8 The Jerusalem Council – Discussion Starters

  1. What group of early Christians arrived on the scene in Antioch and caused immediate problems in the early church? Where did they come from? Were they circumcised or not? Do you think they were just Pharisees who accepted Christ or did they have some other religious background as well? True or false: Paul, being the strong church leader he was, did everything he could to reconcile all Christians, including the “Judaizers” to accept Jewish requirements such as circumcision.  
  2. Circumcision. What role did the rite of circumcision have in the early Christian church? Was there anything wrong with not accepting this ritual as part of being a Christian? How serious was it for early Christians to insist on circumcision as part of the process of being a Christian? Does our church today emphasize in any way the rite of circumcision? Why or why not? 
  3. The right church. Aren’t you glad you belong to the “right” church? Doesn’t that type of membership guarantee you a place in heaven? If not, then what is the point of belonging to a church you believe is “right”? 
  4. Do works matter? If works don’t matter in salvation, then all of us are free to act as we wish. Is that a valid statement? Explain why it was bad theology for Antioch Christians and others to rely on circumcision as a factor in providing salvation. Or was it?
  5. The debate. What was Peter’s point in stating so boldly that Jewish traditions were not directly related to salvation? Or is that what he meant? 
  6. President James. Do you see the apostle James as the key leader (president, administrator) of the early Christian church? If so, why? Why didn’t James seem to have a problem accepting Gentiles into full membership of the church? Do we ever face circumstances in which we question the wisdom of accepting certain people into our church? Are you sure?
  7. The Gentiles’ prohibitions. Make a quick list of the four things Gentiles were required to accept as key doctrines before they could become Christians. Were these prohibitions temporary or permanent? Explain. 
  8. Paganism banned. How common was paganism in the days when Peter and Paul and Barnabas were working to establish the Christian church? Is the Sabbath a ceremonial law? How would you explain the validity of Sabbath keeping to a Christian who observes Sunday? 
  9. Early Christian document. Imagine an official document being written to describe exactly what had been decided by church leaders. What did that document include? Who were the members of the contingency of believers that went to Antioch? What did they confirm regarding the Jerusalem church?
  10.  Discrimination vanished.  Aren’t you glad that these discussions and meetings ended all racial and other types of discrimination within the early Christian church? They didn’t? How much time and energy does your local church spend making all visitors feel welcome and a part of the Christian faith? What could your church be doing in addition to what it is doing now to assure that others are welcome in our fellowship? 

The above questions are offered to help Sabbath school teachers motivate class members to come up with ideas and thoughts for all to share.

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons