The Church in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:5-12)

Growth in Jerusalem the first days of the Kingdom was phenomenal! Truly the "time was fulfilled". Within days the church numbered near 10,000 and was drawing incredible attention, which is good for growth but now the persecution promised by Christ has begun. Stephen has given his life for the cause of Christ and a young zealous Pharisee named Saul has emerged on the scene as the chief antagonist of the Church. But instead of smothering Christianity, it serves only to fan the flame though the entire Judean world.

  1. Leaving Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-4):
    1. Time
      1. Stephen's Death - thought to be around A.D. 34 or 35
      2. "At that time" - does not refer to the particular day of Stephen's death, but the general time frame
      3. The "spreading" believed to have occurred around A.D. 37
    2. Great persecution drives Christians from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1)
      1. Many were taken from home and brought into prisons (Acts 8:3)
      2. Many were put to death (Acts 22:4; Acts 26:10)
      3. The Jews would beat them in attempts to get them to blaspheme (Acts 26:11)
      4. This persecution was at the direction of the chief priests (Acts 9:14; Acts 26:10)
    3. To avoid persecution, Christians spread throughout all of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1)
      1. Samaria was north of Judea and south of Galilee
      2. Apostles remained in Jerusalem - not told why at this point
      3. Some went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19)
      4. Some may have gone as far as Rome (Romans 16:7) - Andronicus and Junia were in Christ before Paul
    4. They went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4)
      1. At this point, Gentiles were still kept from the kingdom
      2. They were preaching to the Jews only (Acts 11:19)
      3. What seemed to be a horrible tragedy was actually God's providence providing for the world to be taught the Gospel!
      4. When we become discouraged about the task of spreading the Gospel, think of the daunting task facing the early Church!
  2. Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:5-25)
    1. Philip the evangelist, not the apostle
      1. This couldn't have been Philip the apostle because the apostles remained in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1)
      2. This was Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8), the same one that was one of the seven named to care for the widows in Acts 6:3-6
      3. Acts 8:14 also seems to speak of the apostles as not including Philip ("Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John")
      4. When named one of the seven, the apostles laid hands on Philip, giving him the power to perform the miracles that are mentioned in this chapter (Acts 8:6)
    2. The Samaritans
      1. Samaria was a country, but also a city (many refer to as Sebaste)
      2. Although it was north of Jerusalem, it was at a lower elevation (which explains the fact that Philip went down to Samaria)
      3. Samaritans were bitter enemies of the Jews (John 4:9 ". . . the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.") They were half-breeds, Jews that had been intermingled with heathen peoples.
      4. In what has been called the limited commission, Jesus had earlier instructed the disciples to not preach in the cities of the Samaritans, but only to the "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 10:5-6)
      5. But Jesus, after his resurrection, had said the Gospel would be preached in all Judaea and in Samaria (Acts 1:8)
      6. Some Samaritans had heard the word taught before by Jesus and many believed (John 4:39-42),
      7. Nevertheless, the Samaritans had never heard the Gospel after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus until Philip (and many still held to the view that the Messiah would come and establish a kingdom and rebuild the temple on Mount Gerazim) (John 4:25)
      8. We know that these particular individuals were under the delusions of an impostor known as Simon (Acts 8:9-11)
      9. Some have said this work of Philip in Samaria was the stepping stone to the work among the Gentiles.
    3. The success of the Gospel in Samaria
      1. The people readily and unanimously accepted the word (Acts 8:6)
      2. The purpose of miracles for the early church was revealed, as the Samaritans were led to believe, at least in part, based on seeing the miracles Philip performed (Acts 8:6-7)
      3. These miracles may have been particularly needful to expose the fraud of Simon (Acts 8:9-11)
      4. When they believed, they were baptized (Acts 8:12) (the natural response to belief - Acts 2:38 and many other examples in Acts)
      5. Great joy came to the city (Acts 8:8)
      6. The apostles Peter and John came from Jerusalem to Samaria to encourage the believers in Samaria and confer the Holy Ghost upon them (Acts 8:14-17).
        1. It appears that Philip, while having the power to perform miracles, did not have the power to confer gifts to others. It was necessary that the apostles come for this task.
        2. The Samaritans had been baptized, receiving the remission of sins, but not miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:16)
    4. Disappointment in Samaria - Simon
      1. Simon had deceived the people of Samaria for some time, passing himself off as some kind of divine power (Acts 8:9-11)
      2. He also believed the teaching of Philip and was baptized (Acts 8:13)
      3. He was amazed at the miracles which Philip did (Acts 8:13 - the meaning of the word translated "wondered" carries the meaning of amazement at the miracles and signs). Contrasted with his own phony act, Simon was amazed at one that truly performed these miracles.
      4. This fascination with the power given to Philip is one sign of the trouble that was to fall upon Simon. Nevertheless, there is nothing from which we could conclude that Simon's belief or baptism was insincere. In fact, the Bible said he believed!
      5. Thus Simon, like the other believing Samaritans, was a baptized believer enjoying God's forgiveness. An amazing triumph for the early church!
      6. Simon, however, was the unfortunate early example of our ability to fall away from God's grace and of how to return to God
        1. Simon wanted to buy the power to bestow the gifts of the Holy Ghost to others (Acts 8:18-19)
        2. Given his background, it is perhaps not too surprising that Satan would attack the heart of Simon in this way
        3. Peter tells Simon in stern language that he is in sin and has no right to this power
    5. God's plan for Fallen Christians
      1. Peter told Simon his heart was not right in God's sight (Acts 8:21)
      2. He told him to repent of his wickedness and pray God for forgiveness
      3. This same plan is given in other parts of God's word (2 Tim 2:24-26; I John 1:8-10)
      4. Simon gives a sign of his repentance by asking Peter to pray for him (Acts 8:24)
    6. Peter and John preach in other villages of the Samaritans on the way back to Jerusalem
    7. Lessons from Samaria
      1. God's word was effective in bringing together former enemies
      2. God's word was effective in turning around the life of a former impostor that falsely claimed divine power
      3. While preaching the Gospel, seeming triumphs may end in disappointment (Matt. 10:20-22 - the parable of the sower). Nevertheless, one need not get down and must continue to preach to others as did Peter and John returning to Jerusalem.
      4. Christians can be forgiven for sins after baptism by repentance and prayer
  3. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40)
    1. Philip is sent by an angel of God to the south to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Gaza was about 60 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
    2. Philip comes upon a eunuch of great authority from Ethiopia (Acts 8:27)
      1. Not clear whether a Jew or a proselyte, but clearly a zealous man in making such a long journey (Ethiopia was south of Egypt in Africa)
      2. Candace was not an actual name, but was a name commonly given to queens of Ethiopia (like Pharaohs in Egypt or Caesars in Rome)
      3. He was in charge of the royal treasury
    3. He was studying the law (Isaiah) (Acts 8:28)
      1. He was making good use of the time by studying the law while traveling
      2. Apparently, this was a common practice among the Jews
      3. We too should use our time so wisely!
      4. Yet, the eunuch did not understand the word
      5. We should make sure not to just get involved in reading, but also to understand what we read - to meditate on it, pray about it, speak with others about it
    4. Philip speaks with the eunuch
      1. He is directed to join the chariot (Acts 8:29)
      2. Philip asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading (Acts 8:30)
      3. Many people today may study, but are without understanding. Many like the eunuch may desire to understand, but can't. Our role should be to help others understand, and we should be careful that we don't assume that everyone does understand.
      4. The eunuch is unaware that the prophecy is of Jesus (Acts 8:34)
      5. Philip preached unto him JESUS (Acts 8:35)
      6. Notice Philip's preparedness even for a chance encounter to deliver the Gospel (we should strive for the same diligence)
      7. In response to the preaching of Jesus, the eunuch is prompted to ask about baptism (Acts 8:36). Preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism!
      8. Philip tells the eunuch that if he believes will all of his heart, he can be baptized (Acts 8:36-37)
      9. The eunuch confesses his belief and is baptized (Acts 8:37-38)
      10. During baptism, they both went down into the water, suggesting this was more than sprinkling or pouring. Furthermore, verse 39 says they came up out of the water.
    5. Philip is called away to Azotus
      1. This is the city formerly known as Ashdod
      2. It was 30 miles from Gaza and on the way to Joppa
    6. Philip then went to Caesarea
      1. He preached the Gospel in every city he came across on the way
      2. Lydda and Joppa were on that way and may have been his route (the result of which may have been the Christians discussed in Acts 9:32, 36)
      3. He apparently remained in Caesarea to establish his home there (Acts 21:8)
  4. Saul's Persecution of the Church (Acts 9:1-2)
    1. Saul had been given authority to arrest and bring bound any Christians found on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-2; Acts 26:12)
    2. This was a continuation of the his persecution which had occurred in Jerusalem (Acts 9:13; Acts 26:9-11)
    3. Damascus was about 150 miles northeast from Jerusalem. Apparently, some of the Christians that fled Jerusalem had gone to Damascus for safety.
  5. Saul's Conversion (Acts 9:1-19)
    1. The contrast is incredible - Saul is on his way to beat, imprison, and kill Christians when the Lord calls him to be "a chosen vessel" to bear His name before all people. Saul's life is truly a testament of how the Lord can save any one - even the "chief of sinners." (1 Tim 1:15) Saul's conversion demonstrates to us a pattern of the infinite mercy of God (1 Tim 1:16) - it shows perhaps more clearly than ever that God is "longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish." (2 Pet. 3:9)
    2. The Lord Appears to Saul (Acts 9:3-7)
      1. As Saul was traveling, a light out of heaven shone all around him (Acts 9:3)
      2. The time of the day was about noon (Acts 22:6), but the light was brighter than the noon-time sun (Acts 26:13).
      3. The risen Christ spoke to Saul (Acts 9:4)
        1. The voice was in the Hebrew tongue (Acts 26:14)
        2. Jesus asks Saul, "Why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4)
        3. When someone persecutes Christ's disciples, they are persecuting Christ himself. When we help or harm Christians, we do it to Christ himself (Matt 25:40, 45; Luke 10:16 - "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.").
        4. Interestingly, Paul answers this question later by saying that he did it ignorantly, in unbelief (1 Tim. 1:13). Paul had been sincerely convinced that was he was doing was right -thus he had lived in all good conscience (Acts 23:1)
      4. Paul asks whose voice it is (Acts 9:5). His use of "Lord" was to demonstrate reverence and probably does not reflect an understanding at this point that the voice is that of the Messiah.
      5. The Lord reveals his identity to Saul (Acts 9:5). Acts 22:8 reveals the specificity that he was Jesus of Nazareth, the one Saul was persecuting - this would leave no doubt who it was.
      6. "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" (Acts 9:5) - "pricks" is rendered as "goads" in many versions. This is apparently a proverb that was used often in other writings. It had reference to a stick used with oxen to make them go faster or obey the plowman. If the ox kicked when pricked with the goad, he received a severer prod. This is a message to Saul to stop resisting the Lord - Saul may have had some realization that this really was the Messiah, but was attempting to suppress that conviction. Or it may have merely meant that Saul was only hurting himself in his present course.
      7. This got Saul's attention - he was trembling and astonished and asked Lord, what do you want me to do? (Acts 9:6)
      8. Apparently some manuscripts to not include the above proverb and the first part of verse 6 in this account in chapter 9. The belief is that they were borrowed from the parallel accounts in chapter 22 and 26. I'm not sure of the manuscripts, but no one doubts that these were legitimately parts of the other accounts (i.e. these are not spurious)
      9. Jesus tells Saul to go to Damascus where he would be told what he MUST do (Acts 9:6). What Saul was going to be told to do was not optional, it was something he MUST do! This question demonstrates that Saul was on the way to conversion.
      10. This appearance by Jesus was critical to Paul and his apostleship - Paul made clear that he was called to be an apostle by Jesus, not man (Gal. 1:1, 12; 1 Tim. 1:1). He was, like the other apostles, a witness to the risen Christ (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33; Acts 9:27)
      11. Apparent contradictions (Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9; Acts 26:14)
        1. Were his fellow travelers standing or on the ground?
          1. Acts 9:7 - "stood speechless"
          2. Acts 26:14 - "And when we were all fallen to the earth"
          3. Some have suggested that "stood speechless" means only that they stopped and were speechless. The word used here and as defined by Thayer's (#2476) seems to me to make this plausible - that he was wasn't literally referring to standing, but more the idea of remaining.
          4. Others have said Paul may have been describing their conditions at different times.
        2. Did they hear the voice or not?
          1. Acts 9:7 - "hearing a voice, but seeing no man"
          2. Acts 22:9 - "they heard not the voice of him that spake to me."
          3. This seems to be explained by the fact that they heard a voice, but did not hear or understand the words Jesus was saying to Saul.
        3. Did they see anything?
          1. Acts 9:7 - "seeing no man"
          2. Acts 22:9 - "And they that were with me saw indeed the light"
          3. This again seems understandable in terms of the level of abstraction (as with the voice) - they saw the light, but did not actually see the man as Saul did.
    3. Saul Goes to Damascus (Acts 9:8-9)
      1. Many translate Acts 9:8 to say "he saw nothing" rather than "he saw no man." There is not necessarily an inconsistency in these two ideas, but "saw no man" could mean merely that the man (Christ) had left. Paul reveals in Acts 22:11 that he could not see. Furthermore, verse 9 says that he was three days without sight. Some have suggested that he could not make out any objects, as often occurs when one stares into a bright light.
      2. Saul had to be led by others to Damascus (Acts 9:8; Acts 22:11).
      3. This is another striking image of the one who had come to Damascus with authority to bind Christians now has to be led by the land into the city. Saul had been humbled!
      4. Saul fasted for three days (Acts 9:9). Verse 11 reveals that he was praying. Saul appears convicted by all the thoughts of the persecution he had administered to Christians.
      5. Many would suggest that Saul was saved at this point. He apparently realized the error of his ways, was determined to do what the Lord desired, and was now praying. However, the Lord had not told him what to do yet - that would come from Ananias in Damascus (Acts 22:16).
    4. Ananias' Vision (Acts 9:10-16)
      1. Ananias was a Christian (Acts 9:10), devoutly followed the law (Acts 22:12) and was well thought of by all Jews in Damascus (which presumably included the Christian converts) (Acts 22:12)
      2. The Bible only describe him as "a certain disciple" - not some great leader in the church. This is yet another example of how God uses a "small" figure to call some great person to Christ (e.g. Andrew with Peter - John 1:40-42)
      3. The Lord appears to him in a vision and instructs him to go to a road called Straight. (Acts 9:11) This street is believed to have been the main street of the city. It ran east to west and was about a mile long. Apparently the street still exists.
      4. The Lord specifically tells Ananias to go to the house of Judas to ask for Saul (Acts 9:11).
      5. Saul had a vision of Ananias restoring his sight. (Acts 9:12).
      6. Ananias' Response (Acts 9:13-14)
        1. Ananias hesitates at the Lord's command because he is aware of how Saul has persecuted the Church
        2. The news of Saul coming to Damascus with authority had preceded his arrival - the disciples were aware.
        3. This reaction is understandable and demonstrates how our past can sometimes hinder our effectiveness in teaching to others.
        4. It also shows how our own ideas can be so misguided! Ananias' instinct told him not to go to Saul, but the Lord had planned for Ananias to pave the way for one of His greatest workers - the writer of a substantial portion of the New Testament.
        5. As a sidenote, Ananias refers to Christians as saints, which shows this was used early in the church.
      7. The Lord's Response to Ananias' Objections (Acts 9:15-16)
        1. Jesus basically tells Ananias through the vision to "Go do it" (Acts 9:15)
        2. Jesus explains that Paul will bears His name to:
          1. The Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-8; Eph. 3:5-10). The Gentiles were mentioned before the children of Israel, perhaps signifying the special role Paul played in preaching to the Gentiles.
          2. Kings (Acts 26, before Agrippa). It is believed that Paul may have spoken before Nero (with a possible reference in 2 Tim. 4:16-17). Paul spoke before several Roman governors (Felix and Festus in Acts 24, 25).
          3. The Children of Israel
        3. Jesus also reveals that Saul, once the persecutor, will now suffer much for the sake of Christ. Paul did endure many afflictions for the cause (2 Cor. 11:23-27). Some of these persecutions are discussed later in the book of Acts.
      8. Saul is Baptized (Acts 9:17-19)
        1. Ananias is now ready to obey the Lord's command without hesitation (Acts 9:17)
        2. "Brother Saul" - this was a common way for Jews to refer to each other and does not reflect the idea that Saul had already become a brother in Christ. Paul himself explains that we are baptized into Christ (Rom 6:3-4)
        3. Ananias explains to Saul that he is to receive his sight and receive the Holy Ghost.
        4. Saul receives his sight. (Acts 9:17). The word "scales" comes from a verb meaning "to peel" - it was like small flakes being peeled from his eyes.
        5. After receiving his sight, Saul was instructed by Ananias that what he must do is be baptized (Acts 22:16). Saul was obedient - he was baptized and received the remission of his sins (Acts 9:18; Acts 22:16). Paul's conversion is another example of baptism being essential to salvation, and Paul went on to write much about the topic, most notably in Romans 6, explaining its necessity.
        6. After being baptized, Saul ends his fasting.
        7. He remains in Damascus certain days - we are not told how long.
    5. Although we will not be called in the miraculous way Paul was, we need to learn from his readiness to repent - to complete reverse direction and give his life a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ (Rom 12:1-2)
  6. Paul's Work at Damascus (Acts 9:20-25)
    1. Many were amazed at the change in Paul (now preaching Christ!) (Acts 9:21)
    2. Paul increased in strength and in his effectiveness in teaching Christ to the Jews (Acts 9:22)
    3. "Many days"
      1. Not told here exactly how long this was or what happened during this time
      2. Gal 1:15-18
        1. After Paul was converted in Damascus and his preaching there for a bit, he went to Arabia (to the southeast of Jerusalem)
        2. After this time in Arabia, Paul returned to Damascus
        3. It was three years later when he went to Jerusalem to go visit Peter
    4. After at least 3 years, Paul had returned to Damascus and the Jews sought to kill him. (Acts 9:23)
      1. They wanted to kill him so badly that they watched the gates day and night. (Acts 9:24)
      2. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 that it was the governor under Aretas the king that ordered the garrison to watch the walls
      3. But Paul knew about their efforts and the disciples helped him escape over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:25)
      4. It is rather ironic that the persecutor had now become the persecuted!
    5. Paul Flees to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30)
      1. Understandably, the disciples were leery of Paul and doubted the truth of his conversion (Acts 9:26). This was the first time Paul returned to Jerusalem since leaving to go to Damascus. They knew him as a great persecutor of Christians!
      2. But Paul had Barnabas to vouch for him - to tell his story to the apostles
        1. Barnabas told them that Paul had seen Christ - this was important because Paul needed to see the risen Christ to be an apostle (Acts 9:27)
        2. Barnabas told of his bold preaching in Damascus (Acts 9:27)
      3. During this time, Paul saw Peter and James, but none of the rest of the apostles (no mention of where they were) (Gal. 1:18-19)
      4. Barnabas' comments swayed the opinion of others
        1. Paul stayed with Peter for 15 days (Gal 1:18)
        2. Peter and James apparently help Paul in gaining the acceptance of others in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28)
      5. Paul preached there in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29)
        1. He spoke boldly there, even though danger lurked nearby
        2. He preached to the Grecian Jews, presumably the same ones that called for Stephen's death after Stephen had preached to them (Acts 6:9-15)
        3. Paul was among those consenting to the death of Stephen, and so he may have been attempting to correct the damage he had done earlier in falsely teaching to these Grecians
        4. Paul was not intimidated by the violent forces he was opposing
        5. Predictably, these Grecians attempted to kill Paul (Acts 9:29)
        6. The brethren in Jerusalem aided Paul by sending him to Caesarea and then to Tarsus (his hometown)
          1. This was a sign that Paul had been received and accepted by them
          2. Caesarea was about 70 miles from Jerusalem (to the northwest). It was a seaport from which Paul could sail to Tarsus
          3. Paul later gave the additional reason for leaving that the Lord had revealed to him that he should leave Jerusalem and go to work amongst the Gentiles (Acts 22:17-21)
    6. The Church enjoys a period of peace (Acts 9:31)
      1. The church, in all places where it existed, received a respite from the persecution that began after Stephen's death
      2. The main reason for the easing up is thought to be the Jews preoccupation with the concern that Caligula had ordered a statute of himself be placed in the temple at Jerusalem
      3. A new governor in Syria (Petronius) and a new ruler of Judea and Samaria (Herod Agrippa I) were also thought to contribute to the peace the church enjoyed during this time.
      4. The church was growing in number and in strength (Acts 9:31)
      5. Sometimes we become complacent and satisfied when things are going well - the NT church kept preaching and growing. In persecution or in peace, they were preaching the word.
  7. Peter at Lydda (Acts 9:32-35)
    1. Not clear if Luke is describing a time when Peter had come from Jerusalem or Luke is describing what Peter did when he was returning from Samaria (which is where Peter was when we last heard about him)
    2. The Apostolic Work
      1. Peter went to all quarters, all places where there were churches (which as mentioned earlier, may have been on his return from Samaria). (Acts 9:32)
      2. The apostles' work was to go confirm and exhort the churches - their work involved many congregations (their office was a universal office)
    3. Peter heals Aeneas (Acts 9:32-35)
      1. This was a person that was ill for 8 years (bed ridden). Therefore, this miracle would be one that would have a great effect because many presumably knew about it and knew this was no fluke.
      2. Peter makes clear that it was no power of his, but Jesus Christ was the healing power. (Acts 9:34)
      3. The results of Peter's work and the miracle
        1. All at Lydda and Saron saw Aeneas walk, and they turned to the Lord (Acts 9:35)
        2. Saron (or Sharon) was a section of country (not a city) that covered 30 miles in the area between Joppa to Caesarea
        3. Here no information was given about the particulars of their conversion (unlike many other accounts in Acts)
        4. The extensive success in these areas demonstrates the efficacy of miracles in leading many to Christ in the early church.
  8. Peter at Joppa (Acts 9:36-43)
    1. A disciple named Tabitha, or Dorcas, fell sick and died in Joppa (Acts 9:36-37)
    2. "Lydda was near Joppa" (v. 38) - Joppa was about 10 miles from Lydda
    3. The disciples called for Peter to come from Lydda to Joppa. It is not clear whether they expected the miracle of resurrecting Tabitha or they were just looking for comfort. Nevertheless, the haste of the disciples suggests they may have been looking for Peter to miraculously heal her.
    4. Peter, who had previously witnessed Jesus resurrect others (Jairus' daughter among others - Mark 5:35-41), now performs the miracle of resurrection. (Acts 9:40-41)
    5. Again, a miracle leads many to believe (Acts 9:42)
    6. Peter stayed in Joppa "many days" - presumably evangelizing the community (Acts 9:43)
      1. Peter stayed with Simon the tanner
      2. This was significant because the Jews regarded that occupation as abominable because tanners had to handle unclean animals
      3. Some have suggested that this showed Peter had become indifferent to ceremonial uncleanness, but Peter raises this concern in Acts 10:14
      4. This probably demonstrates that Peter had to "give a little" on the strictness he ascribed to preach in these other areas (cf. Paul in 1 Cor. 9:19-23)
      5. At most, this may show the lowering of his Jewish prejudices as a precursor to the events of Acts 10.
  9. The Gospel Comes to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48)
    1. Cornelius' background
      1. He was a centurion (Acts 10:1) - a leader of a thousand soldiers from Italy
      2. He was also a devout man that feared God, gave alms to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:2). Thus, Cornelius was an appropriate man to bridge the gap between the Gentiles and the Jews.
      3. But most importantly, Cornelius was a Gentile and hence at this point was not saved! The Gospel to this point had only gone out to Jews and Samaritans. Being holy may not be enough to be saved!
    2. Cornelius' vision (Acts 10:1-8)
      1. Cornelius was praying when he received the vision (Acts 10:30). He was praying in the ninth hour (3:00 PM), one of the three periods of the day in which Jews prayed (also the third hour (9:00 AM) and the sixth hour (12:00 PM))
      2. Cornelius recognized the angel as being from God (Acts 10:4), yet said it appeared as a man in bright clothing (Acts 10:30)
      3. God heard Cornelius' prayers, even though he was a Gentile (Acts 10:4). Of course, opening the kingdom to the Gentiles had been God's plan from the beginning. The opening of the kingdom to the Gentiles was not an answered prayer to Cornelius - Cornelius was simply the one God chose for this momentous event.
      4. The instructions
        1. Send men to Joppa to call for Simon Peter
        2. Joppa was about 30 miles from Caesarea
        3. Philip was probably in Caesarea (Acts 8:40), but God had already decreed that Peter would be the one to open the kingdom to the Gentiles as he had the Jews in Acts 2 (Matt. 16:18-19)
        4. Peter would tell Cornelius what he needed to do (which was to baptized - Acts 10:48)
      5. Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to escort Peter back to Caesarea (Acts 10:7-8). He told them about the vision, presumably so they could relate these things to Peter (Acts 10:8; Acts 10:22)
    3. Peter's Vision (Acts 10:9-17)
      1. On the next day after Cornelius' vision, Cornelius' messengers were getting close to the city. Peter was about to pray on the housetop when he fell into a trance (Acts 10:9-10) (the housetops used to be flat and were often used for worship in this way - Zeph. 1:5)
      2. The word translated "trance" is ekstasis and Thayer's describes its meaning in this context this way: "a throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of mind, . . . [as of] the man who by some sudden emotion is transported as it were out of himself, so that in this rapt condition, although he is awake, his mind is so drawn off from all surrounding objects and wholly fixed on things divine that he sees nothing but the forms and images lying within, and thinks that he perceives with his bodily eyes and ears realities shown him by God."
      3. Paul had also been in a trance when he was in Jerusalem and Jesus appeared to tell him to leave the city (Acts 22:17)
      4. Peter became very hungry. It was noontime (the third hour), but Peter also might have been fasting (as was Cornelius). (Acts 10:10)
      5. The vision itself
        1. Peter saw a vessel coming down from heaven like a sheet
        2. It was filled all types of animals, both clean and unclean under the old law (Acts 10:12, 14)
        3. Under the old law, certain types of animals were to be avoided
          1. Every creeping thing was off limits to the Jews (Lev. 11:41-44)
          2. The old law's attitude (the attitude that Peter had before the vision) is well summarized by Lev. 11:46-47 ("This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.")
          3. This had been one of the major distinctions between Jew and Gentile, and so this had significance well beyond the issue of clean or unclean meats
        4. The voice told Peter to kill the animals and eat
        5. Predictably, Peter's response was revulsion - he had never, nor would ever, eat anything unclean (Acts 10:14). This seems to be a typical response from Peter - sharp, stubborn, and peremptory (as in Matt. 26:33 "yet will I never be offended" and in John 13:8 "Thou shalt never wash my feet").
        6. Like Peter, sometimes we may need to open our eyes and hearts to reconsider preconceived notions in light of God's word. But like Peter, we should not do so without the proper reflection on what God's word really teaches.
        7. The voice says that God has cleansed all these animals, and Peter should no longer reject them.
          1. This was the symbolic message that declared the Gentiles eligible for God's mercy and for a relationship with him.
          2. Under the new law, any kind of animal for which we give thanks is appropriate and clean before God (I Tim. 4:4)
        8. "This was done thrice" (Acts 10:16) - this probably refers to the command that Peter received that nothing was common that God had cleansed rather than to the entire vision. I say probably because it specifically mentions that the vessel then returned again into heaven, suggesting that this only happened once rather than repeating of the entire vision.
        9. Peter was unsure of the meaning of the vision - not that he didn't remember what happened, but he was confused as to what the spiritual meaning was.
          1. In some respect, this is somewhat understandable given the radical change in instruction he has received from God.
          2. Paul was already aware that the gospel would be brought to the Gentiles because Jesus had told him on the road to Damascus that he would preach to them and that they would receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 26:17-18)
          3. On the other hand, there was several prophecies that pointed towards this happening (God opening up to the Gentiles)
            1. Gen 12:3 "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
            2. Isaiah 11:10
            3. Isaiah 42:1, 6
            4. Isaiah 49:22
            5. John 10:16
    4. The Arrival of Cornelius' Messengers (Acts 10:17-23)
      1. Shortly after Peter came out of his trance, Cornelius' messengers arrived at Simon's house and asked for Peter (Acts 17:17-18)
      2. Peter was still thinking about the vision, and the Spirit told him that three men were looking for him. The Spirit further revealed that he had sent them (Acts 17:19-20). Knowing that the Spirit sent these individuals would help Peter understand that what was about to happen was truly the will of God.
      3. The messengers tell Peter that God through an angel had told Cornelius to send for Peter to hear from him. They also told Peter that Cornelius was a just man, one that feared God, and was well thought of by the Jews. (Acts 10:22)
      4. They stayed at Joppa for the night and left in the morning. (Acts 10:23). Peter had 6 Jewish Christians accompany him on the journey. (Acts 11:12). They are called "they of the circumcision which believed." (Acts 10:45). Although it is not clear, it may have been that Peter knew that having them for witnesses to this event would be useful. (as the doubt expressed by others in Acts 11 demonstrated).
    5. Peter's Visit to Cornelius (Acts 10:24-48)
      1. Cornelius was waiting for Peter with his family and near friends (Acts 10:24)
      2. Cornelius fell down and "worshipped" Peter (Acts 10:25)
        1. Although this is the word used to describe worship to God, the form used here indicates the homage shown to men of superior rank. (Thayer's, #4352). Therefore, this was not worship as to a god, but as to honor a man.
        2. Nevertheless, Peter saw it as inappropriate for a man to receive this kind of homage (Acts 10:26). He tells Cornelius to stand up.
        3. This ought to put to rest any thought of worshipping men who we may regard as great (as the saints of the Catholic Church). More directly, the Catholic Church asserts that Peter was the first Pope, yet he would not allow one to bow down before him. Yet today, the Pope accepts this form of reverence and much more!
        4. Paul and Barnabas had made similar comments when the people of Lystra referred to them as gods. (Acts 14:11-14)
      3. Peter and Cornelius went inside to the crowd of people that had gathered (Acts 10:27)
      4. Peter explains that the law would tell him that he should not go into the house of a Gentile (or one of another nation) (Acts 10:28)
        1. Apparently, it was well known that the Jews would not associate with others. The Jews were often accused of being haters of the human race. One historian said they hated all people, except their countrymen, as their enemies, and refused to eat or intermarry with them.
        2. This fact was certainly known by Cornelius and the group gathered.
        3. One example of this is the comment of the Samaritan woman in John 4:9.
        4. But this was perfectly illustrated by the comments of Jews about Peter going into the house of Cornelius (Acts 11:2-3) ("Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them."
        5. This demonstrates the great prejudice that would have to be overcome in Jews coming together with Gentiles in the church.
      5. Yet Peter now apparently has gotten what the vision was about, because he explains that the reason he is coming in is because God had told him that he should not call any man unclean. (Acts 10:28)
        1. Notice that Peter not only now comprehends the specific message about meats, but also comprehends the deeper meaning that the Gentiles were now acceptable before God.
        2. Peter says he came without gainsaying, or without questioning, as soon as he was sent for (Acts 10:29)
      6. Peter asks why Cornelius sent for him (Acts 10:29)
        1. It seems to me, that given Peter's understanding of his vision, that he should have had some idea of why he was called
        2. But perhaps Peter hadn't put it all together, and apparently the Holy Spirit had not revealed it to him.
        3. Peter may have just wanted to know if there were additional things told to Cornelius that he was unaware of.
      7. Cornelius relates his vision to Peter (Acts 10:30-32)
      8. And Cornelius says that he and the crowd are ready to hear Peter's instruction (Acts 10:33). Can't you just feel the anticipation in the room?
      9. Peter's sermon to the crowd (Acts 10:34-43)
        1. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35)
          1. A respecter of persons judges people by their outward circumstance - their status, their color, their nationality, etc. - not their inward man
          2. God now judges people of every nation fully on their own deeds (Acts 10:35; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:25)
          3. Peter now fully understands that the barrier between Jew and Gentile has fallen - that Gentiles may be accepted of God just as Jews may
          4. Col. 3:9-11
        2. The gospel of peace (Acts 10:36-37)
          1. Peter says that God's word preaches peace by Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36)
          2. Rom. 10:15 refers to it as the "gospel of peace"
          3. The idea of peace among Gentile and Jew must have been on the mind of the crowd, but the peace Peter speaks of is further reaching, including peace between God and man.
        3. "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36)
          1. Peter makes clear that Jesus is the Lord of all - of both Jew and Gentile
          2. Paul expressed the thought well in Rom. 10:12 ("For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.")
        4. Cornelius and the crowd had some knowledge of Jesus before this meeting (Acts 10:37)
          1. As he mentions, the message of Jesus had gone throughout all Judaea (Acts 10:37)
          2. Peter sets the beginning of the preaching of the gospel as John's baptism
        5. The life of Jesus (Acts 10:38-39)
          1. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power (Luke 3:21-22, Jesus' baptism and the descending of the Spirit)
          2. His life was spent doing good, including miraculous healings (Acts 10:38)
          3. God was with him (John 3:2). Jesus had always taught that the power he demonstrated was from God (John 5:19; John 9:3-7)
          4. The apostles were witnesses to his life, particularly the miracles he performed (Acts 10:39). Acts 1:8 - Jesus had instructed them to serve as witnesses.
        6. The death and resurrection (Acts 10:39-43)
          1. This is the essence of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
          2. The Jews slew Jesus (Acts 10:39)
          3. God raised him from the dead on the third day (Acts 10:40)
          4. Many witnesses saw him after the resurrection (Acts 10:40-41). Peter even mentions that they had a meal together (Luke 24:41-43)
          5. Peter and the other apostles had been instructed (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8) to tell others of this good news - that Jesus was the ordained of God (Acts 10:42), that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied of in the old law (Acts 10:43 - "to him give all the prophets witness")
          6. Jesus gives remission of sins to whoever will believe - including the Gentiles now
        7. The Holy Ghost falls upon the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46)
          1. While Peter was speaking, the Holy Ghost fell on all that heard the word (Cornelius and those that were gathered with him)
          2. This was not by the laying on of the hands of the apostles as in Acts 8:17, but in the same manner as it fell on the Jews as the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 (Acts 11:15 - "the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning")
          3. Apparently this happened before Peter had finished what he intended to say (Acts 11:15 - "And as I began to speak , the Holy Ghost fell on them . . ."; Acts 10:44 - "While Peter yet spake . . .")
          4. The giving of the Holy Ghost was manifested in the same manner as it was at the day of Pentecost - speaking of tongues and glorification of God (Acts 10:46; Acts 2:4, 11). This was how the Jews that were with Peter knew that the Holy Ghost had fallen on the Gentiles (Acts 10:45-46)
        8. The Gentiles enter the kingdom (Acts 10:47-48)
          1. Peter states that since they had received the Holy Ghost, they should also be baptized (Acts 10:47)
          2. John 3:5 - having been born of the Spirit, it was appropriate that they be born of water to enter the kingdom
          3. Peter commands them to be baptized (Acts 10:48) - notice that Cornelius had something to do even after his good deeds as a Gentile and even after receiving the Holy Ghost. Baptism of the Holy Ghost does not save! As with the Jews at Pentecost, repentance and baptism were necessary for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
          4. Although it is not explicit, no doubt the Gentiles were baptized ("Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.")
          5. The Gentiles asked Peter to stay there for "certain days" - this was probably so that they could receive further instruction. Likewise, it is important that we continue to grow and learn more even after becoming Christians.
  10. Peter Justifies His Preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-19)
    1. Some Jews are Upset About Peter's Behavior (Acts 11:1-3)
      1. Caesarea was about 70 miles from Jerusalem, but the word traveled throughout Judea that the Gentiles had received the word (Acts 11:1-2)
      2. Peter came to Jerusalem - probably at least in part to inform the others about what had occurred and explain to them that God had granted the Gentiles "repentance unto life"
      3. It is not clear how the apostles felt about the news, but certain Jews ("they of the circumcision") were upset and contended with Peter (Acts 11:2)
        1. These Jews were not aware of everything Peter was, and there response was similar to Peter's before he came to understand the visions from God
        2. They were upset that Peter had gone in to the home of Gentiles and had a meal with them (Acts 11:3). Surprisingly, their comments did not include complaints about him preaching the word to them or the fact that Gentiles were baptized.
        3. It is also interesting to note that Peter did not enjoy the kind of dominance that is seen in today's popes - to suggest he was the first pope is inconsistent with how he was treated here. The Jews showed no hesitancy in questioning him.
    2. Peter explains his actions (Acts 11:4-17)
      1. Peter, in methodical fashion, explains what had happened (Acts 11:4)
      2. Peter believes that the same things that convinced him that the God had accepted the Gentiles would also convince these Jews
      3. The main point of the defense was that he had done everything by Divine direction (Acts 11:5,9,12,13,15,16), even referring to the words of Jesus while he was living amongst them (Acts 11:16)
      4. Peter reveals now that Cornelius' messengers had told him that he was to speak words whereby they would be saved (Acts 11:14)
      5. Peter also explains that the Holy Ghost fell on them in the same manner as it had "in the beginning" - at the day of Pentecost (Acts 11:15)
      6. Remembering the words of Jesus were perhaps the final straw convincing Peter that God intended to open the kingdom to the Jews (Acts 11:16) - the giving of the Holy Ghost was a sign of divine acceptance.
      7. Peter explains that God had convincingly demonstrated this will and he could not resist that (Acts 11:17)
      8. Acts 11:12 - the KJV translates this as "And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting." (emphasis added) Others translate this as "making no distinction." Thayer's #1252 says that this means "making no difference, namely between Jews and Gentiles."
    3. The Jews are Convinced (Acts 11:18)
      1. After hearing Peter's explanation, the Jews held their peace, glorified God, and declared themselves that God had granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles.
      2. This demonstrated the effectiveness of the Divine method in showing that the God truly did accept the Gentiles.
      3. However, the doubts of Jewish Christians about the Gentiles continued even after this (Acts 15, Gal. 2:11-21; the book of Hebrews, to name just a few verses addressing this problem). Nevertheless, most of the subsequent debate was about whether Gentiles had to observe Jewish laws to be faithful Christians, not whether the Gentiles could be Christians.
  11. The Church at Antioch (Acts 11:19-30)
    1. Its establishment (Acts 11:19-21)
      1. Luke reverts back to the events of Acts 8 - the disciples were scattered as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch after the death of Stephen (Acts 11:19)
        1. Phoenicia was an area about 120 miles long and about 12 to 15 miles broad. It was north of Palestine and its cities included Tyre, Sidon, and Tripolis, but not Caesarea. The Mediterranean Sea bordered it on the west. It formed a part of the Roman province of Syria.
        2. Cyprus was a large island to the southwest of Antioch in the Mediterranean Sea. It was colonized by the Phoenicians.
        3. Antioch was the capital of Syria and was about 180 miles north of the northern edge of Phoenicia. There was a large population of Jews there because they were given equal political privileges to the Greeks. Josephus estimated that it was the third most important city in the Roman Empire, behind Rome and Alexandria.
      2. These disciples were only preaching the word to the Jews (Acts 11:19).
      3. Acts 11:20
        1. There is a dispute as to whether "the Greeks" refers to the Hellenistic Jews mentioned in Acts 6:1, or to Greek Gentiles. There is apparently some dispute about the manuscripts of Greek, in addition to disputes about the translation. Most conclude that this refers to Greek Gentiles, not Greek Jews.
        2. Many translations begin this verse with "But" rather than "And," to demonstrate a contrast with the latter part of verse 19 referring to preaching only to the Jews. If this is about the Greek Gentiles, it apparently happened after the preceding events of Acts 11, because everyone seemed to accept this (including Barnabas, sent by the church at Jerusalem).
        3. Some of those that preached the word had come to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene. Cyrene was a town in North Africa, a considerable ways from Antioch.
      4. God was with them - some understand this to mean miracles were performed, others that God's spirit was with those who preached and those who believed. Regardless, many believed and "turned to the Lord." As in Acts 9:35, we are not given any details of these conversions. (Acts 11:21).
      5. Barnabas Comes to Antioch (Acts 11:22-24)
      6. When the church in Jerusalem heard of the number of believers in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. (Acts 11:22)
      7. Barnabas was from Cyprus (Acts 4:36), was a Jew (Acts 4:36 - a Levite), and apparently was well thought of by the apostles (Acts 9:27). Remember that some of those that preached were from Cyprus. Given all of Barnabas' background, he was well suited to go work in Antioch.
      8. Sending Barnabas after hearing the report from Antioch was similar to the actions of the apostles in Jerusalem in sending Peter and James into Samaria after hearing it had received the word (Acts 8:14).
      9. Barnabas was happy about the work going on in Antioch and encouraged the disciples there to remain loyal to the Lord (Acts 11:23). Although we must always maintain such an attitude (James 4:8), the admonition was probably especially important in a pagan city such as Antioch.
      10. Barnabas - a good man (Acts 11:24)
        1. Luke takes a brief moment to describe Barnabas as a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith.
        2. A similar description was used when speaking of Stephen (Acts 6:8)
        3. Barnabas had demonstrated his goodness in giving the proceeds of land to the church (Acts 4:36-37) and speaking on behalf of Saul to the apostles (Acts 9:27)
      11. As a result of this work and the guidance of the Lord (Acts 11:21), many people were added to the Lord (Acts 11:24) (this would seem to be in addition to those mentioned in verse 21). There was now presumably a large church in Antioch.
      12. Paul Brought to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26)
      13. The work in Antioch was apparently too great for Barnabas to handle alone. It is thought that there were about 500,000 people in Antioch at this time.
      14. One historian records that this occurred in A.D. 43.
      15. The apostles had sent Paul to Tarsus after some had tried to kill him in Jerusalem (Acts 9:31). Tarsus was located in Silicia, and was relatively close to Antioch. Antioch was eighty miles from Tarsus, or about 12 hours by boat.
      16. Apparently Barnabas had some difficulty in finding Paul, because the word translated "to seek" connotes to search with difficulty.
      17. Notice the benefit of two working together. Peter and James had earlier been sent into Samaria together (Acts 8:14). We too should strive to work with others rather than making a go of it alone, particularly in large areas.
      18. Barnabas apparently understood how important it would be to bring the word to Antioch given the large Jewish population and the importance of the city in the Roman Empire.
      19. Barnabas displays his selflessness in getting Paul to help him in this work. He is not too ambitious or proud to seek the help of Paul. Surely, Paul was preaching in Tarsus, but notice that Barnabas opened a door of opportunity for Paul. Barnabas was so important in Paul becoming the great worker that he was. We should learn what great good we can do in leading someone to Christ is to greater service for Him.
      20. Paul and Barnabas remained for a year in Antioch, assembling with or in the church and teaching many people. (Acts 11:26) This helps us understand the role of the apostles and teachers such as Paul. It is appropriate to work with a congregation for a period of time in strengthening it, as Paul and Barnabas did in Antioch.
      21. The disciples called Christians
        1. Some have suggested that unbelievers originally called the disciples by this name in contempt or to ridicule.
        2. Others suggest the disciples used this name to refer to themselves.
        3. The meaning of the Greek word suggest some Divine force involved.
        4. No matter who may have used the term at this time, it was adopted by the divinely inspired Peter in I Pet. 4:16. Agrippa also uses this term when speaking to Paul in Acts 26:28.
        5. The Greek word translated Christian means a follower of Christ.
        6. Today, many that claim to follow Christ have taken on different names, ones derived from the names of men or by men. This name properly demonstrates Christ leadership and rejects the divisiveness engendered by taking the name of any man or concept (1 Cor. 1:11-13).
      22. The Famine and Relief (Acts 11:27-30)
      23. Prophets were sent from Jerusalem to Antioch. (Acts 11:27)
      24. Prophets meant those that spoke on behalf of God - at the time, those that had that miraculous gift. (1 Cor. 11:28-29). These were a part of the structure of the early church during the time of miracles (1 Cor. 11:28-29), and these individuals we learn operated to help other areas, such as Antioch.
      25. Agabus was one prophet sent to Antioch. He warned of a worldwide famine that was to occur during the reign of Claudius Caesar. The word "world" means the inhabited world. Some have suggested this was hyperbole, and meant only the Judea and the surrounding countries. Given that a collection was taken for the brethren in Judea, this may bolster support for the suggestion that this was the prophecy of Agabus.
      26. Claudius Caesar reigned from A.D. 41 to A.D. 54. Some suggest that the famine occurred in A.D. 45, others expand it to include A.D. 44 to A.D. 48.
      27. Josephus says that the famine included only Judea and was very severe. There were several historical famines during the reign of Claudius, of course some of which can't be included in this prophecy.
      28. The purpose of the prophecy was apparently to give time to the disciples to collect money and food in advance of the need, for the disciples responded to the prophecy by sending relief to the brethren in Judea. (Acts 11:29)
      29. They sent the money to the elders by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11:30)
        1. It is not clear whether the elders refers to the elders at Jerusalem or some other place since it was not specifically said where the elders were.
        2. However, Luke later speaks of Paul and Barnabas being in Jerusalem (Acts 12:25)
        3. If it was Jerusalem, this visit to Jerusalem was not mentioned in Gal 1:18-2:1. This would probably be because their stay was likely brief and not one in which they stayed to work, but merely delivered the money.
        4. Regardless of where it was sent, the fact that the brethren in Antioch sent money to the elders of another church for distribution seems to destroy the objections of some to one church giving money to another church for distribution.
        5. The name of Christian was important in eliminating the former distinctions between the Jews and Gentiles. They could now unite under the same title.
  12. Peter Delivered From Prison (Acts 12:1-17)
    1. The Martyrdom of James (Acts 12:1-2)
      1. Herod's persecution of the church (Acts 12:1)
        1. This is Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great.
        2. He is believed to have ruled from A.D. 42 to A.D. 44, when he died. Therefore, the time of these events is thought to be about A.D. 43 or A.D. 44.
        3. Herod was a companion of Caligula, the Roman emperor. As such, he was given control over most of Palestine (including the addition of Judea, which had not formerly been under the control of Herod's predecessor)
        4. Herod set out to persecute "certain of the church." (Acts 12:1). This was probably motivated by Herod's desire to please the Jews (Acts 12:3)
      2. He orders James killed (Acts 12:2)
        1. This was the James originally called to be an apostle (Matt. 4:21). He was the first apostle to die, and his brother John was the last.
        2. This was the James whose mother had asked Jesus if her sons could sit on either hand of Jesus in the kingdom (Matt. 20:20-28). At that time, Jesus asked James "Are ye able to drink of the cup I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" James responded he was and Jesus prophesied that he would. The fulfillment of this prophecy occurs here when James gives his life for the cause of Christ.
        3. James was killed by the sword, apparently beheaded.
        4. We can speculate that the Holy Spirit intended James martyrdom for a few reasons
          1. To show the disciples that God did always plan to keep the apostles from harm. This also demonstrated that the apostles would not always be around.
          2. To show the early church that they were to be partakers in the sufferings of Christ
          3. To serve as an example of self sacrifice for the early disciples and us today!
        5. The death of someone as prominent as James pleased the Jews. (Acts 12:3)
    2. Peter Imprisoned (Acts 12:3-6)
      1. Sparked by the reaction of the Jews, Herod seeks to take Peter (Acts 12:3)
      2. The time this occurred during the year was revealed - during the feast of unleavened bread. This was during the first month of the Jewish year, or late March or early April.
      3. Herod captures Peter and places him in prison (Acts 12:4).
      4. He was put under the watch of four bands of four soldiers, one band for each of the four watches of the night.
        1. He was bound with chains to two of them (Acts 12:6). This allowed each guard to have a free hand to punish the prisoner if he tried to escape. The other two guards were guarding the first and second ward.
        2. There was also an iron gate outside of the prison (Acts 12:10).
        3. The high level of security may have demonstrated the importance of Peter or also the knowledge that Peter had previously escaped from prison (Acts 5:17-19)
      5. Herod intended to bring Peter forth for "trial"/execution after the Passover (Acts 12:4)
        1. The translation Easter here is rejected by many as wrongly supposing that Luke was referring to the Christian feast.
        2. Thayer regards this as the Jewish passover.
        3. Jewish law forbade execution during the passover feast, so Herod wanted to wait until after (again, to please the Jews)
        4. Prayer made for Peter (Acts 12:5)
        5. Having just endured the news of James' death, the disciples were surely troubled by the news about Peter. Moreover, Peter had been so instrumental in the spread of the gospel (opening the doors to the kingdom to both the Jews and Gentiles)
        6. They prayed intently or earnestly (Thayer's and many translations choose this in place of without ceasing) on his behalf. These prayers were shortly answered.
    3. Peter's Miraculous Escape (Acts 12:7-17)
      1. Given how much security there was, an escape was not humanly possible.
      2. But God miraculously provides for Peter's escape
        1. An angel came and a light shined in (Acts 12:7)
        2. This was not enough to awake Peter from his sleep, so the angel hit Peter on his side and told him to get up quickly. Many translations translate "raised him up" as "awoke him." (Thayer's #1453 - to arouse from sleep, to awake)
        3. The chains miraculously fell from Peter's hands
      3. While Peter was sleeping, he had unbound his girdle for comfort and his garment was loosely over him. He had also loosened his sandals. The angel tells him basically to get dressed to leave (Acts 12:8)
      4. Peter follows the angel out and the guards are unaware (Acts 12:9).
      5. Peter was so surprised that he didn't know whether his escape was a reality or some vision (Acts 12:9).
      6. Peter and the angel pass the first and second ward of the prison, a miraculous event in itself (Acts 12:10)
      7. Then the iron gate that opened into the city opened on its own (Acts 12:10). Although the KJV says "of his own accord," other translations render this "of its own accord." Thayer's agrees with the latter rendition (#844).
      8. Apparently, the prison was in the middle of the city, because the gates opened unto the city. When they were clear of the gate and passed through one street, the angel left the Peter. The miracle was performed and Peter could go out on his own. (Acts 12:10).
      9. Peter came to himself - he was in a dazed condition but regained his senses after the escape. (Acts 12:11). At that point, Peter realizes that God had miraculously delivered from the prison and from the hand of Herod. (Acts 12:11).
      10. Peter goes to the home of Mary the mother of John Mark. There the disciples were gathered praying. (Acts 12:12). This John Mark was the same one that Paul and Barnabas bring back with them to Antioch (Acts 12:25), so they surely heard word of this event. Mary's home was probably a place Peter and the disciples had frequented, given that this was the first place that Peter thought to go, the disciples were gathered there, and Rhoda knew Peter's voice (Acts 12:14).
      11. The door at Mary's house is locked - not surprising given the situation of persecution. Rhoda hears Peter knocking (Acts 12:13)
      12. Rhoda is so excited at hearing Peter's voice that runs in to tell the others and neglected to let Peter in (Acts 12:14)
      13. The disciples saw how excited she was and thought she was crazy when she told them Peter was outside (Acts 12:15). The word translated "constantly" is probably more appropriately "confidently." (Thayer's #1340, to affirm stoutly, assert confidently).
      14. When faced with Rhoda's confident reassertion that this was Peter, the disciples asserted that is must be "his angel." (Acts 12:15). The Jews believed in guardian angels (Matt 18:10 - "their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.").
      15. All of this demonstrates how slow the disciples were to believe. They had been praying for Peter, their prayer had been answered, and Peter is outside the door, but they are convinced that Rhoda is crazy or that it is an angel.
      16. Peter keeps knocking (Acts 12:16) (no doubt a little fearful he might be apprehended), and when the disciples saw him they were astonished (further demonstration of a lack of faith).
      17. Peter motions for the excited crowd to keep quiet, again apparently concerned about drawing attraction that might lead to his capture. (Acts 12:17) This doesn't demonstrate a lack of confidence in God, but a desire to do whatever was in his power to remain out of Herod's hands.
      18. Peter tells the disciples what had happened and asked them to share the story with James and the brethren there. (Acts 12:17). As with any miracle, the escape would demonstrate to others the divine power, God's care for his people, and the answer of their fervent prayers.
        1. This James is apparently the James that was the Lord's brother mentioned in Gal. 1:19. Peter recognizes James as a man of great influence by specifically mentioning him.
        2. James was present in Jerusalem when the question of circumcision was decided (Acts 15:13) and Paul refers to him as seeming to be a pillar (Gal.2:9).
      19. Peter then departs and goes to another place. Perhaps Mary's house was too well known for him to remain there. He may have left Jerusalem (Matt. 10:23 "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.")
    4. The Death of Herod (Acts 12:18-23)
      1. When day broke, the soldiers were very upset that Peter was missing (Acts 12:18). They were responsible for watching the prisoner and were held accountable with their own lives (Acts 12:19; Acts 16:27 - the Phillipian jailor)
      2. When Herod finds out, he questions the guards and commanded that they be killed for allowing Peter to escape (Acts 12:19). This was the ordinary Roman routine for this sort of situation.
      3. Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and remained for some time (Acts 12:19).
      4. Herod was upset with Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20)
        1. We are not told why Herod was so upset with these cities. They were seaports on the Mediterranean coast. They did a lot of trading with the areas Herod had control of (Acts 12:20 "their country was nourished by the king's country"). It is said the particular trade was Tyre and Sidon supplied lumber to Palestine in return for wheat and corn.
        2. Tyre and Sidon developed a friendship with Blastus, the king's chamberlain, the officer over his bedchamber. He had the duty of introducing visitors to him and remained in an adjoining room so that he would be ready when the king wanted him.
        3. They attempted to make peace with Herod (Acts 12:20).
      5. Herod sits upon his throne to make a speech (Acts 12:21). Josephus describes the day as one on which a vast multitude had assembled to see a festival and games. The festival was celebrated "for the safety of Caesar." He further says that on the second day of this festival, Herod appeared in a robe "made wholly of silver, and of a texture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread terror over those that looked intently upon him."
      6. The people shouted his praise, referring to him as a god rather than a man. (Acts 12:22). Herod did nothing to reflect such praise, but rather apparently took in all the flattery. (Acts 12:23). Because he failed to give God the glory, God killed Herod with worms (Acts 12:23). Josephus describes that he immediately developed a pain in his bowels, was carried away to the palace, and died after five days of excruciating pain.
    5. The Return of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:24-25)
      1. After this event, the word of God grew and multiplied (Acts 12:24). This stands in contrast to the attempts of man to stop the growth of the church by persecution. As had become typical, the church flourished perhaps even more during persecution.
      2. Barnabas and Paul were in Jerusalem, apparently to deliver the money from Antioch for famine relief (Acts 12:25; Acts 11:29-39). The chronology does not make clear whether they left Jerusalem before or after Herod's death, but given the persecution, it is unlikely that they stayed for long (and thus may have left before his death). The word translated "ministry" describes the "ministration of those who render to others the offices of Christian affection" (Thayer's #1248). The reference is to their delivering of the funds from Antioch (Acts 11:29-30). They were probably in Jerusalem just long enough to deliver the money.
      3. After delivering the money, they took John Mark back with them to Antioch.