

          What can we learn about finding God’s will in the midst of disagreements?

 

We can see that the church in Acts 15 is still unified in the Lord.  How can this be in light of the disagreement?

   

  1. Carefully read the letter in verses 24-29.  What is the tone of the letter?

   

If you had been a Gentile believer in Antioch , how would the letter make you feel?

   

According to the letter, why were they sending the four leaders to them?

   

Verse 28 gives us insight as to why this situation did not divide the church.  Who else was involved in deciding what should be said to the Gentile believers?

 

What part does the Holy Spirit play (or should He play) in our committee meetings and decisions?

   

  1. Verses 22 & 30 state that the four leaders were sent by the church.  These are powerful leaders with great anointing; yet, they did not strike out on their own.  They went where they were sent.   Should the church today still abide by this example?  Do we?  Please explain your answers.

   

  1. According to verse 31, how did the Gentiles react to the letter? 

   

Why did they react this way?

   

  1. We learn that Judas and Silas were prophets, which may be one of the reasons they were selected to go to the Gentiles.  What were they able to do? 

   

Where have we encountered these two areas before?  (Hint:  see 14:22 .)

   

What is the relationship between prophecy and strengthening and encouraging others?

   

Have you ever been strengthened or encouraged by a prophetic word?  If so, would you please share it?

   

  1. How did the four know when it was time to return to Jerusalem ?  (See verse 33.)

   

Again, we see the importance of being sent.  Paul, Baranbas, Judas, and Silas submitted to the leadership in the local church.  What can we learn from this?

 

  1. Why did Paul and Barnabas decide to stay in Antioch?

   

  1. Some time later, Paul and Barnabas decide to revisit the towns where they preached the word of the Lord.  Why did they decide to do this?

   

How important is it for us to “follow up” on those with whom we share the good news?  Please explain.

   

Does the church do an adequate job of discipling new believers?  If not, what can we do about it?

   

  1. Now we are going to witness another test of unity.  Paul and Barnabas have been traveling together for many years.  They have witnessed God do mighty works through them.  They have complemented each other every step of the way, and we have seen no discord between them…until now.  According to verse 37, whom does Barnabas want to take with them on their journey?

   

Why does Paul disagree?

   

What was the result of this disagreement?  (See verse 39.)

 

What is the difference, if there is one, between this disagreement and the disagreement over circumcision?

   

Is this disagreement an indication that these men of God were not truly unified?  Please explain.

   

If you had been a bystander listening to this sharp dispute between Paul and Barnabas, how would you have felt?

   

  1. What was the result of this dispute?

   

Read Rom. 8:28 .  How are verses 39-41 an example of the fulfillment of this verse?

   

Why do you think Barnabas felt so strongly about Mark that Barnabas would part ways with Paul?  (Note:  what is the meaning of Barnabas’ name?)

   

What was the final result of this dispute and separation?  (Read Colossians 4:10)

   

  1. What can we learn from this disagreement between Paul and Barnabas?

   

  1. After studying chapter 15, what can we learn about true unity?

   

What can we learn about solving disagreements?

   

What made the biggest impact on you?