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).

Acts 9

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Summary of Acts 9:19b-30

Saul spent several days with disciples in Damascus. He began to preach about Jesus and all those who heard him were confused since Saul was known as a hater and persecutor of Christians.  So the Jews conspired to kill Saul but he slipped away in the dead of night.

When he did return to Jerusalem (after 3 years), he endeavored to join up with the disciples but they were afraid of him still.  It took Barnabas (an ordinary man) to take Saul and vouch for him, saying how he has preached so fearlessly in Jesus’s name, before he was accepted.  Saul spoke in Jerusalem for Jesus and with the Grecian Jews who again tried to kill him for his beliefs.  So he was sent off to Tarsus for his safety.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

12a) After Saul’s conversion, he started preaching the word, angering the Jews (the non-believers) living in Damascus. They just didn’t believe a man so full of hatred could do an about-face. So after many days, they conspired to kill him.

b) The disciples were afraid of Saul, not believing that he was really a disciple. Barnabas took Saul to the disciples and vouched for him. Only then was Saul allowed to stay. Still the people wanted to kill him.

13) Part personal Question. My answer: They in essence his Paul. They too him to Caesarea and then sent him to Tarsus. We can protect fellow believers in the same way, sheltering them from people and other things when they need it the most. The Galatians passage BSF had us read in 2011 explains this further (Galatians 1:11-24).  Saul stayed with Peter for 15 days (Galatians 1:18).  He saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19).  He fell into a trance while praying and the Lord warned him to leave Jerusalem immediately because his testimony would not be accepted (Acts 22:17-18).

14) To increase their faith and strengthen them.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Last go-around, we read this passage along with Galatians 1:11-24. The extra readings we did back then just gives us a fuller picture of what actually happened. Too bad most of these have been omitted thus far in an effort to save people time when studying God’s word.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Lessons From Saul’s Conversion

  • At its core, salvation is something God does in us. What we do is only a response to His work in us.
  • God finds some who, by all appearance, are not looking for Him at all. Seeing how God reached Saul encourages us to believe that God can reach the people in our life that we think are very far from Him. We often give up on some people and think they will never come to Jesus; but the example of Saul shows God can reach anyone.
  • God looks for people to cooperate in the conversion of others, even when they are not really necessary, except as a demonstration of the importance of the family of God.
  • It isn’t enough that we be broken before God, though that is necessary. God wants to only use brokenness as a prelude to filling.

At the Jewish synagogue, the custom was that any able Jewish man could speak from the Scriptures at synagogue meetings.

To be called the “son of” something meant in Jesus’ time that you were totally identified with that thing or person, and their identity was your identity. When Jesus called Himself the Son of God, and when others called Him that, it was understood as a clear claim to His deity.

In fact, on two occasions when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, He was accused of blasphemy, of calling Himself God (John 5:17-18Matthew 26:63-65). Everybody knew what Jesus meant in calling Himself Son of God, and everyone knew what Saul meant when he preached that Jesus is the Son of God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When you are newly converted, you still understand the way people who don’t yet know Jesus think.

timeline acts 9

Saul, an expert in the Old Testament, could easily see how Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In Galatians 1:13-18, Paul explained more about what happened during these many days. He described how he went to Arabia for a period of time, and then returned to Damascus. After his return to Damascus, he went to Jerusalem. Paul spent a total of three years in Damascus and Arabia (Galatians 1:18); truly these were many days.

In 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul refered to this incident and mentions it happened under Aretas the king. This means that this escape from Damascus happened between A.D. 37 and 39. So, taking into account the three years mentioned in Galatians 1:18, and that this incident happened at the end of those three years, we can surmise that Paul was converted sometime between A.D. 34 and 36.

“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul, and sometimes he didn’t quite escape. Sometimes they caught him, imprisoned him, beat him. He did indeed have to suffer many things for Jesus’ sake.” (Boice)

Paul made a point of the limited nature of his time with the apostles in Jerusalem to show clearly that he did not receive his gospel from the other apostles. Though he was no doubt blessed and benefited from that time, he received his message by direct revelation from Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Somewhere between 8 and 12 years passed in the life of Saul before he again entered into prominent ministry, being sent out as a missionary from the church at Antioch.

map ancient tarsus paul's journey

Tarsus

Tarsus was one of the great cities of the ancient world, with an excellent harbor and a strategic placement at trade routes. It was especially known as an university city, being one of the three great educational cities of the Mediterranean world. “Strabo speaks of the Tarsian university as even surpassing, in some respects, those of Athens and Alexandria (Geography 14.5.13). It was especially important as a center of Stoic philosophy” (Williams)

The Book of Acts tells us nothing about the planting of churches in Galilee. We don’t know who started these churches, how they did it, or all the great works of God which took place in these young churches. This reminds us that Acts is only a partial history of God’s work during this period.

At the end of Acts 9:31, we reach an important historical crossroads in Acts and the events of the Roman Empire. In A.D. 37, Caiaphas was replaced as high priest, first by Jonathan, then by Theophilus. In the same year, Caligula succeeded Tiberius as Roman Emperor. Caligula was bitterly hostile against the Jews and was assassinated four years later.

Saul on Road to Damascus

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Summary of Acts 9:1-19a:

Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way, trying to imprison them or kill them.  As Saul neared Damascus, a light from haven flashed around him and he heard a voice (Jesus), asking why does he persecute him?  Jesus tells Saul to go to the city and he will be told what to do.

The others with him did not see anyone.  They lead Saul to Damascus because Saul had been blinded by the light.  In Damascus, the Lord called a disciple named Ananias to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that Saul may see again.

Ananias tells the Lord that Saul is a bad man (as if God didn’t know) and he might be arrested if he goes.  The Lord explains his purpose for Saul to Ananias, saying Saul is His chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles.

So Ananias complies, healing Saul and filling him with the Holy Spirit.  Saul was baptized and regained his strength.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

9) Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way. There are different types of persecution, including social persecution and emotional. You can be ostracized when you don’t conform.

10) Personal Question. My answer: It’s okay to question the Lord, but you still go and do it anyways.

11) Part personal Question. My answer: Saul was completely transformed and probably in shock since he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days, now about to become one the greatest disciples for Christ. Jesus has made all the difference in allowing me to do what I do, how I do it, and blessing me with a great life.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Last go-around, we read this along with Acts 22:1-16; 26:9-19

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

The Conversion of Saul — One of the Most Important Passages in the Entire Bible

We last saw Saul in Acts 8:3, where it says that he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Here he continued and expanded this work to the city of Damascus (about 130 miles or 210 kilometers northeast of Jerusalem; a six-day journey altogether).

Saul hated the disciples of the Lord. He wasn’t seeking Jesus when Jesus sought him. We might say that Saul was decided against Jesus when Jesus decided for Saul.

Saul did his persecuting work under the direct approval of the highest religious authorities. He asked and received letters from the high priest authorizing his mission.

The high priest was Caiaphas. In December 1990 an ossuary (something like a burial urn; essentially a bone box) was discovered in Jerusalem. The ossuary was inscribed with the name of this Caiaphas and positively dated to this period. Inside were discovered some of the remains of a 60-year-old man, whom many researchers believe was this same Caiaphas. If true, these are the first physical remains (such as bones or ashes) of a specific person mentioned in the New Testament.

The Way

Here, Christianity is referred to as the Way. This seems to be the earliest name for the Christian movement, and a fitting one – used five times in Acts.

  • The name the Way means that Christianity is more than a belief or a set of opinions or doctrines. Following Jesus is a way of living as well as believing.
  • It is significant to see that there was a Christian community large enough in Damascus for Saul to be concerned about. Christianity – the Way – was spreading everywhere.
  • map of road to damascus paul

God on the Road to Damascus

God does not normally confront sinners with a heavenly light and an audible voice from heaven. Yet Paul said that this light was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13).

Saul, Saul: When God repeats a name twice, it is to display deep emotion, but not necessarily anger (as in the Martha, Martha of Luke 10:41 and the Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Matthew 23:37).

As the heavenly light overwhelmed him, Saul was confronted by the true nature of his crime: He persecuted God, not man.

  • Saul thought that he was serving God in viciously attacking Christians, but he discovered that he was fighting God.
  • This has been sadly true through history. Often those who are convinced they are doing God a favor do much of the worst persecution and torture ever practiced.

In all probability, Saul heard Jesus teach in Jerusalem; and as a likely member of the Sanhedrin, Saul sat in judgment of Jesus in the trial before His crucifixion.

“Unless Saul was hallucinating, the appearance of Jesus proved that Jesus was alive and that Jesus was God.” (Boice)

Two Most Important Questions to Ask God

  1. Who are You, Lord? We must ask this question with a humble heart, and ask it to God. Jesus showed us exactly who God is, and He can answer this question. Paul spent the rest of his life wanting to know more completely the answer to this question (Philippians 3:10).
  2. What do You want me to do? Few dare to really ask God this question, but when we ask it, we must ask it with submission and determined obedience.

In Acts 9, we are only given the briefest account of what happened during this time. Paul says more about this experience in Acts 22:3-11Acts 26:12-181 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. Barnabas said more about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:27 and from what Ananias said about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:17.

Jesus only told Saul what to do right at that moment.

  • God often directs us one step at a time instead of laying out the details of the grand plan all at once.
  • So many of us want to plan out our entire lives. but that is not how God operates.

In the three days of blindness and deprivation, Saul was dying to himself. It would only be after the three days of dying that he would receive resurrection life from Jesus.

unknown road we all must travel atozmomm.com

Ananias and God

Ananias was an ordinary man – not an apostle, a prophet, a pastor, an evangelist, an elder, or a deacon. Yet God used him because he was an ordinary man.

God spoke to Ananias in a completely different way than He spoke to Saul. Saul had a bold, almost violent confrontation from God, but Ananias heard the voice of God sweetly in a vision, where God called and Ananias obediently responded. God speaks to us differently too, just as we need to hear Him.

God considered Saul His chosen vessel long before there appeared anything worthy in Saul to choose. God knew what He could make of Saul, even when Saul or Ananias didn’t know.

So often we underestimate ourselves when God doesn’t.