We come to the chapter where Peter has his vision of the sheet of unclean animals being lowered down.  God tells Peter to eat and Peter refuses because he is unwilling to eat anything unclean.  God then tells him not to call anything common what He has made clean.  This was setting Peter up for what He was about to do.  Earlier we find that God had spoken to an Italian named Cornelius and told him to call for Peter.  The men Cornelius sent called on Peter and the next day Peter goes with them after God had told him that these men came for him and he was to go with them.  In verse 34 Peter says, "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34-35, ESV)  Peter learns that with God there is no partiality.  God wants all people to come to faith in Him.  Peter then preaches to the gathering.  Something remarkable happens here.  The Holy Spirit falls upon the people and they begin to extol God and speak in tongues (46).  These gentiles had received forgiveness of their sins and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Peter's response then was to baptise these people right away. 

From this story we learn two things.  First, that one does not need to be baptised first before receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is not a reason for not being baptised because we are commanded to do so.  It is our first act of obedience as a new believer.  The second thing we learn is that with God there is no partiality.  He wants all people to come to Him in faith, to receive salvation.  It doesn't matter what a person has or is doing that is sinful.  God doesn't expect us to change before we come to Him.  It is after we come to Him that He changes us and we turn away from sin.  So it doesn't matter if you are an atheist, homosexual, liar, thief, a thought to be "good person" or the most vilest of offenders in the world.  God wants you to come to Him in faith and confess your sin to Him, so that He will forgive your sin.

In regards to what we learn about the church: we do not judge the unrighteous (2 Cor 5:12-13).  That is God's responsibility.  Our responsibility is to love all people who are lost, present the gospel and treat them with love so that they may want to know Jesus.  We are not to show partiality to any unbeliever over another nor are we to do the same within the church.

We are skipping a chunk of Acts because it teaches some of what we have already learned about the Church.  The focus of this post is on Acts 9:26-31.  This is the story of Saul coming to Jerusalem and the church being leery to welcome him.  They were leery of him with good reason because Saul had persecuted the church heavily; with intense hate.  However, something extraordinary happens here.  Barnabas brings Saul before the apostles and vouched for Saul's conversion and it is upon Barnabas' testimony that the apostles accept Saul.  This is amazing because Saul was a part of stoning Stephen who was a highly respected man in the church.  For the apostles to accept Saul they would have had to forgive Saul.  Later the Hellenists where wanting to kill Saul.  When the church learned of this they sent him to Tarsus.

What we glean from this is that the church listened and accepted the recommendation of Barnabas, a respected leader in the church.  This shows respect towards those who are worthy of respect.  It also shows support and encouragement for the brethren.

There is one more thing to note in this section.  In verse 31 we see that there is a time of peace for the church.  In addition, the church walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  A result of their walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit was that it multiplied.  When the church walks in the fear of the Lord and relies on the Holy Spirit it will always multiply.  Thus we, the Church, must take care of each other, fear God and rest in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 6:8-8:3 deals with the persecution of the early church.  This is still an important passage to deal with, but we will skip this section since we understand from earlier passages that the Church will be persecuted.  We know turned to two characters in Philip and Simon the sorcerer.

In Acts 8:4-8 and verses 26-40 we see Philip, a deacon, is preaching the Word, doing signs, exorcism and healing the paralysed.  Another title that we see scripture declared of Philip is that of evangelist.  It was an anointing that God gave him to proclaim the gospel and see a harvest of disciples of Jesus.  The evangelist is an important office within the church who helps build up the church by proclaiming the gospel and equipping the church to be evangelizers (Eph 4:11-14).  

 There is a second character in Acts 8; this is Simon the sorcerer.  We see in Acts 8:9-25 that Simon, a sorcerer (magician), becomes saved.  Simon had not received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  He desired the Baptism of the Holy Spirit but with wrong motives.  His desire was for the power and seemingly recognition that was associated with it.  He even offered the Apostles money to gain this power.  Peter saw through this and told Simon that he was asking with the wrong motive and to repent of his desire for power.  Simon seems to have repented in verse 24, but he still does not receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

What we learn about the the church in these two stories is that God gives His power and authority to those in the church whom He chooses and it involves having a right heart before Him with the intention to bring honour and glory to His name alone.  The glory of the Christian and the Church is Christ, not in man.