Acts 9:23-12:24 – Peter’s Ministry Outside Jerusalem

Saul’s conversion in the first part of this chapter is dramatic, but it will be many years before Saul’s missionary efforts are detailed by Luke. From 9:32 through chapter 12 Luke follows the story of Peter outside of Jerusalem among Hellenistic Jews as well as his arrest in Jerusalem. There is little here to help with chronology. These stories “fit” any time after Saul’s conversion, there is little more to be said about when they occur.

Peter and TabithaLuke continues to tell the story of the apostolic community moving out from Jerusalem geographically and culturally. While Lydda and Joppa are not too far from Jerusalem and certainly had Jewish populations, they would be Hellenistic Jews in comparison to Jerusalem. Caesarea was a thoroughly Roman city built by Herod as a tribute to the Roman Empire. We have not arrived at Gentile ministry yet, but we are certainly on the edges of what it means to be Jewish. Peter’s ministry here cannot be seen as directed to the Gentiles yet, although in chapter 10 he will be called to preach the gospel to a man who is in fact a Gentile.

This is a good example of Luke’s literary style as well. In these two stories we have a man and a woman healed. This “paired” set of examples is common in Luke’s gospel (Simeon and Anna in the temple in Luke 2, the “lost” parables in Luke 15, etc.) Later in Acts, Paul will preach the gospel to Lydia and the Jailer in Philippi. Luke is also showing that Peter does the same sorts of miracles which Jesus did, although he does them in the name of Jesus. Paul will do similar miracles later in the book (a healing and a resurrection / resuscitation.)

While these two episodes are miracle stories, they give a bit of insight into the way in which the apostolic office functioned in Acts. Peter is traveling in regions which may have been evangelized by Philip. It is possible this is simply to encourage the believers there, doing general pastoral teaching and preaching. But it is also possible that Peter is “inspecting” these believers to see that they have not strayed from the gospel as it was preached in Jerusalem. (Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul, 117; Schnabel disagrees, Early Christian Mission, 1:693; Witherington is open to the idea, Acts, 328).

That these locations are more Hellenistic than Jerusalem may be a hint that Peter is concerned that these “fringes of Judaism” have fully understood who Jesus was. In many ways, Peter is continuing to do ministry like Jesus did, reaching out to people who are Jewish, but on the fringes of society.

6 thoughts on “Acts 9:23-12:24 – Peter’s Ministry Outside Jerusalem

  1. Among the 12 true appointed Apostles, Peter was first among equals. So it fits perfectly that Peter was also the first Apostle to go to the Gentiles, as we see being discussed in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem. Of course Peter didn’t boastfully claim a title as “The Apostle to the Gentiles” even though Peter is the ONLY person who might be referred to that way with any accuracy, perhaps in passing.

  2. It’s interesting to see the relationship the apostles had with the surrounding communities. The way that they took the command of Jesus to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, seriously is a remarkable fact while reading through the book (Acts 1:8). Peter is just another example of this as he works his way outward, towards the Gentiles, yet still ministering to the Jews. I like the idea of Peter both encouraging, yet “inspecting” the believers that Philip first evangelized to. It displays a sort of team work and unifying of the body of believers over a broad range of geography. When you think of it, as well, true encouragement comes with a sense of conviction and challenge to be better or more Christ-like. To me, it would only make sense that Peter would go to the fringes of Judaism and seek to challenge believers and nonbelievers alike to trust in Jesus and to “take up their cross” and daily follow Him (Matt. 16:24). To me, it’s a beautiful mission that Peter embarked on and the empowering of the Holy Spirit in his life makes the true story that much more remarkable!

  3. I think there was definitely the possibility for confusion among the people in towns of mixed Greeks and Hellenistic Jews. After all, the Jews were often those most opposed to the teachings of Jesus and then later the teachings of Peter, Paul, and others. With the combination of Jews discrediting the deity and resurrection of Jesus, and then the pagan idolatry of the Greeks, it could have proven incredibly confusing and misleading for those who believed in the risen Christ. I think somewhat because of these factors, Peter would have definitely seen the need to go and “check up” on these groups of young Christians. And in the check up process, I’m sure there would have been a fair share of rebuking, correcting, and encouraging these people in their faith.

  4. I think it’s telling that the leaders of the early church were concerned with the preservation of the gospel message. The gospel of Christ is not something that can or should be changed, adapted, or manipulated to suit its audience. Rather, it is a truth that needs to be applied universally to all people groups. Peter’s concern for the people in the fringes understanding the truth of the gospel demonstrates the importance that he placed on the truth of Jesus being preached. Although he was often placed in a position that compromised his ritual purity, Peter can be seen going to those who wouldn’t have fit in well with Jewish society and investing time into them to ensure that the heart of the gospel message wasn’t being corrupted.

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