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Putting Acts 15 and Galatians 1-2 in Context

What do Acts 15 and the first two chapters of Galatians have in common? They both talk about the first big debate over ethnic identity in the church. Some of the early Christians said you had to be circumcised and assimilate into the Jewish culture in order to be a true disciple of Jesus. They debated the topic in Acts 15 in Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul was very opposed to this teaching. That's what he's talking about in his letter to the Galatians.

This PowerPoint will walk through the backstory of Paul's life in Acts in order to understand the context for Acts 15 and the letter to the Galatians. You can download this PowerPoint and image pack and use it for your own preaching and teaching. Use one slide, a few slides, or all of them. Whatever works for you.

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Putting Acts 15 and Galatians 1-2 in Context

  1. 1. Acts 8:1 (NRSV) 1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
  2. 2. Saul’s Conversion Acts 9:1-30
  3. 3. 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” Most people are freaked out by this radical transformation. He escapes to Jerusalem…
  4. 4. Acts 9:28–30 (NRSV) 28 So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
  5. 5. Acts 11:25–26 (NRSV) 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
  6. 6. The Jerusalem Council A look at Acts 15 and Galatians 2
  7. 7. Acts 15:1-35 15 Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 3 So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers.
  8. 8. Acts 15:1-35 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter.
  9. 9. Acts 15:1-35 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9 and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.
  10. 10. Acts 15:1-35 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
  11. 11. Acts 15:1-35 12 The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles (the story of Acts 13-14).
  12. 12. Acts 15:1-35 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name.
  13. 13. Acts 15:1-35 15 This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, 16 ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, 17 so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18 known from long ago.’ Amos 9:11-12
  14. 14. Acts 15:1-35 19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. 21 For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”
  15. 15. Acts 15:1-35 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” The Letter Sent to Antioch
  16. 16. Galatians Written
  17. 17. Galatians 1:1-10
  18. 18. Galatians 1:1–5 (NRSV) 1 Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the members of God’s family who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
  19. 19. Galatians 1:6-10 (NRSV) 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! 10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
  20. 20. Galatians 1:11-24
  21. 21. Galatians 1:11–17 (NRSV) 11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
  22. 22. 13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.
  23. 23. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
  24. 24. Galatians 1:18–24 (NRSV) 18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
  25. 25. Galatians 2:1-10 Remember that Acts had not been written yet when Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Galatia.
  26. 26. Galatians 2:1-10 2 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.
  27. 27. Galatians 2:1-10 4 But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— 5 we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. 6 And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me.
  28. 28. Galatians 2:1-10 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles),
  29. 29. Galatians 2:1-10 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
  30. 30. Galatians 1:11-2:10 Summarized Jesus taught me the Gospel, I’m a legit apostle. You can trust me.
  31. 31. Galatians 2:11-21 (This story is not in Acts.)
  32. 32. Galatians 2:11-14 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
  33. 33. Personal Testimony is Finished It’s time for some theology!
  34. 34. Galatians 2:15–16 (NRSV) 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.
  35. 35. Galatians 2:15–16 (NRSV) 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. What does it mean to be justified?
  36. 36. δικαιόωc; δικαίωσιςb, εως f; δικαίωμαc, τος n: the act of clearing someone of transgression—‘to acquit, to set free, to remove guilt, acquittal.’ In a number of languages the process of acquittal takes the form of a direct statement, for example, ‘to say, You are not guilty’ or ‘…, You no longer have sin’ or, as expressed idiomatically in some instances, ‘…, Sin is no longer on your head’ or ‘…, Your sins are now given back to you.’ Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 556.
  37. 37. Galatians 2:17–18 (NRSV) 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.
  38. 38. Galatians 2:17–18 (NRSV) 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. This is the accusation Paul’s opponents are bringing against him.
  39. 39. Galatians 2:17–18 (NRSV) 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. If I force Gentiles to be circumcised.
  40. 40. Galatians 2:19–21 (NRSV) 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  41. 41. Galatians 2:20 (NA26INT) 20ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός· ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ. Live but no longer I Lives but in me Christ What but now I live in flesh in trust (faith) I live in [the faith] of the son of God the one having loved me and having given himself over for me.
  42. 42. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
  43. 43. How do I know when I BELONG?
  44. 44. Galatians 2:15-16
  45. 45. Galatians 2:15-16
  46. 46. Galatians 2:15-16

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