What Peter Saw

While Peter was pondering his vision, the men from Cornelius arrived & asked for him (256).  At that moment, the Holy Spirit assured Peter about the three men: “Get up & go with them, for I have sent them to you.”

So Peter went down and asked the men why they had come; they replied: “Cornelius, a just man who fears God & has a good reputation among all the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel — to summon you to his house, to hear the words of God from you.”

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Peter invited the three men in to stay the night.  In the morning Peter went with them to Caesarea, accompanied by six Jewish Christians from Joppa.  When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius was waiting for them, together with many of his relatives & close friends.

As Peter entered his house, Cornelius fell down at his feet & began to worship him! But Peter told him: “Stand up; I am also just a man.”

Then Peter went in & addressed the entire gathering: “You know it is against God’s law for a Jewish man like me to associate with Gentiles like you.  But God has made me see that I should not think of any man as unclean. Now, please tell me why you called me.”

Cornelius replied: “Four days ago I was fasting & praying in my house at 3:00 PM.  Suddenly, a man stood before me in very bright clothing & said, ‘Your prayers & your generosity have been remembered by God.  Send to Joppa for Peter; he is living with Simon, a tanner, in his house by the sea. Peter will tell you what you must do.’

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“So I sent for you immediately, and I’m glad you have come.  Now we are all present before God, ready to hear God’s words from you.”

God, please help me love the enduring cleanness of Your creation.

(256) Acts 10:17-33

Two Visions

Cornelius, a Roman military leader, lived in the nearby town of Caesarea (255).  Though not a Jew, he was a devout man who honored God, encouraged his family to honor God, gave generously to people in need, and prayed faithfully to God.

One afternoon at 3:00 PM — several years after Jesus had returned to heaven and the witnesses had begun their jobs for Jesus — Cornelius saw clearly in a vision an angel of God, & he heard the angel calling him by name!  As Cornelius observed the angel, he was fearful, and asked, “What is it, master?”

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The angel’s reply came: “Your prayers & your generosity have been remembered by God.  Send to Joppa for Peter; he is living with Simon, a tanner, in his house by the sea. Peter will tell you what you must do.”  When the angel had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants, plus a godly soldier, and sent them to Joppa to find Peter.

The next day, as these three men were coming into Joppa, Peter was praying at about midday.  As he prayed, Peter saw a vision of heaven opened & an object, like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him on the earth. In this sheet were various animals (wild & domesticated), various reptiles, and various birds — many of which Jews were forbidden to eat, according to the law of Moses.

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Then Peter heard a voice saying, “Get up & eat whatever you wish.”  Peter said, “No, master, I have never eaten anything that would make me ritually unclean.”  The voice spoke to Peter again, “What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.”

Three times, this vision & conversation were repeated!  Then the object was taken up into heaven . . .

 

(255) Acts 10:1-16

Aeneas & Tabitha

As Peter went through all parts of Israel, he visited the saints in Lydda (254). There he met Aeneas, a man who was paralyzed & had been bedridden for 8 years.

Peter simply said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.”  And Aeneas got up immediately!

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All the people in Lydda & in the nearby town of Sharon, who became aware of this miracle, also became believers.

In another nearby town of Joppa, there was a student of Jesus named Tabitha, also sometimes called Dorcas. She was always doing good works & charitable deeds.  But one day she suddenly became sick & died.

After preparing her body for burial & laying her in an upper room, the other believers sent two messengers to Lydda to beg Peter to come to Joppa right away.

When Peter arrived in Joppa, they brought him to the upper room where the body of Dorcas had been laid.  All the widows were weeping; they showed Peter the tunics & garments which Dorcas had made while she was alive.

Peter put them all out of the room, and then he knelt down & prayed to God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter turned to the body & said, “Tabitha, get up.” The young woman opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up!

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Peter gave her his hand & helped her to her feet.  Then he called in the saints & widows, and he returned Tabitha to them, alive & well.

As this became known throughout Joppa, many people believed in Jesus. So, after finding lodging in the home of Simon (a tanner), Peter stayed many days in that town.

 

(254) Acts 9:32-43

Saul’s Early Ministry

During this time, Saul began preaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Messiah promised by God (253).  People who knew Saul’s past hatred of Christians were amazed when they heard these messages!

After his ministry had continued for some time, jealous Jews plotted to kill Saul; they kept watch day and night, looking for their chance.  But when their plot was revealed to Saul, believing brothers helped him escape Damascus at night, letting him down over the city wall in a large basket!

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(According to his testimony in a letter written several years later to his friends in Galatia, a region of Turkey, Saul spent some time in Arabia after leaving Damascus.  Perhaps he was re-thinking the books of Moses, in light of his encounter with Jesus.  Eventually, Saul returned to Damascus before going to Jerusalem for the first time as a Christian.)

When Saul finally got to Jerusalem, he tried to join the Christians there.  But they were all afraid of him & didn’t believe that he had really become a Christian.  Barnabas stepped in & brought Saul before the 12 witnesses.  Barnabas told them how Jesus had arrested Saul on the road to Damascus.  Barnabas also reported that Saul had preached the gospel boldly at Damascus.

Saul was then welcomed into fellowship with the believers at Jerusalem.  While there, he continued to speak boldly in the name of Jesus.  But Saul was opposed by Jews who followed certain Greek cultural traditions; they thought Saul was now the pagan, because he didn’t understand God exactly as they did.

Eventually, these Greek Jews actually plotted to kill Saul. When the believers uncovered that plot, they took Paul away to the port city of Caesarea, and from there they sent him safely home to Tarsus.

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For a time after that, the churches throughout all Israel (Judea, Galilee and Samaria) had peace, and the members of the body grew closer & closer to God.  They honored God in their daily lives, and they were comforted by the Holy Spirit.  As a result, the churches continued to grow.

 

(253) Acts 9:20-31

. . . But Now I See!

On the road to Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly shone around Saul (252).  He fell to the ground, and heard a brilliant voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Saul responded, “Who are you?”  The voice said, “I am Jesus.  Why are you resisting me?”

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Saul trembled with astonishment and, in that instant, he surrendered control of his life saying, “Master, what do you want me to do?”  Then Jesus said to him, “Get up & go into Damascus, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men who were travelling with Saul stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. When Saul got up & opened his eyes, he couldn’t see at all!  So his companions led him by the hand into Damascus. Saul waited there for 3 days – without any sight & without taking any food or water.

There was in Damascus another man named Ananias who was a student of Jesus.  In a vision, God said to him, “Get up & go to the street called ‘Straight.’  Inquire at the house of Judas for Saul of Tarsus; you will find him praying. In a vision he has seen you laying your hands on him to restore his sight.”

Ananias objected, “Master, I have heard how this man has persecuted believers in Jerusalem. And now he has authority to persecute believers here in Damascus as well.”  But God answered Ananias, “I have chosen Saul to testify of me before Gentiles, Jews & kings. Now I will show him how much he must suffer in doing what I have chosen him to do.”

So Ananias found Saul & laid his hands on him & said, “Jesus –who appeared to you on the road to Damascus –has sent me, so you may have your sight restored & be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

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Immediately, as though scales were falling from his eyes, Saul was able to see!   And immediately, Saul got up & was baptized.  When he had eaten some food, he was strengthened.  Saul then spent a number of days with the students of Jesus at Damascus.

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(252) Acts 9:3-19

I Was Blind . . .

Saul was a Jew, originally from the Turkish town of Tarsus, and several years younger than Jesus (251).  He was raised as a devout Pharisee — a scholarly & rule-bound Jewish denomination. He had even been sent to study in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, the most famous Pharisee teacher of that day.

Saul viewed followers of Jesus as pagans or heretics, because they didn’t understand God exactly as he did.  So great was Saul’s hatred of Christians, that he had consented to the murder of Stephen, while he stood by & watched, holding the coats of those who had killed him!

Stoning Stephen

Devout Christians had buried Stephen & mourned his death.  But that awful event was only the beginning of an extended persecution of the church in Jerusalem.  As a result of this persecution, believers were forced to scatter to various other regions of Judea & Samaria.  However, the original 12 witnesses continued public ministry in Jerusalem.

God used the persecution to spread the good news about Jesus, as the believers shared the gospel in every place to which they were scattered.

Saul fully endorsed & took part in the persecution.  By the age of 30, he was known for dragging Christian men & women from their homes and having them imprisoned.  He also seems to have encouraged the murder of some of the believers in Jerusalem.

In his abiding hatred for Christians, Saul obtained permission from the Jewish elders to round up believers in the Syrian city of Damascus, over 100 miles away, so they could be brought to Jerusalem for punishment.

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(251) Acts 8:1-4 & 9:1-2

The Spirit Works In Gaza

Meanwhile, an angel of God said to Philip, “Get ready & go south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.”  So Philip got ready & went (250).

An important official, in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia, was on his way home from Jerusalem where he had been to worship God.  As he rode along in his carriage, he was reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to that carriage.” Philip went over & heard the man reading from the inspired scriptures. He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian official replied, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?”  And he invited Philip to climb into the carriage with him & help him understand.

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The passage of scripture which the Ethiopian official was reading was this: “He was like a sheep heading for slaughter & like a lamb that makes no sound when its wool is sheared. He didn’t say a word the whole time that he was humiliated & condemned unjustly.” The official asked Philip: “Is the prophet talking about himself?  Or is he talking about someone else?”

Then Philip, starting from that very passage of the inspired scriptures, told him the good news about Jesus!

As they traveled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water.  The Ethiopian official said, “Here is water; what is to keep me from being baptized?”

Philip replied, “If you believe with all your heart, you should definitely be baptized.”  His companion answered, “I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God!”  Then he ordered his carriage to stop.  Both Philip and the official went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

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When they came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit of God immediately took Philip away! Yet, even though the Ethiopian official didn’t see Philip again, he was full of joy as he continued on his way.

As for Philip, he next found himself in the town of Azotus.  He went on to the town of Caesarea, and on the way he preached the good news about Jesus in every town in that area.

 

(250) Acts 8:26-40