The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's edition is shown above.
Official Adventist Resources:
Support this project
If you would like to support this website, please click on the following link to donate online or you may mail your check to: Life Assurance Ministries, PO Box 905, Redlands, CA 92373. Mark your check "Bible Studies."
Third Quarter 2018 • July, August, September
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF ACTS
Week 6: August 4–10
COMMENTARY ON "The Ministry of Peter"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This week’s lesson covers Acts 10 and 11 but misses the central point: God’s instructions to Peter that the gospel demands that in Jesus the law had been fulfilled and the wall of partition between Jews and gentiles is removed (see Ephesians 2). As born again Christians, we cannot cling to practices that keep us from fellowship with any people group: we have to be able to eat with cultures of any sort without asking questions about what is put in front of us.
We covered this idea in the first lesson of this quarter, but we will review this essential fact again this week.
Jesus had told Peter He was giving him the keys to the kingdom (Mt. 16:19), but that prophecy would unfold after Jesus returned to the Father. The first “key” was used when Peter preached to the Jews in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and 3,000 people believed, received the Holy Spirit, and were baptized. The church was born! Three thousand Jews were released from bondage to a now-obsolete law and made alive in the risen Christ.
Peter used the second “key” in Acts 8 when he and John went to Samaria to see the believers to whom Philip had preached. Philip had baptized those new believers, but they had not been baptized into the Holy Spirit. Peter prayed for them, and they, too, received the Holy Spirit just as the Jews had.
This was a phenomenon that Jews would be unable to explain without being born again themselves. Samaritans were unclean “half breeds” with a syncretistic religion which borrowed from Judaism and Canaanite paganism. For them to believe in Jesus and to receive the Holy Spirit exactly as the Jews had, without benefit of circumcision or the law, was shocking, but Christianity was something new. It was not a form of Judaism: it was the fulfillment of Judaism, and it was NEW. All people are accepted by God inexactly the same way when they believe in Jesus.
Finally, in Acts 10, Peter used the third “key”. He preached and baptized the first gentile group into the fledgling new church!
The lesson, however, passes over the significance of Peter’s vision of the sheet containing unclean animals that God let down from heaven with the command, “Kill and eat!”
The lesson, in keeping with Ellen White, confidently states that the vision is not about food.
Of course it’s about food; the sheet was full of food Peter was to kill and eat. The problem, however, was that the food in the sheets was all food that was forbidden to Jews. God was telling Peter that he had to leave behind his deeply embedded aversion to unclean foods, because God was sending him to a gentile’s house.
The lesson says that the vision was about not calling gentiles unclean, that Peter was to go to that gentile’s house. Adventism, however, completely ignores the fact that in order to go to that gentile’s house, Peter would have to eat gentile food. There was no suggestion that Peter was to go to Cornelius and refuse his meats and insist on chicken or beef. In fact, Peter could NOT have insisted on “clean” meats from a gentile, because the gentile cooks would have been unable to cook those clean meats in a kosher fashion. Even chicken and beef and lamb would have been unclean in a gentile house!
No, that vision was about food as much as it was about gentiles. You can’t separate a people from its food. The Adventist health message separates Adventists from Christians as well as from unbelievers, and that separation is what Peter’s vision was dismantling.
Peter had to eat at that gentile’s table, and God instructed the orthodox and conscientious Jew-turned-Christian, Peter, that he had to set aside his visceral reaction agains “unclean” foods and EAT THEM in order to share fellowship with the gentiles to whom God was sending him!
The lesson for all Christians is clear: we must obey God, not men. The new covenant is completely new: God has removed the law as a rule of faith and practice for Christians. The law was a barrier that separated Israel from the rest of the world, and in Jesus, that barrier is gone! In Jesus, all things are permitted for His glory. There are no food barriers between us and unbelievers; we are to share table fellowship and and the gospel. We are new creatures and a new “race” of people, and food is not what makes us unclean. In fact, Jesus declared all food clean (Mk. 7:19).
One other thing deserves notice in this lesson. The lesson states this on page 73:
The apostles performed many miracles; yet, in fact, these were God’s actions through the apostles’ hands (Acts 5:12). The similarities with Jesus’ own miracles were perhaps to remind the church, including us today, that what matters most is not so much who the instrument is but the measure of his or her surrender to God (see John 14:12). When we fully allow God to use us for the gospel’s cause, great things can hap- pen. Peter not only resurrected Tabitha, but the miracle also led to many conversions in Joppa (Acts 9:42).
The lesson’s author misses a very important point. The book of Acts only describes apostles as performing miracles of healing. Interestingly, the epistles do not describe any miracles. The miracles are only in the account of the church being established by the apostles.
The apostles’ performance of miracles of healing that reflected the miracles of Jesus established that they had the same power from the same Source that Jesus had. They were His men, and they were equipped with His power. Pagan gentiles could see that the apostles had power their gods did not have, and anyone who had seen Jesus during His ministry could see that the apostles had His authority.
Interestingly, the stories of miracles are not normative among the members. God gives His gifts to those He chooses to receive them as He wills (1 Cor 12:11).
The establishment of the church was a change of world eras. The new covenant was NEW, and the fact that gentiles were included in its blessings was shocking. Christ living in believing gentiles was a mystery not revealed before Jesus died, rose, and ascended to heaven. God marked the establishment of the body of Christ with unmistakable confirmations that this was His work. His apostles had His power, and those who believed were new creations and sons of God!
Peter had the amazing responsibility of overseeing the establishment of the church among all the people groups on earth: the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, the Samaritans, and the gentiles in the uttermost parts of the earth. To him had been given the keys of the kingdom, and his apostolic oversight confirmed that all three groups received the Holy Spirit in exactly the same way. There are no second-class Christians; gentiles, Samaritans, and Jews who believe are equal at the foot of the cross.
Peter played a unique and unrepeatable role in the eternal story of the church, and Acts 10 and 11 tell the iconoclastic story of the destruction of the Jewish laws of separation.
Like Peter, we have to be willing to accept the plain meaning of the words of Scripture and allow the Lord Jesus to show us how to live for the glory of God, not for our idea of material purity. We cannot share the gospel with others if we retain our private interpretations of Scripture. We have to be willing to lay aside every belief we cherish and allow Scripture to shine the light of truth into our darkened minds.
The ways of God are not our ways. Our “job” is to submit to the Lord Jesus in repentance and to trust His blood to cleanse us from all sin. When we do, He will give us new hearts and new spirits, and He will indwell us with His own Spirit for all eternity.
We will pass from death to life eternally!