Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. Comedian Groucho Marx is famous for saying, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” What did he mean by that? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
2. What is the difference between being exclusive and being inclusive? When is exclusivity preferable? When is inclusivity preferable?
Read Acts 10:28-33.
1. Acts 10:28, 29 is Peter’s summary of the events described in verses 9-23. Do you think Peter left out some significant information when summarizing his experience? Explain.
2. Acts 10:30-33 is Cornelius’s summary of the events of verses 1-8. In verse 4, the angel mentioned Cornelius’s “prayers,” but when Cornelius retold it, he said that his “prayer” was heard (v. 31). What would you speculate was the basic request of Cornelius?
Read Acts 10:34-43.
3. Notice that Luke describes Cornelius, his family, and one of his soldiers as being “devout” (vv. 2, 7). Luke uses a similar Greek word to describe Gentiles who attended Jewish synagogues but who did not convert to Judaism (13:50; 16:14; 17:4, 17). Why do you think that God chose people described that way to be the first non-Jewish members of the church? Why might this explain why Peter could repeat the words “you know” when addressing the friends and family of Cornelius (10:36, 37)?
4. Verses 39-43 contain the basic words of the typical apostolic sermon—a summary of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the fact that the resurrection had multiple eyewitnesses, and that these events were predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures. Compare that outline to Paul’s words that he claims to have received from others (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). Why are these facts essential to the proclamation of our faith?
Read Acts 10:44-48.
5. The reaction of the Jewish Christians accompanying Peter was astonishment. Why? Explain why this unmistakable act of God’s power was necessary, given that Peter would open the door for Gentiles to enter the church. What vital role did these circumcised believers play when Peter was later criticized for his actions (Acts 11:1-3, 12, 18)?
6. Although Peter stayed with the Gentile believers and presumably took meals with them, he would later temporarily bow to the pressure of Jewish believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Why are these wrong actions easy to understand nonetheless? What is necessary in our congregations to keep favoritism from creeping in?
7. Today many would argue that being inclusive as a church is the same as unconditional acceptance. What guidelines can we use to help us see whether we are excluding honest seekers or excusing ongoing sinful behavior?