Acts 10-11
(Repentance for the Gentiles!)
November 15th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.

- Acts 10:34-35 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

These two chapters describe a transformation of the church from one focused primarily on Jews to one that also reaches out to the Gentiles.

Chapter 10 describes a scenario in which a Gentile solider named Cornelius was brought together with Peter following visions that each experienced. Peter would not have associated with Cornelius if not for a vision and a declaration from God:

    (Peter) saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

    “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

    The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

    - Acts 10:11-15 (NIV)

Peter ends up giving a sermon at the house of Cornelius. During this visit the Holy Spirit came upon the people of the household and Peter baptized them.

In chapter 11, Luke writes that Peter had to explain himself to the other believers in Jerusalem – because they still thought that this action would have left Peter unclean. After Peter explained the whole story, including the visions, they understood and concluded, “ ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life’ (11:18 - NIV).”

Meanwhile, some of the other believers who had been scattered across the region had come to a similar conclusion and had been preaching to Greeks in Antioch. Barnabas and Paul joined this group and remained there for a year, teaching the people and spreading the word. Luke notes that it was during this time that a new name was attributed to the the believers:

    “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."

    - Acts 11:26 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

In an earlier section we observed how the success of this organization required a division of duties so that the apostles could better serve their initial target audience. In this next growth phase, the apostles have expanded their target to include other peoples and territories, to the ends of the earth, just as Jesus had instructed them. These other people had been labeled Gentiles, and were assumed to be outside of the loving arms of God, but this was a misinterpretation that was corrected through the intervention of God.

A careful reading of today's chapters reveals a wealth of information in each sentence. For instance, at the beginning of chapter 10 we are introduced to the Centurion named Cornelius, who was the first Gentile to become a Christian. Centurions were officers in the Roman army who commanded 100 men and reported into a larger division. But this officer was also a Gentile man who feared God. We learn in the first few verses that he was generous and had a regular habit of prayer. He sought God and in return God led him to a man who could draw him even nearer with the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

God prepares Peter with a vision, but others naturally gravitated to the idea of including non-Jews. When there is a change in plans, some people see it more easily than others. Some need a vision from God, others need a good explanation from a trusted leader, and others know it instinctively. When we are in the middle of a transition in our church or other organizations we have to remember to be patient with all types of reactions so that we don’t create division during these times. Peter’s colleagues in Jerusalem eventually came to the right conclusion after they heard his whole story.

There is a subtle indication in chapter 10 that Peter was already on his way to accepting Gentiles. When the angel told Cornelius where to find Peter he indicated that Peter was "staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea (10:6 - NIV).” Tanners were considered unclean because they touched the skin of dead animals, but Peter overlooked that in choosing to stay with this Simon. God then brought him to the next step through the vision of the animals in the sheet and the visit from the messengers sent by Cornelius.

In Peter’s vision he was instructed to eat all of the animals, including those previously defined as unclean. This passage can be used to address the question some of us face regarding non-compliance with the rules for eating unclean food. We remain bound to the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, but in this passage we are released from obligations regarding the unclean food that had been described in Leviticus 11 (1). Therefore we are free to eat pork, rabbit, hyrax, lobster, and other non-kosher foods while the devout members of the Jewish community refrain from eating these and others defined as unclean. We can find corroborating statements in Mark 7:19 and Romans 14:15.

The vision experienced by Peter also provided him with assurance that it was God’s intention for him to eat with and preach to Gentiles (non-Jews). The inclusion of this broader audience would also later stir up divisive questions on how to incorporate them, as we shall read later.

Ancient Antioch was in an area that is now near the southeastern edge of Turkey, near the Syrian border. You can see Antioch on the map at this website:

The next phase in broadening the target market was the result of th dispersion of newly converted Christians to Antioch. Ancient Antoich, which is also known as Antakya, had been at the center of many conflicts, but had become a picturesque tourist site in the late 20th and early 21st century A.D.. Unfortunately it has been significantly affected by the ongoing civil war in Syria, as many rebels and refugees have crossed the border to settle there, as explained in a NY Times article from July 2012: "Fighters Replace Tourists".

During the time of the early Christians, Antioch was on a key trade route that enabled it to develop into one of the largest cities in the Roman empire, but it was also known for it's loose morals and a cynical populace who were fond of assigning nicknames. The people of Antioch crafted a name, Χριστιανός (Christianos), which mean followers of Christ or Christ-folk (2,3). The name sounds worthy to us, but to the people of Antioch it was intended to be derogatory, as it emphasized that these people followed an alleged Messiah who had supposedly risen from the dead and had no apparent power. Whereas the loyal citizens followed the emperor in Rome who was assumed to be the most powerful man on earth. Nevertheless, Antioch became one of the key centers for Christianity and is the setting for many of the events in subsequent chapters of Acts.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite kosher food?
    2. What are some changes taking place in the church at large that require a more open ear from the Christian community?
    3. How can we contribute today to the spreading of the Gospel to the ends of the earth?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that nothing you create is unclean. Help us to appreciate all of your creation and all of your people.

    Prayer Concern
    People of Antakya


    (1) Barclay, William, The Acts of the Apostles, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, London, 1975, p. 105
    (2) "Christian," Wikipedia,, 11/14/12
    (3) Marshall, I. Howard, The Acts of the Apostles, an Introduction and Commentary, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1986, p. 186

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Acts 12-13 (The Word of God Continued to Spread)

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