Acts, Lesson 10: Paul and Peter

Apostles Peter and Paul (610x351)Last week, Luke told us of Saul’s conversion to “the Way,” that He had become a follower of Christ. Even more, Jesus had called him to be His Apostle to the “Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel.” We now find out what happened after Saul was baptized.


The Story of Saul Continues

Read Acts 9:19b-22

–          Once Saul was fit, what did he begin to do?


–          How did the people in the synagogue react?


–          As Saul continued to speak of Jesus as the promised Messiah, what does Luke tell us as to the strength of his arguments?


Read Acts 9:23-25

–          What now happened to the former persecutor of Christianity?


–          Who are “his disciples” in verse 25? What does that mean?


How long was “when many days had passed”?

The many days were almost three years, and part of that time was spent in Arabia (Galatians 1:17-18). Then, the Arab Nabateans controlled an area that even included Damascus. So, Saul didn’t have to travel to what today is Saudi Arabia to be in what was then called “Arabia.”

When Saul returned to Damascus, the Jews in that city tried to kill him. Somehow, they had received assistance in their plan to capture Saul. In 2 Corinthians 11:32, Paul mentions that the Nabatean king issued orders for his arrest. That could also be a clue that Saul preached Jesus in Arabia and had incurred their official wrath.


Read Acts 9:26-30

–          Why were the disciples afraid of Saul?


–          Who vouched for Saul?


–          Saul preached boldly “in the name of the Lord.” How is that the same or different from preaching “the Lord” to them?


Excursus: What took place with Saul/Paul during this time



Acts 9:26-30

And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.


Galatians 1:18-23

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”


In these two accounts of the same events in Paul’s life, Luke and Paul were trying to make different points. Luke chiefly wanted to show that the other Apostles finally accepted Paul as one of their own. This was to show the unfolding picture of the Gospel spreading to the ends of the earth. Paul was not a “lone ranger” doing his own thing, but part of God’s plan to bring the life-saving Word of Jesus to others. Luke’s mention that the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) also persecuted Saul testified all the more to the reality of Paul being a “real” Christian.

In Galatia, Paul was dealing with “Judaizers,” those who contended that Gentiles first needed to become Jews before becoming Christians. Those Judaizers were contending that Paul was not a real Apostle but was subordinate and inferior to the Jerusalem Apostles. In other words, they were trying to play the other Apostles against Paul. And so Paul stressed the minimal contact he had with the Jerusalem-based Apostles to highlight God’s call for him to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. Thus, his work (and letter) to the Galatian congregation was legitimate.



Read Acts 9:31

  • What was the state of the Church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria?


  • Discuss “walking in the fear of the Lord” and “in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” They seem to be polar opposites. What do these two phrases reveal about life in the Church? (see also Luke 24:47)


Back to Peter

After Luke’s telling of the peace within and growth of the Church, he now shifts back from Paul to Peter. Luke begins by giving accounts of Peter’s healing and preaching in Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa, Judean towns and regions near the Mediterranean Sea.

Read Acts 9:32-35

  • What does Peter do when he meets Aeneas, a man who was paralyzed for eight years?


  • Whom does Peter say is responsible for the healing?


  • What results?


Jesus was working through Peter to give the same healing power that He had displayed during His ministry (Luke 5:17-26, John 5:2-9). Peter’s direct command to Aeneas is similar to Jesus’ healing commands. What was different, however, was Peter’s preceding statement: “Jesus Christ heals you.” Peter makes clear that he was speaking, not on his own initiative and authority, but based on what Jesus had clearly given him to do. Here as elsewhere, Luke clearly shows that whereas Jesus healed by His own authority (Luke 5:20-25), His Apostles and those working with them did so by His authority, not their own (Acts 3:12-13).


Read Acts 9:36-43

  • What type of woman was Tabitha?


  • What did Peter do when he finally reached her?


  • What resulted from what Jesus did through Peter?


  • Discuss: The progression of Peter’s miracles (healing to resurrection from the dead).


Peter stayed with Simon, a tanner. Tanning was a permitted trade, but observant Jews stayed away from tanners because it involved contact with dead animals. Leviticus 11:39: “Now if an animal that you may eat dies naturally, whoever touches its carcass will be unclean until the evening.”

  • What does this say about Peter accepting Gentiles into the Church?


Peter took Tabitha’s hand and said, “Tabitha, arise.”   What Peter said was very close to what Jesus said to Jairus’ daughter when He raised her from the dead. (Peter’s “Tabitha koum” in Aramaic sounds much like Jesus’ command in Mark 5: 41, “Talitha koum,” “Little girl, rise up,” with only a single consonant’s difference.) Peter’s miracle, and the other miracles recorded in the Book of Acts, shows that although Jesus was not visible to His people, He continued to reign, blessing others through those in His Church.  

God’s blessings are not always so miraculous. Did you notice how Tabitha met the needs of others based on the vocations where she served? She was “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36).

  • Discuss: How do you help meet the needs of others based on the vocations in which you serve?


It doesn’t make sense to move on the Acts, chapter 10, today, as we don’t have enough time to finish it. So, we take a little excursus into looking at what roles women had in the early Church.


Excursus: A Short Look at Women in the Early Church

Dorcas was a good Christian example, who displayed her faith through her active life of good works. She was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in Joppa, especially for making clothes for the poor. When she suddenly died, the members of her congregation sent for the Apostle Peter, who was at the neighboring city of Lydda. He came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:36-41).

It is from Dorcas that the Church had a prototype of some of the roles that deaconesses would later fill.

Without question, women had important roles in the life of the early Church:

  • Mary, the mother of John Mark offered her house as a place to worship (Acts 12:12),
  • Christians in Laodicea met in the house of a woman, named Nympha (Colossians 4:15),
  • Dorcas was known for her charity (Acts 9:36-39),
  • Priscilla was an important aid to Paul (Acts 18:2; in Romans 16:3 called a “co-worker”),
  • Philip had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9),
  • Paul mentions Phoebe, a deaconess at Cenchreae, the only mention of a woman being called a “deaconess” (Romans 16:1), and
  • Widows, who were recognized as a specific group within the Church (1 Timothy 5:3-16), dedicated themselves to prayer and intercession.