Relevant Verses: Acts 9, 26:9-11
Leading Question: Peter saw a vision of all sorts of animals being let down to earth in a large sheet. A voice said, “Kill, and eat.” Was this a vision about dietary issues, or something else?
1. In Acts, we find a number of occasions when the followers of Jesus echo his words or actions. Two of these instances are in Acts 9:32-43, when Peter heals Aeneas and raises Tabitha from the dead. Later in Acts, Paul also echoes the actions of Jesus.
Why do you think Luke draws these parallels? Does this indicate that the same power of Jesus is available for followers of Jesus today? If so, what are the implications?
2. Peter’s resurrection of Tabitha involves privacy, prayer, and then a word of instruction to the dead woman, “Tabitha, get up.”
Is this a pattern to be followed today? Are people still raised from the dead today?
3. Acts 10 begins an extended narrative in which a Roman centurion, Cornelius, and his household receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized by Peter.
Does God prepare both Peter and Cornelius for this encounter?
Is the vision Peter receives about food, or about something else?
It is easy to see the prejudices of others. For example, today we could see that Peter should not have been prejudiced against Cornelius. It is more difficult, however, to recognize our own prejudices. Who are the people that we are most prejudiced against today? Is it possible that some of them may be “God fearers” and good, even devout people in their own right?
Peter confesses that he had finally come to realize that “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). What does this mean?
We often emphasize the sacrificial death of Jesus as the salvific event that must be proclaimed. Notice carefully Peter’s message to the household of Cornelius. What is the event from the Jesus story that Peter emphasizes? What lesson does that hold for us?
Cornelius and his household are baptized. It seems to be a corporate commitment. Is this acceptable today, or must each person make his or her own decision, without peer pressure from someone else?
4. In Acts 11, Peter is criticized by circumcised believers, not because uncircumcised Cornelius was baptized, but because Peter accepted hospitality and table fellowship from him (Acts 11:1-3)!
Which is the greater challenge for us: to believe that God has accepted a foreigner (or anyone who is distastefully different from us) into his family, or to actually befriend such people and treat them as social equals?
5. Luke, the author of Acts, takes a few moments to provide his readers with an update on the progress of the gospel in Antioch. Acts 11:26 says that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Prior to this, they were called by a variety of terms such as disciples, believers, followers of the Way, even saints!
How important is the name that we are called by others? What is the danger of being given a specific religious designation? What is the benefit?
How was the term “Christian” first understood by those in the ancient world?
6. In Acts 12:1-19, we read that James was killed by the sword. He was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, yet was the first of the twelve to be martyred. His death pleased the Jews, so Herod had Peter imprisoned, with the intention of executing him as well. The night before his trial, Peter is dramatically rescued from prison.
How are we to understand all this? James is killed. Peter is delivered. Does God protect his own? Can we trust God to protect us when we commit our lives to him?