Jerusalem and Beyond

MEMORY VERSE: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” —Acts 4:20

ACTS 8:1-5; 11:1-18

THROUGH the Prophet Isaiah the Lord informs us that his Word accomplishes that which he pleases. (Isa. 55:8-11) God’s Word itself is very powerful in the hearts and lives of those who are dedicated to the doing of his will. Through Jesus Christ, the Lord had made it clear that he desired that his Word, the Gospel, should be proclaimed unto the uttermost parts of the earth, and those in every part of the age who have been dedicated to the Lord have gladly served as ambassadors for Christ to the full extent of their opportunity and ability.

Besides, God’s providences serve to accomplish the purposes set forth in his Word, and even the wrath of his enemies is made to serve the divine purpose at opportune times. We have an example of this in connection with Saul’s persecution of the Early Church. This mistaken man had co-operated in connection with the stoning of Stephen, and he went forth from this scene on a mission of general persecution.

It was a dark day for the faithful brethren of that time, yet the Lord turned it to good. Naturally there was a scattering of the brethren, and the record is, “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” The brethren were being persecuted, but one of the results was a broadening of the witness of the Gospel.

ACTS 11:1-18

In this section of the lesson we find the providences of God operating even more directly in connection with a wider ministry of the Gospel. Here we find Peter defending his action in connection with preaching the Gospel to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. He tells of being in the city of Joppa, and praying. “In a trance” he says, “I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: upon the which when I fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”—Acts 11:5-9

The sheet appeared three times, and then Peter awoke, and as he explains, “there were three men already come into the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.” Peter was directed by the Holy Spirit to go with these three men. Arriving at their destination, they entered into the house of Cornelius, who explained that an angel had spoken to him, directing that he send to Joppa for “Simon, whose surname is Peter.” The angel had said to Cornelius that Simon, or Peter, “shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”

Armed with this information, and with the background of his own vision to guide him, Peter was prompted to proclaim the message to this Gentile and his household. He was doubtless guided in this as well as at other times by the sentiments of our memory verse: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

As he spoke to this little company of Gentiles the Holy Spirit fell on them, he explains, “as on us at the beginning,” referring to the experience of the Jewish brethren at Pentecost. Peter also remembered a statement by Jesus, “John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Here Peter gives clear evidence that he was not being guided by emotion, or by his own wishes in this matter, but by the Word of the Lord. His own prejudice might have caused him to doubt the true meaning of what he saw taking place, but he chose rather to be guided by the Word of the Lord. This is a wonderful example for every Christian.

Peter was very definite in his stand on the matter. He said, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” When Peter’s accusers heard these things they ceased their opposition, acknowledging that “God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”


How did God overrule the persecutions by Saul?

How was Peter convinced that he should preach the Gospel to Gentiles?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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