Sunday, May 06, 2007: “Acts of the Apostles: Session 3”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Acts of the Apostles

Session 3: Chapters 10 – 14

10:1 – 11:18, the Gospel is sent to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews – The story unfolds in seven scenes:

10:1-8, the vision to Cornelius – In Lk 7:2-10 Luke has already described a Gentile, Roman soldier who becomes a follower of Jesus. Here a centurion, an army officer, becomes a disciple.

10:9-16, the vision to Peter – Peter is totally confused since he is being asked to do something that was strictly forbidden by his religious beliefs. The violation of any of the laws could put one on the “slippery slope” to the loss of the individual’s or the community’s religious identity. “Three times” emphasizes that the vision was clear and certain.

10:17-23a — The messengers arrive and recount the vision to Cornelius: a reminder that God is writing the story. The story of the vision will again be retold in 10:30 and 11:13.

10:23b-33 – Peter travels to Caesarea and meets Cornelius and his family and friends. They then provide an audience for another of Peter’s speeches. The scene includes a short speech by Cornelius. At this point, both Cornelius and Peter need a conversion experience – and have one. The breaking down of the barrier between Jew and Gentile is symbolized as Peter enters Cornelius’ house.

10:34-43, Peter’s speech – “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.” This is a critically important turning point in Acts.

è See Willimon, pages 98-99 (2nd full paragraph, “Peter’s sermon…” through the next paragraph).

10:44-48, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the baptism – By sending the Spirit, God clearly reveals himself as author of these things.

11:1-18 – When Peter returns to Jerusalem, he has some explaining to do to justify his actions. He does so by recounting the entire series of events. He concludes by asking (17), “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”

The actual objection of those in Jerusalem was most probably not only table fellowship, but also the acceptance of the uncircumcised as members of the community.

Willimon points out (pages 100-105) that conversion in Acts is a varied phenomenon: it does not follow a single pattern. They are always part of a larger story of what is happening in the community. Even the great conversion stories in Acts (e.g. chapter 2) involve incorporating those converted into the community through baptism and then by sharing in the breaking of the bread and the prayers. “Conversion is adoption into a family, immigration into a new kingdom: a social, corporate, political phenomenon.” Conversion in Acts is not a one-time phenomenon, but rather a life-long process. Stories of conversions in Acts are also stories of vocation: someone is being called to undertake some work for the sake of the gospel.

11:19-26 – The gospel spreads to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and comes to include Gentiles as well as Jews. Barnabas comes to Antioch to witness what is happening and to rejoice in what God is doing. Again we see the new direction that the gospel is taking alongside those from Jerusalem, those who are concerned with upholding the tradition. Verse 26: “Christians”.

11:27-30 – This account may reflect the Judean famine of 46-47. In these verses, the newer Gentile Christians in Antioch demonstrate by their deeds that they are a part of the same church as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

12:1-19, the death of James, the son of Zebedee, and the arrest of Peter by order of Herod Agrippa I (appointed king by Claudius in 41) – Peter is locked in prison but escapes by the hand of God. Note that he was imprisoned during the great feast of liberation. 12: the first mention of “John Mark”. è Read 12-19.

12:20-23 – the death of Herod Agrippa I

12:24-25 – a concluding statement that sets the stage for Barnabas’ and Paul’s missionary journey with John Mark.

13:1 – 14:28, The First Missionary Journey —
Wayne Meeks has estimated that Paul eventually traveled about ten thousand miles during his three missionary journeys.

13:1-3, prelude – The journey is undertaken at the initiative of the Holy Spirit. Prayer and fasting send them off. “Barnabas and Saul”: Barnabas is the senior member of the team.

13:4-12, Cyprus – They began their pattern of preaching first in the synagogues. “And they had John also to assist them” (5); John Mark, Barnabas’ nephew. In Paphos, they had the encounter with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, and with Bar-Jesus (Elymas). 9: “Saul, also known as Paul”.

13:13- “Paul and his companions” sail from Paphos to Perga in Pamphylia. John left them and returned to Jerusalem; this will be the cause of the split between Barnabas and Paul prior to the second missionary journey.

13:16-41, Paul’s speech in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia

13:42-52 – They were well (or at least politely) received. The next Sabbath, however, the Jewish leaders, because of jealousy, began to oppose them. Having been rejected by the Jews, Barnabas and Paul declare that they will now go to the Gentiles. The leading men and women stir up persecution against them and drive them out. They then move on to Iconium; “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (52).

14:1-7 – The disciples have a mixed reception, both from Jews and from Gentiles, at Iconium; and so they move on to Lystra and Derbe.

14:8-18, a healing at Lystra and a complete misunderstanding by the people

14:19-20 – Jews from Antioch and Iconium have followed the disciples to Lystra and attack them. They stone Paul and leave him for dead, but he survives and he and Barnabas move on to Derbe.

14:21-23 – Barnabas and Paul make many converts at Derbe. They then returned to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the believers. They appoint elders in every church and, with prayer and fasting, entrust them to the Lord.

14:24-28 – Barnabas and Paul pass through Pisidia and Pamphylia and make their way to the port of Attalia. From there they sail back to Antioch in Syria, their “home base”. Once there, they recount for the believers all that God had done through them “and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles” (27).