Acts 10 Taking the Gospel to the Gentiles
Throughout Acts 10-15, look for the many gifts of the Spirit that were bestowed upon the leaders and other members of the Lord’s church, including His compensatory blessings upon them, as they suffered opposition.
It has been about ten years since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a wonderful thing happens in Caesarea (about 75 miles northwest of Jerusalem), involving a Roman centurion named Cornelius. According to Acts 10:1-2, he was a gentile (not of the house of Israel) and commander over 100 other soldiers, and he had found God, along with “all his house.” Cornelius “gave much alms” (charitable assistance), and “prayed to God always[s]”:
- What happened to Cornelius in verses 3-8?
- In Joppa (about 45 miles south of Caesarea, where Cornelius was), what did Peter see in his own vision (“trance”), in verses 9-16? (Note that the “great sheet” represented the earth, and the various animals were either “clean” or “unclean,” according to the dietary restrictions of the law of Moses; by which Peter was still abiding.)
- It is significant that in verse 16, the formerly “unclean” was received into heaven, along with the “clean.” This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ—all can be made clean and dwell with Him.
- Read verses 17-20, 24-28 to see how Peter came to understand the meaning of this vision.
- Read Peter’s inspired conclusions, in verses 34-36.
- Nephi wrote, “the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one,” but also followed up by saying, “he that is righteous is favored of God…. And he loveth those who will have him to be their God” (1 Nephi 17:35, 40).
- In Acts 10:38 we find the oft-quoted statement about Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry, that He “went about doing good.” This is a pattern for us.
- Peter then added his powerful apostolic witness of Jesus Christ; read verses 39-43.
- What resulted from these significant events, according to verses 44-48? (“they of the circumcision which believed” refers to Jews who had converted to Christianity).
- In your lifetime, what significant changes have been revealed by the Lord to our modern prophets? In what ways have these changes impacted the Church? How have they impacted you?
Acts 11 The Work Moves Forward
Read verses 1-3, wherein some of the Jews who had converted and joined the church (“they that were of the circumcision”) contended with Peter:
- What was the issue in verses 1-3?
- How did Peter respond, in verses 4-17?
- What was the outcome, in verse 18?
- What do you see in this account that can help you resolve contentions?
Note that in verses 19-22, church members had scattered after the execution of Stephen (see Acts 7) and they shared the gospel in parts of the Mediterranean world. After first preaching only to Jews (verse 19), they expanded their ministry and taught gentiles, “and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (verse 21).
- Who else joined the team of traveling missionaries, according to verses 22-26?
- The title “Christians” was first applied to members of the Church of Jesus Christ in verse 26 (see also its first use in the Book of Mormon in Alma 46:13, approximately 73 years before the birth of Christ).
- At birth we receive names from our parents. Upon spiritual re-birth we receive Christ’s name (see Mosiah 5:7-9). What else does it mean to you to be called “Christian”?
- Like members of today’s Church, those in Acts 11:27-30 sent relief to fellow Christians in Judea who were suffering due to “dearth” (famine). Do you participate in donating funds or service toward those in need?
In its 2022 annual report, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that during that year, more than $1 billion U.S. dollars had been donated to various causes, plus 6.3 million hours volunteered and 3,692 humanitarian projects in 190 countries and territories. The First Presidency stated that as Christ’s Church, we are simply doing what the Savior of the world would do.
Acts 12 Growth Amidst Persecution
In verses 1-2 we learn of the death of the apostle James (the brother of John the Beloved, who served as equivalent to first counselor in the presidency of the church). He was killed by king Herod Agrippa (the grandson of Herod the Great, who killed the infants of Bethlehem, and nephew of Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist.)
- What was Herod’s next plot against the church, in verses 3-4? (four “quaternions of soldiers” are 16 men).
- Read of Peter’s miraculous escape in verses 5-11. As exemplified in verse 5, we must always include in our prayers the safety and success of our living prophets.
- Read verse 16 (don’t be so surprised when your prayers are answered!).
- Note that another James, mentioned in verse 17, is believed to be the half-brother of Jesus, who became a believer after Jesus’s death. He is the writer of the Epistle of James.
- In verses 18-19, 21-23 we see more of the evil and vanity that motivated Herod, who subsequently died by the hand of God (see also Alma 30:60).
- Acts 12:24 is an ideal expression to close this chapter.
Acts 13 Powerful Paul
As mentioned before, this chapter is a turning point wherein the principal personality changes from Peter to Paul (formerly Saul) and the focus of the Lord’s work moves more widely into the Mediterranean world. Chapters 13-21 of Acts contain accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys, wherein he, along with several companions, traveled over 10,000 miles through the modern-day countries of Turkey and Greece, plus a number of Mediterranean islands and parts of Lebanon and Israel (see also LDS Bible Maps; Map 13).
The dates and lengths of Paul’s missions are not entirely clear, but they likely total about seven years:
- First Journey Acts 13-14; about AD 47-48.
- Second Journey Acts 15:36-41; Acts 16-17; Acts 18:1-22; about AD 49-52.
- Third Journey Acts 18:23-28; Acts 19-20; Acts 21:1-17; about AD 53-57.
- Acts 13:2-4 describes the mission calling and preparation of Paul and his companion, Barnabas.
- They begin preaching (verse 5), and almost immediately they encountered opposition, in verses 6-11. But what came of this experience, in verse 12? We never know! (Note that the deputy’s belief came from “the doctrine of the Lord,” not from seeing a miracle.)
- John (verses 5, 13) is actually John Mark, believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark.
- In verses 5, 14-16, Paul begins his practice of going into the Jewish synagogues to preach. What was the essence of Paul’s message, according to verses 23-26, 30-33?
- How did the people react to Paul’s teachings, according to verses 42-44? How did the local Jews react, in verse 45? Read also verses 46-52.
Acts 14 More Gentile Converts and More Tribulation
In Acts 14:27 we read that God “had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles”:
- Read verses 1-7, noting how the patterns continue.
- Note also the miracle performed by Paul in verses 8-10, and the unfortunate aftermath in verses 11-15, 18. Even when hearing true doctrine, sometimes people’s traditions lead them to incorrect conclusions and actions.
- In verse 19 it gets even worse, but a priesthood blessing in verse 20 prevented a profound misfortune.
- How do you think verse 22 could help new converts (and you) “to continue in the faith”?
Acts 15 Inspired Leadership
Having completed his first mission, Paul is back in Antioch, where an issue arose among leaders of the church:
- Verses 1-2 What was the issue that led to “no small dissension and disputation”?
- Verses 4-11 What proposal did Peter make?
- Verses 13-15, 19 What was the statement of James (the brother of Jesus)?
- Verses 22-27 What was the final decision and subsequent plan?
- Verses 30-32 How was the decision received by church members?
- Read also verses 35-36. What have you seen in this chapter that is like the latter-day Church of Jesus Christ?