Week 7 Discussion – ACTS: We Are The Church.

Published October 29, 2023

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Week 7 Discussion – ACTS: We Are The Church.

Table of Contents

Welcome to our 12-week Bible study, ‘Acts: We Are The Church,’ delving into the Book of Acts—a continuation of Jesus’ ministry through the early church.

Throughout this study, you’ll gain a profound understanding of how the early church carried forward the mission of Jesus, performing miracles, spreading the gospel, and facing challenges with unwavering faith. We’ll explore the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the formation of a vibrant community of believers.

Each week, we’ll dive into a different aspect of Acts, examining themes of faith, courage, and unity among believers. Together, we’ll discover what it means to be part of the body of Christ and how these early church experiences can inform our lives as modern-day Christians.

Discover a profound understanding of the Scriptures, relish the fellowship with fellow believers, and experience the delight of nurturing your faith while sharing the Gospel of Jesus with others. Don’t miss out!

Week 7: The Gospel to the Gentiles

Here’s a quick recap of what we covered in week seven using Justin S. Holcomb’s Acts: A 12-Week Study (Knowing the Bible) as our weekly discussion guide:

  • An introduction to early Christian preachers.
  • How no one is beyond the reach of God’s radical grace.
  • The vastness of the diametrically opposing responses to the preaching of the gospel.
  • How division arises when the message of Christ is proclaimed.

In Acts 9:32-35, when Peter encounters Aeneas, who was paralyzed, Peter says “Jesus Christ heals you” (9:34). Peter understands that Jesus is working to build his church. As is often the case in Acts, miracles such as this healing lead to the advancement of the gospel. The news spreads beyond the town of Lydia to the whole coastal plain of Sharon, and all the residents “turned to the Lord” (9:35). How is the similar to the healing of the lame man and the preaching of the gospel in Acts 3?

The healing of Aeneas in Acts 9:32-35 is similar to the healing of the lame man and the preaching of the gospel in Acts 3. In both cases, there is a miraculous healing, the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the source of the healing, and the subsequent advancement of the gospel, leading to people turning to the Lord and coming to faith in Christ. This pattern reflects how miraculous signs and healings in Acts are closely connected to the preaching of the gospel and the conversion of individuals and broader audiences.

In 10:9-16 Peter is given a strange and disturbing vision.  A “great sheet” descends on earth from heaven.  In it are all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds.  Then a voice tells peter to “kill and act.”  What is Peter’s initial response (10:14)?  What reason does he give for his response?

Peter initially refused the vision in Acts 10:14, citing his Jewish upbringing and the dietary laws prohibiting eating unclean animals.

The voice says, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (10:15).  Then, the whole vision is repeated three times.  Peter does not initially understand the meaning of the vision (v. 17), but the Holy Spirit leads him to three Gentiles (vv. 17-18).  Later, Peter pulls all the pieces together (v. 28).  What connection is God making for Peter between the unclean animals in the vision and Cornelius and his household?

God uses the vision of unclean animals to teach Peter to accept Gentiles into the community of believers, challenging the notion of Gentiles as unclean. The repetition of the vision and the Holy Spirit’s guidance to Cornelius reinforce this message. Peter learns to welcome Gentiles into God’s plan for salvation.

In the story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48), we see one of the most revolutionary features of the good news:  its demolition of the barrier between Jews and Gentiles.  The story of the conversion of Cornelius is the longest narrative in the Book of Acts.  It is a very significant moment in the gospel’s advance, as God is showing that the gospel is for all people, not just the Jews.  How is the part of the continued fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8?

The story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 is a crucial part of fulfilling Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8. In Acts 1:8, Jesus instructs his disciples to be witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Cornelius’s conversion represents the expansion of the Gospel message beyond the Jewish context into regions inhabited by Gentiles, making it a vital step in obeying Jesus’ command to reach diverse cultural groups. This story emphasizes that the Gospel is for people of all backgrounds and nations, marking a pivotal moment in the early Church’s mission to take the message to the ends of the earth.

The Jewish believers with Peter are shocked that the Holy Spirit is poured out even on the Gentiles (Acts 10:45).  They probably thought that Gentiles should become Jewish proselytism first, but they knew the Holy Spirit had come to the Gentiles when they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God (v. 46).  Because these Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit, there was nothing to prevent them from being baptized as Christians.  Verse 47 quotes the reaction of the Jewish believers: They “have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  The reference to Acts 2 is obvious.  The same Holy Spirit who had been poured out on Jews had also been poured out on Gentiles.  God can make all things clean.  The conclusion embraced by Peter and by the Jerusalem church was that these Gentiles were fellow believers.  Repentance and salvation had been granted even to those who had not come under the Mosaic covenant.  How does the conclusion embraced by Peter (Acts 10:47-48; 11:15-17) and the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:18) reveal that these Gentiles were fellow believers?

The conclusion embraced by Peter and the Jerusalem church was that these Gentiles were fellow believers because they received the Holy Spirit in the same way Jewish believers had in Acts 2. This showed that God accepted the Gentiles into the Christian community without requiring them to become Jewish proselytes or adhere to the Mosaic covenant. The common experience of the Holy Spirit demonstrated their genuine repentance and salvation, making them equal members of the faith alongside Jewish believers and breaking down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles.

In Acts 11:1-18, Cornelious’s Peter recounts to the apostles and the church in Jerusalem the news of Cornelius’s conversion and the Gentiles’ reception of the Holy Spirit.  In 11:2-3 Peter receives some harsh criticism from the “circumcision party.” Note, however, the change of attitude from 11:2-3 to 11:18.  Like Peter before, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were thinking that God still wanted separation between Jews and Gentiles.  Looking at verses 4-17, what things changed their understanding?

The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had a change of heart because of some significant events and eye-opening revelations. First, Peter’s vision really made them rethink their views on Gentiles. Then, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius and his household, just like it did in Acts 2, it got their attention. Hearing these Gentiles speaking in tongues and praising God, much like what happened at Pentecost, was pretty convincing. And when Peter reminded them of Jesus’ teachings, it all clicked into place. These events showed that God intended to welcome Gentiles into the Christian community, and it completely transformed their perspective to be more inclusive.

Herod’s role is brief.  Having executed James, he plans to put Peter to a similar end, before God intervenes and foils his plot (Acts 12:6-19).  Here is a blatant opponent to the work of God, motivated not as Saul was by religious zeal, but by the desire for acclaim (v. 3).  This idolatrous desire proves to be Herod’s undoing. Herod accepts the praises of the crowd, attributing to him divine eloquence.  How does Herod’s response compare with Peter’s swift denial when Cornelius seeks to worship him (10:26) and Paul’s vehement protests when the people of Lystra mistake him for the god Hermes (14:11-15)?

Unlike Peter and Paul, Herod responded differently. He actually welcomed the praises of the crowd and even allowed them to attribute divine qualities to him. Peter swiftly denied such worship when Cornelius sought to worship him (Acts 10:26), and Paul vehemently protested when the people of Lystra mistook him for the god Hermes (Acts 14:11-15). Herod’s response was driven by a desire for personal acclaim, ultimately leading to his downfall.

Take a few moments now to ask the Lord to bless you, change you, and help you understand and apply the unique light Acts throws on the gospel to your life.

We hope these notes have helped catch up on what we’ve covered. We’re excited to continue our study of Acts together next week in week eight!

In the meantime, explore a very engaging animation video from the Bible Project team that explains the first twelve chapters of the Book of Acts.

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