STANDING IN GOD’S WAY
Lord, help us to accept Your decisions.
Read ACTS 11:1–18
Peter Explains His Actions
11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “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. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 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. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a] water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 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?”
18 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.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps 46:10). Identify what is foremost in your mind. Then ask God to tell you what He
really wants you to hear.
Are you prone to knee-jerk reactions? As a group, the Jewish believers and circumcised Gentile converts in Jerusalem certainly react prematurely to the news of Peter’s encounter at Caesarea. Their primary concern is the legalistic purity of Peter’s activities. The edifice of compliance with Jewish law stands, in their minds, before anything else that may have occurred.
Peter, however, has been given time to think things through. His initial reaction to his vision in Joppa mirrored that of his critics in Jerusalem. What is unclean is not to be touched. God, however, has taken him
slowly through a series of confirmatory events: the triple occurance of the vision, the unsought invitation from Cornelius, and finally the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all present there. He is assured that God is at work in all this. Patiently and in detail, he tells the whole story, with the support of his six companions. Rumors and second or
third-hand versions of the story that abound in Jerusalem are rendered worthless. Then, conclusively, he draws together Jesus’ promise of baptism with the Spirit, the experience of the Spirit given to the disciples at the first Pentecost, and the events at Caesarea. Can one of these be denied as authentic without nullifying the others? His conclusion is, how could he stand in God’s way? All objections are apparently answered: Gentiles are, theoretically, welcomed into the church and God is praised. Job done? Maybe not.
Later chapters in Acts and parts of Paul’s letters indicate that the issues of circumcision and unclean food will rumble on within the church. Even Peter appears to renege on his decision (Gal 2:11–13). Each time, the debate risks overwhelming the missionary imperative – to preach the gospel.
What are the presenting issues in your church? Finance? Premises? Theological divisions? Scandals? Pray for leaders who place the gospel first.
Lord, none of us can stand in Your way when You are determined to change something. Give us the insight to recognize when this is happening.