International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 8, 2015
Purpose: To understand that God reveals God’s will in different ways
Bible Lesson: Acts 15:1-12
Background Scripture: Acts 15:1-35
Key Verses: God, who knows people’s deepest thoughts and desires, confirmed this by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, but purified their deepest thoughts and desires through faith. (Acts 15:8-9)
Acts 15:1-12 (CEB)
(1) Some people came down from Judea teaching the family of believers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom we’ve received from Moses, you can’t be saved.” (2) Paul and Barnabas took sides against these Judeans and argued strongly against their position. The church at Antioch appointed Paul, Barnabas, and several others from Antioch to go up to Jerusalem to set this question before the apostles and the elders. (3) The church sent this delegation on their way. They traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling stories about the conversion of the Gentiles to everyone. Their reports thrilled the brothers and sisters. (4) When they arrived in Jerusalem, the church, the apostles, and the elders all welcomed them. They gave a full report of what God had accomplished through their activity. (5) Some believers from among the Pharisees stood up and claimed, “The Gentiles must be circumcised. They must be required to keep the Law from Moses.” (6) The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter. (7) After much debate, Peter stood and addressed them, “Fellow believers, you know that, early on, God chose me from among you as the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and come to believe. (8) God, who knows people’s deepest thoughts and desires, confirmed this by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. (9) He made no distinction between us and them, but purified their deepest thoughts and desires through faith. (10) Why then are you now challenging God by placing a burden on the shoulders of these disciples that neither we nor our ancestors could bear? (11) On the contrary, we believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord Jesus.” (12)The entire assembly fell quiet as they listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God did among the Gentiles through their activity.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
While this week’s lesson covers an episode that took place two thousand years ago, it is applicable to today’s church. Churches today continue to face new challenges where the old is challenged by the new.
I think we need to apply the same principles today as James and others applied in our text. The first question seems to be, “does the Holy Spirit endorse the change?” Peter’s testimony seems to answer that question. Do we see lives being changed for the better? Peter, Paul and Barnabas all testified about the way lives and hearts were changed. Notice that it was the faith of these new believers that was rewarded: (verse 9) … “purified their deepest thoughts and desires through faith.” It is almost impossible to change our thoughts and desires without the Holy Spirit working within us. The testimony of a changed life is still God’s strongest witness.
Peter makes the claim in verse 11, “we believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord.” When you combine verse 11 with verse 9 you can see that our salvation comes by grace and our changed lives come by faith.
Today we still debate whether it is faith or grace that saves us. Peter makes it clear that our salvation comes by grace, but it is our faith that makes us a new person in Christ. Hebrew 11:6 says this (6) “It’s impossible to please God without faith because the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him.”
James makes a statement that basically says before they were descendant of Jacob, they were Gentiles. God constantly reminded those early Israelites that He (God) brought them out of Egypt and made them His people. Now in this new economy, God is including the rest of civilization in His plan. Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
It is not about what laws we keep, or how we worship, being a Christian means we have accepted the gift that God did for us through His Son Jesus. And accepting that gift by faith we can live a new life in Christ. That life should be one that glorifies God, and exhibits a life of love and grace that comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
There is an old Hymn that reminds us of our dependence on God when doubts and fears come at us, “Jesus, Savior Pilot Me.”