Do you like change? Few of us do. It is so easy to settle into a comfortable rut rather than endure the discomfort of change. This lesson is about changes that were necessary for the early church to grow. Ask God what changes are needed in your life for you to become your best.
The Gospel had spread as Jesus had promised in Acts 1:8 from Jerusalem throughout Judea and even into Samaria. But there was a major stumbling block to overcome before it could be carried to "the ends of the earth" and the Gentiles. That stumbling block was the continued practice of Judaism as a "piggyback" onto Christianity. Up to this time, "The Way" was still very Jewish in nature. Those who joined the church in Jerusalem were required to be circumcised and to follow the law including the social barriers of Jewish separatism. They still kept a kosher table and were aghast at the thought of eating with anyone who did not. (11:1-3) Unless the church broke the bonds of Judaism, it could never go into all the world and it would never be anything more than a sect of Judaism. In our lesson today, we see the preparation for that break.
Peter is continuing his tour of Samaritan and Judean towns. (8.25, 9:32) Now he is in Lydda, a small town twelve miles from Joppa, a seaport on the Mediterranean.
1. A. What situations did he encounter in the area? (9:33, 36, 37)
B. Describe Dorcas. What impact had she made on her friends and neighbors?
C. What do you think people will say about you when you die physically? What do you hope they say?
D. How did the Lord use Peter in both instances? (9:34, 35, 40, 42)
E. Where did Peter reside in Joppa? (9:43)
F. (Digging Deeper) Why is his place of residence in Joppa significant? (Leviticus 11:24)
G. (Summit) In the Bible, there are three great eras when miracles were performed routinely. What are they? What can you conclude from this fact?
Caesarea was 30 miles up the coast from Joppa and it was a Roman military headquarters.
2. A. Describe the Roman army officer Cornelius who lived there. What was his relationship to God, his household, servants and soldiers? (10:1-8, 22a)
B. What was Cornelius commanded to do? (10:5) Whom did he send? (10:7)
3. A. As Cornelius' messengers approached the outskirts of Joppa, what was Peter doing? What did he see while waiting for his lunch? (10:9-12)
B. Peter is commanded in his vision to kill and eat these "unclean" animals. Why did he object? (10:14, Deuteronomy 14:3-21) What new understanding did God give to Peter? (10:15)
D. Why do you think the command was repeated three times as revealed in 10:16? Did Peter find change easy?
E. Why is it necessary to be willing to change?
4. A. The strict Jew would never show hospitality to an uncircumcised Gentile. How is Peter prepared for Cornelius' messengers? Note God's timing. (10: 17-22)
B. Whom did Peter eat lunch with that day? What social barrier was broken? (10:23)
5. A. The next day Peter and his six companions (11: 12) set out for Caesarea. How sure was Cornelius that Peter would come? (10:24, 27) Who arranged this meeting? (10:20)
B. How did Cornelius greet Peter? Why did Peter object? (10:25, 26)
C. What was the first thing Peter said to this Gentile crowd? What had Peter finally come to realize through this experience? (10:28)
The Gentiles who had gathered to hear Peter (10:33) worshiped God but had not heard the "good news" concerning Jesus. Peter was sent to tell them.
6. A. How did Peter begin his sermon? (10:34) What are some subtle ways we "show favoritism"?
B. Can you recall a time when you felt separated from others because of social, economic or racial differences?
C. Try to name a Christian leader from each category: Black, Hispanic, poor, former convict, physically challenged. Which groups are represented in your church? Does your church "look like" the nation?
D. How have you observed people react when someone of different race, dress, looks or economic status joins? How do you react? Why do you think churches are still so segregated?
E. How are prejudices formed? How does God view our prejudices? (James 2:8.9) How can we relinquish them? Share your struggles and/or victories.
7. Reread verse 35. Does this mean Cornelius' good deeds had earned him salvation? If so, why did he still need Jesus? What is the most crucial "right" thing to do in life? (10:43)
8. A. Who interrupted Peter's speech? Why were the Jewish believers astonished? (11:44-47)
B. (Digging Deeper) In what way was this event similar to Acts 2:1-4? What is the significance?
D. What did Peter and his companions do to show confirmation of Peter's new revelation from the Lord? (10:48a)
9. Throughout this lesson we have observed two men who were open to change and new ideas. What is the lesson for you from their example? What change in your life required the most adjustment? What do you need to change now? Discuss your struggles and/or victories.
10. (Summit) Throughout this section, Peter is taken through a process to end his prejudices. Trace the process. What process has God taken you through? (9:43; 10:23, 28, 34, 48)
11. (Digging Deeper) Compare chapter 10 of Acts with Luke 7:1-10. How do these passages reveal Luke’s theme?
12. (Digging Deeper) What had Peter been doing before he came to Lydda and Joppa? (8:14-24) How did this experience prepare him for his encounter with Cornelius?
Consider how difficult it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have when you try to change others!