To the Gentiles and Beyond

Acts 10:1 – 12:24

The Gospel did not make it to the Gentiles in a single step! It required numerous tentative moves in that direction before the goal was achieved. This was not due to resistance to hear the Gospel on the part of the Gentiles but rather reluctance to share the Gospel on the part of the Jews.

A. Peter’s issues

Centurion – commander of 100 men, one of 60 centurions in a legion; the cohort or regiment would have comprised approximately 600 men. “centurions were chosen by merit, and so were men remarkable not so much for their daring courage as for their deliberation, constancy, and strength of mind.”, Dr. Maclear’s N. T. Hist. “Good conduct was generally the cause of their promotion.” Fausset’s Bible Dictionary

Cornelius lived in Caesarea, a city considered by the Roman administration to be the capital of Judea. College Press

· overcoming scruples about ceremonial purity

1. regarding food 10:9-10:16

this was a legitimate legal issue under Mosaic law

2. contacting people 10:19ff, esp. v.28

this was a common practice and encouraged by rabbinic teaching but not encoded in law

· overcoming scruples about politics

1. one of the “hated” Romans 10:1-8, 19-20

2. passion for restoration of the kingdom

· Mar_10:35-37 “James and John, …came to him and said, “…Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left…”

· Luk_22:24 “A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

· Act_1:6 “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

· Pentecost II 10:44-48

1. outpouring of the Spirit – greatly astonished Peter’s companions 10:45

2. sign gifts

3. baptism

· “capitulation” 10:34-35, 47

1. God does not show favoritism

2. He honors true worship and obedience

3. Validated by the Spirit as “proper” recipients of the Gospel

B. Jerusalem Church issues

· overcoming traditionalism 11:1-17

1. the purity laws still apply

clean & unclean people
clean & unclean food
food offered to idols

2. the Gospel is for the Jew only

God’s “special” people

· final conclusion 11:18

1. the Gospel must go to the Gentiles

2. they must be received into the “church”

3. grudging acceptance means terms of membership are still up for debate
see Acts 15!!

· report follow-up 11:19-26

1. word of multi-cultural ministry in Antioch

2. Barnabas sent on a fact-finding mission

3. recognized need for additional resources (growth issues)

C. World issues

1. Antioch’s licentiousness

Since Antioch was at this time the third largest city in the Roman world, after Rome and Alexandria, they may have travelled there on business. Antioch was about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea on the Orontes River and 300 miles north of Jerusalem. It was the capital of the Roman province of Syro-Cilicia, north of Phoenicia, and was one of the most strategic population centers of its day. It contained between 500,000 and 800,000 inhabitants about one-seventh of which were Jews. Many Gentile proselytes to Judaism lived there. Antioch was also notorious as a haven for pleasure-seekers.

“The Roman satirist, Juvenal, complained, ‘The sewage of the Syrian Orontes has for long been discharged into the Tiber.’ By this he meant that Antioch was so corrupt it was impacting Rome, more than 1,300 miles away.” Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Acts

Antioch’s depravity was overcome by the power of the Gospel – “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Act_11:21 “they …taught a great many people.” Act_11:26 and those who proactively took the Gospel to the Gentiles.

2. worldwide economic hardship

(1) The first happened at Rome, and occurred in the first or second year of the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD). It arose from the difficulties of importing provisions from abroad. It is mentioned by Dio, whose words are these: “There being a great famine, he (Claudius) not only took care for a present supply, but provided also for the time to come.” He then proceeds to state the great expense which Claudius was at in making a good port at the mouth of the Tiber, and a convenient passage from thence up to the city (did, lib. Ix. p. 671, 672; see also Suetonius, Claudius, cap. 20).

(2) a second famine is mentioned as having been particularly severe in Greece. Of this famine Eusebius speaks in his Chronicon, p. 204: “There was a great famine in Greece, in which a modius of wheat (about half a bushel) was sold for six drachmas.” This famine is said by Eusebius to have occurred in the ninth year of the reign of Claudius.

(3) in the latter part of his reign, 51 a.d., there was another famine at Rome, mentioned by Suetonius (Claudius, cap. 18), and by Tacitus (Ann., 12:43). Of this, Tacitus says that it was so severe that it was deemed to be a divine judgment.

(4) a fourth famine is mentioned as having occurred particularly in Judea. This is described by Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 2, section 5). …This famine is described as having continued under the two procurators of Judea, Tiberius Alexander and Cassius Fadus. Fadus was sent into Judea, on the death of Agrippa, about the fourth year of the reign of Claudius, and the famine, therefore, continued probably during the fifth, sixth, and seventh years of the reign of Claudius [45-48 AD]. Barnes’ Notes

3. Herod’s evil opportunism

The fondest dreams of Agrippa had now been realized, his father’s fate was avenged and the old Herodian power had been restored to its original extent. He ruled with great munificence and was very tactful in his contact with the Jews. With this end in view, several years before, he had moved Caligula to recall the command of erecting an imperial statue in the city of Jerusalem; and when he was forced to take sides in the struggle between Judaism and the nascent Christian sect, he did not hesitate a moment, but assumed the role of its bitter persecutor, slaying James the apostle with the sword and harrying the church whenever possible (Ac 12.). ISBE

· assassination of James 12:2

· imprisonment of Peter 12:3-5

· acceptance of worship 12:21-23

D. God’s Response

1. angelic deliverance from prison 12:7-10

2. divine judgment on impiety 12:23

3. prospering of the Gospel message 12:24

“God’s message flourished and multiplied.” HCSB

The number of those who were converted by it, and embraced and professed it, increased; otherwise the word is the same, whether the professors of it be more or fewer; John Gill

In spite of human effort to stop it, God continued to prosper his word and cause it to increase – imperfect tense, action begun in the past and not yet complete.

Not only was the royal representative ignominiously swept from the stage, while his intended victim was spared to the Church, but the cause which he and his Jewish instigators sought to crush was only furthered and glorified. How full of encouragement and consolation is all this to the Christian Church in every age! JFB

E. Application

· What scruples do we need to overcome with respect to evangelizing?

· What human traditions should we put aside for the sake of the Gospel?

· What unlikely places do we need to target with the Gospel?


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