that deals primarily with Peter's ministry in and around Jerusalem. Peter has been privileged to be the first to preach the full gospel on Pentecost (early Rains) Sunday, and Luke completes his review by describing the events that precede and follow this Apostle's preaching to the Gentiles for the first time (later Rains) as well. So far the Apostles and their disciples have been preaching to Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism (i.e. Philip and the eunuch). Peter, however, will break through this wall of separation (Jew/Gentile) and bring the gospel to a Roman soldier thus opening the door for Paul and others to freely proclaim the Good News to all men regardless of culture, gender, religion or position in society.
1Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. 3About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" 4And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea." 7When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, 8and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
- Acts 10:1-8
- Peter Preaches to the Gentiles – Acts 10:1-11:30Cornelius1 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. 3About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" 4And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea." 7When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, 8and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
- Acts 10:1-8The Jews had two classes of converts (Lenski, p.67):
- Proselytes of the Gate: These converts were not subject to circumcision and observed only a limited portion of the Law forbidding idolatry, blasphemy, disobedience to judges, murder, fornication/incest, theft and eating of blood. The eunuch that Philip baptized was one of these as was Cornelius, probably because he was a Roman soldier and a foreigner.
- Proselyte of Righteousness: These were Gentiles that became complete Jews, accepting circumcision, and were subject to all of the Law. They were permitted to enter and worship at the Temple (in the Court of the Gentiles).
- Although he was a Proselyte of the Gate and not compelled to submit to the regulations of the Mosaic law, Luke describes Cornelius (centurion is a Roman officer over 100 soldiers) as being:
- Devout/pious: A proselyte who worshiped the God of the Jews and led his household in that direction.
- Benevolent: He used his position and wealth to benefit the poor thus confirming that his faith was sincere.
- Spiritually minded: He wanted a spiritual relationship with God and pursued it through prayer.
- His prayers are answered as God gives him instructions to bring Peter to his home. Note that the angel could have preached the gospel to him then and there, but that task was given by God to men not angels, so that even if it was more complicated to arrange, Cornelius sends for Peter.
- Acts 10:9-16God provides a vision where Peter is commanded to eat food that Jews were not permitted to eat according to Jewish food laws. The Lord had prepared Cornelius for Peter's visit with the appearance of an angel who gave him specific instructions. God also prepares Peter so that he will be able to carry out God's mission despite the challenges it will present him as a faithful Jew.
Jewish ceremonial and food laws were given to the Jews by God in order to make a distinction between themselves as God's people and other nations (Gentiles) who were not. For example, the whole world labored seven days per week, but the Jews were different in that they devoted one day (Sabbath) to the Lord and rested. The other nations ate every kind of food. Jews were different because what they did or did not eat was
guided by their law given to them by God.
Once Christ came, the way to be separated from the world was to follow Him and submit to the
direction of the Holy Spirit who leads Christians
through His Word (New Testament)
spoken by Christ
and taught by His Apostles
Peter, still trying to absorb the meaning of the vision, is told that the men sent by Cornelius are at the gate and he should welcome them. Peter greets them and after hearing the reason for their journey invites them to spend the night with him and Simon's family. Peter may not have understood the full impact of the vision but nevertheless obeyed God's instructions to invite the Gentiles in, despite his discomfort.
Peter Meets Cornelius
And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." 27As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. 28And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. 29That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me."
30Cornelius said, "Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31and he said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.' 33So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come.
Now then, we are all here present before God
to hear all that you have been
commanded by the Lord."
- Acts 10:23b-33Luke describes both Cornelius' preparations for Peter's visit (he had no doubt that the Apostle would come). There is also a marvelous image of these two pious and humble men deferring to one another. Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, kneeling in front of this Galilean fisherman in front of his family and friends. And the servant of the Lord refusing this type of homage declaring the truth that before God both of them were only men (sinful men).
Peter begins by speaking to the obvious issue, "What are a group of Jewish men doing visiting/entering the house of a Gentile?," something that everyone knew was not permitted for a Jew.
He does not describe his vision, as Cornelius will do
in a moment, but demonstrates that he
has understood the
meaning of the vision God gave him
and that he has obeyed it
Cornelius explains his own vision and how
this has led to Peter's arrival in his home.
The stage has now been set for the first instance
where the gospel
will be proclaimed to the Gentiles
Peter Preaches to the Gentiles
Peter's lesson assumes that his hearers are all familiar
with the facts of the gospel as were most of the people who lived in that area and knew of Jesus,
as well as His death and reports of His resurrection.
He also includes the new information given him by God in the vision that the gospel is for all, not only the Jews to whom he had been
preaching since Pentecost
His main point is that he and the Apostles are actual witnesses of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
39We are witnesses of all the things He did
both in the land of the Jews
and in Jerusalem.
They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.
40God raised Him up on the third day
and granted that He become
visible, 41not to all the people,
witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God,
that is, to us who ate and drank
after He arose from the dead.
42And He ordered us to preach to the people,
and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been
appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.
43Of Him all the prophets bear witness that
through His name everyone who believes in Him
receives forgiveness of sins."
- Acts 10:39-43
Response to Peter's Preaching
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.
- Acts 10:44-46
Before Peter can finish by encouraging his audience to repent and be baptized as he did with the crowd on Pentecost Sunday,
Cornelius and the other hearers begin speaking in tongues and praising God. Luke describes this phenomenon as,
"the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on the Gentiles."
Think back to other times in the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit was mentioned and answer this question,
"What has just happened here: empowerment by the Holy Spirit or indwelling of the Holy Spirit?"
The answer is: empowerment.
The Holy Spirit empowered these people to speak in tongues. I believe this happened in order to convince those that did not have a vision (like Peter's companions) that God was -extending- the gospel to the Gentiles, not only to the Jews. There were many prophets who said that this would be so (Micah 4:2; Zechariah 8:22; Amos 9:12) including Jesus Himself in Mark 13:10.
47"Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" 48And he ordered them to be baptized in the
name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
- Acts 10:47-48Peter now finishes his lesson by directing these new believers to be baptized because if there were any who doubted that the gospel was also for the Gentiles, their questions had been answered by the Holy Spirit Himself when He empowered these people to speak in tongues. Peter mentions that they had received the empowerment by the Holy Spirit just like the Apostles did, without human intervention (no laying on of hands). He also insists that they be baptized(rain) in order to obey the gospel and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit
And so God uses the appearance of an angel, a special vision and the empowering of Gentiles to direct Peter to open the gospel
We find out that all of this and more would be necessary to convince the early church, made up exclusively of Jewish Christians, to
accept this directive from God.
Peter Reports to Jerusalem – Acts 11:1-18Luke describes Peter's return to the church in Jerusalem and his explanation of the breakthrough for the gospel message now brought to Gentiles. Upon his return he faces a skeptical reaction from the Jewish Christians who are concerned that he has associated with and preached to Gentiles. These Jews had become Christians but were emotionally and culturally still operating from a
Peter then reviews his vision and the vision that had prompted Cornelius to send for him in the first place,
along with what took place while he preached to them,
and the church concluded that this was from God.
It is interesting to note that Peter, the Apostle,
was still subject to explaining his actions to the church
to guarantee and prove that what he had done
was from God and
not his own initiative.
Today, leaders and teachers are accountable to the church which uses the Scriptures to judge their teachings and ministry (II Timothy 2:15).
The Church at Antioch – Acts 11:19-3019 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with
resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;
24for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.
- Acts 11:19-24 Here we see God's providential care -ordering- events in favor of His kingdom on earth, the church.
Peter has opened the door to the Gentiles. Christians, forced out of Jerusalem, preach to Gentiles while on their travels. This news reaches the leaders in Jerusalem, who have already given their blessing to the evangelization of the Gentiles.
Barnabas, who has proven his faithfulness and generosity to the church, is sent to help teach these brethren who have formed or joined the church at Antioch. Luke writes that Barnabas' ministry there was successful and the church grew.
25And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul;
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.
And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called
Christians in Antioch.
- Acts 11:25-26 Growing churches need ministers, so Barnabas finds Saul since, as a Roman citizen, he will be effective in teaching these Gentile converts. We can understand that the name "Christian" was coined at Antioch since they had a mixed cultural group (Jew and Gentile) who needed a concise name that would eliminate any cultural, social or former religious identity from them.
The term "Christian"
accomplished these goals perfectly.
27Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them named Agabus
stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there
would certainly be a
great famine all over the world.
And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.
30And this they did, sending it
in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
- Acts 11:27-30A true test of fellowship arises, this time for the Gentile Christians. A famine is predicted by one of the prophets from Jerusalem who also brings a request for assistance. This was the first example of inter-congregational cooperation for the purpose of assistance and benevolence. The challenge for Antioch was if the Gentile brethren would send money to their Jewish brothers and sisters who, before becoming Christians, had despised them. The challenge for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem was the reverse, would they receive charity from Gentiles, even if they had confessed Christ?
The answer is found in verse 29, where Luke reports that all who had the ability (both Jew and Gentile) gave, and the two main teachers: Barnabas (named first because he is still discipling Saul at this point) and Saul are entrusted with delivering the gift to the church in Jerusalem. The way that all of this was handled was a testimony that the Apostles in Jerusalem and the teachers (Barnabas and Saul) from Antioch succeeding in their teaching and preaching ministries.
Peter's Arrest and Delivery – Acts 12:1-251Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
4When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 5So Peter was kept in the prison, but
prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
- Acts 12:1-5
In Acts 12:6-19, Luke mentions that despite their many
trials and discouragements,
the church prayed for Peter's release.
Peter's miraculous escape made possible by an angel is described in the kind of detail that could have only been provided by an eyewitness. Luke also adds a humorous account of how a young maid's excitement left Peter standing out in the street knocking on the door of Mary's (John Mark's mother) house while she ran in to announce that Peter was at the door. Peter is finally let in and instructs the brethren to inform James (the Lord's brother, not the Apostle that had been killed by Herod) and others of his freedom.
Peter probably went into hiding to avoid Herod's efforts at recapturing him. Luke mentions Peter again in chapter 15 where he and others discuss certain issues taking place at the church in Antioch.
word of the Lord continued to grow and
to be multiplied
25And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem
when they had fulfilled their mission,
taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.
- Acts 12:24-25
There is some debate about the direction of Barnabas and Paul. Some interpretations describe the action "from Jerusalem" and others "to Jerusalem," as the Greek preposition eis is sometimes hard to translate. If Barnabas and Paul are going to Jerusalem, their "service" was to collect funds for the church in Jerusalem. If they are leaving Jerusalem, the task is to deliver those funds (Acts 11:27–30). Either way, they collect the funds in Syrian Antioch, take them to Jerusalem, and return to Antioch with John Mark.
For Paul and Barnabas,
this is the transition from Acts 11:30 to Acts 13:1.
For Mark, it's the transition from Acts 12:12 to Acts 13:4.
And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience. 17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. 18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. 19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. 20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. 21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. 23 Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: 24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he.
But, behold, there cometh one after me,
whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
30 But God raised him from the dead: 31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. 32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. 38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. 42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached
to them the next sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.