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.
The Doctrine of the Gentiles: The Jews, they of the circumcision, followed strict rules (many of them from the O.T.) in regards to their relationship with Gentiles. They were not to eat with them. They probably developed a hatred for them, much like it was in the South with Whites dealings with Blacks. If the Jews’ separation from the Gentiles was done in the spirit of protecting the purity of their belief system, then that would be applauded; but doing it in the spirit of ethnic prejudice would be awful…which is what I think many of them did it in. I wonder if there is reverse-prejudice now with Gentiles upon Jews? (anti-Semitism) Surely there is with Arabs and Jews, but how about Americans?
Verse 9 is teaching that God had cleansed the Heathen; I believe that this was done as a result of the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gentiles and Jews can both go to Heaven… they can fellowship together; they can be in a church together. This was not allowed prior to this.
“It was to show him that they who had been esteemed by the Jews as unclean or profane-the entire Gentile world-might now be admitted to similar privileges with the Jews. That barrier was to be broken down, and the whole world was to be admitted to the same fellowship and privileges in the gospel. When once the barrier was removed that separated the Jews and Gentiles, all the laws which were founded on such a distinction, and which were framed to keep up such a distinction, passed away of course. The ceremonial laws of the Jews were designed solely to keep up the distinction between them and other nations.” (Barne’s Notes)
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.
The Doctrine of Evangelism: This was a most important event in having the Jews realize that the Gentiles can be the heirs of salvation also (Peter speaking to Cornelius); and that Jews can and should witness to the Gentiles. This event needed lots of witnesses. Peter was to tell them ‘words’ on how to be saved; this is God’s methodology for evangelism: tell them words on how they can be saved. He witnessed to the whole extended family (thy house) as a group.
The Doctrine of the Holy Ghost: The phrase ‘as on us at the beginning’ is referring to Acts 2. Thus, there was great similarity in the Day of Pentecost’s events, and this one. But, I believe them to be different. However, it could be that there were 4 separate baptisms (Jews in Acts 2, Samaritans in Acts 8, Romans in Acts 10, and the Greeks in Acts 19). Though, I believe that there was only one baptism with the Holy Ghost, and the other 3 events were for the individual receiving of the Holy Ghost and not for the empowerment of a church, for these other groups did not have churches formed as yet as far as I can determine. Though, verse 16 and 17 might be implying that what happened to those Gentiles in Cornelius’ household was an actual ‘baptism’. If it were another ‘baptism’, then it was a ‘group baptism’ and not an individual baptism; all those Gentile believers there were immersed in the Holy Ghost (but what about all the other Gentiles that would believe later?…).
This was a transition time and the Holy Ghost was given about when these believed and were saved; and this ‘giving’ was signified by their speaking with tongues; signs followed this in order to authenticate it all from God…i.e., the Gentiles can be saved just as the Jews. Maybe this was the main reason for the sign gifts being given.
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.
The Doctrine of Persecution: Stephen’s martyrdom caused God’s will to be done in getting Christians to scatter about with the Gospel to fulfill what He had commanded the church in Jerusalem to do. Thus, a great saints death can actually be greatly used of God (though, everyone at that time would think it to be a great loss).
The Doctrine of Evangelism: The church at Antioch later became a tremendous Missionary sending church. They initially focused on the Jews only, but then slowly opened up unto the Gentiles; Peter was an apostle unto the Jews, but he had just learned that the Gentiles were not unclean and should be reached with the gospel also. God wanted all creatures to have the truth preached unto them. The Lord greatly blessed them in their increased scope and effort of evangelism (go to the next level in your evangelism ministry, and watch God bless).
The Grecians were Hellenists. “Who these were, we have already seen, Acts 6 and 9:29; Jews living in Greek cities, and speaking the Greek language. This intimates that besides preaching the Gospel to the Hellenistic Jews some of them preached it to pagan Greeks; for it is certain that the Hellenistic Jews had already received the Gospel (Acts 6:1). And it is likely that these Cyprians and Cyrenians had heard of Peter’s mission to Cesarea; and they followed his example by offering the Christian faith to the pagan. It is worthy of remark that the Jews generally called all nations of the world Greeks.” ( Adam Clarke’s Commentary)
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.
The Doctrine of Exhortation: Barnabas may have been sent by the church of Jerusalem to help organize the church in Antioch; and probably was a pastor of it, along with Paul and a few others possibly (see Acts 13).
Some use this to support modern day evangelists and their function to exhort churches; I disagree. He was sent by a church to investigate and then encourage a daughter church that had some very unique things happening to her. Also, Barnabas is listed as an apostle, not an evangelist, though he could have functioned in that role. There are different preaching styles: Barnabas’ style of preaching was in encouraging, helping, lifting up; I believe that he had the gift of exhortation.
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.
The Doctrine of the Christian: They did a pretty good job of discipling for the townsfolk called these ‘disciples’ “Christians”…i.e. little Christ’s. They resembled their former leader, Jesus Christ. By the word ‘first’ we can surmise that they were called Christians elsewhere later on, many other places I’m sure. And then were called Montanists, Donatists, etc.; they were also called Gospellers and Cathari (pure ones). What should the followers of Jesus Christ and His word be called today?
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.
The Doctrine of Giving: When a church has financial difficulty (due to some unexpected event or situation) then other churches should send ‘relief’ unto them. I don’t believe a church should necessarily send monies to help them with their next phase of a building project (i.e., the new fellowship hall, or the school gymnasium). It is very scriptural for one church to help other churches who find themselves in need; interdependency. The daughter church was helping their ‘mother church’. The individuals of that church gave money according to each of their ability. What happens if today you are able to send $2500 to help a sister church out…do you send it all?!…or do you send $200?
1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
The Doctrine of Easter: ‘Easter’ is a Biblical term; it is referring to the pagan celebration of Astarte (Ashtaroth, Ishtar, etc.). The KJV Bible critics proclaim that verse 4 is in error in the KJV…they say that the term for ‘Easter’ has been translated as ‘passover’ in every instance in the KJV except this one…thus, this is an obvious oversight. Well, Tyndale was exactly right for changing this to ‘Easter’, and all the critics are wrong. (NIV) Acts 12:4 Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
Parenthetical statements do indeed have significance. They were already past Passover Sabbath because they were then already in the days of unleavened bread, and these days didn’t begin until after the Passover Sabbath (Ex 12:8, Num 28:16-18). The pagan festival of Easter was the most attended festival in that land. Passover was probably the most attended Jewish feast of the year. It was a very festive time of year, indeed. Easter is not Passover; Easter is not Resurrection Day. Easter is a pagan festival. On the calendar today, as well as centuries ago, Easter and Passover are not the same day, usually separated by a week or so.
King Herod was a ‘good pagan’ and not a Jew and had no reason, nor desire, to keep the passover and the days of unleavened bread. Herod was a devout pagan and whorshipped the ‘queen of heaven’! He was going to wait until after his special pagan festival Easter, and then kill the leader of these Christians!
Back in Acts 12:3, we see that Peter was arrested during the days of unleavened bread. This means that the passover had already occurred prior to Peter’s arrest! Herod, in verse 4, was intending to bring Peter out of jail after ‘Easter’. Now if this ‘Easter’ was ‘supposed’ to be ‘passover’, then he would be waiting just about a whole other year! That pagan festival known as Easter hadn’t yet begun… The KJV is the only modern English ‘version’ of the Bible to have the word ‘Easter’ in it!
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
The Doctrine of Prayer: it is very important to pray for Missionaries; and all the more intensely when they are in harms way. Herod was planning on decapitating Peter in a week or so. Why he was delivered may have been simply because the church prayed for him without ceasing. This may mean they had 2 or 3 people praying every hour, without stop; rotating every hour. Though, it may very well mean that most, if not all, of the church were together praying, without ceasing, without eating, without sleeping. God could have brought him forth sooner, but wanted to teach both Peter and the church more patience and faith. Our prayers can cause God to send an angel to bring deliverance for some Christian
12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. 13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. 14 And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. 15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. 16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. 17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
The Doctrine of Faith: if they really believed God would do something, they should have had ‘Rhoda’ posted at the gate waiting for Peter to show. They prayed, but they lacked faith; they thought that Rhoda was crazy for saying that Peter had arrived. They were astonished that he was actually there.
The Doctrine of Angels: They said that what Rhoda saw was Peter’s “angel”. What does that mean? Were they superstitious? Apparently they thought that one’s guardian angel will resemble the saint.
“Since angelos signifies in general a messenger, whether divine or human, some have thought that the angel or messenger here means a servant or person which the disciples supposed was sent from Peter to announce something of importance to the brethren: it was also an opinion among the Jews, even in the time of the apostles, as appears from Philo, that the departed souls of good men officiated as ministering angels; and it is possible that the disciples at Mary’s house might suppose that Peter had been murdered in the prison; and that his spirit was now come to announce this event, or give some particular warning to the church.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)
18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. 19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode. 20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. 21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. 22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. 23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
The Doctrine of Reaping: Herod reaps what he sowed with James and Peter. When you don’t give God the glory He deserves and it is witnessed by many many people, it may be that God will smite you severely.
What is the worst health condition to die of? These worms were the parasitical type; usually it is a slow, painful death. As the people watched him die, they probably didn’t look to him as a god anymore!
The Doctrine of Missions: Missionaries shouldn’t leave where they’ve been called to until the have fulfilled their ministry. Thus, one needs to know what the goals are that need to be fulfilled. John Mark’s mother opened up her home to the church folk for this prayer meeting a while back. John Mark was a ‘Missionary helper’ with Barnabas and Saul. Here, Barnabas is named first…