Acts 11 Gentile Church atozmomm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

Summary Acts 11:19-30:

Those who had been scattered when Stephen died  traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch preaching to the Jews there.  However some men from Cyprus and Cyrene began to speak to the Greeks as well in Antioch about Jesus.  As a result, many Greeks believed.

Jerusalem sent Barnabas when they heard the news to help.  Then Barnabas traveled to Tarsus to bring Saul to Antioch to help preach the Good News.  For a whole year Saul and Barnabas preached the Good News and it was here at Antioch that the term Christians was first coined.

More prophets arrived from Jerusalem.  One of them, Agabus, predicted a severe famine for the entire Roman world (which was most know places).  The disciples decided to help their brothers in Judea during this time.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

12)  Antioch was the third-largest city in the Roman empire.  It sat at a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the eastern world.  It was a huge trading center and had a large Jewish and Greek population.  It was the first church with a large number of Gentile members and from here the first missionaries were sent out to spread the Gospel.

13) Personal Question. My answer: This blog. My work. Continue to pray for strength to continue as there are days where I am just tired.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

Another great example of the church growing and God using people to grow the church.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 5: Acts 11:19-30

The first mission to the Gentiles begins in Antioch.

Antioch was founded about 300 B.C. by Seleucus I, one of the inheritors of Alexander the Great’s empire. He named many cities after his father, Antioch, about fifteen in total. This city of Antioch was called “Syrian Antioch” or “Antioch on the Orontes.” In the first century, it was a city of more than half a million people; today it is a Turkish city with a population of about 3,500.

Antioch was about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of Jerusalem and about 20 miles (32 kilometers) inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Many considered Syrian Antioch the third greatest city in the Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria. Antioch was known for its business and commerece, for its sophistication and culture, but also for its immorality.

Map of Antioch and Tarsus atozmomm

“The city’s reputation for moral laxity was enhanced by the cult of Artemis and Apollo at Daphne, five miles distant, where the ancient Syrian worship of Astarte and her consort, with its ritual prostitution, was carried on.” (Bruce)

This is the plan for church growth spoken of in Ephesians 4:11-16. Leaders in the church dedicate themselves to building strong, healthy Christians. As the saints are equipped for the work of the ministry, they grow into maturity, and do their ministry, and it causes growth of the body.

Barnabas remembered the precious brother Saul, and how he was sent to Tarsus for his own protection (Acts 9:28-30). Now Barnabas went and found him.

Barnabas was probably exhausted and overwhelmed by all the work and opportunities in Antioch, and then remembering Saul of Tarsus.

To seek Saul is more literally to hunt him up. MacArthur says the original word “suggests a laborious search on Barnabas’ part.” Saul was so valuable to Barnabas that it was worth it for him to leave the work in Antioch for a season and search hard to find him.

Antioch became a center for great teaching and preaching. Antioch “had the greatest preachers – in the first century Barnabas, Paul, and Peter; in the second Ignatius and Theophilus; in the third and fourth Lucian, Theodore, Chrysostom, and Theordoret.” (Hughes)

church atozmomm

The Introduction of the Name Christian

It wasn’t until these years at the Church in Syrian Antioch that the name Christian became associated with the followers of Jesus. They had previously been called disciples (Acts 1:15), saints (Acts 9:13), believers (Acts 5:14), brothers (Acts 6:3), witnesses (Acts 5:32), followers of the Way (Acts 9:2), and Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).

In Latin, the ending ian meant “the party of.” A Christ-ian was “of the party of Jesus.” Christians was sort of like saying “Jesus-ites,” or “Jesus People,” describing the people associated with Jesus Christ. Boice thinks the idea was that they were called “Christ-ones.”

Also, soldiers under particular generals in the Roman army identifed themselves by their general’s name by adding ian to the end. A soldier under Caesar would call himself a Caesarian. Soldiers under Jesus Christ could be called Christians.

In Antioch, they probably first used the term Christians to mock the followers of Jesus. The believers appreciated the title so much that it stuck.

They gave according to the ability of their resources; those who had more gave more, probably referencing a proportional giving. It also means that they gave according to the ability of their faith, trusting that their gift to God’s work was a worthy investment in His kingdom, and not a loss.

Fun Fact: Luke is the only New Testament author to date his books by referring to Roman emperors. He refers to Claudius three times in the book of Acts. All of the events in Luke’s Gospel occur during the reigns of Tiberius and Augustus.

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Acts 10 atozmomm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Summary Acts 10:

A Roman Centurion (a very important man whom all Jews resented and despised) named Cornelius was living in Caesarea.  He was God-fearing and gave generously to the poor.  One day he had a vision of the angel of God.  The angel told Cornelius to send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter, which he did.

Peter had a vision that same day of a large sheet being let down from heaven with all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds on it.  A voice told Peter to kill and eat these animals.

Peter freaked out.  He couldn’t possibly eat anything unclean (as the laws for centuries have been).  The voice corrected him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

While Peter was pondering this vision, Cornelius’ men arrived and the voice said to go with these men, which he did.

The next day when Peter arrived, Cornelius had invited all of his relatives and close friends to hear what Peter had to say.  Peter reminds everyone it is against Jewish law for Jews to associate with Gentiles but God has said otherwise through this vision.

Cornelius repeats his vision to Peter.  Peter finally understands his dream:  God now accepts every man into His kingdom; the Jews are no longer singled out as God’s chosen people.  With Jesus’ death, everyone is eligible for Salvation.

Peter explains how God chose people to be witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection and to preach to the people and testify that God is the one and only judge of the living and the dead.

The Holy Spirit then came upon all who were listening, much to the astonishment of the Jews present with Peter.  Then they were baptized.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

6) He was a devout, God-fearing man and gave generously to those in need. He was respected by all the Jewish people. He prayed to God regularly.  He was a strong man, authoritative, and loyal to be a Roman Centurion (commander in the Roman army).  He must have been respected, admired, and a good leader.  He obeyed God and yearned to know Him more.

7a) God told Peter to get up and kill and eat, which is against Jewish law. Peter’s objection was just that — that these animals were impure and unclean so he couldn’t possibly eat or kill them. God told Peter not to call anything impure that He has made clean.

b) God confirmed His words by having Peter sent for by Cornelius and taken to Cornelius’ house.

8 ) Personal Question. My answer: Jesus’s death. All barriers.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Profound passage as Peter finally realizes that all people are made clean through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now all will be preached to.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Caesarea was a predominately Roman city on the shores of the Mediterranean in Judea. It was the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province of Judea. Archaeologists have discovered a stone from a building in Caesarea inscribed with the name Pontus Pilate.

Who Was Cornelius?

  • Cornelius was an officer in the Roman Army. A Jew of that day would naturally dislike or even hate him.
  • Cornelius was a God-fearer. These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel; they were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision. Jewish people of that time respected and appreciated these God-fearing Gentiles, but they could not really share their life and homes and food with them, because they were still in fact Gentiles and not full Jewish converts.
  • Cornelius gave generously to the poor, prayed often, sought God, and obeyed. How many of us can say the same?

It is significant that God spoke to Cornelius directly, even calling him by name. It is also significant that Cornelius responded with a healthy fear of the heavenly and holy (he was afraid). This shows that Cornelius had a real relationship with God.

Angels have limited abilities. They are primarily messengers. Note that an angel came to Cornelius to deliver a message, not convert him.

Typically, this is how God operates. He speaks to several people about a matter, not just one. Then confirmation is provided, and out of the mouth of two or three witnesses a word is established.

map of caesarea and joppa atozmomm

Fun Fact:  It is rare in the Bible for God to speak in an audible voice.

Peter had a bad habit of telling Jesus “no” (Matthew 16:22John 13:8). Compare Peter’s response to God (Not so, Lord!) with Cornelius’ response to God (What is it, Lord?). On that day, it seemed that Cornelius was more responsive to God than Peter was.

God repeated this vision three times. Peter was to regard this as important.

When the vision ended, Peter did not have it all figured out. That came in time. And so it is with us.

Previously, in Acts 10:13 and 10:15, it was simply said that a voice spoke to Peter. Now, we are told that the Spirit spoke to Peter. This was God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, speaking to Peter.

At this point, God has not told Peter that his visitors were Gentiles. Normally, a godly Jew like Peter would not associate in this manner with Gentiles. Knowing this, and knowing Peter’s previous resistance (Not so, Lord!), God simply surprised Peter with the knowledge that these men were Gentiles.

The idea that God could send and use Gentiles was entirely new to Peter. God was expanding Peter’s mind and heart.

Peter didn’t just coldly give these Gentiles visitors a room; he entertained them as welcomed guests, and he did this against every custom of the Jewish people of that day. No orthodox Jew would have invited Gentiles into his house. He would not have sat down at the same table with them. He would not have had fellowship with them. It was forbidden.

God flooded Peter’s heart with an understanding that though the Old Testament said God’s people were not to become like their pagan neighbors, it also said God wanted His people to become a light to their neighbors who didn’t know the true God.

“Centuries ago another Jew had come to Joppa with a solemn message from his God, which he was commissioned to bear far hence to the Gentiles. Jonah, the prophet, took a ship from Joppa and refused obedience to the divine call.” (Gaebelein)

Significantly, whenever in the Bible worship is offered to men or to angels (as in Revelation 19:10), it is refused. But Jesus received such worship freely (Matthew 8:29:1814:3315:2528:9). This proves that Jesus is more than a man, and greater than any angel (Luke 4:8).

Acts 10:38 atozmommConversion of Paul

Peter actually entered the house of a Gentile, something that Jewish customs and traditions strictly prohibited. By entering a Gentile’s home, Peter showed that his heart and mind had changed, and that he had learned the lesson of the vision of the great sheet.

“The principle subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius as the conversion of Peter.” (Stott)

Cornelius was not a Christian in the sense that he was not yet regenerated or born again, yet in this case God heard his prayers and remembered his generosity to others.

This is the foundation for Peter’s understanding that the gospel should now go forth to Gentiles. This statement goes completely against the prevailing Jewish thought at that time that God certainly did show partiality, towards the Jews and against the Gentiles. In essence, many Jews of Peter’s day thought that God loved the Jews while hating the Gentiles.

The Prejudice Against Gentiles

According to William Barclay, it was common for a Jewish man to begin the day with a prayer thanking God that he was not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman. A basic part of the Jewish religion in the days of the New Testament was an oath that promised that one would never help a Gentile under any circumstances, such as giving directions if they were asked. But it went even as far as refusing to help a Gentile woman at the time of her greatest need – when she was giving birth – because the result would only be to bring another Gentile into the world.

If a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish community would have a funeral for the Jew and consider them dead. It was thought that to even enter the house of a Gentile made a Jew unclean before God.

Christianity was the first religion to disregard racial, cultural and national limitations.

When the Jews showed this kind of partiality they were not being faithful to God’s heart as revealed in the Old Testament. The idea that God shows no partiality is also stated in Deuteronomy 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 19:7For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe (Deuteronomy 10:17).

Notably, Peter’s preaching to the Gentiles was essentially the same as his preaching to the Jews. He presented the person and work of Jesus Christ, with an emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus and our responsibility before God in light of these things.

Peter didn’t have one sermon for one group and another sermon for another. All people needed to be saved by coming to a living faith in a living Jesus Christ.

Peter’s sermon was a wonderful (if brief and perhaps condensed by Luke) explanation of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth:

  • Jesus was baptized to identify with humanity.
  • Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
  • Jesus was crucified.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected in view of many witnesses.
  • Jesus commanded His followers to preach the message of who He is and what He did.

The moment of a person’s salvation isn’t necessarily when they raise a hand or come forward at an evangelistic invitation. It is more likely at the moment they surrender to God and embrace with trust Jesus in the sincerity of their hearts.

Peter allowed the Holy Spirit to interrupt his sermon. The Holy Spirit was doing the greater work in the hearts of those listening, and Peter went with the flow. He stopped and called for their baptism.

Acts 10 summary atozmomm

The First Gentile Converts to Christianity

These were likely not the first Gentiles to trust in Jesus and be born again. Gentiles had probably received salvation in the eight years since Pentecost (Acts 2). But those Gentiles were saved as they embraced Judaism as well as Christianity. Gentiles may have received salvation before this, but they were saved as Jews, not as Gentiles.

Their filling with the Holy Spirit was accompanied by the demonstration of spiritual gifts. This was a filling with the Holy Spirit in two senses: First, in the sense that He indwells and abides in every believer; second, in the sense of a special empowering with gifts and graces from the Holy Spirit.

This was unique. It was not common in the Book of Acts or in subsequent Christian experience for those who were not previously converted (born again) to instantly be born again and receive such evident spiritual gifts. Yet it was good and even necessary on this occasion, to show that they received the exact same Spirit, the exact same blessing as the apostles and first followers of Jesus did on the morning of Pentecost (Acts 2).

God would fill Gentiles with the Holy Spirit in the same manner and degree as the Jews.

God loved and blessed the Gentiles just as He loved and blessed the Jews, and He did it while they were still Gentiles.

The Old Testament looked for the day when a light would shine in the darkness of the Gentile world: Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

God promised Abraham and his descendants that the blessing that came through him would extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-4). Here, we see Jesus – the greatest blessing from Abraham – extended to the nations.

Remember Jesus’ promise of other sheep, not of this fold in John 10:16. Jesus also promised, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself (John 12:32).

The first Gentile Jesus dealt with in His public ministry was a Roman centurion from Capernaum. When Jesus healed that centurion’s servant, He declared that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:5-13).

Rembrandt Stoning of Stephen

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

Summary Acts 7:54-60:

Of course, the Sanhedrin weren’t happy with this attack, gnashing their teeth.  But Stephen looked up and saw the glory of God and Jesus at His right hand.  Appalled, the Sanhedrin attacked Stephen and stoned him to death. Stephen prayed for the Lord to forgive his attackers, while Saul looked on–something of profound significance coming up.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

12) God showed Stephen His glory, as well as Jesus sitting at His right hand.

13a) He prayed that the people’s sin of stoning him would not be held against them. Jesus prayed the same thing while on the cross before he died. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s difficult every day of my life when I’m a sinner, trying to do what Jesus would do in every situation and fighting against that and sin.

14) Personal Question. My answer: Even in death, Stephen is at peace. It gives me hope to one day have Stephen’s heart and to one day have Stephen’s peace.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The peace Stephen had at the end of his life while he is being stoned is what we all should strive for. To have others on your mind in the midst of terrible pain, agony, and anguish. To have a heart of Jesus when it’s so very difficult in this world.

Stephen was tried and executed because he upset the establishment. Yet, he died breathing forgiveness, giving us Paul as a result.

Going against the grain when led is what we are called to do as Christians. In today’s culture, this is harder than ever. Where do you stand?

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The Sanhedrin were angry because Stephen was right. Instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit, admitting they were wrong and asking for forgiveness, they stoned Stephen instead.

Can you imagine grown men gnashing their teeth? The idea of gnashing at him with their teeth can’t help but remind us of the imagery of Hell. Seven different times, Jesus described Hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). These men were prominent, successful, and appeared to be religious; yet they were rejecting God and associating themselves with hell, not heaven.

Jesus Standing

It is significant to note Jesus is standing here, as opposed to the more common description of Him sitting in heaven (Matthew 26:64Colossians 3:1), at the right hand of God the Father.

  • Jesus may have been standing in solidarity with Stephen at this moment of crisis. He does not react impassionately to the problems of His people.
  • Jesus may have been giving a standing ovation to Stephen, whose fate made him unique among believers. Among all the followers of Jesus, Stephen was the first martyr.
  • Jesus may have been standing to plead Stephen’s case before God the Father, assuring that though he was found guilty and punished on earth, he was found righteous and rewarded in heaven.

Jesus said, Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

When Stephen declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, it was too much. The Sanhedrin reacted quickly, violently, and together. When Jesus, before this same body of men, declared that He would sit at the right hand of God, they had the same reaction and sealed his death as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:64-66).

death of believers

Stephen Stoned

“For Stephen to suggest that the crucified Jesus stood in a position of authority at the right hand of God must have ranked as blasphemy in the thinking of those who knew that a crucified man died under the divine curse.” (Bruce)

The reaction of the Sanhedrin seems extreme, but is typical of those who reject God and are lost in spiritual insanity

Ran at him: This uses the ancient Greek word hormao. This is the same word used to describe the mad rush of the herd of swine into the sea (Mark 5:13). This was an out-of-control mob rushing at Stephen.

The extent of their rage was shown by their execution of Stephen, which was done without regard for Roman law, and which was performed according to traditional Jewish custom (stoning).

Saul stood there as the supervisor of the operation. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he had also approved of Stephen’s execution.

Young man literally means, “a man in his prime.” It certainly does not mean that Saul wasn’t old enough to be a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10, Paul says I cast my vote against them, and the plain implication was that he had a vote as a member of the Sanhedrin.

Stephen’s life ended in the same way it had been lived: In complete trust in God, believing that Jesus would take care of him in the life to come.

God heard Stephen’s prayer, and Paul is the evidence of it. We have no idea how greatly God can use us in our times of suffering.

Augustine said, “If Stephen had not prayed, the church would not have had Paul.”

Stephen displayed the same forgiving attitude that Jesus had on the cross (Luke 23:34). He asked God to forgive his accusers, and he made the promises loudly and publicly.

The text describes the passing of Stephen as tenderly as possible. Instead of saying simply that he died, it says that he merely fell asleep – with the idea that he woke up in a much better world.

  • If Stephen fell asleep, the church had to wake up.

Many have little idea of how greatly they can be used of God as they walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

stubborn people