September 2, 2007
Acts 10-14; 15:1-35
I see a theme here that Luke may be emphasizing in these chapters: God answers the prayer of the righteous. Do you see any other overarching themes?
Acts Chapter 10:
v. 1-2: Caesarea was a city on the coast of Palestine south of Mount Carmel (not Caesarea Philippi). It was known as “Caesarea by the sea”. Largely Gentile, it was a center of Roman administration and the location of many of Herod the Great’s building projects. (See Map 18.)
Cornelius was a gentile, Roman soldier. The description of Cornelius as a devout, God-fearing man probably means that he belonged to the category called “God-fearers,” Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Mosaic law, but did not take the final step of circumcision necessary to become a proselyte to Judaism. See the Bible Dictionary entry under Proselytes, pg. 754, for more information on what Cornelius had done as part of his faith and why Luke includes this story. What do you know about Cornelius? Why do you think Luke is sharing this story in such detail with us?
v. 3-6: Is it significant that Simon Peter and Simon the tanner have the same first names? How are these two men the same and how are they different? How are Cornelius and Simon the Tanner the same or different? What does Cornelius have and what does he lack?
v. 7-8: What did Cornelius tell his servants and how did his servants respond? Why did he send 3 people instead of just one? Why didn’t Cornelius go to Peter himself?
v. 9-16: Notice the sequence of events here: pray, become very hungry, vision. How is this significant? Why does God use food as the object lesson in the vision? What symbols can you discern in this vision? See the Levitical law in 11:2-47. Is the number 3 significant here?
From Jim F.’s notes: “Verses 19-33: Given the content of his vision, how did Peter come to the conclusion that he had been told not to consider any person unclean? The vision was about food, so it could easily have been understood to be a revocation of the laws concerning what could be eaten and what not. How might Peter have gotten from that understanding to the understanding he expresses in verse 28? As for food, how do we square the Word of Wisdom with this vision? Does the Word of Wisdom declare some foods unclean? In verses 6 and 32 we learn that Peter was staying with a man who was a tanner. Because it deals in the hides of dead animals, tanning was one of the unclean professions; the Pharisees called all of those who had such unclean professions “sinners” (something to remember when we read about Jesus dealing with sinners). How does knowing that Peter was staying with a tanner, by definition a sinner, give this story nuance?”
v. 17-20: How does Peter respond? How does the Lord’s command, “doubting nothing” affect you? Why was this included? How might Peter’s experience relate to our experiences with personal revelation?
v. 22: Why is the word “warned” used here? Are we “warned” today, and if so, how? Who are we in this scenario: Peter, Simon, Cornelius, etc?
v. 24: Why did Cornelius call everyone together to hear Peter instead of first hearing what Peter had to say privately?
v. 26: Do you think Peter would have responded differently or the same to Cornelius’ worshipping at his feet prior to receiving the vision in Joppa?
v. 28: How do you think Peter came to undestand the meaning of his vision?
v. 30-33: What can we learn about calling down the powers of Heaven from Cornelius’ experience?
v. 34-35: Who was this experience mainly for: Peter or Cornelius or someone else?
From Jim F.’s Notes: “Verses 34-48: Had Peter previously believed that God was a respecter of persons, in other words, a person who showed favoritism to some (verse 34)? Verses 36-39 give a résumé of Jesus’ ministry, presumably focusing on its most important parts. How is the gospel an announcement of peace? Peace between whom (verse 36)? How could Peter expect Cornelius already to know the word that was preached (verse 37)? Why was it important that Jesus’ ministry was throughout Judea? Peter speaks of the Father anointing Jesus with the Holy Ghost and with power (verse 38). Why might he use that word, “anointing”? Why was it important for Peter to testify that Christ went about doing good and healing? Why does he characterize those healed as “oppressed of the devil” (verse 38)? Is he just speaking in their terms or is could we also reasonably say that those who are ill are oppressed by the devil? If so, how? Why is it important that Peter and the other eleven are witnesses of what Jesus did during his lifetime? That he was crucified (verse 39)? Verse 40 is Peter’s testimony of Christ? Why does he speak of the resurrection rather than the Atonement? What does Peter mean when he says that the witnesses were chosen before (verse 41)? The Twelve are witnesses of Christ. Here Peter says that they are witnesses that Christ was ordained to judge the living and the dead (verse 42). Why is that the important point to make? Of what have all the prophets been witnesses (verse 43)? How is the remission of sins related to the rest of Peter’s testimony? What do those who are with Peter find astonishing (verse 45)? Why didn’t the Lord just tell Peter that he wanted the Church to baptize non-Israelites from now on? Why have him go through this experience to learn? Why does the conversion and baptism of Cornelius bring about a change in Christian practice when the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch did not?”
v. 36-48: What is Peter’s message? (see Ch. 11:14) Why, according to v. 34, did Peter come to Cornelius if Cornelius already knew the stuff Peter had to say?
Acts Chapter 11:
v. 1-3: Why are these people not happy about the gentile converts?
v. 4-15: Why does Luke repeat Peter’s experience when he has already written it before? Is anything different from the 1st account in the 2nd account?
From Jim F.’s Notes: “11:1-18: Why does Luke describe those who disagree with Peter as “they that were of the circumcision” rather than “the Jews”? What is Peter’s proof that what he did was of God (verses 15-17)?
11:19-30: Does “Grecians” in verse 20 mean the same as it meant in Acts 6:1? Why did Barnabas go to Antioch (verse 22; compare Acts 8:14)? Why did Barnabas go fetch Saul (verse 25)? Does the fact that “Christian” is a Latin rather than a Greek word shed any light on the end of verse 26? One scholar (Erik Peterson) suggests that the passive voice (”were called”) suggests that this is a name the Romans gave to the early Church. Hans Conzelmann agrees, but he argues that the name wasn’t an official designation. What do you think of Peterson’s proposal? How does it compare to us being called Mormons? Why did the brethren raise money for the saints in and around Jerusalem (verses 27-30)? Historical records are evidence that the famine occurred during the year 46/47 A.D. and that, on top of the famine, the year was a Sabbath year (Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles 90). What does it mean that it was a Sabbath year?”
v. 16: Does this mean that the Holy Ghost would come BEFORE the baptism of water for these new converts? Does this baptism of the HG = the gift of the Holy Ghost? If so, does this baptism of fire happen to prospective converts today prior to their water baptism? Does the order matter?
v. 17: How does Peter excell in his leadership role? What is the nature of leadership as modeled by Peter?
v. 19-21: The NET Bible translation is easier to understand here: “Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen went as far as Phoenicia….” Does persecution have a purpose in spreading the gospel? How might the persecution be evaded without lessoning the mingling of members with non-members? Do you think God motivated the persecution to propell the Saints’ mingling with non-members? If so, was Saul about the Lord’s business from the beginning?
v. 23: What does it mean to “see the grace of God?”
v. 28: Could this “dearth” be a test of the early church? How did they respond? Do we have similar tests today?
Acts Chapter 12:
This is about 42-43 A.D. James, the brother of Jesus, is sometimes refered to as “James the Just.” In his lifetime he would have been called by the Hebrew name Yacob or Jacob, bearing the same name as the great patriarch Jacob. James was not a follower of Jesus before the resurrection, although he converted shortly thereafter (Mark 6:3; John 7:3,5; Acts 1:14). Paul listed James as one who was priveleged to see the resurrected Savior along with the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:7); he is called a pillar in the church (Gal. 2:9); and he was a powerful influence at the church’s conference of AD 49 (Acts 15:13-21). According to early church tradition, James served as the first bishop of Jerusalem; and, upon his death as a martyr, he was succeeded by his brother Simeon (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.1.10-17).
v. 1-4: The expression ‘executed with a sword’ probably refers to a beheading. James was the first known apostolic martyr (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.9.1-3). This death ended a short period of peace noted in Acts 9:31 after the persecution mentioned in 8:1-3. Why do you think Herod acted this way?
v. 5-23: What do you think Luke’s purpose was in relating this story in the manner he did?
v. 13-16: Does this mirror the unbelief the apostles had at the resurrection of Jesus when the women told them that he had risen? If so, why?
Josephus states that Herod Agrippa I died at Caesarea in a.d. 44. The account by Josephus, while not identical to Luke’s account, is similar in many respects: On the second day of a festival, Herod Agrippa appeared in the theater with a robe made of silver. When it sparkled in the sun, the people cried out flatteries and declared him to be a god. The king, carried away by the flattery, saw an owl (an omen of death) sitting on a nearby rope, and immediately was struck with severe stomach pains. He was carried off to his house and died five days later. The two accounts can be reconciled without difficulty, since while Luke states that Herod was immediately struck down by an angel, his death could have come several days later. The mention of worms with death adds a humiliating note to the scene. The formerly powerful ruler had been thoroughly reduced to nothing (cf. Jdt 16:17; 2 Macc 9:9; cf. also Josephus, Ant. 17.6.5 [17.168-170], which details the sickness which led to Herod the Great’s death).
Acts Chapter 13:
From Jim F.’s notes: “1-3: Previously we have seen everything in the Church coming out of Jerusalem. What does it mean that now we see it coming also from Antioch? A tradition says that Saul changed his name from Saul to Paul after he was baptized. However, notice that verse 1 speaks of him as Saul after his baptism. Notice, too, that verse 9 says he was also called Paul: he was called both Saul and Paul. Roman citizens (Paul was a Roman citizen) had three names, a personal name (roughly equivalent to our given name), a clan name, and a family name (like our last name). Saul seems to have been his personal name, and Paul seems to have been his family name, as it was for his first convert, Sergius Paulus, though there is no evidence that they were related. (The name Paul occurs frequently in Roman documents as a family name, but it never occurs as a personal name.) We don’t know what Paul’s clan name might have been.”
v. 1: What do you see the church doing here? Simeon may well have been from North Africa, since the Latin loanword Niger refers to someone as “dark-complexioned.”
v. 2-3: How do we “minister to the Lord?” What do you make of all the fasting?
v. 4: This is Paul’s first missionary journey. See the maps in your Bible for his travels. (Mine is #18.)
v. 5: Salamis was a city on the southeastern coast of the island of Cyprus. This was a commercial center and a center of Judaism.
v. 5: John is John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark.
v. 6-7: Named Bar-Jesus. “Jesus” is the Latin form of the name “Joshua.” The Aramaic “bar” means “son of,” so this man was surnamed “son of Joshua.” The scene depicts the conflict between Judaism and the emerging new faith at a cosmic level, much like the Simon Magus incident in Acts 8:9-24. Paul’s ministry looks like Philip’s and Peter’s here. The deputy of the country, or proconsul, was the Roman official who ruled over a province traditionally under the control of the Roman senate. This description of Sergius Paulus portrays him as a sensitive, secular Gentile leader.
Acts Chapter 14:
How might we understand and apply this story today?
v. 19: What happened to Paul?
v. 22: What is “confirming the souls of the disciples?” Do we still do this? Why or why not?
Acts Chapter 15:
v. 6: This is the Jerusalem Conference of 49-50 AD. What is significant about this conference? Here we see Peter for the last time. What is Peter’s role at the conference? Is this the same or different from the role of current prophets during our conferences? This is a written document (see v. 24). Why do you think those things in the document were included?
v. 9: How are our hearts purified by faith?
v. 10: What is the yoke that could not be born? Born by whom and when?
v. 11: Why does Peter bring up Grace here? What is grace and why do they (we) need it?
v. 13: Who is James here?
v. 14: Where were people taken out to be God’s special people? See footnote Abr. 2:10 (9-10). What does it require to “be God’s people?” How is this relevant to us today?
What can we learn about interacting and serving with other church members from this (these) chapters? Read all the way through Ch. 15 to see all the contention. What do you make of this contention among the leaders of the church & those who we consider our examples today?