The Holy Spirit, the Church,
and the Gospel
~ I've Never Really Liked a Mystery Ending ~
So we will pretty well say goodbye to Peter today. We will see the last of his work and then see what happens to him...or do we..?
At a Crossroads, Figuratively and Geographically
There are a couple of things happening here in chapters 11-12. We are seeing the church expanding into the gentiles, and we also see the church expanding geographically as well. This puts the early church at a crossroads, so to speak. The church expanding to the gentiles was controversial. Can the Gentiles really be worthy of being including in the church? In addition, the church is expanding geographically. This is in part aided by the fact that the Holy Lands are in a pivotal location, especially with the Roman Empire expanding. Much of this region is at the crossroads between the Mediterranean and the eastern world.
Read Acts 11:1-18
Allowing gentiles into the church was an earth-shaking controversy. The circumcised believers had some harsh criticism for Peter. They were held in deep tradition and law that Gentiles were outside of God’s embrace.
But Peter doesn’t really use reason to argue with them, so much as shows them that the Gentiles must be included. He tells them that the Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit in the same way as the circumcised; see verse 15. Certainly, if God gave them the Holy Spirit, then who would stop God’s wishes.
Read Acts 11:19-26
Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Of any of the cities, Antioch was most certainly at a crossroads between the Mediterranean/Western world and the Eastern world. In found itself at the center of many trade routes, and even on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is from Antioch that the first missionaries went out to other nations and cultures.
Read Acts 12:1-5
Will You Just Leave Us Alone!!
Persecution, imprisonment, and even death continues. All sorts of authorities find the Christian movement to be a threat. Unbelieving Jews and Roman authorities don’t care for what is happening.
Read Acts 12:6-19
Is That It….? What happens to Peter?
Yep. Pretty much. That is really the last we hear of Peter. Acts doesn’t tell us where he went off to. Either it doesn’t want to tell us, or didn’t know. There are some mentions of Peter by Paul in his letters, especially in Galatians. There are also some extra-Biblical books that say more about Peter and his demise, but nobody knows for sure what to believe. Many traditions say that Peter went off to Rome as a missionary and was then arrested and crucified upside down. It was at Peter’s own request to be crucified upside down, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.
A Difficult Path
The early church heads down a difficult path. The early apostles risk everything to bring the news of God’s grace and forgiveness. They cross all sorts of barriers in culture and tradition, simply in order to share God’s sacrifice and forgiveness on the cross.
If you would like to do some more study this week, I'd suggest grabbing a study Bible and having a look at some of the commentary that may be in there on the first half of Acts.
Blessings one and all! Pr. Jeremy