The Church Grows

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

  • The Church Received the Word Gladly. 
  • Jesus is the “Word.”  We cannot separate Jesus and the Word.  To receive one is to receive the other.  Christianity is unique among all religions in that our religion is based on a person – not a philosophy or set of teachings.

John 1:1-4, 14 – In the beginning was the Word (logos – a transmission of thought, communication, divine revelation, instruction) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh (refers to the substance of the body) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory….

Jesus is the living logos (John 1:1), the Bible is the written logos (Heb. 4:12) and the Holy Spirit utters the spoken logos (1 Corinthians 2:13).

  • Not everyone received the Word. 
  • Baptism followed belief.
  • Joining the church followed belief.
  • The Church Continued Steadfastly.

Steadfastly (proskarterountes) to continue, persevere, endure, stick, persist.  A person who does not quit, back off, fade away or slip back. 

  • Apostles’ doctrine (didache – the teaching, instruction).  If a church is to grow and persevere, there must be teaching of the Word. 

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples….teaching them….

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

  • Worship and the Lord’s Supper – “Breaking of bread” refers to the observance of communion.  They observed the Lord’s Supper often because it points to the cross and all that God has done for us.  It also points toward His return.  The Lord’s Supper was a part of their worship.  Worship together is essential to the church.

Luke 22:19 – And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he comes.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,….and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • Prayers – The Early Church was a praying church.  Over and over you see them gathering for prayer – when facing decisions, when facing persecution.  Look for the emphasis on prayer as you study the Book of Acts.
  • The Church Experienced God’s Mighty Power – Awe and respect were given them by the people, and wonders and signs were done through their leaders.
  • The Church Experienced Unity and Ministered to the Needy
  • There was no one in their midst who had needs unmet. 
  • They visited from house to house.
  • Their lives were lived in joy and simplicity.

Matthew 19:21; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:31-34; John 13:35; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesus 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Hebrews 13:5

  • The Church Experienced Worship
  • The Church Experienced Growth
  • God was the one who added to the church.  Only God can draw a person to Him and save Him.
  • The lives of the early church were used of God to draw people to Him.  God has chosen to use the church as the means to win souls. 

Acts 2:47 – praising God and having favor with all the people.

As you study Acts, note how people responded because of the lives and the actions of the church. 

Questions for us: 

  • Are we receiving the Word of God gladly?  Do we make every effort to meet regularly with fellow believers in community and Bible Study, to learn ourselves and to teach others?  Do we diligently study the Word at home?
  • Do we persevere, without slacking off, without slipping back, in study of God’s Word, in fellowship with other believers, in worship and observance of the Lord’s Supper, in prayer with other believers?
  • Are we experiencing God’s mighty power in our midst?  Are we experiencing unity among ourselves?  Are we sharing our lives together?  Are we ministering to the needy among us?  Do we even know what the needs are among us? 
  • Are we truly worshipping God as we gather each week?  Are we really allowing His presence to be among us?
  • Are we experiencing growth in our church – growth that comes as we live our lives in obedience to His Word and He draws people to Him as a result of our lives and actions?

The Day of Pentecost Experience

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses (one who tells what he has seen or heard or knows – comes from the same root word as our word for martyr – one who bears witness by his death) to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 2:1-4

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • The Pentecostal Experience
  • To be baptized with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit of God.  It is described as an outpouring of the Spirit by which the believer is filled with the presence of the third Person of the Trinity, who serves the believer as Paraclete (advocate of intercessor).  This indwelling as Paraclete gives the believer the special endowment of the power of God. 
  • The Scriptures use the term “baptize” with the Holy Spirit when God poured out His spirit on the disciples on the day of Pentecost.  This term is also applicable to the other instances recorded in the book of Acts where believers received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

Acts 8:14-17 – Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit

Acts 10:44-48 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.  Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Acts 19:1-6 – And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”  So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

  • The special characteristic of this experience is that the believer is filled with the Spirit.  In Ephesians 5:18, this concept of being filled with the Spirit stands in contract to being “drunk with wine.”  To be filled with the Spirit is to be brought under the influence of the Spirit of God so that the Spirit governs the personal nature of the believer in mind, emotions and will.
  • The Holy Spirit is the personal agent for the revelation of God.

1 Corinthians 2;9-11 – But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

  • His various titles in Scripture identify Him as the Spirit of God. 

Matthew 3:16 – When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

See also Isaiah 11:2; 61:1 and Luke 4:18

  • In Romans 8:9 we see that He is called the Spirit of Christ.  In Galatians 4:6 we find Him called the Spirit of His (God’s) Son.  There are many other titles of the Holy Spirit and special characteristics of these titles are that they identify the Holy Spirit in His relationship in the holy Trinity, i.e., in His divine nature.
  • The experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is promised to those who believe on Jesus Christ for salvation.

John 14:15-17 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

  • After giving the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, Christ prayed for the sanctifying (cleansing, purifying) of the disciples in John 17. 
  • To be filled with the Spirit is to be freed from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2-4 – For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

  • It is also to walk in the Spirit, manifesting the graces of Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 5:16-25 – say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

You Shall Receive Power – for What?

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

For many of us who are from or in a Pentecostal church we sometimes forget that the “power” we are to be recipients of is more than the shouting kind of power, more than the jumping-the-pew kind of power, more than the speaking-in-tongues kind of power.  The power we have received as baptized believers is the power to be servants, the power to be witnesses, the power to be hourly and daily over comers living our lives as spiritual creations of our God rising above the sin and strife of this world.

The Word of God says where there is no vision the people perish. 

            I don’t want my family to perish.

            I don’t want my neighbors to perish.

            I don’t want my community to perish.

            I don’t want my state, my country, this world to perish.

God’s Word states that He is not willing that any should perish, but rather all to receive everlasting life.

We celebrate around the world the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and those gathered in the upper room.  His coming was to empower them for service, to empower them with grace, to empower them with the Holy Spirit to go forth and be witnesses and win the lost to Jesus Christ.

We have a great responsibility.  I am not talking about talking in tongues or the gifts of the Spirit.  I am not talking about the other things we equate with Pentecost – the emotional things.  I have no problem with speaking in tongues – it is in the Bible.  I have no problem with being slain in the Spirit – it is in the Bible.  I have no problem with the other emotional things done in Pentecostal churches- it is in the Bible.  I have been involved in these things and it is real. 

But we need to know that the Holy Spirit was not given for you to feel good.  The Holy Spirit was not given to you just so you could experience the emotional things we sometimes exhibit.  The Holy Spirit and His endowment of power was given so we would be witnesses of the grace of God.

The Holy Spirit and power will change your life.  The Holy Spirit and power will give you strength to overcome all the temptations that you are faced with.  No more will you walk around with “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”  You will be changed and you will stand and you will say, “By the grace of God and the power he has placed within me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

God’s Spirit gets down inside of you and you cannot help but tell of the glory of God and His power.  It is time for us to get on fire for Jesus Christ.  It is time to lay down some of the habits that we picked up when we were in the world.  It is time to lay them aside and say, “By the grace of God, I will do what God has called me to do.”

You must stand determined in the power of God.  You must stand in purity and holiness.  You must stand and, having done all, stand.  You must be willing to go forth and be the witness God has called you to be.

When the Gifts of the Spirit Come to Church

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It all began on the day of Pentecost.  John the Baptist had foretold of someone coming who would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11).  Jesus had told his disciples that when He had returned to the Father, He would send “another Helper that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).  Then, just before He ascended into heaven, He instructed them to “wait in Jerusalem” until they were filled with power from on high (Luke 24:49).  He told them that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8).

The Early Church was founded and grew by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Throughout the book of Acts we read where the disciples healed, preached and answered their accusers as they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Peter in Acts 4:8 was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when he answered the rulers of Israel’s accusations after he had healed the lame man.

Peter told Ananias and Sapphira that it was the Holy Spirit they were lying to in Acts 5.

When there was a complaint about the division of daily food between the Hebrews and the Hellenists, the disciples’ answer was to find men “full of the Holy Spirit” to take care of the daily administrative needs of the church (Acts 6).

Stephen was “full of faith and power” when he did great wonders and signs among the people.  Acts 6:10 tells us that the Jewish rulers could not “resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”  When he went to his death he went “full of the Holy Spirit” according to Acts 7:55. 

Another lay person, Philip, went to Samaria and preached Christ and performed miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8).   Later the spirit directed Philip to leave the revival at Samaria and sent him into the desert to share the Gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch.  After baptizing the eunuch, it was the Spirit that conveyed Philip away. 

The great leader Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit before he began his great ministry to the Gentiles.  We could speak of the Spirit falling upon Cornelius and his household in Acts 10, of the prompting of the Holy Spirit upon a man called Agabus to prophecy of a coming famine that led to the church at Antioch taking up what was probably the first relief offering in the church, about the Holy Spirit speaking to the church at Antioch to set Barnabas and Paul forth as the church’s first missionary team to the Gentiles. 

The Bible even claims for itself that it was written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit so our Bible is a book whose writer is the Holy Spirit.  Every time we read the Bible, we are reading the word inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Even our last book of the Bible, Revelation, was given to John as he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10).

So, we see that the Early Church was a church in which the Holy Spirit was recognized as an essential part of the Godhead and an essential part of the believer’s life.  As the church began to become more accepted, believers began to allow the beliefs, ideas and philosophies of the world penetrate the church.  Slowly, over time, the church lost its power with God as it gained power with man. 

Still, the church record is full of times and peoples when the church returned to its desire for God’s power.  In those times, there are records of the Holy Spirit falling again as it did on the day of Pentecost. 

There have been revivals of the Pentecostal experience in our recent history.  In the early 1900’s revival came in our southern states and in California giving birth to the Assembly of God and other Pentecostal denominations.  Again, in the late 1950’s there was a move of the Spirit in the mainline denominations.  This is often referred to as the “Charismatic renewal.” 

The word “Pentecostal” – 50 – came from the feast which occurred 50 days after the Passover.  It was the Feast of Weeks or the Day of First fruits, a celebration of the first buds of harvest.  How appropriate that the Lord was crucified on Passover and the Church was born on Pentecost. Charismatic – from the Greek word charismata is used in 1 Corinthians 12 to describe the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

In recent years there has been a great revival of Pentecost in South America.  Pentecostal churches are growing so fast in what was formerly predominately Catholic countries that the Pope is sitting up and taking notice of this move of God.  We look at the church in America and we think the days of signs and wonders are over.  We think “it was only for a particular time or a particular place.”  Yet, everywhere in the world except for the USA, Canada and most parts of Europe, the church is growing by leaps and bounds and it is exhibiting the marks of the Early Church.  People are being baptized in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit are operating.

Is it important that the gifts of the Spirit operate in our church today?  Should we be concerned if the gifts are not in operation?  Whose responsibility is it for the gifts to be in operation?

It is important only if the following things are things we desire in our church.

  • For souls to be won to the Lord.  We see by what our Lord Jesus said that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit for us to be witnesses.  (To Know, To Be, To Tell). 

Acts 1:8 – The Holy Spirit is the Person and the Power by which assistance and ability are given for serving, for sharing the life and power of God with others.      

  • For the church to be strengthened and to grow.

Ephesians 4:12 – The Holy Spirit gives the Church gifts so that we may each find our place of ministry, fill that place and see the church grow (numerical expansion) and edified (internal strengthening). 

1 Corinthians 12:7 – Profit – to bring together, to benefit, to be advantageous. 

Whose responsibility is it? 

  • The leaders – Ephesians 4:11-12 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
  • The individuals – 1 Corinthians 12:31 – But earnestly desire the best gifts. Desire – to burn with desire, to pursue zealously, to desire intensely.

How do we see the gifts of the Spirit come to the church? It has always come about when there has been a real recognition by God’s people of a need for renewal in their own lives and in the lives of their church and community.  When there has been a definite effort on the part of sincere believers to receive this power of the Holy Spirit and to allow the Holy Spirit to have control and move in their lives.

Equipping Ministry Gifts – Ephesians 4:11 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers

  • Apostle
  • Prophet
  • Evangelist
  • Pastor
  • Teacher

Body Ministry Gifts – Romans 12:3-8 – For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

  • Exhortation
  • Teaching
  • Service
  • Administration
  • Benevolence
  • Giving
  • Hospitality

Manifestation Gifts – 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

  • Word of Wisdom
  • Word of Knowledge
  • Discerning of Spirits
  • Faith
  • Healings
  • Miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Tongues
  • Interpretation of Tongues

What is the Greatest Miracle?

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

The Promise

  • Power
  • Witness

The Event

  • One accord
  • Prayer and supplication

Acts 1:14 – These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 2:1 – When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The Results

  • Boldness (Peter spoke up)
  • Prophecy (the prophet Joel was quoted)

Acts 2:14 – But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.

Acts 2:16 – But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel

The great miracle on the day of Pentecost

  • 3000 added to the church
  • They continued faithfully in doctrine/teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (hospitality and communion) and prayer
  • There was signs and wonders
  • There was sharing with one another
  • There was unity

Acts 2:41-42 – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:47 – praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The Holy Spirit is a gift, not a miracle, but it will produce miracles in your life.  

The greatest miracle that happened was the gospel being preached and believers coming to know Jesus as Savior. The only event that causes angels to rejoice in heaven is when one soul comes to know Christ in salvation.  

Luke 15:10 – In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit – What is the Sign and Purpose?

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

  • What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
  • The initial evidence of the Holy Spirit – Biblical view and denominational view
  • The continuing evidence of the Holy Spirit
  • Some misconceptions of the initial reception of the Holy Spirit
  • Some misconceptions of the reason of and the work of the Holy Spirit in our life
  • Can I speak in tongues or sing in tongues at will?

Acts 1:8 – But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

  • You will receive power
  • You will be witnesses
  • No tongues mentioned

Luke 24:48-49 – And you are witnesses of these things.  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

  • Were to tarry until endued with power
  • No tongues mentioned

Isaiah 44:3 – For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.

  • God will pour out His spirit and blessing
  • No tongues mentioned

Joel 2:28-29 – And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.  And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

  • God will pour out His spirit
  • Prophesy – dreams – visions
  • No tongues mentioned

John 14:26-28 – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.

  • Holy Spirit will be a helper (a comforter)
  • He will teach and bring to remembrance what Jesus has said
  • No tongues mentioned

Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication.

  • Spirit of grace
  • Spirit of supplication (prayer)
  • No tongues mentioned

Ezekiel 11:19-20 –  Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,  that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

  • New Spirit that will give them a new heart
  • They will then walk in God’s Laws and keep His commandments
  • They will be God’s people

Acts 2:4 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • They were all filled and they did all speak with other tongues
  • They spoke in tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Mark 16:17And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.

  • Tongues would be one of the signs of believers

Acts 10:44-46 – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

  • Tongues was an indication to Peter and the other Jews that the Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentiles – the tongues were used to praise God

1 Corinthians 12 & 13 & 14 – entailed use of tongues in the church

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

  • Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the profit of all
  • Holy Spirit gives as He wills

1 Corinthians 12:30 – Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

Acts 19:2-7 — he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”  So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”  Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  Now the men were about twelve in all.

  • Spoke with tongues
  • Also prophesied

Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

  • They spoke the word of God with “boldness”
  • No tongues mentioned

Acts 8:16-19 – For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

  • Obviously something happened that could be “seen” but what is not said
  • No tongues is specially mentioned

Acts 9:17-18 – And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

  • His eyes were healed
  • No tongues mentioned

Acts 13:52 – And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

  • Joy
  • No tongues mentioned

1 Corinthians 14:2-4 – For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.  He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

  • Tongues improves himself
  • Prophesy improves the church
  • The continuing evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life
  • You will be a witness
    • You will have boldness
    • You will have power over sin
    • You will live a holy life
    • You will have a desire for the Word of God
    • You will have a desire to communicate with the Father
  • Speaking in tongues at will?

Acts 2:4 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Galatians 2:20 – And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

  • If Christ lives in me, He is the cause of my speaking.  I am not the one controlling the tongues.  The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks though Me.  He is in charge.
  • Coaxing/encouraging “baby talk”

There are many different ideas of how one becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  People are told to repeat some word over and over.  As they repeat it over and over, faster and faster, it becomes gibberish.  Someone then shouts “Praise the Lord!  They have received the Holy Spirit.”  The individual goes back to their seat filed with unholy gibberish.

Many times people are told to “practice” this gibberish until they become proficient at it.  Can you “practice” the Holy Spirit?  Can you “practice” the other gifts of the Spirit? 

Is there too much obsession with tongues over other manifestations of the Holy Spirit?  What about the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 5:22-26 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Foundation of Book of Acts (and the Church)

Acts 1:8

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses (one who tells what he has seen or heard or knows – comes from the same root word as our word for martyr – one who bears witness by his death) to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

  • You Will Receive Power.
  • Ability
  • Might
  • From the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.
  • He is person – not a “thing,” not an “it.”
  • He acts like a person.
  • He dwells in believers (John 14:17)
  • He teaches and causes us to remember (John 14:26)                     
  • He testifies (John 15:26)
  • He guides into truth, He hears, He speaks, He shows (John 16:13)
  • He spoke to Philip (Acts 8:29)
  • He calls to the ministry (Acts 13:2)
  • He forbids certain actions (Acts 16:6,7)
  • He intercedes, etc.  (Romans 8:26)
  • He possesses qualities of personality.
  • He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11)
  • He thinks (Romans 8:27)
  • He has knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:10,11)
  • He loves (Romans 15:30)
  • He can be treated like a person.
  • He can be lied to (Acts 5:3)
  • He can be resisted (Acts 7:51)
  • He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30)
  • He can be outraged (Hebrews 10:29)
  • He can be spoken against (Matthew 12:31)
  • He is God.
  • He possesses divine qualities.
  • All knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10,11)
  • Present everywhere at one time (Psalm 139:7)
  • All powerful (Zechariah 4:6)
  • He is Truth (1 John 5:6)
  • He is the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2) as God is the living God.
  • He is the Spirit of love (2 Timothy 1:7) as God is love.
  • He bears divine names.
  • Spirit of truth (John 14:17)
  • Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11)
  • He is associated on the same level as the Father and the Son.
  • To be baptized in the name of all three (Matthew. 28:19)
  • Blessing is given by all three (2 Corinthians 13:14)
  • All three live in the Christian (1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • For the Purpose of Being a Witness.

John 15:26 – But when the Helper (the Comforter, the Advocate) comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

John 16:13-14 – when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…He will glorify Me…

Acts 5:32; Acts 6:10; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:5

  • A witness is someone who KNOWS SOMETHING.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent (exert oneself, make every effort, be zealous, strain every nerve – the word includes thinking and acting, planning and producing.  It see a need and does something about it) to present yourself approved to God, a worker (one who makes forth effort, who toils) who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.      

1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify (set apart) the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

Power of Holy Spirit is given for our ability “to know.”

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 -“. . . Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given (unconditionally given) to us by God. . . but which the Holy Spirit teaches. . . But the natural (physical – living in the domain of the five senses) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually (with the aid of the Holy Spirit) discerned.

  • A Witness is someone who IS SOMETHING.

1 Peter 2:11-15 – Beloved, I beg you, as sojourners (“to dwell beside” – an alien, one who lives in a land without the rights of citizenship) . . . having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. . .for this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Luke 6:46 – Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things which I say?

Matthew 7:21-23; Philippians 2:14-15; James 1:22-25

Power of Holy Spirit is given for our ability “to be” righteous.

Galatians 5:16 – Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts (strong desires, intense craving) of the flesh. 

Romans 8: 13 – for if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Galatians 5:22-23; John 14:15-17; John 14:26

  • A witness is one who TELLS SOMETHING

Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen

Mark 16:15 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature

Luke 24: 46-49 – Preach (tell abroad, publish, publicly proclaim, call out with a clear voice.  The herald is to give a public announcement of an official message and to issue whatever demands the message entails.  The Christian herald is to proclaim the message of salvation through Jesus Christ and issue a summons to repent and receive forgiveness of sins.)

Acts 2:14 – Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said.

Acts 4:4 – many of those who heard the word believed.

Power of the Holy Spirit is given for our ability “to proclaim.”

Acts 4:31 – . . . they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God with boldness (outspokenness, unreserved utterance, frankness, opposite of timidity or fear). 

The example of the disciples shows us the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the boldness to speak.  Before the day of Pentecost, the disciples ran and hid.  After the day of Pentecost, they were bold, unafraid and proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ to all who would listen. 

  • A Witness of Jesus Christ. – Not of our denomination, not of our local church, not of our pastor, not of our programs, not of our personal ideas and beliefs – but OF JESUS CHRIST!!!

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 – And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified

  • For the Purpose of Being a Witness to the Whole World.
  • Jerusalem (local)
  • Your family
  • Your town
  • Your co-workers
  • Your close friends
  • Judea (national)
  • Your extended family
    • Your state – your country
    • Your grocery clerk, gas station attendant
    • Your acquaintances
  • Samaria (cross-cultural)
  • Race, national differences
  • Economical differences
  • Social differences
  • End of the earth (international)
  • Mexico
  • Israel
  • Brazil
  • Zambia
  • ?????

Emblems of the Holy Spirit

Many think the Holy Spirit only came on the Day of Pentecost in the New Testament but as these Scriptures show, the Holy Spirit has been active since the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

FIRE:  Zeal and refining power

  • Luke 3:16                                                                    Holy Ghost and fire
  • Isaiah 4:3-4                                                                 Spirit of burning (judgment)
  • Psalm 104:4                                                                A flaming fire
  • Malachi 3:1-3                                                              Refiner’s fire
  • Genesis 3:24                                                               A flaming sword
  • John 2:17                                                                    Zeal
  • Acts 2:3                                                                      Tongues like as of fire
  • Matthew 3:11                                                              Baptize with Holy Ghost and fire

DOVE:  Gentleness, harmlessness and comforting power

  • Luke 3:22                                                                    Holy Spirit descended like dove
  • Luke 3:23                                                                    Began to teach
  • John 1:32-33                                                               Spirit descending/witness of the Spirit

WATER:  Life-giving and infinite power

  • John 7:37-39                                                               Rivers of living water – quenching thirst

WIND:  Resurrection power (Spirit gives life)

  • John 3:8                                                                      The wind bloweth/a blowing, a blast
  • Acts 2:2                                                                       A rushing, might wind
  • Ezekiel 37:9                                                                Come from four winds, o breath
  • Genesis 2:7                                                                 Big wind

OIL:  Consecration and anointing power

  • Isaiah 61:1-3                                                               Oil of joy
  • Hebrews 1:9                                                                Oil of gladness
  • James 5:14-16                                                            Anoint with oil of Holy Spirit
  • Luke 4:16-21                                                               Anointed to preach
  • Psalm 45:7                                                                  Anointed with oil of gladness

SEAL:  Redemptive, keeping power

  • Romans 4:21                                                              Being fully persuaded
  • Ephesians 1:13                                                           Holy Spirit of promise
  • Ephesians 4:13                                                           Till we all come
  • 1 Peter 1:5                                                                  Kept till the end of time

EARNEST:  Ownership and guarantee power

  • 2 Corinthians 1:22                                                       Conviction, knowledge
  • Ephesians 1:13-14                                                      Collateral is Holy Spirit
  • 2 Timothy 1:12                                                            He is able to keep

DEW:  Refreshing, invigorating power

  • Psalm 72:6                                                                  Showers of blessings
  • Hosea 14:5                                                                  Watering, life giving
  • Zechariah 8:12                                                            Time of prosperity
  • Job 29:19                                                                    Fed by dew all night
  • Jeremiah 17:8                                                             In time of drought and want

RAIN:  Life-giving, quickening power

  • Joel 2:23-32                                                                Plenteous, bountiful
  • Psalm 1:3                                                                     Abundant growth, lush vegetation
  • Zechariah 3:7                                                              Ways to walk in
  • Job 29:23                                                                    Prosperity
  • James 5:7                                                                   Rains due, hold steady
  • Hosea 6:3                                                                    Refreshing of water, growth
  • Hosea 10:12                                                                Seek for the outpouring of love

GIFT:  Joyful, gracious, liberating power

  • Acts 2:38-39                                                                Power freely given for all

The First Great Gentile Church

Acts 11:19-30

Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.  Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.  Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:18 is a momentous passage.  Peter’s ministry to Cornelius and his household, and the positive response by the church at Jerusalem (see Acts 10:1-11:18) set the stage for Paul’s outreach to the Gentiles in the remaining chapters.  The next few verses cover one of the most important events in history – the founding of the Gentile church. 

  • The Gentile Church is Born
  • Born through the witness of lay believers (Acts 8:1-4).  Note that everyone was scattered except the apostles
  • Born by believers sharing with everyone they met – Jews and Gentiles alike.  God desires everyone to hear the good news and for everyone to be saved.

Isaiah 45:22 – “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!”

Matthew 22:9 – “Go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.”

Romans 10:12 – “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek (between the rich and the poor, between the educated and the uneducated, between the white and the black, between the Church of God and the Baptist, between the Anglo-Saxon and the Hispanic), for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.”

  • Borne by the hand of the Lord.  “the hand of the Lord was with them.”
  • God allowed the persecution.
  • God gave the believers the boldness to proclaim the good news.
  • God opened the eyes of the people in Antioch to receive the good news.
  • The Gentile Church is Nourished
  • Mother Church sent ministerial help – the church needed leadership.
  • Barnabas encouraged the new church – to continue with the Lord with purpose of heart (a deliberate plan, an intention, a design).  It is not enough to start walking with God, but the church must have a deliberate plan, an intention to keep walking with God.
  • Barnabas taught the new church – teaching is an important part of the church.
  • The Gentile Church had an Effective Witness
  • Believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch.  The Greek word used was christianos.  This was likely an insulting name given to the followers of Christ (Christos) like the term “Jesus-freak” was used a few years ago.  Later, believers took the name and began applying it to themselves.  Eventually the name was adopted by the whole world for the followers of Christ.   If we call ourselves “Christian,” we need to recognize what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

Colossians 2:6 – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.

1 John 2:6 – He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

  • The Gentile Church Had a Ministry to Others
  • When they heard of the prophesied famine coming, they took up a relief offering to Jerusalem.  This was an offering each person shared in according to their ability.  Again, we see that a growing, thriving church is one that reaches out to others – it is not consumed with just meeting its own needs.

Galatians 6:10 – Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us (ergazomai – work, be busy, accomplish something, produce things, be engaged in, toil.  Ergazomai is the opposite of idleness, laziness, or inactivity.) do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

1 Timothy 6:18 – Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.

NOTE:  Preaching–Teaching–Exhortation – There are three different Greek words used for preaching and teaching in this passage.

  • Lalountes is translated “preaching” in the King James Version and “spoke” in the New King James Version.  It is the simple sharing of conversation among people.  In other words, as the believers were scattered abroad, wherever they went, whoever they talked to, Jesus was the topic of their conversation.  Jesus was so real in their lives, so much on their mind that they simply “spoke” about Him to every one they came in contact with. 
  • Euaggelizomenoi is translated “preaching” and it means to declare and proclaim the gospel – the good news.  The believers – the lay people – actually went into Antioch and preached and proclaimed that Jesus Christ had died and risen again for their sins. 
  • Parekalei is translated “exhorted” or “encouraged” and means to warn, comfort, encourage, challenge, admonish or advise.  The believers – both in their day-to-day conversation and in their preaching – urged the people at Antioch to continue with the Lord with one purpose, one plan, one commitment of service.

Christianity and Prejudice – Can They Belong Together?

Acts 10:1-35

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?

So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.

While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”

Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”

And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” Then he invited them in and lodged them.

On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Prejudice and partiality exist.  Prejudice is everywhere — in every nation, in every city, in every neighborhood, even in every family.  Unfortunately, prejudice is many times in the church.  Prejudices arise because people are different.  Different nationality, different language, different religion, different color, different social standing, different wealth.  When we meet someone different from ourselves, it often makes us uncomfortable.  The unknown can be intimidating.  We are more at ease when we are in a group where “someone is just like us.” 

Prejudice often leads to mistreatment – from ignoring, gossiping, and joking about to persecuting, abusing, opposing and enslaving.  Mistreatment leads to more prejudice.  Both the one mistreating and the one being mistreated form judgments against the other group of people.  If one person does wrong in a certain group – judgments are formed against the entire group. 

Prejudice is passed on from one generation to another.  Think about it.  You may be prejudiced against people you have had little contact with.  Where did you get your knowledge of them?  From your parents, from your peers, from TV, from what you have “heard.”  What little contact you have had with them was probably hindered from any real understanding or meaning because of preconceived ideas – both on your part and on theirs. 

Think of the divisions:  In Ireland – Catholic vs. Protestant; In the Middle East – Jew vs. Muslim; in India – Hindu vs. Muslim and Hindu vs. Christian – In USA – white vs. black,  rich vs. poor, English-speaking against Spanish-speaking.

This passage in Acts strikes a fatal blow against prejudice.  It shows forever that Jesus Christ has come to erase all prejudices and barriers between people.  By studying the book of Acts, it becomes clear that while prejudice may be natural, it is not to be a part of the Christian’s life.  John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoeverbelieves in Him shall be saved.”

The Jews, like everyone else, had developed their own laws and customs.  They were steeped in their own nationality and viewed other cultures as “dogs.”  They had been mistreated through the years – conquered by various nations – scattered throughout the earth.  During the time of the Early Church, they were ruled by the Roman government.  The one thing that united them wherever they went was their religion (belief in one true God, the sacrifices at the temple only, their special diet, their observance of the Sabbath, etc.)  These rules and beliefs kept them from alien beliefs and maintained their distinctiveness as a people and a nation.  Therefore, anything that threatened their religion they believed threaten their very existence as a people. 

The Jews had misread and misunderstood God’s purpose for them.  When God called Abraham, he called him to be the head of a nation that would be a witness to the entire world.  God wanted to use the Jews to be his “missionary” nation to show the world God’s love and power.

Genesis 12:1-3 – Now the Lord had said to Abram:  “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation;  I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  This promised that Abram and his family would be a blessing to all the earth is repeated in Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18, Genesis 26:4 and Genesis 28:14.

The prophet Isaiah also spoke of this.

Isaiah 2:1-4 – The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.  Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”  For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

The Psalms are full of exhortations to “make known His deeds among the peoples.”  Yet, they had completely separated themselves from the world in ways God had not intended. 

  • They referred to other cultures as “dogs.”
  • They would have no contact with a Gentile unless absolutely necessary.
  • They would not help a Gentile woman giving birth because it would be bringing another Gentile into the world.

This was the prejudice of the Early Church.  This was the barrier God had to break down.  That is the point of this chapter.  God was showing Peter, the leader of the Church up to this point, that the doors of salvation were to be opened to every person, regardless of race, language, religion, color, social standing, etc.

  • God Chooses a Gentile to Receive the “Good News”
  • A Roman noncommissioned officer – not only a foreigner, but one of the despised Romans who had conquered Israel and subjected them to Roman government.
  • Devout man who feared God – he believed in the one true God and held him in extreme respect or awe.
  • A generous and praying man – note that his prayer was to God always.  In other words, prayer was a daily part of his life.
  • In spite of his respect of God, his generosity, his prayers, he still lacked something – knowledge of and a relationship with Jesus Christ and        the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

NOTE:  Cornelius is a good example that, while respect of God, good deeds and prayer are important, without a true knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ, they are insufficient for salvation.

  • Because he was seeking God, God sent an angel to him to lead him into the full knowledge of God. 

NOTE:  Cornelius is a good example that, if someone honestly seeks God even without true knowledge of His Word, God will provide an answer.

Romans 1:20 – For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

Jeremiah 33:3 – Call (cry out, call out loudly to get someone’s attention) to Me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty (inaccessible) things which you do not know.

Jeremiah 29:13 – And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

  • God Chooses a Jew to Give the “Good News” to the Gentile
  • Peter was a praying man.  He was praying about the sixth hour (12 noon).  This was one of the three prayer hours practiced by the Jews.  This indicates that Peter was praying at least three times a day. 

Psalm 55:17 – Evening and morning and noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.

  • Peter was just a man.  He had got hungry, he did not immediately recognize God’s leading.  He was subject to the prejudices of his time and culture. 
  • Peter obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
  • He went with the men.
  • He “entered” the house of Cornelius.
  • He rejected worship from Cornelius.
  • He preached the “good news” to the Gentiles.
  • God Clearly Shows that Prejudice Does Not Belong in the Church

Romans 10:12 – For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.

Galatians 3:27-28 – For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek (German or Spanish, American or Russian, black or white, Anglo-Saxon or Hispanic), there is neither bond nor free (educated or uneducated, rich or poor, sophisticated or simple), there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 6:9 – And you master, do the same things unto them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven and there is no partiality with Him.

Partiality means favoritism, distinction, bias, conditional preference.  The word denotes a biased judgment, which gives respect to rank, position, or circumstances.  God shows no partiality injustice, judgment or favorable treatment when dealing with people, and He expects us to follow His example.