Set Up to Fail


When I was in college, I worked at a local bank. My job was as a commercial loan assistant, which basically meant I would be handed giant folders filled with documents that needed to be filed in their respective spots. I would spend hours of my day alone in a room with wall-to-wall file cabinets. It was awful because I am naturally a very talkative person who needs interaction with people. After a few weeks, it was clear that “file guy” was not my calling. After meeting with my boss, he decided my skill set might not be in the solitary file business. My boss wisely said, “Mitch, I think we set you up to fail.”

  • When have you felt like you have been set up to fail?


6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. In the previous passage, a debate had begun regarding whether Gentile believers needed to be circumcised. What did the apostles and the elders gather to do in this passage?
  2. What was required of the Gentiles in order to be cleansed by God (vs. 9)? What had God given to the Gentiles to bear witness of their faith (vs. 8)?
  3. According to Peter through what will both Jews and Gentiles be saved (vs. 11)?
  4. Why is this debate so important?
  5. Where in your life are you tempted to add something to what is required to be saved (i.e. have better behavior, be more prayerful, serve more, love more, be less jealous or angry, stop lying or lusting, etc.)? How is this setting you up for failure?


At this meeting of the apostles and elders—the Jerusalem Council—early church leaders gathered to debate what was required for salvation. Peter argued that both Jews and Gentiles were saved by grace through faith alone, and that there was no distinction between the two groups. Peter reminded those gathered that Christ gives grace and life in himself. We do not have to earn our way into heaven because we will fail every time. All we have to do is believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus we will be saved. Amazing!

  • Thank God for this free gift that you are equally unworthy and undeserving of.