Thus far much of what we have studied has been the Acts of Peter--and the mighty way the Holy Spirit empowered him to found the church in Israel. Peter will go on to minister to the Jews, even after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. History records he served Christ all over the ancient world until he was martyred at the end of a long, fruitful life. But Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts show us the shift from evangelizing the Jews to winning the Gentiles. As a result, this is the last section concerning Peter. Luke records two crises in Peter’s life that prepared him for future ministry. The first crisis involved rejection from his co-workers. The second could easily cost him his life. Are you in crisis? Seldom do we experience a trouble free life in this fallen world. Peter teaches us how to respond.
After his stay with the Roman army officer Cornelius, Peter returned to Jerusalem for a meeting. And Peter was the reason the meeting was called!
1. A. What kind of reception awaited Peter? Specifically, what upset these Jewish believers? (11: 1-3)
B. When have you been criticized unfairly by other Christians? How do you react to rejection and conflict?
C. Specifically, what did Peter do to "cool" rather than "fuel" the fire? (11:4, 15-18) What can we learn from the way he responded?
D. Why did they change their minds? (11: 18)
E. (Summit) Do a study on conflict resolution. What does Matthew 18:15-17 reveal about the way Jesus wants us to handle conflict? How can we be peacemakers rather than troublemakers?
Meanwhile, the Gospel was spreading like wildfire in the Gentile city of Antioch. This city, one of many bearing the same name, was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It was beautiful, located on the Orentes River some 300 miles north of Jerusalem. However, it was also known as a city of gross immorality and ritual temple prostitution. The church at Antioch was destined to replace Jerusalem as the center of Christianity and served later as the base of Paul's missionary operations.
2. A. When the Jerusalem church heard of the birth of the church in Antioch, what did she do? (11:22) What did he find there and how did he minister to this growing congregation? (11:23, 24)
B. Where did he go for additional help? Who did he recruit? (11:25) What kind of a team do you think they made?
C. How did God use Barnabas to get Paul back into ministry? Has God ever used you this way in someone’s life? If so, please share.
D. How long did they minister together in Antioch and what were the results? (11:26)
E. Have you ever teamed up with others in ministry? If so, when? What did you learn? What are the benefits?
F. The believers at Antioch were the first to be called "Christians." (1 1:26b) The ending "ian" means "belong to the party of." What then does the term mean and what does it mean to you to be called a "Christian"?
3. A. What did Agabus prophesy in 11:28?
B. How did Agabus’ prophecy bind this Gentile and Jewish church together? In what practical way did these young Christians in Antioch show their love and concern for fellow believers who were quite different from themselves? (11:29, 30)
4. A. Meanwhile, what new source of trouble arose back in the Jerusalem church? (12: 1)
B. Who was the first Apostle to be martyred? (12:2) How did his death effect the Jewish people? (12:3a)
C. (Digging Deeper) Look up background material on this Apostle in a Bible Dictionary and concordance. Describe him.
D. What were Herod's plans for Peter? What special precautions did Herod take to secure Peter? (12:4, 6) Why? (5:17-19) What seemed to motivate Herod's actions? (12:3)
5. How did the church respond to this new crisis? (12:5)
6. A. Pretend you are Peter and likely to be executed the next day. How well would you sleep? How could Peter sleep soundly under these circumstances?
B. Briefly, describe Peter's rescue. (12:7-10)
C. When Peter came to his senses, where was he? Where did he decide to go? What was going on there? (12:10b-12)
7. A. What happened when Peter arrived at John Mark's home? (12:13-16) What do you think Peter was thinking as he stood outside?
B. How expectant were the Christians that their prayer would be answered? Do you pray expectantly? Why or why not?
C. God saved Peter from execution, but allowed James to die. Did the church pray fervently for Peter and forget James? What is the relationship between persecution, prayer, deliverance and God's sovereignty?
D. What was their reaction when they saw Peter? (12:16, 17a)
E. Verse 17 reveals that Peter left that night for a safer place. What happened to the guards the next morning? (12:18, 19)
8. A. Herod was not struck down when murdering James or persecuting Peter. Why was this professed Jew finally judged? (12:21-23)
(Note: The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that in 44 AD. Herod hosted Roman games in Caesarea in honor of the Emperor Claudius. He arrived one day at the games in a robe of silver threads that glittered in the sun, and after giving a speech was flattered with the words, "henceforth, we agree that you are more than mortal in your being." After accepting the flattery, Herod was seized with internal pain, carried out and died five days later.)
B. In contrast, how did things go for the church? (12:24)
9. Review Peter’s response to criticism in 11:1-18 and his near miss with execution in 12:1-19. Summarize what you have learned to help you the next time you are in crisis. Why do you think God allows these experiences in our lives?
10. (Summit) Acts 1-12 form a unit of study. In chapter 13 we will embark with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Let’s review:
Trace the main events Luke records as the church fulfills Acts 1:8.
Who are the key players? Who is most like you?
Review the sermons. How can they prepare you to be a witness?
Study the sources of opposition. Why wasn’t the infant church destroyed?
Summarize the Holy Spirit’s role in the development of the early church.
The Holy Spirit longs to reveal to you the deeper things of God. He longs to love through you. He longs to work through you. Through the blessed Holy Spirit you have: strength for every duty, wisdom for every problem, comfort in every sorrow, joy in His overflowing service.