Mission to the Gentiles (1)
Pray Psalm 66.1-4.
Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
Say to God,
“How awesome are Your works!
Through the greatness of Your power
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”
Sing Psalm 66.1-4.
(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Shout for joy to God, all people, sing the glory of His Name!
Give Him glorious praise and say, “How great Your pow’r and great Your fame!
All the earth shall worship gladly as they praise Your glorious Name!”
Read and meditate on Acts 11.1-3.
1. Who contended with Peter in Jerusalem?
2. To what did they object?
It’s still early in the progress of the Gospel, so we can perhaps understand why some were reluctant to accept that God’s promised Kingdom was being extended to the Gentiles. It’s neither sinful nor uncommon for believers to disagree about matters. We all come to the Gospel and are reared in the faith within particular contexts and traditions, and we can be reluctant to accept perspectives, points of view, or developments that don’t comply with our familiar take on things.
So before Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the news of events in Caesarea had already preceded him, and some folks were not happy about what they’d heard. But if we look carefully, the problem surfacing here seems to have very little to do with the Gospel. Instead, this is a racial issue: “You went to uncircumcised men [i.e., Gentiles] and ate with them.”
Peter’s transgression, according to these men, was not that he had preached the Gospel to Gentiles, but that he had accorded them what amounts to an equal standing with Jews in the Kingdom of God. He had gone into the home of a Gentile and shared a meal with him!
With the conversion of Cornelius and his household, it looked as if a major watershed had been crossed, and a great season of Gospel expansion was about to begin. But opposition arose from within the ranks of the household of faith. When personal agendas get in the way of the Lord’s, problems arise. But the Lord knows how to use even these apparent difficulties to further His ongoing work.
Believers remain sinners even after they have been redeemed. The law of sin operates within us still (Rom. 7.21-25), and if we’re not careful and prayerful, it can cause us to value our own agendas more than the Lord’s.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard…” (Acts 11. 1). Indeed, they did.
It seems they heard this news second-hand, as it arrived to them before Peter did. Far be it from me to judge Peter or his friends, but this was Big News, and it might have been wise to share the whole story before it was told piecemeal. And heard selectively.
“An unreliable messenger can cause a lot of trouble. Reliable communication permits progress” (Prov. 13.17 TLB).
In this day and age of news flying around in seconds, not days or weeks, it is imperative that we carefully communicate the Good News of the Gospel every time we speak it. And. That we are very circumspect about everything that we say, so that our Personal Mission Field does not get muddled in the mire of our personal opinions about anything and everything.
What we should say will be given to us…for it is not we who speak, “but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matt. 10.19, 20)
What happened to Peter, happened. Peter was full of the Holy Spirit and His power. And I am sure that the experience with Cornelius was overwhelming and exhausting and exciting. And perhaps he did exactly the right thing. But still, maybe there is something we can learn from this that will help us preclude having “opposition in the ranks”.
As Paul wrote, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12.3, 18).
And communicate carefully.
1. Why was Peter’s work in Caesarea such a problem for these people back in Jerusalem?
2. How can you know when prejudice or bias is affecting your view of others? What should you do then?
3. The problem raised in verses 1-3 will be resolved shortly, but not entirely. It will crop up again in Acts 15. How can you keep deep-seated attitudes or opinions in you from becoming a problem in the believing community?
The imperfect state of human nature strongly appears, when godly persons are displeased even to hear that the word of God has been received, because their own system has not been attended to. And we are too apt to despair of doing good to those who yet, when tried, prove very teachable. It is the bane and damage of the church, to shut out those from it, and from the benefit of the means of grace, who are not in every thing as we are. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 11.1-18
Pray Psalm 66.5-9.
Thank God for His saving work in your life, for bringing you to salvation and helping you grow in it. Pray for the peoples of the earth, that they, too, might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Sing Psalm 66.5-9.
(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Great and awesome is our Savior in the works which He has done.
He the sea and river dried to let His people cross as one.
Then our joy was great to worship Him our mighty, sovereign One.
He the nations watches ever – all you rebels, humbled be.
Bless our God, all men and nations, praise His Name eternally!
He preserves our souls, and He will keep His paths beneath our feet.
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.