Dear RCF Sisters and Brothers,
Note: The introductory paragraphs below are the same as I sent out last week. They apply precisely to this week’s discussion Bible study, and it is doubtful that I could improve upon them for this Lord’s Day. The “Table Discussion Questions” are updated.
It is unlikely that we today can overstate the amount of internal tension and strife the New Community of Jesus Followers were experiencing in 48 AD. Although it had grown immensely in numbers and geographically in the 18 years since Jesus died, rose, and ascended into heaven, its leaders knew it was in danger of splitting into two factions. Several years before God had helped them to settle the question that Gentiles could be saved and become equal members of the New Community by believing in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and placing their trust in Him. The current divisive in-house question they now faced concerned the lifestyle and religious practices of these Gentile believers.
The more theologically conservative members of the New Community, many of whom were formerly members of the Jewish sect of the Pharisees, believed that Gentile believers had to adopt Jewish religious practices. These practices began with male circumcision and extended into living in faithful obedience to the Jewish Scriptures and lifestyle. Salvation would require faith in Jesus plus keeping the requirements of the Old Testament (i.e. works). Those living in the region of Judea, close to the center of orthodox Judaism, generally held to this position.
Those members of the New Community of Jesus Followers who were living 300 miles north in Antioch, as well as those believers who were not Jewish, failed to see the practical relevance of becoming a Jew to follow Jesus. The former main Jewish persecutor of the New Community, Saul (now called Paul), was the most convinced spokesman for this position. He had been called by God to win Gentiles to Jesus and perceived that nothing but faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death on a Roman cross was necessary to be saved. In the past several years he had witnessed the confusion Gentile believers had about adopting Judaism and the impediment that requirement was to their trusting in Jesus. He had documented his abhorrence to additional Jewish requirements in a letter he had sent to the New Communities in the region of Galatia.
The difference of opinion within the New Community was intensifying and had the real potential to split it into two factions – one Jewish and the other Gentile. If you were a member of the early Church, how would you propose to resolve this matter? Who should be involved in making this decision? To what might believers look as an aid in this controversy? If this dilemma was not settled soon there would be two, not one, New Communities of Jesus followers.
Join us this Sunday morning as we continue in the theme To the Remotest Part of the Earth, and our Discussion Bible Study in the History of the Early Church. Please prepare by reading the entirety of Galatians. This week we will examine and discuss it with the title “A Letter from Antioch Defines The Relationship Of The Law And The Gospel: Galatians”. If you want to earn extra credit you can also read Acts 15.
Attached is an outline (in two sizes) of the text we will be focusing upon this Sunday morning. Please print it ahead of time, as it will help you take part in the discussion. We will also have copies when we gather on Sunday morning.
Here are the Table Discussion Questions for Sunday:
When you were growing up, were all the rules your parents had for you of equal importance? What were the most important rules and why? What rules were of lesser importance and why?
In this series we have already discussed the following texts and topics:
The New Era Begins: Acts 1:12-2:21
Who is to Blame for Good Friday?: Acts 2:22-23
The New Community Begins: Acts 2:24-47
The First Official Pushback Is Pushed Back: Acts 3
The First Official Pushback Is Pushed Back – Part 2: Acts 4
God Elevates His Purity and His Principals: Acts 5:1-11
God Elevates His Purity and His Principals – Part 2: Acts 5:12 – 6:7
The Spark That Ignited The Flames of Persecution – Part 1: Acts 6:8 – 7:43
The Spark That Ignited The Flames of Persecution – Part 2: Acts 7:44 – 8:3
The New Community’s Pearl Harbor: Acts 8:1-25
Going Global: Taking The New Community International: Acts 8:26-40
Going Global: Taking The New Community International: Acts 9:1-25
Not “E Pluribus Unum”, But “Nos, Et Nos Nos”: Acts 9:26-31
The Border Crisis: God’s Path For Foreigners To Become Citizens: Acts 9:32-10:33
The Border Crisis: God’s Path For Foreigners To Become Citizens – Part 2: Acts 10:34-11:30
Uncivil Rest – Part 1: Acts 12:1-17
Uncivil Rest – Part 2: Acts 12:18-25
How The West Was Won…To Christ: Acts 13
How The West Was Won…To Christ – Part 2: Acts 13
How The Gospel Was Almost Lost…From Grace – Part 1: Galatians
How The Gospel Was Almost Lost…From Grace – Part 2: Galatians
We hope that you will join us in person or online this Sunday morning at Bay Lodge at 9:00 am!
We love you all!
Jim and Jenny
The Acts of the Apostles, Part 21 – Outline (PDF)