Hey guys, how’s it going? Hope things are ticking along and you’ve been able to make the most of the dry, bright days. We had a Covid test this week, which thankfully came back negative and very quickly so we only had to isolate for a day.
This week we are looking at Acts Chapter 15. It’s a long one and so I’m going to re-tell it on the video, rather than read it all out. There isn’t an obvious or straight-forward application for children and so I’m going to focus on God seeing our hearts and inviting us even with all our faults and the only requirement of salvation being accepting Jesus as Lord.
Acts Chapter 15
The Meeting at Jerusalem
1Then some men came to Antioch from Judea. They began teaching the non-Jewish brothers: “You cannot be saved if you are not circumcised. Moses taught us to do this.” 2Paul and Barnabas were against this teaching and argued with the men about it. So the group decided to send Paul, Barnabas, and some other men to Jerusalem. There they could talk more about this with the apostles and elders.
3The church helped the men leave on the trip. They went through the countries of Phoenicia and Samaria, telling all about how the non-Jewish people had turned to God. This made all the believers very happy. 4When they arrived in Jerusalem, the apostles, the elders, and the church welcomed them. Paul, Barnabas, and the others told about all the things that God had done with them. 5But some of the believers who had belonged to the Pharisee group came forward. They said, “The non-Jewish believers must be circumcised. We must tell them to obey the law of Moses!”
6The apostles and the elders gathered to study this problem. 7There was a long debate. Then Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know what happened in the early days. God chose me from among you to preach the Good News to the non-Jewish people. They heard the Good News from me, and they believed. 8God, who knows the thoughts of all men, accepted them. He showed this to us by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9To God, those people are not different from us. When they believed, he made their hearts pure. 10So now why are you testing God? You are putting a heavy load around the necks of the non-Jewish brothers. It is a load that neither we nor our fathers were able to carry. 11But we believe that we and they too will be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus!”
12Then the whole group became quiet. They listened to Paul and Barnabas speak. Paul and Barnabas told about all the miracles and signs that God did through them among the non-Jewish people. 13After they finished speaking, James spoke. He said, “Brothers, listen to me. 14Simon has told us how God showed his love for the non-Jewish people. For the first time he has accepted them and made them his people. 15The words of the prophets agree with this too:
16‘After these things I will return.
The kingdom of David is like a fallen tent.
But I will rebuild it.
And I will again build its ruins.
And I will set it up.
17Then those people who are left alive may ask the Lord for help.
And all people from other nations may worship me,
says the Lord.
And he will make it happen.
18And these things have been known for a long time.’ Amos 9:11-12
19“So I think we should not bother the non-Jewish brothers who have turned to God. 20Instead, we should write a letter to them. We should tell them these things: Do not eat food that has been offered to idols. (This makes the food unclean.) Do not take part in any kind of sexual sin. Do not taste blood. Do not eat animals that have been strangled. 21They should not do these things, because there are still men in every city who teach the law of Moses. For a long time the words of Moses have been read in the synagogue every Sabbath day.”
Letter to Non-Jewish Believers
22The apostles, the elders, and the whole church decided to send some of their men with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. They chose Judas Barsabbas and Silas, who were respected by the believers. 23They sent the following letter with them:
From the apostles and elders, your brothers.
To all the non-Jewish brothers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24We have heard that some of our men have come to you and said things that trouble and upset you. But we did not tell them to do this! 25We have all agreed to choose some men and send them to you. They will be with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26men who have given their lives to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. 27So we have sent Judas and Silas with them. They will tell you the same things. 28It has pleased the Holy Spirit that you should not have a heavy load to carry, and we agree. You need to do only these things: 29Do not eat any food that has been offered to idols. Do not taste blood. Do not eat any animals that have been strangled. Do not take part in any kind of sexual sin. If you stay away from these things, you will do well.
30So the men left Jerusalem and went to Antioch. There they gathered the church and gave them the letter. 31When they read it, they were very happy because of the encouraging letter. 32Judas and Silas were also prophets, who said many things to encourage the believers and make them stronger. 33After some time Judas and Silas were sent off in peace by the believers. They went back to those who had sent them. 34[But Silas decided to remain there.]
35But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch. They and many others preached the Good News and taught the people the message of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas Separate
36After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “We preached the message of the Lord in many towns. We should go back to all those towns to visit the believers and see how they are doing.”
37Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them too. 38But John Mark had left them at Pamphylia; he did not continue with them in the work. So Paul did not think it was a good idea to take him. 39Paul and Barnabas had a serious argument about this. They separated and went different ways. Barnabas sailed to Cyprus and took Mark with him. 40But Paul chose Silas and left. The believers in Antioch put Paul into the Lord’s care. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, giving strength to the churches.
There are no video links this week as I couldn’t find any suitable ones!
Here is one to The Prodigal son though:
Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch when some other Jews from Judea arrive and start to tell people that they can only really become Christians and be saved by Jesus if they follow all the Jewish Laws that Moses set out. This was very different to what Paul and Barnabas believed and so there was a bit of discussion and argument about who was right- could non-Jewish people, (Gentiles), be saved just by believing Jesus is the Son of God who rose again and is Lord of all and turning away from sin or do they need to follow all the Jewish laws as well?
The argument wasn’t settled and so they decided to send Paul, Barnabas and some other men to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and the council there.
When they got there, more argument and debate went on and different people got to say their thoughts and opinions while everyone listened. Peter got up and reminded everyone of the Gentile people that had accepted the Good News of Jesus and been filled with the Holy Spirit, just as they had, even though they weren’t Jewish or following Jewish laws. He said God sees the heart and knows our thoughts and it is because of His grace that Jews and Gentiles are saved, not because we stick to rules.
Paul and Barnabas got to share their stories too, of how they have seen Gentiles becoming Christians and God has been doing miracles among them. Then James got up and spoke how in old prophecies, it does actually say that God will make a way for all people from all nations to come and worship Him and so this is what they have been seeing happen. James said that they shouldn’t teach that Gentiles need to follow all the Jewish laws, but that they should write a letter to the church in Antioch outlining the things that they do think Jews and non-Jews alike should follow.
So they wrote a letter saying that they should not eat certain foods, eat or drink blood (ugh) and they should stay faithful to their wives husbands. Then Paul, Barnabas and some other men (Judas and Silas) went to take it to Antioch. They stayed there for a while until Judas returned to Jerusalem and the others stayed.
They spent some time preaching and teaching before Paul said he and Barnabas should go back to all the places they had been to, spreading the news of Jesus to go and see how the churches there were getting on. Barnabas wanted to take a man called John Mark with them, but Paul didn’t because John Mark had travelled with them before but gave up part-way through. Barnabas thought he should be allowed though, and they had a massive argument about it. In the end Barnabas went one way, to Cyprus with John Mark and Paul went another way, to Syria, with Silas.
3-7s: You might want to further simplify the passage above, or tell the story of The Prodigal Son. I’ve picked this one because it tells a story of someone who didn’t follow all the rules his father set out for him, verses a brother who did, but the father loved them both and offered them both all he had, showing grace. Be sure to explain to your child/ren that God sees our hearts and knows what we are thinking. He knows we can make mistakes and do wrong things, but when we are sorry, He sees that and still loves us and forgives us. After retelling either story, ask:
- When God looks at us, what does He see? (Our hearts)
- Does God want us to do the right things? (Yes)
- If we make mistakes or choose to do bad things, does God still love us? (Yes, He sees our hearts and knows when we are sorry)
7-11s: Read or retell the story from today’s passage. In the passage today we hear about a big and important issue between some Jews and others on what needs to happen if a non-Jew, Gentile, is to truly become a follower of Jesus. Some felt strongly that they would need to follow all the Jewish laws, and basically live like a Jew. We hear that in the end, through argument and debate, it was decided that actually that is not the case. The thing that makes a person a follower of God isn’t the rules that they keep, or the food that they don’t eat, but the grace that God shows each one of us when we go to Him, accepting that Jesus dies for our sins and ask for His forgiveness, which He then offers us. God looks at our hearts and knows what we believe, rather than watching how good we are and how well we keep to any rules.
We also read that there was still some rules they told all people to keep. We know that just because God loves us, that doesn’t mean He wants us to carry on doing things wrong; just because He forgives, doesn’t mean we should just sin anyway! No. Keeping the rules won’t make us Christians, but it helps us to become more like Jesus. Remember the story of The Prodigal Son? One son asks his dad for the money he would get if his dad died (!) and then leaves home and spends it all living extravagantly and wildly. Then there is a famine and he has to work and eat with pigs, which was terrible for anyone, let alone a Jew. In the end he decides to go back to his dad, say sorry and ask to be his servant because he knows he will have a better life being his dad’s servant, than eating pig food. So he makes his way home and his dad looks out and sees him in the distance. His dad is so chuffed that he starts making the plans to have a massive party to welcome him home. The other brother, who has stayed at home the whole time, done nothing wrong and not wasted a load of his dad’s money, can’t believe what is happening and says to his dad how unfair he thinks it is. But his dad just says it was like his brother was lost and now is found, so of course he has to celebrate.
In the story, it’s not that the dad wouldn’t have been upset or sad that his son had done the wrong things, but he could see that he was sorry and didn’t want to live that way anymore. He didn’t ask his son to live by certain rules before he welcomed him home and that’s similar to what the passage is saying today: if we love God, accept Jesus and his salvation, we don’t have to follow rules before God accepts us. He offers grace first. But when we love God, there are ways we will want to follow and rules we will want to keep.
- Why did Paul and Barnabas leave the Antioch church and travel to Jerusalem? (Jews came to Antioch telling Gentiles they had to follow Jewish laws to be saved)
- How did the problem get resolved between the Jewish and Gentile believers? (They agreed to write a letter for the Gentile believers telling them things not to do)
- Why did Paul and Barnabas split up? (They argued about John Mark coming with them)
- What rules do we need to keep to be a follower of Jesus? (None. We just need to believe in Jesus as our saviour)
- Have a look at the printable activities and see what takes your fancy! Why not ask your parents or carers to take a photo of your creative achievements and post it on Beyond Sunday? God looks at the heart- find the 12 hidden hearts on one activity. Maybe you love a wordsearch?
- Can you come up with anything yourself to craft or create? 😊 How about a ‘Welcome Home’ Poster? Or a picture of a party?!