Acts 11

This devotional is written by Pip Coombs.

Acts 11

Peter explains his actions
11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him 3 and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'

4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 'I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

8 'I replied, "Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth."

9 'The voice spoke from heaven a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

11 'Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, "Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved."

15 'As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: "John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God's way?'

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.'

The church in Antioch 
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.


You might be thinking, 'we just heard this story about Cornelius's conversion yesterday!' Well we did! But it seems that this conversion was so astonishing that Peter had to re-tell the story. It is significant because Cornelius is the first Gentile brought to faith. He also wasn't converted through the Hellenists. Hellenists were Jews that lived outside Judea, Samaria and Galilee in the Greco-Roman culture and speaks Greek. Instead, despite his strong resistance Cornelius was converted by Peter. The whole account is of course orchestrated by the Holy Spirit and Peter can now see that clearly(17).

Everyone in Jerusalem is amazed at what has happened. (18) Even Gentiles are receiving the good news of God in Christ.

This is a pivotal moment in the story of the early church. Acts begins with Jesus commissioning his disciples to witness to what they have seen (his life, death and resurrection) to the very ends of the earth (1:8). You'd think they might have understand what he was talking about here - but it seems not! Here in Acts 10 and 11 we see the hinge point in the book of Acts where the disciples (Peter) really starts to do fulfil that commission and it seems the ends of the earth can be reached. A church is founded in Antioch (19-30) and this will be a key sending church for the mission to Asia and Europe.

The Holy Spirit is at work to enact God's mission upon the earth. God uses all sorts of unlikely people. Peter was an unlikely person, a fisherman who followed Jesus and was eventually filled with the Spirit. Even after following Jesus and being filled he's astonished that God is including the Gentiles. These very same unlikely gentile converts go on to start churches and share the message of God's saving love with the world far beyond Judea and Samaria.

May we be as bold, and trust that God might like to use unlikely people like us to carry his good news.

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