Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Handling Criticism
Acts 11:1-18

warm up

T or F  We all want to be liked and approved.
How do people usually respond to criticism? Which best describes your reactions?

__ 1. Deny the criticism, even if it is warranted.
__ 2. Fight back with criticism of those who are criticizing.  
__ 3. Retreat and suffer in silence.
__ 4. Attempt to explain.


T or F There is never a place for criticism of any kind. Discuss.
wise up

    Criticism has awesome power doesn't it? It can wither the spirits of good people very quickly. Peter's response to criticism helps us to learn how we should conduct ourselves and how we should answer any "unjust criticism" that comes our way from time to time.

I. The criticism and comment: Vs. 1-4
   1. News often travels fast and the excitement about what had happened at the house of Cornelius was spreading like wildfire! When Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, what awful thing had he done to cause his critics to contend with him?

    2. Peter knew with certainty that he had not done anything wrong. Therefore he quickly responded by:

__ a. Withdrawing and quitting the church.
__ b. Accusing his critics of mistreating him.
__ c. Pulling rank and saying, "I am an apostle. How dare you question my actions."
__ d. Calmly explaining his actions in an orderly manner.

    3. What exactly had the critics heard? Why would that have troubled some of the brethren? Which do you think probably upset those at Jerusalem the most: The fact that the Gentiles had received the word of God or that Peter had eaten with them? Explain the reason for your answer. 
    4. Was their information about what had happened at the home of Cornelius complete or incomplete? Have we ever been guilty of being critical about others without really knowing all the facts? Does it pay to listen and investigate first?

II. The vision and visitors: Vs. 5-12 
   1. Peter explained in detail and in an "orderly fashion" all the events leading up to his understanding that God was not a respecter of persons.

    2. In Peter's review, how many times did he say he saw the same vision? When something is important, is it worth repeating a number of times for clarity and emphasis.  Who came to see Peter immediately after his vision? In addition to the vision, the Spirit also told Peter to go with the men. What was to be his attitude as he went? (See Vs. 12.)  

III. The Sermon and Spirit: Vs. 13-17 
   1. According to Cornelius, what had he seen that caused him to send for Peter? Why was Peter to come? (See Vs. 14.) Can one be save without hearing and being receptive to God's word? (Cf., Romans 10:17.) Evidently what Peter preached, if received and acted upon in faith would lead to the salvation of these Gentiles or anyone. Again, what did Peter command according to Acts 10:48.

    2. As Peter began to preach about Jesus and his name (or authority), through which believers can receive remission of sins (Acts 10:34-43), what fell on those listening to Peter? This was such an unusual phenomenon that the only thing Peter could compare it to was what had happened "at the beginning" (Vs. 15) or day of Pentecost in Acts 2. 
    3. Was the gift of the Holy Spirit received by the household of Cornelius the same gift or a similar ("like) gift to that which was received on Pentecost? Discuss some possible differences.

IV. Conclusions: Vs. 18 
    1. Review all the things that had happened that caused Peter to say, "What was I that I could withstand God?" Obviously, Peter did not have the nerve nor the desire to go against the wishes of God. 
    2. What was the response of the critics after this? Isn't amazing how a little communication, listening, explaining can clarify and remove criticism? 

wrap up

   1.  Unjust criticism can be damaging. The only solution is to calmly and orderly explain to our critics our reasons, motives, or intentions. If we can follow Peter's example, be calm, collect our thoughts, and then share the facts -- we may be able to sway even the worst of critics. After that, it's between them and God. 


  Please read Acts 11:19-30 for next week    copyright 2001