Key Texts: Acts 2:5-21; 10:1-8, 23, 48; Rom. 2:14-16, Acts 10:9-22; 11:1-10; 15:1-35
This week we are invited to consider the Apostle Peter and his missionary endeavors. Of particular interest are his efforts to carry the gospel outside the Jewish community to the Gentiles. There are several notable events for us to consider;
The first is Peter’s great sermon Peter on the day of Pentecost that resulted in the conversion of 3,000 people from various nations and places. Included in this crowd were numerous Gentiles. This sermon had several significant points to it. First, Peter explained how many of the Old Testament prophecies had found fulfillment in Jesus. Secondly, he called for all who heard his message to repent and turn to faith saying that all those who repented would receive forgiveness for their sins and should be baptized. By doing this, he initiated the proclamation of the Gospel to about 15 nations.
- Can we discern how Peter drew a distinction between what might be seen as eternal truths of God and culturally conditioned protocols? How might we do the same kind of thing?
- What do you think of the fearlessness demonstrated by Peter? What do you think cause that in him? Do you think we can be as fearless now as he was then?
- Why do you think there was such a positive reaction to Peter’s sermon? Do you think those things can happen today?
A second event to consider is the interaction that took place between Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8; 23-48). This is a remarkable story. For one thing, Cornelius was a high-ranking Roman officer who was a devout man who feared God and prayed regularly and gave alms to the poor. Then there was the occasion of an angel appearing to him and telling him to be in touch with Peter. And then there was the vision Peter had that caused him to be willing to breach social protocols and go to the home of a Gentile. And when Peter got there he found a whole houseful of people waiting for a word from the Lord.
There are a number of missional items to draw from this, questions to ponder:
- What do you make of God sending an angel to Cornelius? Wouldn’t this be a very good way to spread the Gospel? In discussing this, notice that the angel did not convey the Gospel to Cornelius but only told him to get in touch with Peter.
- What do you think caused Cornelius to become a devout man? How should we understand the working of the Holy Spirit in light of this?
- Peter was willing to breach significant social protocols for purposes of mission. What was the source of his willingness to do so? What conclusion might we draw for missional purposes today?
- In this story there are some remarkable verses telling quite explicitly that God does not show favoritism to any people. How do we conduct ourselves in view of that?
- What do you think caused Peter to be a front-runner in taking the Gospel to the Gentiles?
One last item comes before us. Peter’s willingness to go the Gentiles was partly the cause of the greatest disagreement in the early church, the subject of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-35).
- Notice that tensions always exist when new people come into a believing community.
- Do you think having a council is a good way of resolving differences and issues?
- What do you think of the solution that was adopted, namely that there would be different expectation for different groups of people? How do you think that might help in resolving tensions today? Do you think this was a fair system?
- How did the apostles decide between eternal realities and culturally-conditioned elements?