If you refer back to yesterday’s Note, you will recall that:
Ac 11:2 … the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
We saw how Peter explained in full what had transpired, showing how the angel of the Lord was present with him as well as with Cornelius, how a delegation arrived from the latter with the Holy Spirit telling him to go with them. We saw how Peter was convinced God was bringing Gentiles into His Kingdom in the exact way He brought them as apostles into the Kingdom of God. We also saw how Peter explained what happened at Cornelius’ house, how they were all saved and baptized.
Did you notice yesterday how Peter averted a major schism in the Church? What He did was to demonstrate to us how we need to resolve Church conflicts in such a way that God is glorified. Note the phrase “praising God” in verse 18! Far too often in our Churches we do not tell the whole story when conflicts arise. We skirt on the border of lies and half stories (which in themselves are half-truths or half lies) when we provide some information and not all the required information.
Peter told the complete story as it happened. He had witnesses to authenticate his story and because he told the whole truth the Holy Spirit was present. What he did not do was to tell the people what they wanted to hear. He did not fabricate a story to suit those who criticized him. He told them what had happened. He told the truth. Too often, we tend towards softening the story to make it more palatable, acceptable and believable. Peter’s way is best because the Holy Spirit goes before Truth and paves the way for reconciliation and continued ministry, evangelism and fellowship.
Now we read:
Ac 11:17 “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.”
Here we have a few important facts mentioned.
1) One Gospel saved all repentant souls.
Ac 11:17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Often we hear things like … “It that works for you, good.” Or someone might provide a rendition of the Gospel that makes the Biblical Gospel look floored, unbelievable or wrong. Others could say that different ethnic groups are saved in different ways. Still others will say that “all roads lead to Rome” meaning that there are different ways to be saved other than Jesus. Beloved … there is only one way and this is when a soul believes in Jesus’ meritorious work at Calvary for pardon and salvation, God grants that person His Spirit. Peter calls this a “gift” … a gift from God.
(As an aside, I will often use the same Bible passages repetitively when they help explain a point I am making. Coupled to this is the fact that repetition helps us remember Bible verses.)
Why did Peter call the Holy Spirit coming upon Cornelius, his household and guests the way He did the same as the apostles at Pentecost?
(1) This is a term Jesus used Himself. His instructions to His apostles was to wait for the gift His Father promised.
Ac 1:4 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The “gift” and being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” amounts to the same thing! It is the new birth.
(2) Excitingly, Jesus called Himself “the gift of God”:
Jn 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
This was to the woman at the well in a Samaritan town. Here the gift of God is compared to “living water” … referring to the new birth … being made alive spiritually.
(3) Inspired by the Spirit Paul writes …
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Here salvation is compared to the gift of God. The reason I include all this is because “the gift” is the new birth (regeneration, salvation) the Holy Spirit brings when He comes to quicken the soul, resurrecting it to new life in Jesus Christ! And the glory of this is that the Holy Spirit who brings the new birth, resides within the believing soul.
Eph 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
The gift is the awakening power of the Holy Spirit within the soul. Beloved have you experienced this?
2) Can anyone stand against the God of the Gospel? Peter, although referring to himself included all with him at Cornelius and amongst those in Jerusalem … those who criticized.
Ac 11:17 … “who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
No one can stand against God. In fact, it is futile to attempt to do so! God always does what is right and holy … not even the devil and his demons or all earthly powers are able to oppose God. Remember this. Hold God high … it will be to your long term credit!
3) Submission to Gospel realities.
Ac 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections.
Peter avoided a potential schism because he remained true to Truth!
Beloved, let’s commit to remain under Jesus’ Lordship, which means being guided by the Scriptures with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said … “Ask and you shall receive.” Ask for the Spirit daily!
4) Praising God with Gospel Truths. When we remain faithful and true to God and His Word the result will be as it was with those who criticized Peter. They now …
Ac 11:18 … praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
A huge milestone was achieved. Through the “Peter / Cornelius” saga, we have learnt how to accept everyone who believes in Jesus and we have learnt how to avoid schisms in God’s Church.
Our glorious Father, thank You for the way Your Bible speaks to our souls. Help us to be true to the Bible. Amen.