The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him
and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them."
Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened:
"I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was.
I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air.
Then I heard a voice telling me, `Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'
"I replied, `Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'
"The voice spoke from heaven a second time, `Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'
This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
"Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying.
The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house.
He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, `Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter.
He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.'
"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.
Then I remembered what the Lord had said: `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life."
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.
This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.
He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.
Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.
When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!"
"You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel."
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Tell James and the brothers about this," he said, and then he left for another place.
In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.
After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while.
He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people.
They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man."
Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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