No Respecter of Persons”
Peter learns in a vision that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles.
Peter is miraculously freed from prison.
Saul (Paul) and Barnabas preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
The Apostles determine that Gentiles do not need to keep the law of Moses.
A study of this lesson will help us recognize that the gospel is for all
people and that the Church is guided by continuing revelation.
Scripture references for study:
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Acts 10 & 11
TO WHOM DID JESUS TAKE THE GOSPEL DURING HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY?
"I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of
Israel." (Matthew 15:24)
TO WHOM DID JESUS COMMAND HIS DISCIPLES TO TAKE THE GOSPEL AFTER HIS RESURRECTION?
"...and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and
in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature." (Mark 16:15)
Up to this time in the history of the early Christian church, the gospel had
been taught only among the Jewish congregations.
- WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THE GOSPEL WAS TAUGHT ONLY AMONG THE JEWS IN LIGHT OF
THE COMMISSION GIVEN TO THE CHURCH LEADERSHIP?
- It seems probable that the early Brethren did not fully comprehend
the full extent of this commission.
- Certainly their hands were full in administering to the needs of the early
church and in preaching to their Jewish neighbors. Their capacity was limited.
- During the early days of the Restoration, the gospel was carried to those areas
near Palmyra, Fayette, and Colesville. The work slowly expanded to other areas
of the Northeast U.S. and then into Canada. The gospel was not taken overseas
until the late 1830s when the Church had grown to several thousand members.
- So it must have been with the early church. The early church was able to expand
as more people joined and additional priesthood bearers were ordained and
trained in the ministry.
ACTS 10:1-8. Cornelius, a Gentile, receives a
WHO WAS CORNELIUS?
As a Roman centurion, Cornelius commanded from fifty to one-hundred soldiers. He was
the equivalent of a modern sergeant or non-commissioned officer.
Cornelius was, "A devout man, and one that feared
God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed
to God alway"
Being a Roman soldier, it seems unlikely that Cornelius was showing his
devotion to the God of the Jews and even less likely that he knew anything
of the new Christian faith.
Still, he must have been a man of pure heart, for he was devoted to his
faith as demonstrated by prayer and the free donation of alms.
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE CORNELIUS RECEIVED THIS REVELATION?
Here was a Gentile, pure of heart, one that could be the means for opening
the door to the preaching of the gospel to all men.
- Cornelius was obedient to the angel and sent two of his servants and a
soldier to Joppa in search of Peter.
ACTS 10:9-17. Peter's vision.
HOW DID PETER FIRST RESPOND TO THIS VISION?
Within the context of the vision, Peter resisted the will of the Lord.
"Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean"
As the vision concluded, there was doubt and wonder as to what it meant.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
"While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him,
Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go
with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them." (Acts
Peter was moved by the Spirit to follow these three men.
Peter accompanied them to Caesarea to meet Cornelius.
After arriving, Peter said, "Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing
for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation;
but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for:
I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?" (Acts 10:28-29).
Cornelius then relates his vision.
"Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I
perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that
feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
WHAT DID PETER'S DREAM MEAN? WHAT HAD PETER LEARNED?
"The Jews thought the Gentiles were spiritually unworthy or unclean,
like the animals that the law of Moses forbade Jews to eat. By saying that
the animals in the dream were now 'cleansed,' the Lord was telling Peter
that the gospel should now be preached to all people." (Teacher's Manual,
Bruce R. McConkie: "It is not Israel only, to the exclusion of the Gentile
nations; it is not the Latter-day Saints only, leaving the sectarians without
hope; it is not one people or race or nation, selected out of all others,
upon whom the blessings of God are showered. All souls in all ages are
precious in the sight of a loving Father. Blessings received flow from
obedience." (DNTC, p101)
It is interesting to note that the understanding of this principle, of taking
the gospel to all nations, was initiated through a number of events:
The commission was given by our Lord shortly after his resurrection,
ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark
The time had come for this principle to be invoked, so Cornelius was given
a revelation to seek for Peter.
Peter, as the presiding officer of the church, was the only one authorized
to make changes within the church. Thus, while Cornelius is sending for
Peter, the Lord prepares Peter by opening up a vision and instructs him
to go with Cornelius' servants.
Peter went down to Caesarea where he met with Cornelius and his associates.
It was while there that Peter came to understand his vision, and made
a change in church practice and policy: the gospel would now be preached
to all mankind regardless of nationality, religion, or race.
WHAT VISIONS AND REVELATIONS HAVE BECOME MORE CLEAR IN OUR TIME AS THE LORD
AS PROVIDED SUBSEQUENT REVELATION?
In 1838, by revelation to Joseph Smith at Far West, the Lord
handed down the modern law of tithing.
This principle was not fully understood or practiced by the membership
of the Church for many years.
After years of difficulty with the federal government over plural marriage,
the Church was left destitute and nearly bankrupt.
This burden fell upon President Lorenzo Snow and he did not know how to guide
the Church through this crisis. President Snow was familiar with the revelation in Section
119, but like Peter's knowledge of the Lord's commission, he seemed to
not fully comprehend the importance of this instruction.
At this same time, southern Utah was suffering through a terrible drought
and crops were in jeopardy. After hearing of their plight, President
Snow felt impressed to visit the Saints in St. George.
Peter went down to Caesarea, and President Snow went down to St. George.
While preaching to the Saints in St. George in May of 1899, President Snow
felt impressed to re-emphasize the principle of tithing. He taught the
people and promised them that the windows of heaven would be opened in
their behalf if they faithfully practiced this principle.
This principle was then re-emphasized throughout all the stakes. The people
of St. George were blessed with rain and the modern church has been blessed
because of those who are faithfully living this principle. The Church now
has the capacity to build hundreds of meetinghouses each year and has many temples under construction.
Practice of the principle of tithing is essential to the modern church.
Of course the Lord knew that he had to prepare the Church for the demands
that would impact it decades later by revealing the importance of tithing
to President Snow.
Many important principles and doctrines have been clarified over time in
these latter days:
The Word of Wisdom has received increasing emphasis during the modern era.
Temple work and the sealing ordinances have been clarified over time, particularly
under the administration of Wilford Woodruff.
Both Peter's understanding of the importance of preaching the gospel to
all people and President Snow's understanding of the law of tithing are
wonderful examples of how the Lord sometimes delivers his will. These principles
are often delivered and invoked progressively as the need arises.
ACTS 11:1-4. The reaction of the church to this
HOW DID THE CHURCH MEMBERS REACT WHEN THEY HEARD THAT PETER HAD BEEN TEACHING
WHY WERE THESE CHURCH MEMBERS UPSET?
Peter then explained to the church members present his vision and the experience
with Cornelius (see
Acts 11:5-17) concluding,
"Forasmuch then as God
gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus
Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:17).
AFTER LISTENING TO PETER RELATE HIS EXPERIENCE, HOW DID THE CHURCH MEMBERS
"When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified
God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto
life" (Acts 11:18).
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN WE RECEIVE NEW INSTRUCTIONS FROM OUR CHURCH LEADERS,
EVEN IF WE INITIALLY DISLIKE THE INSTRUCTIONS OR FIND THEM DIFFICULT TO
"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine,
whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17)
"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto
the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little
and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts,
and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto
him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have
enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2
When such instructions are given, we may not have the full vision of what
the principle may mean. The re-emphasis on tithing may have looked like
a means for getting the Church out of debt, but the Lord knew the Church
needed a sound financial system to support the incredible growth that would
occur in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Clearly, we must accept much
READ ACTS 11:19-21. The beginning of the work amongst
ACTS 12:1-4. James martyred
and Peter imprisoned.
HOW DID CHURCH MEMBERS RESPOND TO THIS CRISIS?
"Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made
without ceasing of the church unto God for him." (Acts 12:5)
HOW CAN OUR PRAYERS HELP THE PROPHET AND CHURCH LEADERS TODAY?
D&C 107:22 says that the First Presidency is "upheld by the confidence,
faith, and prayer of the church."
Joseph F. Smith: "There should never be a day pass but all of the people
composing the Church should lift up their voices in prayer to the Lord
to sustain his servants." (Gospel Doctrine, p223)
ACTS 12:6-11. Peter's miraculous escape from
This is the Lord's work and he will sustain his servants until they have
completed their earthly mission. The scriptures provide numerous examples.
The history of the Restored Church is full of examples. There were many
times when intervention was made in behalf of Joseph Smith. One of the
more noteworthy examples was at the time of the arrest of the Prophet in
Far West. He was to be executed, but one man had the courage to stand up
for right, Alexander Doniphan.
ACTS 12:21-23. Herod smote down by the angel
of the Lord.
In contrast to the demise of Herod, consider what happened to the Church.
"But the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 12:24).
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE CHURCH FLOURISH DESPITE THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS TO
Several years ago while living in Oregon, the Church announced plans
to build a meetinghouse in one of the local communities. This announcement
brought many protests from local citizens. There were articles
in the town newspaper. This was back in the days when the local members
contributed directly to the building fund. A resident of the local community, not
a member of the Church, was so bothered by the protests of his fellow citizens
that he made a private donation to the building fund of several thousand
dollars. The building was built and the Church continued to grow and prosper
in that community.
Acts 13 & 14
ACTS 13:1-4. Barnabas
and Saul called on a
In Acts 13:9 Luke begins referring to Saul as Paul.
ACTS 13:14-16. Paul takes the opportunity to speak
to the Jews in Antioch.
WHAT DO THE MISSIONARY CALLS OF SAUL AND BARNABAS REVEAL
ABOUT HOW CHURCH MEMBERS ARE CALLED TO GOD'S SERVICE?
Bruce R. McConkie: "Saul and Barnabas were called by prophecy and were
either ordained or set apart or both by the laying on of hands, all in
accord with the Lord's law 'that a man must be called of God, by prophecy,
and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach
the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.' (Fifth Article of
Faith.)" (DNTC, 2:120)
WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE HELPED YOU GAIN A TESTIMONY THAT CHURCH CALLINGS
TODAY ARE INSPIRED BY THE SPIRIT?
HOW DID THE GENTILES IN ANTIOCH RESPOND TO THE MISSIONARIES?
Two Antiochs - this one is in present day Turkey (see
Map 13, Bible
He talks of the history of the Jews.
Paul tells of a Savior, Jesus, raised up through the seed of David.
He testifies that Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
ACTS 13:38-41. Paul concludes his sermon to
the Jews at Antioch.
Paul and Barnabas were expelled from the region and "they shook off
the dust of their feet against them" (Acts 13:51).
Paul and Barnabas went on to Iconium preaching the gospel. After stirring
things up in Iconium they "fled" to Lystra and Derbe (also in Turkey).
In Lystra Paul healed a cripple.
ACTS 13:42-50. Gentiles glorified the word of
Evidence that the day of the Gentiles had come.
Before leaving this region they ordained elders and organized branches
of the church (v23).
HOW DID THE PEOPLE IN LYSTRA REACT WHEN PAUL HEALED THE CRIPPLED MAN?
HOW DID PAUL AND BARNABAS RESPOND TO THIS PRAISE AND ATTENTION?
"...they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And
saying, Sirs, why do ye these things?"
Rather than take the glory and attention for themselves, as true servants
of the Lord they gave God the glory.
WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR PAUL AND BARNABAS TO ORGANIZE A BRANCH OF THE
CHURCH WHEREVER THEY WENT?
HOW DO OUR LOCAL CHURCH UNITS BLESS OUR LIVES?
How successful would the Church be if we only gathered together when the
General Authorities came around. We need fellowship and regular instruction
to nurture our testimonies and stay strong in the faith.
This seems to be a natural thing. Years before missionaries arrived in
Ghana and Nigeria to teach the gospel, the people learned of the Church
and organized themselves into groups to worship, pray, and study what information
and scriptures they had collected. When the missionaries arrived, these
congregations only needed baptism, ordination and a little instruction.
Five days a week, I go out into the world to make a living. I deal with
people on a daily basis who have different standards and beliefs
than I possess. At the end of each week, not only am I tired from working,
but I find myself spiritually drained. How refreshing it is to join with
the good brothers and sisters in my ward, to worship, study, and discuss
the gospel. It is like stopping at a cool oasis in the desert before continuing
ACTS 15:1-2. Disputations over circumcision.
WHY DO YOU THINK SOME OF THE JEWISH CHRISTIANS, INCLUDING CHURCH LEADERS
FROM JERUSALEM, BELIEVED THAT MALE GENTILE CONVERTS SHOULD BE CIRCUMCISED?
It had been revealed to Abraham that circumcision was a sign of God's covenant
with his people.
Paul and Barnabas return to Jerusalem to get instructions from the Church leadership.
ACTS 15:7-11. Peter's response.
ACTS 15:22-31. Letter sent to the Saints.
This becomes a defining moment in the history of the early church. It is here
that we see a real distinction between the Law and the new Gospel.
The new converts were not becoming Jews, but Christians.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Under the direction of inspired leadership, the new Church began to
expand. It was revealed to Peter that all persons are invited to partake
of the blessings of the gospel. We are also blessed in our day, to have
leadership led by the Lord to guide the Church as it expands throughout
Record your thoughts on the beginnings of missionary work to the Gentiles.
In what ways can you better serve as a missionary to those around you?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary by Bruce R. McConkie (DNTC).
Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
24 July 2015