church in jerusalem
In the broadest sense, the book of Acts can be broken into two major sections. Acts chapters 1-12 record the movement of the gospel in Jerusalem, where the apostles are located. Acts 13-28 give an account of the gospel reaching far beyond Jerusalem, throughout what is modern-day Turkey and Greece, all the way to Rome. While the Holy Spirit -- God -- is the main character in the book of Acts, the two sections of the book also focus primarily on two human characters -- Peter in chapters 1-12 and Paul in 13-28.
Acts 6:7 tells us that, “...the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” Though we meet Paul in chapters 8-9, the primary focus of this week’s reading concerns the work of the Holy Spirit through Peter in Jerusalem. This movement does not come without plenty of resistance, though. The apostles are arrested or jailed on multiple occasions in the book of Acts. Our reading this week includes the story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 6-7). His speech to those about to kill him is a powerful recounting of God’s work to bring redemption from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This week’s reading in Acts 10 includes a watershed moment for the expanse of the gospel. When Peter shares the gospel with a Gentile (or non-Jewish) family, he sees the Holy Spirit fall on them after they place their faith in Jesus in the same way it did on the apostles. The moment leads Peter to proclaim, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” (Acts 10:34) and provides a launching point for the gospel to be taken to all people, not just those of Jewish descent, For God has always longed to bless all the nations of the earth.
NEW TESTAMENT VISUALIZED
Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded by God to remain holy and separate from surrounding nations. They were not to intermarry, adopt their customs, or follow their gods. But God’s promise to Abraham shows that God’s plan was to bless all nations through faith (Gen.12:2-3). This was now the time of fulfillment. Peter is commanded to view no man as unclean, just as he was shown in his vision that no animal was to be viewed any longer as unclean. God commands Peter to go with Cornelius, a Gentile, and tell him the good news of Christ. Peter obeys. This is an example of biblical course correction and the unfolding revelation of God’s plan. Always, God’s love remained for all. Now, through the gospel of Jesus and His death on the cross, salvation comes to the Gentiles. This includes you and me. Therefore, we must not hesitate to pass on His gospel to all people regardless of race or beliefs.
- What did Peter’s vision mean? Why did God send it three times?
- What do you think Peter was thinking about on the way to Cornelius’ house? What about his friends that were with him?
- What happened in Acts 10:44-45that confirmed God’s desire for gentiles to know Him?
- Are there people who seem different from you to whom God might want you to share Christ?
Activity 1: People Collage
As a family, cut out a selection of people pictures from different races and socio-economic levels. Create a collage entitled: Different Faces. Add the words: God made us all. Discuss people you each know who are different from you in some way. Does that change how you view them? Pray that God would help you see everyone through His eyes and that you would be willing to share the gospel with everyone.
Activity 2: Bible Box
One creative tool to bring scripture to life with children is a Bible Box. A Bible Box is filled with small character figurines and prop objects to use when reenacting a Bible story. Visit childhoodspirituality.com and search “Bible Box” for additional information on how to make your own Bible Box and specific Bible Box activities.
Small Group Discussion
- Stephen’s conviction and resolve in the face of martyrdom is a powerful testimony. What promises are there to claim in this story?
- Acts 10 is a watershed moment for Peter and for the gospel work of Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit has been poured out on the Gentiles, just as it had for the Jews. God can make all things clean. These Gentiles were fellow believers. Repentance and salvation had been granted to those outside the Mosaic covenant. What principle can we practice/follow? What promise is there to claim?