Highlights from Acts:  Session 7 (Chapter 11)

Key Theme: To the Ends of the Earth
Wherever we are in life, whatever our circumstances, the highest good that we can do for ourselves and for those we love is to spend time with God.  God speaks to us and reveals himself in the Bible. It is not a book of Hide-and-Seek.
In the 7 years prior to the story of Cornelius and Peter, the followers of Christ spent time studying the Apostle’s teachings, spending time together in prayer, sharing meals and the Lord’s Supper.  As they studied the Spirit grew the people in grace (another way to say it is:  sanctification which is the process of becoming more like Christ.)  During these 7 years the Jewish disciples learned that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that they learned in their OT scriptures which prepared them to go and tell the Good News of Jesus.  But during this time the Apostles limited their preaching to Jewish people only because historically the unique relationship with God had with humanity had been only through the Jewish bloodline.   But the time had come for God to reach beyond Israel to the whole world as He always intended.

Peter’s vision produced a cataclysmic shift in the understanding of

who made up the very people of God.

It’s hard for us to imagine the inner turmoil that Peter must have felt as he realized that Jesus came not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. What is happening here in Acts 10 and 11 is that

God is calling gentiles to Himself directly.

He is not calling them to become Jewish, He is calling them to Jesus.  So through prayer  and revelation, Peter realizes God is teaching him something.  Just as he is trying to figure out what the vision means, Cornelius’ messengers appear and deliver the all- important “Aha!” moment …. Peter gets it …. and he begins to knit together the Great Commission, in which Jesus said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit …. and Jesus’ final words before His ascension, You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Peter’s expectations are shattered in light of God’s revealed will.  And his response is to humbly receive God’s instruction and act on it!
Peter takes 6 witnesses knowing he will later face challenging questions by Jewish authorities about going to Cornelius’s house for what ends up being “the first gentile church service”!

He preaches a clear, complete explanation of what Jesus came to earth to do in His life, death and resurrection…. A clear proclamation of the Gospel is all that is needed because those simple words are backed up by all the power of Almighty God.  One difference in this sermon is Peter used the term “Lord of All” to describe Jesus as God Almighty come in the flesh because non-Jewish converts would not yet know the significance of the name he used preaching to Jews:

 Jesus the Christ.

Cornelius’ heart had been softened in preparation for what Peter would say. The Spirit poured out in power on the Gentile believers, just as He had done on the Jewish believers those many years before, in a Gentile Pentecost that announced the crumbling of the walls of Jerusalem as grace cascaded beyond the city toward the ends of the earth.  A great hallelujah for many of us sitting here today because nothing could stop the rush of Living Water God had purposed before the foundation of the world to rescue all who would come …. both Jew and Gentile and God will always protect the proclamation of His Word that will accomplish God’s purposes in our world, in our country, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts.
When Peter was confronted by the Jerusalem Council, he presented his 6 witnesses, but he adds one more when he says, And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way? (Acts 11:16-17).
In hindsight, Peter recognized the words of Christ as further evidence that this was God’s plan all along.  In hindsight, Peter recognized the words of Christ as further evidence that this was God’s plan all along. Upon hearing the testimony the Jerusalem Council began to realize that they were on a mission completely different than the one they had in mind—that God was gathering people from every nation, tribe and tongue.  Some of the Jewish disciples went on to continue to preach to Jewish communities and some went to Gentile communities  like Antioch which was known to be a particularly hedonistic culture.  But a vital church was planted there

by 2 unnamed disciples.   It became a center for missions.  In Antioch, Christ followers were first called Christians.
Peter learned and taught that all who come to God by grace through faith are family no matter what their past—Christ makes us one.  That is a fact of the Gospel … not something that we bring about but a result of what Christ has already done. Jew and Gentile alike — from Jerusalem, Phoenicia, Tyre, Sidon, and Antioch—New York, Chicago, LA, Mobile, Peoria and Kalamazoo .

Because of God’s free gift of forgiveness we are new creatures

who are part of a new world order

with a new world view.

The Gospel was never to be a source of self-righteousness or exclusivity.  The religious establishment of Peter’s day realized that they had it wrong when they were trying to limit God’s grace to a particular people group …. they were meant to love everyone by spreading the glorious news of God’s amazing grace.
In the story of Abraham and Issac we also see God’s ancient plan to include Gentiles in the plan of redemption.  The lamb God provided in place of Isaac was only a sign pointing forward to a sacrifice that was to take place on a cross … the Lamb of God, God’s son who was NOT rescued from death but died to rescue us.

Heaven itself  has ruptured time to declare the future inside the present…

God, in Christ, moved heaven and earth

to point those living in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

to the majesty of the Land of the Living.