It is always good to check stories and accounts that we receive. Just recently a South Africa born actress from America had been interviewed about the language she grew up speaking. The interview became intense and to bring it to an end she rattled off something that the news media latched onto and have made a huge story of this in South Africa, to lambasting the lady without actually having listened to the complete interview.
The truth be told, we too can be like this. We hear the tail end of a story and draw conclusions, then spread stories that are not true. Perhaps a lesson we all need to learn is to check our facts before spreading what we think is the truth. In the next passage in the Book of Acts this is exactly what we find!
Ac 11:1 The apostles and the brothers 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 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. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 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 water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
1) The spreading of news.
Ac 11:1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
The “apostles and brothers” refers to the Christian leaders, apostles other than Peter and deacons less Stephen who was martyred, as well as many within the brotherhood. News reached them saying that Gentiles had received the Word of God. This means that Gentiles had heard the Gospel, believed it, repented and received Jesus as Lord. In other words, they had become part of the Kingdom of God, to whom the believing Jews were part of. Christians throughout the whole region of Judea heard this news.
Note that there was no negative response from the Church leaders and members. In a similar way we need to rejoice rather than condemn when we hear of people we might not have thought reachable by the Gospel, be they from whatever religion, ethnicity or culture.
Just today, I rejoiced in hearing a story of a couple I’ll be meeting on Thanksgiving Day (Last Thursday of November). They fell in love and married. He was a Jehovah Witness and she was a Muslim. They also came from different ethnic groups. They decided to change religions and went to a Christian Church and were saved. Today they are intentional Christians. Surely if they live out the Gospel they are part of God’s Kingdom and we ought not to question whether they ought to be part of His Kingdom or not!
2) Judging before knowing. As mentioned earlier, it is possible for us to be like this.
Ac 11:2 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.”
Peter’s home was in Bethsaida where he lived with his wife and most likely children.
Mk 1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
When he returned from Cornelius in Caesarea, he most likely visited his family before returning to Jerusalem. At this stage it seems as though he was still the Church leader. (This seems to change by Acts 15).
(1) Whilst in Jerusalem he is confronted by a group Luke calls “the circumcised believers”. They might have been former members of the “Pharisee Party”, an extremely strict sect who held rigidly to a persuasion that if Gentiles wanted to become Christians they first needed to become converts to Judaism which included circumcision and living by Judaism’s rituals as they saw them in the Law and teachings of the elders.
(2) This group criticized Peter’s engagement with Gentiles. Firstly it is important to remember that he took believers with him to Cornelius’s house. We read:
Ac 10:23 The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along.
Ac 11:12 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.
These were witnesses. Peter was wise in doing this. It was to be his protection as well and authenticating what happened with these Gentiles. We will return to these belonging to the “circumcised group” tomorrow. The points we need to be careful about are …
(a) Authenticate stories before spreading them.
(b) Where possible have witnesses with you, especially when dealing with Gospel facts.
Lord, the opposition is out there seeking to cause division. Give us wisdom. Amen.