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Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.

~Acts 10:34-35

Lesson37-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: This lesson is to develop a sense of tolerance and acceptance for everyone. Diversity is not always an easy subject to talk about. Everyone has a bias toward something. It does not mean we must accept everyone’s beliefs or lifestyle. It does mean that everyone has the right to hear the Gospel’s message and personally choose to accept it or reject it. We do not make that decision.

In this part of Acts, we can find a model of evangelism that can help define what it means to “share the good news.”

Introduction

What are the reasons that someone might feel superior to another person?

  • Intellect, moral, hygienic, financial, physical, ethnic.

Read Acts 10:28 to your group.

What point to you think Peter is trying to make here that is relevant to all of us today?

  • This was the moment of release for the Gospel. Peter comes to the conclusion that the Gospel is a message for everyone. No person has the right to exclude another person from their ability to hear the Gospel’s message and receive Christ’s salvation.

How do we exclude people from the Church today?

  • By policy
  • By status
  • By indifference
  • By location
  • By fellowship (internally focused)

Section One: The Power of Peter’s Message

Have someone in your group Read Acts 9:32-43.

Peter heals Aeneas. What was the subtle point that Peter was making about the healing?

  • Peter did not heal. Christ healed.

Do you think that Peter’s raising of Tabitha from the dead was showmanship to impress people? Peter could have done this privately and not been so public about it.

  • Peter did not raise Tabitha from the dead, Christ did.
  • The public display of the miracle was to draw attention to Christ’s power, not Peter’s.
  • Serving people, filling physical needs, and salvation all go together.
  • The grandstanding only starts when we take credit.

Section Two: Fearing God

Have someone in your group read Acts 10:1-8. Caesarea was primarily a Gentile city located on the Mediterranean 35 north of Joppa. It was the center of the Roman occupational government in Judea. Caesarea may have had as many as 10,000 freedmen (freed slaves) living there. Cornelius was a descendent of this group.

(Acts 10:1-4) God chose Cornelius to be a central figure in this revolutionary change in the Church. What can you tell about Cornelius?

  • He was a centurion.
  • He was assigned to the Italian Regiment.
  • He was a “God-fearer.”
  • He was generous to the poor.
  • He kept Jewish times of prayer.
  • He sought to live for God, but stopped short of full conversion by refusing circumcision (see Acts 11:3).
  • He brought his family with him on his journey of faith.

How can we tell that God does not necessarily require the “circumcision” or the Jewish conversion to accept one’s faith?

  • Cornelius’ prayers and offerings to the poor were accepted by God.

Was Cornelius saved?

  • No, he did not know Christ. This was to come later.

(Acts 10:5-8) What is significant about this seemingly insignificant biblical fact?

  • While God was at work in Cornelius’ heart, God also provided for the inclusion of other Christians to facilitate salvation. This is evangelism. God working in lives, people interacting in lives, all for the purpose of salvation.

Section Three: A vision of Acceptance and Freedom

Have someone in your group read Acts 10:9-12.

What can we discern about our God in these passages?

  • God speaks to people when they pray. It is one of the many purposes and benefits of prayer.
  • The Greek word for Peter’s experience is ekstasis, a displacement of the mind from its ordinary state, a trance.

Can you tell by Peter’s vision, the message God was giving him?

  • Jews were to be separated from all others. They were the “chosen people.” The rituals of eating certain foods, avoiding certain foods and cleansing were all part of the ritual of separation. Peter was being told by God that nothing God created is bad. This was to be directly applied to the Jew and Gentile.

Have someone in your group Read Acts 10:13-16.

Why do you think that God was so dramatic on His point to Peter?

  • Peter was about to be called to go to the home of Cornelius. Had Peter adhered to Jewish law, he would not have entered Cornelius’ home. This would have been a great hindrance to an evangelist.

Section Four: Obeying the Vision, Taking the Risk

Have someone in your group read Acts 10:23-35.

How did Peter respond and how does that same response set an example for us today?

  • While Peter still did not fully understand the vision, he did understand God’s calling.
  • Peter let outsiders, gentiles, into his home.
  • Peter then went to Caesarea.
  • Peter recognized he would need help so he took some along.
  • Peter admitted that even he was still learning.
  • Peter made a clear statement of inclusiveness. (vv. 34-35)

Have someone in your group read Acts 10:36-48.

Peter shares the Gospel. Exactly what did he say?

  • He told them about Jesus’ ministry, death, resurrection, and future judgment.
  • His words emphasized that Christ was the Messiah, Lord, and Savior.
  • That the forgiveness of sins was available through Christ’s name.
  • Should this be the typical model for all evangelism that we do?
  • This is not necessarily a model for evangelism. Evangelism is comprised of at least three parts:
    • Preparation – In the case of Cornelius and his family, they were already prepared. God had been working in their lives preparing them for the moment when they commit themselves to Christ. Evangelism takes time in people’s lives.
    • Commitment – The act of understanding the elements of salvation: the separation of man from God, the belief that Christ is the only way to God, the repentive heart, and the turning over of one’s life to Christ’s direction.
    • Support – The follow up, support and the equipping that any new Christian needs. Something usually found in Christian fellowship and the Church.

Section Five: Shock Waves in Jerusalem

Have someone in your group read Acts 11:1-18.

How did Peter’s friends, the Church, respond to Peter’s success with Cornelius?

They were very critical.

What was Peter’s point to them?

  • It was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to baptize believers with the Holy Spirit (v. 16; Acts 1:5)
  • God had given the same gift to the Gentiles as to them (v.7 – about 120).
  • To refuse to accept these Gentiles as authentic Christians would be to oppose God (v. 17).

When your Church is challenged with a controversial group of people, what can you learn from Peter’s actions?

  • While no one is to be excluded, neither are we called to change the Gospel’s message or water down the Word of God. We are to be neither judge nor jury. However, we are to be the standard bearers of the Christian faith.

Read Acts 11:18 again to your group.

What do you think of the response of those disciples to Peter’s message?

  • How quickly they changed their minds. The difference between carnal and spiritual Christians is often seen in their willingness to accept what God is doing, even though it required a significant stretch of their old beliefs.

Bible Truth Being Taught

God accepts anyone and everyone who responds to Him, without regard to race, national origin, or culture.

Our Response

That God accepts anyone and everyone who responds to Him, without regard to race, national origin, or culture so we should also.

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