Acts 11 Peter’s Gentile Report

Tod Kennedy, December, 1999

Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 11

  1. We ought to gather the facts before we make statements about ministries elsewhere.
  2. Each of us ought to be teachable so that we may recognize God’s guidance.
  3. God guides through our prayer, the Word, thinking, circumstances, and the urging of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Everyone—Jew and Gentile—who believes in Christ as savior receives eternal life and the Holy Spirit. The gospel is for the entire world.
  5. Follow up evangelism by teaching Bible doctrine to the new believers; continue to rejoice with them in the Lord, to encourage them, and to challenge them to spiritual growth and service in the Lord.
  6. The most important thing that new believers need is Bible teaching.
  7. Believers have the privilege to graciously and wisely give money and supplies, on a short term basis, to help other believers when they genuinely need help.

Summary Outline

  1. Peter returned to Jerusalem to find some Jewish believers criticizing him for going to Cornelius’ house in Caesarea and meeting with Gentiles (Acts 11.1-3).
  2. Peter reported exactly what had happened and why he had gone to Caesarea; while he related what had happened he was showing them how God had guided him to make the right decision and take the right action. To begin with, Peter had been praying; while praying, God spoke to him through a vision and taught Peter that Gentiles are not to be avoided (Acts 11.4-10); three men arrived from Cornelius (Acts 11.11); the Holy Spirit told him to go with the men (Acts 11.12); Cornelius told Peter that an angel from God had instructed him to send for Peter, who would tell Cornelius and his family and friends how to be saved (Acts 11.13-14). The assembled guests believed the message about Jesus Christ and immediately the Holy Spirit indwelt them; Peter remembered that Jesus had predicted that the Holy Spirit would come upon believers (Acts 11.15-16). Peter concluded that even Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit when they believe in Jesus Christ as savior, and now believing Jews and Gentiles form the one body of Christ (Acts 11.17).
  3. Those in Jerusalem who had criticized Peter now understood that Jews and Gentiles were saved the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah (Acts 11.18).
  4. Many believers had scattered from Jerusalem because of Stephen’s death. They carried the gospel with them where ever they went. For the most part, they evangelized Jews, but some went to Antioch and began to spread the gospel to Greeks (Gentiles) with the result that many Gentiles believed in Christ as savior (Acts 11.19-21).
  5. When the Jerusalem church heard about the faith response to the gospel in Antioch, the church sent Barnabas there to help the ministry. Barnabas witnessed God’s grace at work in Antioch (Acts 11.22-24).
  6. Barnabas left Antioch to go to Tarsus to get Saul. The two returned to Antioch where they spent a year witnessing to unbelievers and teaching Bible doctrine to believers; the church at Antioch grew, and there the disciples first got the name Christians (Acts 11.25-26).
  7. Agabus, a prophet, prophesied in Antioch that a famine would soon occur, so Antiochian believers gathered a free-will offering for Judean believers. Barnabas and Saul carried the offering to the Jerusalem elders (Acts 11.27-30). This famine occurred about AD 46-47, during Claudius’ reign (AD 41-54).

Doctrine Summaries, Definitions, and Descriptions

  1. Peter was not the first Pope. In fact, the papacy is a product of man’s design, not God’s. Peter was not even the outstanding leader of the apostles. He was a fisherman turned disciple and apostle by God’s grace. He denied the Son of God during Jesus’ trial (Matthew 26.33-35,  69-75). He was a busybody about John’s ministry (John 21.15-22). Peter gave in to legalism during a trip to Antioch and Paul had to correct him (Galatians 2.11-14). Yet Peter was also the disciple who answered Jesus’ question, “But who do you [all] say that I am?” with “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded by telling Peter,  “And I also say to you that you are Peter [petro~, a stone or rock; this is nominative masculine singular; it refers to Peter], and upon this rock [petra, a massive rock or rocky place, the form is petra, dative feminine singular; it refers to Peter’s statement about Christ] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” Jesus told Peter that he was correct and that Jesus would build his church on himself (Jesus Christ), the doctrine of which was embodied in Peter’s statement “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus then told Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16.15,16,19). Jesus meant that Peter would be the one to both formally and publicly open the kingdom of heaven, through preaching the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter did this with the Jews in Acts 2.38-40, with the Samaritans in Acts 8.14-17, and with the Gentiles in Acts 10.34-36. With regard to Peter’s authority over “binding and loosing,” this statement was made to Peter (Matthew 16.19), then to all the disciples-apostles (Matthew 18.18). This authority refers to the apostles’ leadership and ruling authority during the apostolic period of the first century. Peter, for example,  used the authority in Acts 3 with the lame man and in Acts 5 with Annanias and Sapphira. John 20.23 is different from the two Matthew passages. John records that Jesus extended this authority to declaring the results of a person’s response to God’s terms for forgiveness of sins—those who believe in Jesus have been forgiven and those who disbelieve Jesus have not been forgiven. Roman Catholic theology also wrongly uses Luke 22.32 to support Peter’s authority by making this Scripture teach that Christ’s prayer for Peter guaranteed Peter’s infallibility; the theology also applies this guarantee to those bishops who succeed Peter. From these biblical statements and tradition (religious and historical) the Roman Catholic Church builds its doctrine of the papacy. The Roman church is, of course, quite wrong. Peter later wrote that he was a fellow elder with other elders and so on equal footing with them (1 Peter 5.1). James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, not Peter (Acts 15.13-19).  Peter, when writing about the rock, the stone, the foundation, means Christ; all church believers are living stones of the building called the church (1 Peter 2.4-8; Acts 4.11-12). Peter himself stated that only God can forgive sins (Acts 10.48; 13.38-39). John, another apostle, quoted Jesus’ restrictive statement “and I [Jesus] have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:18). After the church began, God appointed Peter as the apostle to the Jews. God worked through Peter to build up and enlarge the church. God inspired Peter to write First and Second Peter; the gospel of Mark is possibly Peter’s gospel penned by Mark. While Peter may have spent some time in Rome, there is no evidence that he was ever a bishop of Rome. In summary, Peter was an apostle, the apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2.7-9); God worked through him to help begin, build, and strengthen the church; Peter never thought of himself as the leading apostle, and he certainly was not the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church nor was he infallible. Some of the Roman Catholic proclamations and their dates are of interest: 1545-1563, the Council of Trent, which made the teachings of the Roman church into binding law, one of which was the denial of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone; 1854, Mary’s immaculate conception; 1869-1870,  First Vatican Council,  which proclaimed  papal infallibility 1870; 1950, Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven at her death; 1962-1965, the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the rulings of the Council of Trent; 1994, the Catechism of the Catholic Church officially restated for the first time in 400 years the traditional beliefs of the Roman Catholic church.
  2. Indwelling by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Encouragement of believers.
  4. Importance of Bible doctrine.
  5. Temporary spiritual gift of prophet.
  6. Grace giving for believers under pressure and in need.
  7. Ministry, the right person in the right place at the right time.