Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. We here at “Word For Life Says” want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons. May God bless you!
November 8, 2015
“Not the Same, but Loved by God!”
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. You are always encouraged to do your own personal studies as well. Blessings!)
***Due to the amount of writing projects I have before me, I have only written an overall summary on this week’s subject instead of a verse by verse interpretation.
- And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
- When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
- And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
- And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
- But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
- And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
- And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
- And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
- And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
- Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
- But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
- Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
In a previous article titled “Walk in Grace” I wrote the following:
‘“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9
“I don’t deserve it, but Lord I thank You! I didn’t do anything to earn it, but again, Lord I thank You!” That’s the feeling the word grace evokes in me. It’s like walking on the clouds of heaven while here on earth; experiencing release and freedom in all that Christ has secured for me.
Grace is personal. Though Christ died for all, it has to touch one on a more intimate level. It takes hold of and absorbs in the spirit of man this wonderful gift of God. It allows the one who follows after it to get a glimpse of what it truly may be like in heaven when all the shackles of this earthly bondage are removed. It is ours, personally and individually, to experience for them that are found in Him.
Isn’t it wonderful – this gift of His? Isn’t it magnificent that no matter our status in life or how hard we work it can never be earned? It can never be put in our repertoire of attainments to salvation. It is a gift. . .
Human perception of this kind of outpouring of love has been marred by this sinful world. In it dwells the attitude of “if you do for me, then I’ll do for you.” “If you scratch my back, then I’ll scratch yours.” It is hard for one to believe in a motivation of pure love; to believe that one would give just because they love.
Paul laid the truth out for us. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespass and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were “by nature children of wrath.” In other words, we were no good, no goods who deserved absolutely nothing.
Verse 4 steps in and shows the love of God at work. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.” He didn’t do it for us because of some great checklist we marked off as job complete, now I deserve this. His love gave us the gift to receive, “Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (vs. 9). “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus,” (vs. 7).
This is one of those lessons that you really have to let the Word speak for itself, lest mankind try to put their own spin on it. God loves us! “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). When we accept that love and are saved through Christ, then we have an opened door to accept the gift of grace along with it. . .” (Word for Life Says).
The prevailing problem occurring in this week’s lesson is dealing with some who believe that grace offered through Jesus Christ is not enough. That in order for a Gentile believer to be saved they have to first follow all the steps of protocol that Moses laid out in his law, including circumcision, in order to be a true Christian.
That, my friends is a total contradiction of the very word of grace itself which speaks of God’s unmerited favor. When something is “unmerited” it is by definition undeserved, meaning there is nothing one can do to gain the favor of it or earn it themselves.
Therefore, this sparked much debate and controversy between Paul and Barnabas and those “certain men which came down from Judaea” and taught “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved,” (Acts 15:1).
Paul and Barnabas were at the time ministering in Antioch where “the disciples were called Christians first” (Acts 11:26). Controversy was nothing new to Paul and Barnabas at this point. In their journey’s to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ during a missionary journey they met with adversity. Arriving back to Antioch they spoke of “all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles,” (Acts 14:27).
Some of that retelling of those “opened doors” surely consisted of some of the following stories: On one occasion after departing from “Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia” (Acts 13:14). Once there they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and after receiving an invitation to speak, Paul began to recite their history of faith ending with death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Acts 13:16-33. Paul also expounded on the fact that He [Jesus] was the Holy One who saw no corruption and surpassed that of the great king David, Acts 13:34-37.
Paul also taught of Jesus saying, “That through this man is preached the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:39; emphasis mine). But, after the Jews were privileged to hear these words the Gentiles also wanted the same preached unto them.
When this occurred in brought envy from the Jews of that city and Paul and Barnabas stated, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles,” (Acts 13:46). This caused the Jews to stir up “devout and honorable women, and chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas,” (Acts 13:50). Eventually, they were kicked out and traveled to Iconium.
While in Iconium, again, although some Greeks believed (Gentiles), controversy was still stirred by “unbelieving Jews,” (Acts 14:2) putting their lives in danger. Therefore, they fled to Lystra and Derbe and preached the gospel there.
This did not deter the advance of the enemy for the Bible tells us while they were there, “There came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stone Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead,” (Acts 14:19).
Next, he went to Derbe with Barnabas and began preaching the gospel there as well, Acts 14:20-21. God was definitely moving in the lives of the Gentiles, opening the door of salvation unto them, but not without controversy.
With that they return to the point of today’s lesson where some were trying to convince them that the Gentiles to whom God opened the door cannot be seriously or sincerely considered as being saved unless they first go through the steps the law of Moses provided even though Paul strictly taught that this is not where justification came from (Acts 13:39).
These legalizers, or Judaizes as they are also called, sought to override God’s grace with the former constraints of the law. Needless to say this sparked even more controversy that needed a resolution. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to seek an answer to this question from the apostles and elders there.
Once there they began to “declare all things that God had done with them,” (Acts 15:4). But again, controversy even in Jerusalem reared its ugly head, citing from the Pharisees that believed that it was “needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses,” (Acts 15:5).
After much disputing and consideration, Peter testified of his experience when God instructed him to go to the Gentiles to open the door of faith there. He said, “Ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe,” (Acts 15:7). When God initially instructed Peter to go to Cornelius to open this door of faith, He didn’t require that Cornelius and his house be circumcised first or follow specifics of the law of Moses. As a matter of fact, through the vision of the sheet God showed Peter that he is to not call or consider what He has cleansed as unworthy or common (see Acts 10). This let Peter know of a surety that “God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him,” (Acts 10:34-35).
Now, Peter stands and testifies before those disputing the matter that God “put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith,” (Acts 15:9). Why now would they seek to undo the work of God? God did what He did through hearts of faith. If God didn’t require those steps to be taken toward circumcision and certain aspects of the law of Moses first, then why should man?
Peter then boldly spoke on behalf of God’s grace saying, “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they,” (Acts 15:10-11). Through Jesus Christ God ushered in grace, yet these men wanted the law to surpass and suppress that grace. They wanted to add to the work of the cross, as if the blood of Christ wasn’t enough.
Paul made a similar defense as Peter for grace along these same lines in the book of Galatians when he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Galatians 2:20-21, emphasis mine; see also Gal. 3:21). If the law and adherence to those rituals could have saved mankind once and for all, then Jesus Christ would have never needed to come to this earth, be born a babe in a manger just to die on that old rugged cross bearing the sins of the world.
But, thanks be to God, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law . . .” (Galatians 3:13), therefore, as Peter so put it, let us not try to reapply a “yoke” to what God has set free (see Galatians 5:1).
Although the Gentiles are not from the same background as the Jews; they are still loved by God and God made provision before the law for them and us to be grafted in and to receive the promise of heritage into His heavenly Kingdom.
Paul recognized this and taught, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Galatians 3:14). Freedom came by way of the promise that was laid out before the law (read Galatians 3:14-18). This was now a faith walk and there is no difference in God’s eyes who gets to walk it. To Him “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Galatians 3:28-29).
Since God doesn’t make a difference between the two, there is no need to make the Gentiles adhere to traditions that would make them Jews first. They didn’t need to become Jewish for God to save them. God was saving them right where they are through faith in Jesus Christ.
They may not be the same, but they, and us, are still loved by God. Therefore Peter stands his ground on the issue of grace and states, “But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”
“Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles,” (Acts 15:12). They spoke up about the work God was doing among the Gentile believers. God validated their work, so to speak, through miracles and wonders.
After they finished, James spoke up as well (not in today’s lesson text) stating everything that was going on falls in line with prophesy by referencing the book of Amos (see Acts 15:13-18 and Amos 9:11-12). Then, he too instructs that “we trouble them not, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God . . .” (Acts 15:19; not in today’s text but I believe is relevant).
Where differences tried to bring confusion, God’s grace won out. We may not all be the same, but we are loved by the same God. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me,” Galatians 2:20, NKJV.
(Click here for PDF: Not the Same but Loved by God Sunday School Lesson, or click print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Word Scramble: Not the Same but Loved by God Word Scramble Answers: Not the Same but Loved by God Word Scramble Answers
Draw the Scene: Not the Same but Loved by God Draw the Scene
Coloring Sheet: Not the Same but Loved by God Coloring Sheet
Memory Verse: Not the Same but Loved by God Memory Verse
Below are more Activities/Links/Resources:
“Jerusalem Council and New Missionary Teams” (Activities such as “Faith Equation Cards” go nicely with this lesson.)
“Paul and Barnabas at the Jerusalem Council” (A pretend birthday party? Check it out.)
“Hangman”: This old game is excellent for lesson reinforcement. Simply print the worksheet from Printactivities.com, get your verses or phrases from the lesson you want to use or the students want to use with each other, play and enjoy! (A single hangman page can be found at Thetripclip.com. Enjoy!) (Great for memory verses!)