Rev. Ronald C. Purkey claims no originality for this Bible study outline.
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TRUSTING THE HOLY SPIRIT
October 25, 2015
SCRIPTURE: Acts 11:1-18
KEY VERSE: 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? (Acts 11:17)
POINT OF CONTACT: Some have called the Book of Acts the Acts of the Holy Spirit, for Luke detailed the way in which the Spirit established and expanded the church through the apostles. (A good example is Acts 11:12, in this week’s Bible study text.)
Acts contains portraits of many outstanding Christians of the early church through whom the Spirit worked. Barnabas exemplified generosity (Acts 4:36-37), Stephen forgiveness (Acts 7:60), Philip and Paul obedience (Acts 8:26-30; 26:19), and Cornelius piety (Acts 10:2). These were the kinds of believers the Holy Spirit used to help the witness of the Church resonate with boldness.
The Holy Spirit empowered ordinary people to do extraordinary things. (1) A once-faltering apostle (Peter) was enabled to address Jewish multitudes (Acts 2:14) (2) and make a defense before rulers (Acts 4:8). (3) A prayer fellowship (with Peter and John) was shaken (Acts 4:31), (4) and a vibrant believer (Stephen) defended his faith through martyrdom (Acts 7:58). (5) The despised Samaritans received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:4-8), (6) as did a Gentile soldier and his family (Acts 10:1-48). (7) A persecutor of the Gospel was converted (i.e., Saul who was later named the Apostle Paul) (Acts 9:1-19), (8) and by means of him (Paul) and others the good news of salvation spread throughout the empire. In the midst of it all, the Holy Spirit directed the unfolding drama of the early Church’s growth.
INTRODUCTION: In Acts chapter eleven we learn of the relationship between believers in Jerusalem (a Jewish church) and the new Gentile disciples. Keep in mind that the Jerusalem church’s problem is not prejudice but rather a misunderstanding of the purposes of God.
Must Gentiles first become Jewish proselytes? Peter’s experience at Caesarea (Acts 10) and Paul’s revelation of “the mystery of the church” (Ephesians 3) helped to answer these questions.
Both experiences proved that both Jews and Gentiles stand condemned before God and can be saved only through faith in Jesus Christ; they make up the “Church!”
I. PETER IS CONFRONTED. (Acts 11:1-6)
A. Peter Defended His Ministry Before The Judaizers. (Acts 11:1-3)
(Acts 11:1-3) And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
1. There was doubt and division.
We need to understand that to the Jews the action of Simon Peter was a terrible thing. In fact, if we could have talked to Simon Peter a month before this, he also would have said it was a terrible thing to do. Actually, Peter gives them an APOLOGY. He makes it clear that he didn’t want to do it at all, but that the Holy Spirit of God was in the whole episode.
2. There was the old way.
“They that were of the circumcision” refer to Jewish Christians who believed that Gentiles had to become Jews when they became Christians. The male Jewish Christians had been circumcised as a seal of the Mosaic covenant and had kept the Jewish laws.
3. There was the conflict.
They were not pleased that the Gentiles were considered equal to them in the eyes of God, based on nothing more than their faith in Christ. They wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses in order to become Christians. This was not a polite discussion, but an angry fight!
4. There was the violation.
The Jewish Christians were upset because Peter had broken Jewish law by going into the home of a Gentile and eating with him. The Jewish Christians justified their prejudice by claiming that it was God who had forbidden eating with Gentiles. (However, the Levitical laws were not intended to teach isolation.)
B. Peter Gave His Testimony Concerning Cornelius. (Acts 11:4-6)
(Acts 11:4-6) But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, 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: 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.
1. Peter was amazed at God’s command.
Because of the importance of the issue of personal prejudice, Luke repeats the account of the vision of the sheet and the unclean animals that God used to free Peter from his racial bigotry (Acts 10:9–16).
2. Peter was answering the Judaizers argument.
Peter just told what God had done; he recounted the actions of God. When these men saw how God had acted, there was nothing further they could say. Peter silenced them by reminding them of the actions of GOD. This is where faith always rests. It rests on WHAT GOD HAS DONE.
II. NOTHING IMPURE OR UNCLEAN. (Acts 11:7-12)
A. Peter SUBMITTED To The Leading Of God. (Acts 11:7-10)
(Acts 11:7-10) And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
In defending his action, Peter gave a simple recital of all that had happened -- his vision of the sheet let down from heaven, the appearance of an angel to Cornelius, the arrival of the messengers from Cornelius, the Spirit’s command to accompany them, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles. Since God had worked in so many definite and yet distinct ways, to resist or oppose would obviously have been to oppose the Lord.
B. Peter TESTIFIED To The Leading Of God. (Acts 11:11-12)
(Acts 11:11-12) And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
Peter apparently understood his best defense to be a straightforward offense. Therefore, Peter repeated the matter from the beginning and explained it. In no way did Peter shrink away from giving complete details of what had happened at both Joppa and Caesarea.
Note: In Peter’s message, he added several interesting details not given in Acts chapter 10: (1) He said that the sheet … from heaven … came right down to where he was (verse 5). (2) He spoke of observing it intently (verse 6). (3) Peter adds the detail that six brethren accompanied him from Joppa to Caesarea (verse 12).
III. [GENTILES RECEIVED] THE SAME GIFTS. (Acts 11:13-18)
A. Salvation Was Open For The “UNCLEAN” Gentiles. (Acts 11:13-14)
(Acts 11:13-14) 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; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
(1) When Peter was approached by the representatives of Cornelius, he alludes to the fact that the Holy “Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting” (verse 12).
(2) Then too there was the account that Cornelius had been prepared by his own vision from the Lord to receive Peter. Cornelius was told that Peter would tell him words “whereby thou and all thy house shall be SAVED” (verse 14).
B. God’s Holy Spirit “FELL ON” The Gentiles. (Acts 11:15-17)
1. Peter reaches the CONCLUSION of his account. (Acts 11:15)
(Acts 11:15) And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
(1) He makes reference to the fact that the Holy Spirit fell on them at Caesarea, in the same manner “as on us at the beginning” (on the Day of Pentecost). (2) In concluding the defense of his actions, Peter makes reference to the teaching of the Lord Jesus concerning baptism and (in accordance with that teaching) these Gentile believers were baptized with water.
2. Peter then makes a POWERFUL final appeal. (Acts 11:16-17)
(Acts 11:16-17) 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. 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?
Most forcefully, Peter informs the Judaizers that these Gentiles have “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ,” even as the Jews had done. Peter’s closing statement is phrased in the form of a question, to which there is no obvious answer, and from which there is no backing down: “What was I, that I could withstand God?”
Note: If the Jewish believers of the church at Jerusalem are to question Peter’s action, they must (1) first question the direct leading of God the Father, (2) provision of salvation by God the Son, and (3) the verifying signs of God the Holy Spirit. Absolutely no one was ready to do that.
C. The New Testament Church Now INCLUDES The Gentiles. (Acts 11:18)
(Acts 11:18) When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
1. The Hebrew Christians glorified God.
“They held their peace, and glorified God” (verse 18). No rebuttal was made to Peter’s argument; none could be. It has now become evident to the Jewish believers of Jerusalem that Gentiles may indeed become believers as well. It was also within the plan of God to grant “repentance unto life” to those with whom the Jews (in the past) would not associate.
Note: In the addition to the Hebrew Christians, the evangelization of the Gentiles would mean a drastic, reappraisal of their own position before God. (The Church is made up of both saved Jews and Gentiles.) With this initial spread into previously untapped Gentile territory, the door has been opened for a flood of evangelism of non-Jews throughout the world. (Thank God, that evangelism included YOU and ME!)
2. The Apostle Peter opened the door To The Gentiles.
The door which was cracked open by Simon Peter was crashed by the Apostle Paul. Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and who read these words must do so out of gratitude and thankfulness toward God for the event that occurred on that day centuries ago in Caesarea.
Longfellow wrote, “The vine still clings to the moldering wall, but at every gust the dead leaves fall.” Like that vine, many churches today cling to the crumbling wall of traditional programs, losing members like dead leaves carried away by the biting winds of our times.
To put it another way: We refuse to leave our comfort zones. We like to stick to the familiar, the predictable, the usual.
In some ways our attitude resembles the way Peter felt before the Lord prodded him into new territory. Peter knew that Christ’s strategy was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). But Peter simply wasn’t comfortable with Gentiles. They were not “his kind of people.” Yet, God shook him loose to go to the house of Cornelius and give them the good news about Jesus (Acts 11).
The church, like Peter, is often locked behind the walls of its brick and shake-shingle fortress. We tend to stay where we feel unthreatened, among the people who make us feel accepted and loved. It takes a clear vision of God’s compassion for the lost to get us beyond our comfort zone to reach those for whom the Savior gave His life.
Have we gotten too comfortable? -- Haddon Robinson, Our Daily Bread, June 24, 2001
Go to the lost, in the home, in
Delay no longer, today make a start;
Tell them of Jesus who bled for their sin—
From byways of darkness bring others to Him. – Houghton
CONCLUSION: This Bible study should give to us a new vision of our responsibility in the realm of missions – both foreign missions and home missions. There are many people like Cornelius who are only waiting for someone to tell them how they may be saved.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “The church is a training center, not a country club.”
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REFERENCES: References used in the Bible study are the King James Bible (KJV), Dr. J. Vernon McGee © Thru the Bible Radio Network ( www.ttb.org ), the Scofield Study Bible, the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge Bible Outlines, Dr. Lee Roberson’s Sermons, Dr. Charles Stanley: ( http://www.intouch.org/ ), Don Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Women’s Study Bible, The Bible Reader’s Companion Ed. 3, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version, KJV Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament ed. 4, Dr. David Jeremiah: ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/ ), Dr. Cliff Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the Old Testament, With the Word Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s “Be” Series: Old & New Testaments, RBC Ministries ( http://rbc.org/ ), selected illustrations, and other references.
REV. RONALD PURKEY’S OFFICE
E-mail: Ronald Purkey