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Subject: Christian Religious Studies
Topic: Mission Of The Gentiles
Lesson Objectives: At the end of the lesson, learners should be able to:
i. Describe Saul’s conversion and recognise its effects on the spread of Christianity,
ii. Relate the mission of Peter in Lydda and Joppa,
iii. The admission of Gentiles into the church.
The mission of the church is in line with the command Jesus Christ gave his disciples before his ascension. Jesus told his disciples, “you shall be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and the end of the earth”.
After the death of Stephen, there was serious persecution of the Christians. Saul went from house to house arresting Christians and putting them in prison. This persecution rather than stopping them, led to a wide spread of Christianity because most of the Christians particularly the new converts deserted Jerusalem and went to Judea, Samaria and other places. It was only the apostles that remained in Jerusalem. The rest of the disciples, wherever they went, kept on preaching the gospel.
Saul’s Conversion (Acts 9:1 – 19)
After the death of Stephen, many Christians ran to Damascus for their lives. Saul was happy at the death of Stephen. He went to the high priest in Jerusalem and demand for a written permission to Damascus and bring down Jerusalem in chains those who proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On his way near Damascus, he met with Jesus Christ in a transforming vision. A light from heaven shined on him and fell down as he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Saul replied who are you Lord. The voice replied “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city, and you would be told what to do”.
The companions of Paul were silent and afraid because they heard the voice speaking but saw no one. When Saul woke up from the ground he could not see for he had been blended by the light from heaven. His companions led him into the city of Damascus. He remained in the city for three days without food and water.
In Damascus, there was a disciple named Ananias who lived in a street named straight, whom God had commissioned to restore Saul’s sight. But Ananias told God that he had heard of Saul how he had caused havoc on those who belonged to the way and that the man, Saul was a dangerous person. God assured him that He had made him a chosen instrument to preach and propagate the gospel, death and the resurrection of Jesus to the Jews and Gentiles and that since he had presecuted the church of God, he too wouldn’t go without being persecuted by Jesus.
Ananias went as commanded by God and laid hands on Saul, something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptised, and took food and was strengthened. He became a Christian. Immediately Saul had been converted to Christianity, he started preaching to the Jews in Damascus about Jesus Christ, declaring Jesus as the son of God.
Effects of Saul’s Conversion on the Spread of Christianity
i. Saul, a strong persecutor of Christians became a major soul winner for the church.
ii. Saul’s conversion led to the expansion of the church.
iii. Saul, through his missionary activities was able to bring many people to Christianity.
iv. Saul with other took the gospel to the Gentile cities, many Gentiles were converted to Christianity.
v. His conversion led to the universality of the church.
The Mission Of Peter In Lydda and Joppa (Acts 9:32 – 42)
Peter went to visit the Christians at Lydda, there, he met one of them called Aenas. He was paralysed and for eight years he had lain in bed. Peter had compassion on him and said to him “Aenas, Jesus heals you, rise and make your bed.” Immediately, Aenas rose from his bed and was well again. The news of Aenas healing soon spread throughout the town of Lydda and the neighbouring village. Sharon and many people believed and were converted into Christianity.
Peter in Joppa (Acts 9:36 – 43)
Joppa was a town on the sea coast, not far from Lydda. Among the members of the church, there was a woman called Tabitha (or Dorcas). She was kind, generous and devoted. She spent all her time helping the poor and the needy. But while Peter was in Lydda attending to the Christians there, Tabitha fell ill and died. When other disciples heard that Peter was at Lydda, they sent two members to him to come at once, Tabitha was dead.
Peter immediately left Lydda and went to Joppa. He went to the room where the body was lying in state. He saw many weeping. They showed him the coats and other dresses that Tabitha had made for them while she was alive. Peter asked them all to leave the room, then he knelt down and prayed. After praying he turned to the body and said, “Tabitha rise”.
The dead woman opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. Peter took her by her hand and lifted her up. He called other Christians to her room to see her alive and well. There was great rejoicing in Joppa. The news spread once again many of the people in Joppa who heard it believed and became Christians.
Effects of the Mission of Peter in Lydda and Joppa on the Spread of Christianity
i. The healing and raising of the dead through Holy Spirit performed by the land of Peter in Lydda and Joppa caused many people to believe and to become Christians. Miracles are therefore one of the strongest means of the church in winning people to Christianity.
ii. Peter’s visit to Lydda and Joppa enabled him to learn of the believers problems and was able to solve them with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The Admission of Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10:44 – 48; 11:1 – 18)
After the conversion of Cornelius, the brethren in Judea learnt that the Gentiles had received the word of God through Peter. Because of this, Peter was challenged for mingling and eating with the uncircumcised Gentiles in Caeserea. Peter took time to explain how he was in a trance in Joppa and saw all sorts of animals let down in a great sheet and he was asked to kill and eat. He refused the order for three times saying that, nothing common or unclean had ever entered his mouth. He was each time told not to call anything God created common or unclean.
After this, three men came from Caeserea met him and told him that Cornelius had sent them. He was told bu the spirit of God to accompany them and not to make any distinction. On their arrival and after Cornelius’ explanation, Peter addressed that the audience, declaring that God was no respecter of persons, but those that feared Him and did what was right from every nation, would be accountable to Him.
Hardly had he completed his address when the Holy Spirit descended on Cornelius and his friends and they spoke in tongues. They were baptized. The council of members were perplexed by what they heard and kept silent. They praised God for granting salvation to the Gentiles.
Lessons To Learn
i. God is the God of all flesh, races and men. He loves all men because created us in His own image. He wants all men to be saved. Therefore, we should not discriminate among others because they are of different races. We are all equal before Him.
ii. The Jews believed that salvation was for Israel only, but God proved them wrong by opening the door of salvation to the Gentiles and also to all races on earth.
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Take a quick test for this lesson
i. Give an account of Saul’s conversion.
ii. Relate the mission of Peter to Lydda and Joppa.
iii. Bar Peter’s defense of his role in the conversion of Cornelius. What was the incident that happened during the council of Jerusalem?.
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