Acts 11 Commentary

Acts 11 chapter commentary Bible study

Acts Chapter 11 Commentary Bible Study


Acts 11:19 Persecution
Acts 11:20-24 Antioch
Acts 11:25 Saul of Tarsus
Acts 11:26 Christian
Acts 11:27-30 Great Famine
Acts 11 Bible Study Questions (Handout)
ACTS 11:1-3  1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

Did Peter return to Jerusalem right after meeting Cornelius?
If he had done that, the news wouldn't have beaten him to Jerusalem. Peter stayed with Cornelius in Caesarea "a few days" (Acts 10:48, see Lord of All) as they asked him to.

Who were "those of the circumcision" (Acts 11:3)?
The Jewish Christians - "brethren" (Acts 11:1) - and may have included one or more of the other "apostles" (Acts 11:1) in Jerusalem.

How happy were they to hear "that the gentiles had also received the word of God" (Acts 11:1)?
They weren't. Their statement, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” (Acts 11:3) wasn't a questions but an accusation aimed at Peter, with whom they "contended" (Acts 11:2).

What did Acts 8:1 & 4 say about persecution and the spread of the Gospel?
"... At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles... Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word."

Then why was hearing "that the gentiles had also received the word of God" (Acts 11:1) even news to them?
"Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4) but they had gone "preaching the word to no one but the Jews only" (Acts 11:19 below); until now, they had skipped over all of the gentiles.

Why would they do, that and why weren't they happy to hear that the gentiles also had received the word of God?
Jewish Christians still held to the long-entrenched Jewish belief that gentiles were unclean (see Fear of God).

ACTS 11:4-18  4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” 18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the gentiles repentance to life.”

(Peter is recounting what happened as recorded and discussed in Acts 10.)

Had God taken Peter to Cornelius to teach Cornelius?
Peter did teach Cornelius, but if teaching had been the main objective, the Lord probably would have waited until Peter had finished teaching to fall upon them. And instead of bringing Peter all the way from Jerusalem, He could have used Philip (see Samaria), who was already living in "Caesarea" (Acts 8:40 & 21:8) and therefore could teach him for more than just “a few days” (Acts 10:48).

Then had God taken Peter to Cornelius to have Peter guide the Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius' household?
Again, had that been the case, the Holy Spirit would have fallen on them on Peter's cue. Instead, "the Holy Spirit fell upon them" (Acts 11:15) as Peter was just getting into his message (see Acts 11:15).

Then, to do what had God taken Peter to Cornelius?
Not because God needed Peter to do something to help Him but for Peter to watch God in action, and for what he witnessed to overcome Peter's prejudice, as well as those of the other Jewish Christians.

What lent credibility to Peter's testimony to those in Jerusalem?
It was backed by the "six brethren" (Acts 11:12) - Jewish Christians - who had accompanied Peter "from Joppa" (Acts 10:23) to Cornelius' house.

What is remarkable about the conclusion of those who heard Peter?
God spent days preparing Peter, having him lodge with someone who works with unclean, dead animals, showing him visions, and talking to him. God let the six Jewish Christians to at least witness the Holy Spirit falling upon Cornelius' household. But God turned the hearts of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem so quickly that they went from 'contending' (Acts 11:2) with Peter for associating with gentiles one moment to glorifying God for it the next. Prejudices deeply-ingrained over many centuries had been neutralized during a single conversation about the love of God being poured out on the lost.