5/19/2019 3:37:11 PM
Free for All
“The apostles and the believers 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.’
Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: ‘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. 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 he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?’
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” (Acts 11:1-18, NIV)
To understand what Peter experienced and witnessed here, we must review and remember what happened in Acts 1:1-8. “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”
Jesus, God the Son, ascended to heaven and ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost God the Holy Spirit descended upon and “baptized” the disciples. The word of God was proclaimed in every language represented by the people gathered in Jerusalem and the Church was born.
After Pentecost the gospel spread among Jewish people in Judaea. Most likely, it was also taken to the places where the people who believed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost lived. Up until the persecution that arose after Stephen was martyred in Acts 7, the Church remained pretty comfortably based in Jerusalem until Philip went into Samaria, preaching the gospel and seeing people respond. In Acts 8:14-17 we see; “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” The words of Jesus were now one step closer to fulfilment.
Beyond Jerusalem, Judaea and Samaria was a whole world of people who needed to hear and believe the gospel. Thus, Peter ends up at the gentile Cornelius’s home. Samaritans entering the Kingdom was a pretty big challenge for the disciples to accept. Associating with unclean gentiles like Cornelius was almost too much for Jews like Peter to even conceive of. Therefore, Peter needed the help of a vision straight from the Lord to see; “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’’ And just like Jesus had to repeat three times that he was going to Jerusalem to die, and just like he asked Peter three times if he loved him Jesus had to repeat the vision three times to get Peter to accept the mission.
Our account of things in chapter 11 is Peter’s testimony to the other disciples about what actually occurred as recounted in Acts 10. Why? Because the disciples didn’t get it when Jesus told them that the gospel was for everyone, not just the Jerusalem/Judean Jews. Thus, Peter testified to the disciples from Jerusalem; “the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. …So, if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
The main point for the disciples was “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” And the main point for us today is exactly the same, everyone in the world is welcome to come to repentance that leads to life.
The gospel is not just for white Anglo-Saxon protestants in little white churches on the hill. The gospel is for people of Jewish descent and all others. The gospel is for men and women, people of Israel and Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia; Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
The gospel is for people brought up in Christianity and for people brought up in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and even atheism.
The gospel knows no national boundaries, not any economic, social, political or cultural boundaries. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.
When Jesus said “the ends of the earth” that’s exactly what he meant.
The gospel is the one and only hope for everyone we will ever meet, regardless of their current lifestyle when we first meet them.
The gospel Peter knew and was taught to freely share requires repentance. The only barrier to saving grace is the stubbornness of human will, but repentance and faith are gifts given for anyone who will to access.
The message Peter received contains a warning for us all. Peter stated, “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
As stated previously, the only barrier to the gospel is the stubbornness of the human will. That applies to those sharing the gospel as much as to those who hear the gospel.
Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 3:9; “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
We are people living in the ends of the world. Who are we to stand in God’s way?
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