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Acts 11





Yesterday we encountered the story of how God took the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Because we are Gentiles who look back on this event, it doesn’t seem that big of a deal to us.  After all, why shouldn’t we have the privilege of hearing the Gospel and the opportunity to be saved.  Both The Great Commission and the Acts 1:8 model point to the fact that Jesus wanted everyone to hear the Good News.

But as you get into this chapter, it is quickly evident that not everyone was that excited.  When Peter returned to Jerusalem he was quickly met by a group of Jewish men referred to as “the circumcision party” or “those of the circumcision”.  These may very well have been men saved by the grace of God through Jesus but who were still very ignorant of God’s great grace.  They were still trying to marry the Jewish law with Christianity.

They were men that still clung to the Jewish traditions.  One of those would have been the absolute necessity of circumcision.  This will be a major point of contention later.  Another one of those would have been the long standing cultural divide between Jews and Gentiles.  Many Jews would have thought of Gentiles as no better if not worse than dogs.  They would not have had anything to do with them in any way.  In fact, for Gentiles to even be recognized by religious Jews, they would have had to converted to Judaism.

Peter was quick to tell his story.  As he did, he made a most interesting comparison.  The Gentiles at the home of Cornelius were saved and received the Holy Spirit just like the disciples did on the day of Pentecost.  This is remarkable.  The Samaritans also received the Holy Spirit, but it was in a different way.  The Gentiles, however, had a very similar experience to what happened at Pentecost.  The satisfied those of the circumcision, at least temporarily.

From there the story shifts to the church in Antioch.  We are reintroduced to Barnabas.  I love the way he is described: a good man, full of the Holy Spirit, and faithful.  We should all desire to be known that way.

God was busy saving a lot of Gentiles in Antioch.  Barnabas got a bit overwhelmed and left to go to Tarsus to get Saul.  It is at this point in the Acts narrative that Saul/Paul will begin to take on a much more prominent role.  But in the meantime, Barnabas and Saul teamed up to disciple the believers in Antioch.

The fruit of that discipleship was evident.  First, disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.  In other words, this is the first time that disciples lived such unusually graceful lives that people identified them with Jesus.  Second, the church in Antioch sent financial help to Christ followers living in Judea.  This is the first time we really see a cooperative effort of churches ministering to other churches.  

Posted by Joe Ligon with

Acts 10





This is a pivotal chapter in the Book of Acts as well as in the history of the church.  Until this time, the Gospel had only been shared with the Jews first and then the Samaritans.  As far as we know, no Gentile had been witnessed to and no Gentile had been saved.

But as the Great Commission teaches that the Gospel would be preached to all nations (ethne or people groups) and as the Acts 1:8 model dictates that the Gospel would be taken to the ends of the earth, at some point Gentiles would have to hear the Gospel.

As always God was working.  When He saved Saul, He saved the one who would be the apostle to the Gentiles.  And when He caused the vision of the sheet with all kinds of animals to appear three times to Peter, He was preparing the man who would be the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

The Gentiles in this story would be a Roman centurion named Cornelius as well as those in his household.  Cornelius is a prime example of a man who was very religious but not a Christian.  He believed in the one, true God.  He prayed.  He even gave support to the poor.  But he did not have a personal relationship with God through Jesus.

Because of the sincerity of his search, God sent an angel to Cornelius with explicit instructions to send after a man named Simon Peter.  Like any good soldier would, Cornelius quickly obeyed.  And in the meantime, God was preparing Peter for the task ahead.

The vision of the sheet with all kinds of animals in it served a couple of different purposes.  One, it made all animals clean.  It took away the Old Testament dietary restrictions which, among other things, made bacon legal.  Two, it made no difference between Jewish people and Gentiles.

Beginning in verse 34, Peter shared the Gospel with Cornelius and all those gathered in his house.  While Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the Word.  This is another proof that the preaching/teaching/sharing of God’s Word is absolutely necessary for salvation.  No one gets saved apart from the Scripture. 

What happens in verses 44-48 is also evidence that the presence of the Holy Spirit is undeniable, irrefutable proof of salvation.  It was not until after their salvation that they were baptized which is the Biblical model.

I think there are many take aways from this chapter.  One of those is we must never try to put God in a box.  He doesn’t go in there well and He seldom stays in there.  God is big enough and good enough to do whatever He wants to do.  We should not try to hinder that.  Instead we should be eager to be a part of that even if it doesn’t fit our notion of how God should operate.

Another take away is God loves all people.  It is true that the Jews are His chosen people.  But He loves everyone and, therefore, wants everyone to be saved. 

A third take away is when anyone anywhere gets serious about seeking God, God always shows up in a big, big way.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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