Acts 15:1-2 - The World Creeps In

Acts 15:1-2 – The World Creeps In
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 15:1-2

The title is drawn from what Acts 15:1-2 can teach us about how to handle theological disagreements.
Specifically, our text addresses circumcision & theological disagreements over requirements for salvation.


In Act 15:1, we meet the Judaizers for the first time.
We learn quickly their belief is salvation is impossible without circumcision (law).

Who were they:
In Acts 15:1 we are told they are men from Judea, meaning Jews.
In Acts 15:24 we learn neither their message nor journey was approved by the Jerusalem church.
Acts 15:1 also shows they believed salvation requires, essentially, a conversion to Judaism & observance of the Law.
Paul also speaks to their motives in Galatians 6:12-13 – to avoid persecution and to boast.
Are they believers? There is disagreement on this.
Those that identify them with the Pharisees in Acts 15:5 see them as saved but misguided, holdouts of the old covenant.
Those that don’t make this identification see them as false brothers/teachers so often described by Paul – Galatians 2:4.
This lesson will proceed holding the 2nd view – more on this reason under point 2 of next weeks lesson.

POI - The word “Judaizer” is not in the KJV Bible, and many say the word is first used sometime around the 1580’s.

What's the deal with circumcision?:
On one level I can sympathize with the Judaizer’s error.
Genesis 17:10-14, God tells Abraham that any one not circumcised is cut off and broken God’s covenant.
Exodus 12:48-49 explains that there is to be one law for all people and circumcision is part of that law.
Paul, however, seems to directly contradict this in Romans 3:1 where he asks what value is circumcision.
Is Paul contradicting the word of God?
This, understandably, could be a problem for a Jew.
Romans 4:9-11 explains exactly what God was doing with Abraham – Paul is not contradicting the word of God.
Romans 2:28-29 brings us back to the heart of the matter – the heart!
Colossians 2:11-14 elaborates on this further – Christ is our circumcision.
And, as we learned in Paul’s Acts 13 sermon, the Gospel message of salvation by faith, not law or circumcision, is as OT as baseball is American.
Ultimately, there is nothing new here, God’s plan has never changed and He gave ample evidence of His plan in the OT (see lesson on Acts 13 and Jeremiah 31).
Galatians 5:1-6 – Paul’s plea for the truth – I can imagine this was fairly close to the argument he made in Acts 15:1-21.

The extent of the problem:
The church at Galatia:
Galatians 1:6-10 – Paul says the church is turning to a “different” or “distorted” Gospel.
The church at Corinth:
2 Corinthians 11:1-6 – Paul speaks on the infiltration of “another Gospel” and “another Jesus”.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 – Paul describes the “false apostles”.
The church at Colossae:
Colossians 2:16-23 – “human precepts & teachings” disqualify you they don’t qualify you.

Clearly, this is a theological problem that needs to be solved.
We will examine this next week.

POI – The false teachers in these churches, most agree, were mainly Judaizers.
But, many argue the teachings of Gnostics and Antinomians were also in view.
No matter what you call them, I believe that all were what I would call WORLDLAIZERS.
Worldlaizers – Jesus plus whatever = salvation. Or “what I/culture say” plus “what the Bible means today” = salvation.
Worldlaizers in America - discuss the relevance of Albert Mohler’s Article, http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=3106, to this lesson.

POI – All of this raises an important question.
Can you believe that salvation is faith plus works (or faith plus anything else) and still be saved?
Does the Gospel message that the apostles died preaching and that Jesus died fulfilling teach faith plus works?
Is Jesus clear on His view of salvation? John 14:6
If you believe that Jesus said “except through me plus works”, do you actually believe in the Jesus of the Bible?

POI - Paul spent almost 2 years preaching the Gospel on his first missionary journey.
Before that, he spent 3 years in the desert, presumably obtaining plenary knowledge of the Gospel from Jesus.
His knowledge of the requirements for salvation needed neither validation nor confirmation.
Why, in Acts 15:2, would Paul go to Jerusalem to ask “the apostles and the elders about this question”?
In my opinion, the Judaizers must have claimed to be preaching on authority of the Jerusalem church.
Paul’s mission was, I believe, to determine if Jerusalem was behind this heresy and correct it if culpable.
Acts 15:24 is the answer to Paul’s concern.