Note: One more week to go in our study of “Christianity… In The Beginning”! We will not finish the entire book of Acts, but this week we will look at a church that, in many respects, exemplifies what God wants Christians and churches to be. In fact they were the first ones to be called “Christians”. It seems like a good stopping place.
Today’s Reading: Acts 11:19-21
This refers back to the scattering of Christians recorded in Acts 8:1. The reading mentions two groups of disciples who went out preaching the word. One group is mentioned in verse 19, and then in verse 20 we read about a second group of men who were from Cyprus and Cyrene.
Where did the second group go?
How was the second group different from the first group?
Did this second group have God’s approval?
Accepting the Gentiles is a big hurdle for the church, but its something they must do in order to be what God intends for Christianity to be.
Peter was criticized going to the Gentiles and in today’s reading he is defending his actions. He refers to the “critical moment” when the Holy Spirit suddenly fell on the Gentiles. This convinced Peter to baptize them and accept them as part of the body of believers.
How do Peter’s critics respond to his explanation? What is commendable about their response?
Though they will still struggle with assimilating Gentiles into the church, this was a key moment in the beginning of Christianity.
This is Peter’ report of what happened at the house of Cornelius the Gentile. They Jews want an explanation for why He went in to a Gentiles house and ate with them.
Peter had done more than that – he had actually baptized them and accepted them into the new body of believers!
What impresses you about how Peter defends his actions?
How does he show that he was acting in good conscience in all that he did?
Today we see the events of chapter 10 are not going to pass by without some controversy.
When Peter returns to Jerusalem he is criticized for going to the house of Cornelius and eating with the Gentiles. These men have similar misgivings about the situation as Peter had when first told to go.
Why would they think it was so wrong to visit and eat with Gentiles?
How does what they complain about compare with what we read about God in 10:34?
Yesterday we read the sermon Peter gave to the Gentiles. As Peter was speaking something surprising happened. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word”.
The Jews who came with Peter were “astonished” by this and Peter responded by saying the Gentiles should be baptized. He commanded them to be baptized and then Peter then was asked to stay a few days.
What do you think is the meaning of the Holy Spirit falling on the Gentiles?
Today’s reading is the teaching that Peter gave to Cornelius and his family and friends. He begins by saying “God shows no partiality”, a truth especially relevant for this audience!
Peter informs them about “Jesus of Nazareth”. Specifically he speaks about the miraculous things He did in His life, about how He died and was raised from the dead, and about how God has appointed Him to be the Judge of all mankind.
Note carefully in verses 35 and 43 – who does Peter say can be saved?
What else do you see in Peter’s sermon?
Peter wants to know why Cornelius sent for him. In today’s reading Cornelius tells him how four days earlier he was praying and had seen a man in bright clothing (called an angel in v3). The angel told Cornelius that God had heard his prayers and seen his alms and told him to send to Joppa for Simon Peter. He then tells Peter “I sent to you immediately and you have done well to come”.
Consider the next statement by Cornelius: “We are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.” What is commendable in that statement? How is it like the attitude of the Eunuch we studied in Acts 8?
The men sent from Caesarea make themselves known at the house where Peter is staying. They explain how, at the instruction of an angel, Cornelius had sent for Peter. Peter also received an additional word from the Spirit to “go with them, doubting nothing”, and he is convinced and willing to go.
Jesus had commanded Peter and the rest of the apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Why are they slow to understand that every creature includes gentiles?