By Acts chapter 9, Luke has already turned his attention to Paul, whom he’ll follow through most of the rest of the book. So why does Acts chapters 9-11 quickly turn back to Peter?
It is because this was a tremendous watershed moment in the life of the church. Up until now the church was comprised of only Jews or Gentiles who had already converted to Judaism and then to Christianity. No true Gentiles had believed yet. We find out in the first part of chapter 9 that Saul (or Paul as we know him) is going to be God’s witness to the Gentiles, but he apparently doesn’t share this with anyone for at least three years as he explains in Galatians 1.
So Luke turns the story back to Peter to fill in some gaps so that Paul’s continuing journey makes sense. When the story of Acts turns back to Peter in Acts 9:32 we find him travelling to Lydda (Lod). This is a city in the northern area of Judea just south of Samaria. Do those two terms sound familiar? They should if you’re familiar with Jesus’ command to the disciples before He ascended to heaven.
“…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jesus’ Marching Orders
Jesus gave the disciples marching orders to follow after He left them. He told them to witness in Jerusalem first, then go out throughout Judea and then to Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. It makes sense. Tackle your geography first before setting out with itchy feet.
The apostles alone had stayed in Jerusalem as the persecution increased. Why? They were following orders to witness in Jerusalem. With all the prophetic insight the apostles had (remember Ananias and Saphira?), it would be foolish to think that the apostles were just lazy and comfortable as to why they stayed. Their lives were on the line. Obviously, God hadn’t told them to leave Jerusalem yet.
But by Acts 9:32, we see that Peter is making the circuit now. Several years has passed since Stephen’s martyrdom and Acts 10 will break open the path for the apostles to take the third step of Jesus’ plan: Samaria.
After Peter heals Aenas we find out that “all Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Sharon is a plain that extends from southern Samaria into the very northern region of Judea. This is opening the door to Samaria and immediately we find out that a Gentile from Caesarea (Samaria) wants an audience with Peter. God tells him to go and Peter probably understands that God has opened up this third phase of strategy now.
To make sure no one doubted the soundness of these first Gentile converts, God gave the gift of tongues to Cornelius and his household. In Acts 11, that’s pretty much all Peter had to say to the other leaders to convince them God had opened salvation apart from the Law of Moses to the Gentiles.
Gentiles Allowed In
Acts 9-11 are the most important three chapters to us Gentiles. It means that we don’t have to first follow the customs and laws of Judaism to become Christians, as had been the case up until that point. Acts 9-11 made it clear that God accepts anyone who accepts His Son, Jesus.
Gentiles should read Acts 9-11 on a regular basis to remind themselves of the tremendous grace God has poured out upon us. We have been “grafted in” to this beautiful and glorious salvation. We should be ever-thankful that God accepts us as we are and honoring to the Jews who laid the foundation for us to have this opportunity. We have been saved by Jesus, but we must remember that we are forever owe a debt of gratitude to those faithful Jews who went before us that now we also have a way to eternal life and freedom.
Keep in mind that it wasn’t Gentiles who decided it was okay to be saved apart from becoming Jewish, but God, and His Jewish apostles agreed with Him. Paul and many others laid down their Jewish lives for us, and for that we should be forever grateful.
Have you thanked a Jew today for the opportunity to know God?