Is there such a thing as a perfect Church? This question came to mind as I was doing some house work recently. Is there such a thing as a perfect Church, one without problems, interpersonal conflicts and back stabbing? If you have been in any Church for 5 or more years you will realize that the guide book, the Bible is perfect but those who use the Bible … pastors, deacons, elders and Church members are far from perfect. In fact we are sinners working with sinners … many saved by grace but still having a sinful disposition that is prone to produce those acts of the sinful nature. This is why Paul wrote, saying under inspiration:
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Often some of the acts of the sinful nature stick their necks out and bring anything from tension to mayhem in the Church. We need to progress in the fruit of the Spirit to enjoy true love, fellowship and belonging as one people under the reign of the Lord Jesus. But … is there a perfect Church? Yes there is! It is the Glorious Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. She is perfect and radiant, without spot or blemish, without sin of any shape … and She is in heaven. That is where the perfect Church is and that is what we need to keep looking for and desiring as we do Church here on earth. We saw yesterday that the Early Church started off with tensions because of an inadequate understanding of doctrine, especially the Doctrine of the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ … and more … a lack of understand God’s call upon Abram in Genesis 12 when it came to Him blessing all peoples (nations) through Abram’s offspring … namely Messiah Jesus. This is why some …
Ac 11:2 … the circumcised believers criticized him
That is Peter. Remember their accusation again him?
Ac 11:3 “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
As we saw yesterday, this was no small matter because if dealt with incorrectly it could have caused the first schism in the Church. Peter provides a full explanation of what happened. There is no need to repeat what Peter experienced here as we have done that already. Rather to say, there are a few stages.
(1) God told Peter that Gentiles, like all foods are too be considered “clean” and approved by God.
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. 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.”
I do not eat any animal organs, tripe, stomach lining, crayfish, prawns, etc. Just because I don’t does not mean you or another person cannot. Just because I eat meat and you might be a vegetarian does not mean either are wrong. The huge matter that confronted Peter was God declaring that all people, from whatever ethnicity are “clean” … acceptable to be evangelized and brought into His forever family.
(2) God opened Peter’s understanding through that “sheet’ and the arrival of the delegation from Cornelius.
Ac 11:11 “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.”
This is the second stage, where the Spirit “spoke” in some manner to Peter giving Him God’s approval to visit Cornelius’ home. Remember those six men who accompanied him? They became his witnesses as to the veracity of what he told.
(3) God reminded Peter of what Cornelius said.
Ac 11:13 “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.'”
There are five things here …
(i) An angel appeared to the Gentile Cornelius.
(ii) The angel told him to send for Simon (Peter) who at this stage is the leader of the Church.
(iii) The angel said that Peter would bring them a message. This was the Gospel Message.
(iv) The angel stated that this message was for Cornelius and his household. That is, not to one Gentile but to a complete household, family and slaves living under a Roman Centurion who worked for the Jews oppressors!
(v) The angel said the message would lead to this household’s salvation.
(4) God used Peter to preach and whilst he was, the Holy Spirit fell on all the hearers leading to their salvation.
Ac 11:15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.”
This was the Holy Spirit bringing spiritual birth to these Gentiles.
Ac 11:16 “Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'”
Remember Jesus said …
Ac 1:5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Although some distort what this phrase, “baptized with the Holy Spirit” means, it is simple. John’s baptism was external whilst the Spirit’s is internal. The one is a public declaration of faith and the other is a personal confirmation of the New Birth. The one is a demonstration of surrender to Jesus’ reign, the other is resurrection of the soul unto eternal life.
Before we proceed, may I ask whether you have experienced being baptized with the Holy Spirit?
Thank You, Lord. Amen.