Chapter 10 ended with Cornelius, his family, and friends receiving the Holy Spirit; and then “they asked him (Peter) to remain for some days.” Just how long “some days” turned out to be we are not told. But by the time Peter returned to Jerusalem, news that the “Gentiles also had received the word of God” had already spread back to the other apostles and the brothers and sisters throughout Judea. In verse 2, Peter was getting criticism from the “circumcision party.” This would be a group of Christians who probably had a strict “Pharisaic” background either personally or by association. They would likely expect that Gentiles who wanted to be Christians would have to first convert to Judaism, even going so far as to be circumcised and would need to live according to Jewish ritual law. Their indignation was at Peter having eaten with these uncircumcised Gentiles after he left Joppa for Caesarea.
Peter responds by first telling them of his own vision, then that of Cornelius. He then relates how “the Holy Spirit fell on them” just as had happened to the apostles at Pentecost. That settled the matter – there were none present who could consider any alternative to the obvious conclusion. So “they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Though the matter would still be debated, God’s will was clearly going to be done.
Verses 19-21 relate how a great number of those who had been scattered from Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen had preached the word to others. But some had not exclusively taught Jews. Instead, many coming to Antioch had preached the word of Jesus to the Hellenists; and many had believed. When word of this reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas, who found them faithful. Barnabas, encouraged and full of the Spirit, went to Tarsus to find Paul; and together they taught in Antioch for a year. It was in Antioch, according to verse 26, where the disciples were first called Christians.
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to others by the Apostles during those days, was the gift of prophecy. One disciple with that gift foretold a great famine (verse 28). Historians believe that this famine that took place during the reign of Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Roman emperor from A.D. 41-54) was in the years 45–47 A.D. This would be confirmed by Galatians 2:1, where Paul states that his second visit to Jerusalem referred to in verse 30 was 14 years after his conversion, which would be circa 47 A.D.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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