GET ACQUAINTED: What were some of the expected, extra-biblical rules you were supposed to follow in the church where you grew up after becoming a Christian?

SCRIPTURE: (Acts 15:1-35 )  focus: (Acts 15:1-5 )

Open your time together with prayer. NOTE: This is only a guide!  Feel free to select the points you want to discuss and adapt them to your needs.

Sola gratia is a Latin phrase that gained popularity during the protestant reformation.  It means “grace alone.”  Sola gratia means that salvation from sin and death is provided by God’s unmerited favor alone, and we can do nothing to earn it.  The concept is expressed in Ephesians 2:8-9 which reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Why is it essential to believe and teach that salvation is provided by grace alone?  First, Scripture is clear that no person seeks God on their own initiative: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11 ).  Instead, God reached out to sinful mankind (Romans 3:23 ).  Christ died for us while we were still ungodly/sinners (Romans 5:8 ).  Additionally, Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10 ).  He actively pursues sinners, calling us to faith in His name.

When a person does accept Christ by grace through faith, Jesus is the One who gives eternal life (John 3:16 ) and makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17 ).  Once we have become a believer in Christ, God’s Spirit provides the power to live for Him and keeps us in the love of God (Roman 8:37-39). Ultimately, Christ also gives us assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13 ).

Salvation is by God’s grace alone because He is the One who created us, provided us a way of salvation for us, seeks us, gives us faith, changes us when we do believe in Him, empowers us to live for Him, keeping us in His love, and will take us to be with Him for eternity.  At no point do our good works provide salvation!  This is why sola gratia was not only an important belief during the Protestant Reformation, but remains essential to Christian faith and living today.

  1. What other things would these teachers say the Gentiles must do (Acts 15:1 , Acts15:5)? 
  2. If you were a Gentile hearing that these regulations were required, how would you feel about your new found faith?  As a strict Jew, why would these rules be important to you?
  3. What is the main issues as Paul sees it (Acts15:1-2; see Galatians 2:21 ; 3:5, 10-4)?
  4. What has led James to change his mind (Acts15:12-19)?
  5. What roles do experience, theology and practical considerations play in the decision making of the council (Acts15:12-19)?

Personal Application: Is there some area of your faith where you feel like Peter – going back and forth because you are not sure of what is right?  How could (Acts15:11) relate to this concern?  What additions to the Gospel might a new believer encounter in your church?  What should you do about it?

Prayer of commitment:  Father, search my heart and reveal any way that I may be mixing works – religion with Your grace or any false legalistic expectations I may be imposing on others or any additional conditions I may be placing on my acceptance of others.  Father, please forgive me and help me to correct my ways.  It’s in Your name I pray.  Amen!