Explore the Bible Series
July 6, 2008
Background Passage: Acts 9:32-11:18
Lesson Passage: Acts 11:4-18
In this week’s lesson, we come to another critical juncture in the early historical development of the church. The gospel, to this point, had been preached to Jews, Samaritans, and at least one Jewish proselyte (the Ethiopian treasurer); however, Gentiles had not yet received the Good News of Jesus. As we observed last week, Paul would become the great apostle to the Gentiles, but God opened the gospel door to the nations through the ministry of Simon Peter. The conversion of Cornelius marks a critical turning point in Acts. The apostles continued to preach to the House of Israel, but, increasingly, the harvest came from among non-Jews (note the pattern of Paul’s missionary journeys—often preached first in the synagogues and later to the Gentiles).
Dr. Curtis Vaughan, in Acts: Bible Study Commentary, draws four conclusions about the conversion of Cornelius.
I. Peter’s Labors in Lydda and Joppa (9:32-43): These concluding verses of Chapter Nine act as an introduction to the conversion of Cornelius and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Following the general route of Philip’s earlier labors (See, Acts 8:40) Peter preached the gospel along the Mediterranean coast.
healing of Aeneas (vv. 32-35): After Saul’s
raising of Tabitha (vv. 36-43): While Peter worked in Lydda, disciples in Joppa
alerted the apostle that a woman named Tabitha (“Dorcas” in Greek) had grown
ill and died. Friends prepared the
woman’s body for burial and placed her corpse in an upper room. When Peter arrived, he asked the mourners to
leave, and he prayed for Tabitha. She
arose, by the power of God, and many came to Christ as a result of this
miracle. The text indicates that Peter
stayed in Joppa for some time (
II. The Conversion of Cornelius (10:1-48)
A. The vision of Cornelius (vv. 1-8)
character (vv. 1-2): A God-fearing centurion named Cornelius was stationed in
appearance of the angel (vv. 3-8): About six o’clock in the afternoon an angel
appeared to this devout God-fearer. The heavenly messenger commended Cornelius
for his devotion and told the centurion to send for Simon Peter. As
soon as the angel departed, Cornelius sent three men to accompany Peter to
B. The vision of Simon Peter (vv. 9-16): The next day, about three o’clock, Peter went to roof of the tanner’s home to pray. As he prayed, Peter grew hungry and called for food, and, awaiting his meal, the apostle fell into a trance. Peter saw a three-fold vision in this ecstatic state. A large sheet descended from the heavens, containing a host of animals, clean and unclean. A voice told Peter to kill and eat. Of course, Peter’s Jewish upbringing recoiled from eating unclean animals, but the voice insisted that Peter kill and eat. This vision clearly prepared Peter’s heart for the arrival of Cornelius’ messengers.
arrival of the messengers (vv. 17-23a): The vision of the animals confused
Peter, but, as he pondered these things, the three messengers arrived in
Joppa. They told the apostle of the
angel’s appearance to Cornelius and invited Peter to accompany them on their
return journey to
D. Peter’s ministry to the household of Cornelius (vv. 23b-48)
greeting (vv. 23b-33): Four days after the angel’s appearance to Cornelius, Peter
2. Peter’s sermon (vv. 34-43): This sermon follows a similar pattern to the preaching of the primitive church: Jesus’ Lordship, empowerment by the Holy Spirit, miraculous signs and wonders, crucifixion, and resurrection. As before, Peter emphasized that he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of all these wonderful events in the life of Jesus; then, the apostle concluded his message by promising forgiveness for all who believe in the Lord.
3. baptism of the Holy Spirit (vv. 44-48): Before Peter could complete his sermon, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the gospel. Jewish Christians marveled that these Gentiles received the gift of the Spirit, but they consented because of the undeniable evidences they observed.
III. Controversy Over the Conversion of the Gentiles (11:1-18)
about Peter’s activities (vv. 1-3): News spread quickly of Peter’s ministry in
B. Peter’s defense (vv. 4-17): Peter defended the work of God, not his own activities. This seems important to the text. The unfair criticism of fellow believers did not embitter or anger Peter. He did not defend himself; rather, he simply recounted what God had done, and left maters in God’s hands.
C. Resolution of the conflict (v. 18): Peter’s critics could not argue against the work of God. Instead of perpetuating the debate, these folks rejoiced that the Lord had granted repentance to the Gentiles.