Sabbath School Lesson for August 4-10, 2018
Outline of the Lesson
Here are the highlights of Peter’s ministry, as found in Acts 9-12.
- miracles of healing Aeneas, a paralytic, and bringing Dorcas back to life (ch. 9–Sunday)
- mirrored the miracles of Jesus
- Peter’s vision of the sheet with animals on it and its meaning (ch. 10–Monday)
- why was its meaning so difficult for Peter and other Jewish believers
- the gift of the Spirit falling on the household of Cornelius (ch 11–Tuesday)
- the reinforcement of the lesson Peter was to learn from the vision he was given
- establishment of the first “Christian” church in Antioch (ch. 11–Wednesday)
- what it meant to be called “Christian” at first and what it means now
- the killing of the apostle James, marking the persecution turning to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem (ch. 12–Thursday)
- the astounding mystery of Agrippa’s death shortly after
After Luke records Paul’s conversion experience and the beginnings of his missionary adventures, he leaves that story for a time to catch us up on Peter’s ministry. Peter likewise filled a vital role in the spread of the gospel, even though his main thrust was with the Jewish population back in Jerusalem and in the surrounding areas.
Both Paul and Peter were spiritual powerhouses who impacted their given mission fields greatly, but not without challenges from those in power. In addition, just as Saul was a different man after his conversion on the road to Damascus, Peter was a different man after his Pentecost experience.
The Holy Spirit, no doubt, orchestrated the changes needed for these men to minister to those in the early church and the world outside the Christian community. Both types of service are needed in God’s church today:
- Those strengthening the ones in their home country, and those who minister to those in faraway lands.
- Those who nurture those in the church, and those gifted in community outreach activities.
Each of us has a place to fill in carrying the gospel to the world.
Memory Text: “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’ “ Acts 10:34, 35 NRSV
Although Peter was given a miraculous vision and even appeared to understand its meaning, it still proved difficult for him to implement the performance of it. For the most part, he was able to live in line with this newly-discovered principle; but at times, he deviated from what God had revealed in his dream.
Sunday: At Lydda and Joppa
” ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.’ “ John 14:12 NKJV
Peter fulfilled that prediction of his Master. Both examples in the book of Acts reflect miracles witnessed during Jesus’ ministry. And there were certainly more miracles performed through Peter and the other apostles that were not recorded.
Peter found himself visiting the believers in other regions around Judea, and the story of these two miraculous incidents became widely known.
- In Lydda, a paralytic for eight years, named Aeneas, was told by Peter, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make up your bed.”
- Luke 5:17-26 tells of Jesus healing a paralytic in Capernaam and saying, “Rise up and walk.”
- In Joppa, Tabitha (or Dorcas) is brought back to life, after Peter tells everyone to leave the room, and he tells her to “Arise.”
- Luke 8:49-56 tells how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead in much the same way.
Read John 14:12, 13. Why is it important to include Jesus’ name, when asking for a miracle?
Read Acts 9:32-35 and Luke 5:17-26. What similarities do these stories hold?
Read Acts 9:36-43 and Luke 8:49-56. What similarities do these stories hold? Why are they so similar?
Monday: At Cornelius’s House
The events leading to Peter’s visit to see Cornelius were certainly empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- First, there was the vision of the animals coming down on a sheet, while Peter was resting at the home of Simon, a tanner in Joppa.
- Then, the Holy Spirit spoke to Cornelius and told him to send for Peter, with precise instructions of where he was.
- Peter was given a message from the Spirit to go with Cornelius’ messengers, and not to hesitate to go into Cornelius’s house, even though he was a Gentile.
Peter was gradually pulling away from the Jewish perversions of the Mosaic law and the ceremonial laws that were no longer needed, and was beginning to see the universal scope of the gospel.
We are told in Acts 10:2 that Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” NKJV He, therefore, had a good relationship with God and with his fellow man.
Peter was shown by this incident that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Acts 10:35 NKJV Most of the Jews had deviated from this truth and lost their relationship with God as a result. God was bringing them back to His original mission: to bring the gospel to the whole world.
Read Acts 10:1, 2, 34, 35 and Ephesians 2:13. In what ways did Cornelius fit the requirements for acceptance by God? What prevented the Jews from seeing this truth? What brings us all together in this world?
Read Acts 10:24-26 and 27-33 and 14:11, 12, 14, 15. Why is it natural to attribute miracles or blessings directly to the person who seems to be bringing them to you? Why must we be careful in having our favorite preachers and evangelists? Can we become too enamored with their personalities that we overlook what they are preaching to us? Why should this be avoided?
Read Galatians 3:26-28. What are some of the barriers that have separated men and women–even in the church? Is it possible to be one in Christ, when you haven’t even heard His name, or been convicted about who He is? Give examples.
Tuesday: The Gift of the Spirit
Think about the event at Cornelius’s house and their subsequent speaking in tongues, just like it had occurred at Pentecost. This must have made a great impression on Peter. He had been given a vision that was obviously trying to teach him that it was indeed possible for Gentiles to be accepted by God as equals with the Jews. And now he saw the fulfillment of it. It had actually happened in front of his eyes, as reinforcement for what God had been showing him through his dream.
As a matter of fact, Peter’s preaching to Cornelius’ household was the first record we have of a Judean apostle preaching the gospel to uncircumcised Gentiles. But it wouldn’t have happened without the intervention of the Holy Spirit. There was much heart preparation and cultivation for this mindset of the Jews to be converted.
If the gospel was to go to the Gentiles around the world as Jesus instructed, they would have to allow Gentiles to omit becoming Jewish first, as the Judean believers thought and were practicing. God was telling them that it was alright to be a Christian, with or without being Jewish as well.
Read Acts 2:4, 6, 11, 12, 10:44-48 and 11:17. What kind of tongues experience did the house of Cornelius experience? How do we know that it would have been actual languages that were spoken and not some kind of unknown “heavenly language”?
Read Acts 11:1-3 and 15-18. What convinced the Jews that Gentiles were accepted as equals with the Jews? How would and did this affect the future work of the apostles?
Read Acts 15:7-9. As Peter later spoke these words before the Jewish Council, what did he acknowledge as the agent for purifying our hearts?
Wednesday: The Church in Antioch
Refugees fleeing persecution began sharing their faith in the towns and cities to which they fled. Therefore, these Hellenistic Jewish Christians were the first to carry out Christ’s commission to carry the gospel to the Gentiles.
As their numbers increased in these faraway churches and synagogues, Barnabas was sent by the apostles in Jerusalem to evaluate their success. Antioch was the first place he visited. It was noted that the believers there were called “Christians”, a name probably associated in a mocking way toward the still-hated Jewish sect.
But later Luke seems to associate the name in a friendly way, when he mentioned it in the account of Paul’s interview by King Agrippa, when the king said, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
Here are some other names that the believers seem to have preferred, at least in the beginning…
- “brethren” Acts 1:16
- “disciples” Acts 6:1
- “saints” Acts 9:13
Read Acts 4:36, 37 and 11:19-24. Why was Barnabas a good choice for this mission?
Read Acts 11:25, 26, Mark 6:7, and Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10. Why was it a good plan for Paul and Barnabas to work together in Antioch?
Read Acts 1:16, 6:1, and 9:13. What name do you prefer (brethren, disciples, or saints)? How do you feel about being called a Seventh-day Adventist (or Baptist, Presbyterian, or other denomination)? Why is Christian such an accepted name for believers around the world, and how is it a unifying term?
Thursday: Herod’s Persecution
By this time in Luke’s account we see not only the Hellenistic Jews being persecuted for their belief in Jesus, but the Judean Jews as well. James, one of Jesus’ most beloved disciples, was the first to be martyred by King Agrippa I, who was the grandson of King Herod and was even called Herod in Luke’s account. James’ death by the sword must have sent shockwaves throughout the companies of believers in Jerusalem.
Peter was not-surprisingly arrested again, and to prevent his escape, as it happened earlier when he and John were imprisoned (see Acts 5:17-20), four squads of four soldiers were commanded to guard him. This meant that at all times, Peter was chained to two guards, with two watching the entrance of his jail. Four squads meant that all watches (shifts) were covered to watch Peter day and night.
Despite these extra precautions, an angel helped Peter escape in a miraculous fashion that first night. See Acts 12 5-18. The church was overjoyed to see their prayers answered so quickly. Peter himself could hardly believe the angelic protection God provided for him.
These events, including the sudden death of King Agrippa, leaves us with some questions about God’s justice. Why were some apostles saved and others weren’t? Was the king’s gruesome death an act of divine justice, as Luke claims in Acts 12:23? Only a broader picture of the great controversy between Christ and Satan can give us the perspective to understand these puzzling revelations.
Read Acts 12:1-4 and Matthew 20:22, 23. What baptism was Jesus speaking of in this prophecy, and how was it fulfilled? What was the motive for Herod’s harassment of the followers of Jesus (v. 3)? How would James’ death “please the Jews”?
Read Acts 12:5, 11, 12, and 16. What kind of prayer was being offered for Peter’s release from prison? Why are we often surprised when God answers our prayers? Do our answers to prayer always require such a miraculous component, in order for us to attribute them to God? What other kinds of answers do we receive?
Read Acts 12:20-23. How do you see justice working in this story? For what greater purpose was God allowing such a violent death of this tyrannical despot?
Peter’s ministry was successful despite the immense challenges that were faced:
- Persecution intended to scatter–from outside sources, like King Agrippa, and harassment from the Jewish leadership, who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.
- Barriers intended to divide–such as the struggle for Jewish believers to accept Gentiles fully into their fellowship unless they became Jewish first.
Unfortunately, God’s church still experiences similar challenges. All Christians find it difficult to escape some type of separation or dividing, either from those outside or even within their ranks. It often reveals itself in ugly ways, but always in some way that creates barriers for God’s people to carry out their mission of spreading the gospel.
For those who have “put on Christ”, Paul wisely told us…
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NKJV
The gender barrier that Peter mentioned last here seems to be the hardest one to surmount. There has always been animosity between the sexes since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, but that does not seem to be God’s original intention when He created them so that “they shall be one flesh“ (Genesis 2:24).
Peter himself pointed out earlier in his Pentecost sermon a prophecy from Joel, which said “…I will pour out of My Spirit on ALL flesh; your sons AND your daughters shall prophesy..” Perhaps in the last days then, God’s church will finally recognize men and women as full equals when it comes to receiving His spiritual gifts. The gender barrier will also be gone, and at last God’s church will be fully united.
Next Week’s Lesson: Paul’s First Missionary Journey
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/