Big Idea: Some fights are worth having because the issues at stake are vitally important. Protecting the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone is worth our greatest efforts. As we strive to live out the life-changing power of the Gospel, we acknowledge the shaping influence of our background.
I. Understanding the conflict
A. What must I do to be saved? (15:1)
B. The power of our background (15:5, cf 6:7)
C. A lot of debate (15:7a)
D. Peter’s speech (15:7b-11)
E. Reporting what God had done (15:12)
F. James’ solution (15:13-21)
G. Result (15:30-31)
II. Identifying the key issues
A. Salvation is about believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Our backgrounds have a powerful shaping influence on us.
C. Going without being sent is dangerous.
III. What does this mean to us?
A. Examine our life and doctrine. Are we adding anything to the gospel?
B. Examine your past – what role is your past playing in your how you approach God?
C. Be careful of loose cannons who have not been sent. (15:24-25)
1) When you reflect on your formative years, how would you characterize them spiritually? Was it a spiritually open environment or closed? Do you see generational patterns that you struggle with? If you have children, do you see your own character flaws in them, or maybe your spouse’s?
2) Why do religious people sometimes want to add to God’s requirements for salvation? Do we sometimes want to take away requirements as well? Who should determine such things?
3) In the book of Acts, the apostles ended the debate by proclaiming a solution to their problem. Who gets to do that today? Who has the authority to end the debate and declare a solution that protects the Gospel and preserves relationship?
4) How far should a Christian go to preserve “unity”? When does sensitivity toward others turn into compromise on important issues? At what point should a Christian just move on with what God has asked him or her to do? When should one stick around to preserve unity? Have you been forced to make such a decision before? If so, how did you decide?
5) How real is the power of the past in our lives as believers? Is our past an interesting footnote to the present, or does the past have the power to determine reality? Can someone truly free themselves from their past? Does the Gospel completely wipe out the impact of formative experiences? Is the Gospel powerless against formative experiences? How would you articulate a Biblical balance?
6) Is it ok for Christians to appoint themselves to teach? With the rise of social media and the internet, if you had to guess, how many self-appointed teachers are there? What is the danger of people sending themselves? How did this play out in Acts 15? Do you have your own favorite self-appointed teacher? Do you have someone you should stop listening to?
7) How do you actively engage in protecting the Gospel today? What could you do? What should you do?