|<< Acts 8|
Acts 9-11 Listen
1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
Can it be that he who persecuted the church has now received Christ as Savior? That's the story. It happened while he was on a mission for the Sanhedrin to arrest and deliver Christians back to the home office in Jerusalem. Since Christianity was regarded by the Romans as a sect of Judaism, the Jews policed themselves. Consider the extremes to which these Jewish leaders went to persecute Christians. Damascus is up in Syria some 170 or so miles by foot away from Jerusalem - over a week's travel. But Saul was willing to go that distance to harass the church and arrest Believers - men and women.
On the road...surprise, surprise - something supernatural takes place, and Saul is struck blind after he hears the voice of Jesus talking with him. For three days in Damascus, blind Saul fasts from food and water. Then Ananias gets the divine call to go minister to one of the meanest men alive - a traumatic event in itself when you think about it. "What! I'm going to go face the man who is on a mission to arrest me?" But, he went nonetheless; he laid hands on Saul, resulting in the restoration of Saul's sight...and he wasn't arrested!. Moreover, Saul himself then went into the Synagogues there in Damascus proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. Could this be some sort of a sinister trick - a fake conversion? Nope...it's the real thing, but you can understand why other Believers might have been a little suspicious.
Incidentally, some have pointed to the wording of Acts 22:9 (see notes) when compared to Acts 9:7 and seen a seeming difference in Paul's account of his conversion. Note the difference in wording:
Acts 22:9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
Acts 9:7 And the men who are journeying with him stood speechless, hearing indeed the voice but seeing no one,
The Greek word for "heard/hearing" used in both instances is "akouo" and is used over 400 times in the New Testament in various senses such as: to simply hear, to understand, to obey or to respond positively. Luke obviously means to point out in Acts 9:7 that those accompanying Paul did hear that something was taking place, but as Paul comments in his testimony in 22:9, what was heard by Paul lacked clear definition to them.
23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
Well, at least those Jewish leaders were consistent in their animosity toward Christians; they then plot the newly-converted Saul's murder, posting men at every gate leading out of Damascus with orders to assassinate Saul upon sight. However, he is lowered in a basket down the side the wall encompassing the city. Paul was a real basket case...so to speak. Paul later recounts what took place here in II Corinthians 11:32-33 (see notes) where he describes some of the hardships he had endured for the sake of the ministry.
26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Saul has a tough time convincing the Christians that he's not there to lock them up for their faith in Jesus; naturally, they avoid him. Barnabas steps up to the plate and takes him before the Apostles. Everything's good now, right? Wrong! Now we find that those sophisticated-acting Greek-speaking Jews (aka "Grecians" aka "Hellenists") in Jerusalem try to kill him also. The newly-converted-to-Christianity Saul is having some difficulty making new friends. They feel it necessary to send him out of the region to a place way north of his hometown, Tarsus (up in Asia Minor - modern-day Turkey). Notice verse 31, "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria..." What a relief to have Saul out of the way!
Peter is still on a roll (Acts 9:32-43)
32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
The Book of Acts has been good to Peter; he has done all the right things before God - no more denials. Moreover, he boldly takes a stand in the face of death wherever he goes. Peter heads northwest out of Jerusalem to Lydda (about 25 miles away) where he healed a palsied man named Aeneas and then to Joppa (35 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the coast). There he raises a girl from the dead - a girl named Tabitha (Hebrew) or Dorcas (Greek); both names mean "gazelle." Many conversions take place as a result.
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
Not only was Cornelius a Gentile, but he was an officer in the repressive Roman military. However, verse 2 tells us that Cornelius was "A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway." But...he was a Gentile, not a Jew - not even a Samaritan! Keep in mind, up to this point salvation had been only extended by the Apostles to Jews on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 (see notes), and then to the mixed-blood Jews, the Samaritans, in Acts 8 (see notes). Nonetheless, the prayer of Cornelius goes up as a "memorial before God" in verse 4.
So, the question arises: What was Cornelius' position before God prior to his meeting with Peter? Given the description of him in verse 2, it would be impossible to say that he was spiritually lost prior to this time. As a matter of fact, he had apparently embraced monotheistic Judaism (probably minus the circumcision) as had the observant Jews prior to the Day of Pentecost. He was ripe for Jesus as the Messiah, and God gave him the vision that brought about this revelation from Peter. So, it would appear that Cornelius was really no different in his conversion reality than those God-fearing Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah when they were introduced to him.
9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,
18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
Peter's having a before-meal nap and dreams about food - ritually unclean food. In verses 13 and 14, "And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean." He has the same dream three times. However, the dream isn't really about food at all; it's about the Jewish attitude toward "unclean" people, the Gentiles. As a matter of fact, his rather informative dream voice tells him that he has visitors, and he should go with them...even though they are Gentiles. So, it's off to see Cornelius and his household - 30 miles up the coast to Caesarea. I wonder if he ever had a chance to eat before he left?
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
When Peter arrives at the house of Cornelius, he knows his vision at the beginning of this chapter was not really about unclean food, but rather "unclean" people. Peter feels a little uneasy when this military leader falls at his feet in worship. Peter says, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." He acknowledges to Cornelius that he now should not regard anyone "common or unclean," including Gentiles.
Cornelius has gathered a household of friends and relatives (Gentiles) to hear Peter upon his arrival. Peter points out that he is breaking current Jewish law in verse 28 by his appearance there. Hey! Peter! I don't think any of the Jewish leaders are going to come here (to a Roman-army officer's home) to arrest you! Cornelius then relates his experience with God, his fasting, prayer and subsequent manifestation, which led to this occasion.
Then Peter preaches a short message; at least our condensation of that message is rather short. As a result, these Gentiles have an Acts-chapter-2-type experience (see notes) right before his eyes. Peter's subsequent reply after viewing this miracle is found in verse 47, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" Now the geographical components of Acts 1:8 (see notes) have all been introduced - Jerusalem, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth (Gentiles). The cycle is complete. Notice the ground-breaking statement Peter makes in Acts 10:34-35, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Hey, it's no longer just a Jewish thing!
Now, let's review some passages of scripture to see if we can put together a cohesive plan of purpose regarding Peter's post-resurrection life. Click on the links below to review my notes on each of the passages mentioned.
That's everybody! It really would appear to me to be a fulfillment of the "keys" prophecy given to Peter in Matthew 16:19 (see notes) by Christ himself. After all, this new message of the church has now been extended to all races of people everywhere...and each time by the invitation of Peter.
Peter, explain your actions! (Acts 11:1-18)
1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:
13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Some of the Jewish Believers back in Jerusalem are a little miffed upon hearing that Peter had gone to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, and given him the Gospel. "Who authorized this anyway? We hate Gentiles! They're not worthy! It's our way!" A term is used in verse 2 which will keep coming up throughout Paul's writings, "of the circumcision." These "of-the-circumcision" Believers are those who believed that salvation in Christ was a step to be added on top of their Jewishness. To them, salvation without circumcision was impossible; it was skipping a fundamental step. Later, many of them would still be insisting that Gentiles who get saved also go through the steps of Jewish proselytization as a process of getting saved. The Jerusalem council of Acts 15 (see notes) dealt with this fallacy.
So, Peter goes through the whole before-meal dream incident about unclean food, which really wasn't about unclean food at all (10:9-23, see above). Actually, it was about "unclean" people and the new declaration that there is no longer a category of people who are to be considered "unclean." Where's the proof about this? The proof is the fact that they received the same miracle of the Holy Spirit that was received by Jews on the Day of Pentecost. Peter references the words of Jesus (Acts 1:5, see notes) in verse 16 when he says, "Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost." So, just as on the Day of Pentecost with the Jews, these Gentiles had displayed the same manifestation prophesied by Jesus. According to verse 18, this revelation regarding the acceptance of Gentiles was satisfactory to appease them (at least for now), and they glorified God.
How did we become known as "Christians?" (Acts 11:19-26)
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Many of the missionaries sent out from the church in Jerusalem still preached only to Jews, but some of the Greek-speaking converts started preaching to Gentiles as well. Such was the case in Antioch...and many Gentile people got saved there. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas there to teach them. Realizing he needed some help, he sought out Saul (Paul); they taught there for about a year.
Note verse 26; this is where Believers first became known as "Christians." The Greek verb here for "called" carries a little more punch to it than initially meets the eye here in the KJV; it's not the common Greek word (kaleo) for "call." Instead, it's "chrematizo" and literally means "called as a result of a divine revelation." So, the term "Christian" wasn't tagged onto these Believers by their enemies in a sneering way as some have suggested; this tag became the identifier by a revelation from God. In all 9 occurrences of this Greek word in the New Testament, this is the sense of the word.
Incidentally, Barnabas goes on to become quite significant in the spread of the Gospel message. He's first seen in Acts 4:36 (see notes). More information is to be found on him there.
27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
prophesies a famine. So, the church at Antioch (about 300 miles north
of Jerusalem) establishes a missionary relief program for the purpose
of sending supplies back to the Believers in Jerusalem. I guess it turns out that being generous with the Gospel paid off for those Jerusalem Believers after all. Isn't it ironic that the Gentiles (considered unclean by many Jews) have a hand in sending monetary relief back to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas are selected to make the delivery back to Jerusalem.