Have you ever needed to explain yourself? In formative years explaining yourself to mom or dad seemed like the end of the world, yet having to explain to the wife or husband is something else … but for me, the most difficult thing has been to explain yourself to a Church Council! Why did I do this or not do that? Remember the Council are the employer of the pastor and his only defense is to explain why he did or did not do something or say something using the Bible as his reference. The problem is that at times, some on the Church Council are not where the pastor is theologically or doctrinally. This makes it very difficult to “please explain”. Now look at how God worked with Peter’s understanding of the Doctrine of Salvation. He was taught through the experience of being in a trance, seeing a sheet of all kinds of animals on it … to the household of Cornelius where salvation came to Gentiles where there was the demonstration of joyful praising God in each language represented.
1) Salvation News spread rapidly.
Ac 11:1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
Mostly when people are saved the news is great, appreciated and God gets the glory.
2) Not everyone was happy in the early Church.
Ac 11:2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him.
By the time Peter returned to home base he found Jews who were converted to Jesus (circumcised believers), unhappy with him and his evangelistic exploits with Gentiles, the uncircumcised. Not that we would have done it differently … these Jewish Christians still held onto the belief that only Jews are and could be God’s people, hear His precious Word and be saved. This is the reason for them criticizing Peter. They felt he had no right to unilaterally bring “unclean pagans” into the Kingdom of God. We have to be cautious here because it’s easy to want to see our “type” in the Church. They need to conform to our cultural, educational, social and ethnic profile. But we have seen that Peter was taught a dramatic lesson. Hopefully we are on the same page … but the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were not.
3) They had the Gospel but they hung onto the traditions of the elders.
Ac 11:3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
To these Jewish Christians, Peter’s conduct was unbelievable and unacceptable. It was not just being in the house, it was eating food, with the unclean, which was ceremonially unclean! Before we become too critical of these people, we need to ask whether we look at the person, their dress, make up, hair … do they have tattoos, do they smoke, do they drink, do they do Botox, have they had cosmetic surgery, do they eat foods we don’t, have they been divorced, etc.? What the people criticizing Peter had not been taught yet was Jesus eating with “tax collectors and sinners” or how he forgave prostitutes or the women in John 4 and 8 for having many husbands. Before looking at the person’s presentation or who they are and what they have, we need to see a “soul” that needs Jesus before us. Are we quick to forget our Master’s words …
Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
What a lesson we need to learn! The Gospel is for spiritually sick people not for those who don’t need a Saviour because of whom they think they are.
4) Peter explains what had happened.
Ac 11:4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 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.”
(Please also read Acts 11:6-14.) Here Peter does two things:
(1) He explains his personal experience. The trance, the sheet and the voice with reference to … four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air … and his defense not to “kill and eat” because that would be contravening what the Dietary Law said … not to eat “unclean” foods.
(2) He describes what happened with Cornelius and how the Spirit told him to waste no time in going to him with his six companions. These were his witnesses who could support and substantiate what happened in that “Gentile Home”.
Notice a few matters from verse 14-15.
(a) Cornelius had the assurance that the message Peter would bring would save him and his household because the messenger from God assured him it would. Today God does not speak through angels or visions or dreams because He has spoken through His Son and His Word, the Bible. The Bible is our authority. It says that if one believes and repents that soul will be saved. Jesus said:
Mk 1:14 “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Ac 3:18 “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
(b) Peter had the assurance that salvation came to these Gentiles.
Ac 11:15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.”
How did Peter know the Spirit was at work? In verse 15 he explains that what happened at Cornelius’ house was almost the same that happened to them in Acts chapter 2. The only difference was the apostles evangelized in known earthly languages they did not know and in Cornelius’s home the converts spoke in their languages praising God. As we have said before, today we look for genuine repentance and the fruits of the Spirit to prove salvation. Tomorrow we will continue with the rest of the passage … but for today I want to hold up the Doctrine of the Assurance of Salvation. It is extremely important for every believer to know for certain that when they die they will be with the Lord Jesus in glory. Please join me in making the following verses a personal prayer:
Jude 1:24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.