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Acts 9-11     Listen Podcast


Ol' Saul gets saved (Acts 9:1-22)

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 ¶ As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 ¶ And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” ¶ Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
6 ¶ So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” ¶ Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 ¶ And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 ¶ Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” ¶ And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
11 ¶ So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.
12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
13 ¶ Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.
14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
15 ¶ But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
17 ¶ And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
19 ¶ So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
20 ¶ Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
21 ¶ Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
22 ¶ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the 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?'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 those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.
Acts 9:7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a 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.

Death to Saul! (Acts 9:23-25)

23 ¶ Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.
24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.
25 Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large 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 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.

The Christians are afraid of him (Acts 9:26-31)

26 ¶ And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.
27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.
29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.
30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.
31 ¶ Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they 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 the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified." What a relief to have Saul out of the way!

Peter is still on a roll (Acts 9:32-43)

32 ¶ Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.
33 There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.
34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately.
35 So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
36 ¶ At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.
37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.
38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.
41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.
42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.
43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with 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.

Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile? (Acts 10:1-8)

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,
2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”
4 ¶ And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” ¶ So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.
6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.”
7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually.
8 So when he had explained all these things to 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 who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." 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.

Meanwhile, back in Joppa with Peter (Acts 10:9-23)

9 ¶ The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.
10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance
11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.
12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.
13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
14 ¶ But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15 ¶ And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
17 ¶ Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.
18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.
19 ¶ While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you.
20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”
21 ¶ Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”
22 ¶ And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.”
23 Then he invited them in and lodged them. ¶ On the next day Peter went away with them, and some 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 a voice came to him, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything 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?

Peter with Cornelius (Acts 10:24-48)

24 ¶ And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.
25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.
26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.”
27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together.
28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”
30 ¶ So 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, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.
32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’
33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.
35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—
37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by 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 killed by hanging on a tree.
40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,
41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.
42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.
43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
44 ¶ While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. ¶ Then Peter answered,
47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few 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 am also 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 anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 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: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by 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 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,
3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
4 ¶ But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying:
5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me.
6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying to me, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’
8 But I said, “Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’
9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.’
10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea.
12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.
13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, “Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter,
14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.
16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
18 ¶ When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to 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 I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" 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 those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 ¶ Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 ¶ Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians 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 NKJV; 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.

But trouble is headed our way (Acts 11:27-30)

27 ¶ And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.
28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Agabus 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.