Hello and welcome to the show today! In our study of Acts chapter 11 we have seen how Peter has followed God’s instructions to bring the Gospel to a man by the name of Cornelius (a Roman centurion). And what ends up happening is not only does he come to faith in Christ, but his entire household comes to embrace Jesus. And this is a key moment, because it marks the entrance of the first Gentiles into the Church. Now this was shock to the other Jewish church members. And so it says in…
Acts 11:1-18 (NKJV)-- 1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” 4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
3 Pieces of Evidence-- Now in his response, Peter presents these Jews with three key pieces of evidence. In verses 5-11 he gives them the evidence of the vision he personally received from God. In verses 12-15 and in verse 17 he gives to them the witness of the Spirit, who was poured out on the Gentile believers, and in verse 16 he gives the evidence of the witness of the Word of Jesus himself, who had said “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Now the first piece of evidence (the vision) these Jews had not themselves witnessed. However they did know Peter and trusted him because they knew his character and that he (like them) had been an orthodox Jew all of his life (10:14). They knew he was not likely to go to the Gentiles of his own accord and then make up a story to justify his actions. No, that wouldn’t add up. Now the second piece of evidence (the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Gentiles speaking in tongues) was even stronger, because that was God’s way of bearing witness that He had indeed accepted the Gentiles; and that was something that many people (and particularly the Jews who had been with Peter) had witnessed. And so the witness of the Holy Spirit was a crucial piece of evidence; because this kind of outpouring directly from heaven followed by the gift of tongues was not a common, everyday experience. We kind of think of it as happening all the time in the book of Acts. But it doesn’t. It is interesting that in order to find an example of what had happened in Cornelius’ home, Peter had to go all the way back to Pentecost ten years earlier. He couldn’t use the example of the Holy Spirit being given to the Samaritans in 8:14-17 because that was very different, as the Holy Spirit was given to the Samaritans through the laying on of the apostles’ hands. But this was much more dramatic, as it came instantly and directly from God himself. And that leads into Peter’s closing argument.
Arguing With Questions-- Now when Jews argue or debate, they use a different form than we do in our Western culture. We like to make statements and then back up those statements with evidence; evidence we hope the other person will accept. However Jews typically argue through asking questions. And that’s because a question is often much more powerful and thought-provoking than a statement. If you can implant a question into somebody’s mind, that question will cause them to wrestle with themselves until they reach an answer. And when they find that answer, that answer is their own. When it is a statement made by you, it is yours. But if it is an answer your question has forced them to come up with, that answer becomes theirs and touches them on a much deeper level. And this is something that Jesus did all the time. Notice in the Good Samaritan parable how (when Jesus closes), he doesn’t say, “Look, the Samaritan (not the Priest or Levite) was the true neighbor and you need to be like him.” No, that’s just a statement. A true statement, but nothing more. And they could ignore it if they wanted to. But the genius of how Rabbis during that time imparted education was that they turned everything into a question; because a question leads their listeners to uncover the truth for themselves, which they will be much more likely to accept. That is why Jesus asks (not tells the man, but asks) in…
Luke 10:36 (ESV)-- 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
An Answer Applied-- And that forced the man He was talking to to think, accept, and even verbalize his own answer, which was that it was the Samaritan who truly was the neighbor. Then (and only then, after the man had come to the answer himself) does Jesus tell him to “go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37); to apply the truth he himself had come to acknowledge. And in a similar way, it is interesting here how Peter, who remember is a Jew and argues like a Jew and is following in the footsteps of Jesus as one Jesus had called to come and be like him, responds with a question rather than a statement. It says in…
Acts 11:17 (NKJV)-- 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
Peter’s Question-- And that question (which showed the humility of Peter’s heart and his desire to follow the will of God) helped to establish in their minds the reality that this so clearly was a God thing and neither they nor Peter could go against it, lest they find themselves fighting against God Himself. And once they answer that question in their own minds, Peter’s personal answer to that question becomes their answer as well. They realize they are in no position to set themselves against these Gentiles whom God had so clearly accepted. And once Peter leads them to that point, it says in…
Acts 11:18 (NKJV)— 18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
Continued Debate-- Now this did not end all debate on this issue. We see later in 14:26-15:2 that this same legalistic party again engaged in debate with Paul over the salvation of the Gentiles. [Even after the Jerusalem Conference, legalistic teachers continued to attack Paul and invade the churches he founded.] And what they (and some of the other Jewish Christians) were fighting for was for the Gentiles to become Jews and to live by the Law as they themselves had lived by the Law. And on the flip side, there were some Gentiles who wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and to become Gentiles. And so it took a while for this transplant to really take and for unity to begin to form. And (as we will see) [In later years, God would use the letters of Paul to explain the “one body,” how believing Jews and believing Gentiles are united in Christ (Eph. 2:11—3:12).]
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV)— 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Heavenly Prep-- Now the reason Jesus wanted to create a Church that was “one” and not divided was because the earthly kingdom of God was to be preparation ground for the heavenly kingdom of God, in which there are truly going to be NO distinctions. It says in…
Revelation 7:9-10 (NIV)— 9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
A Pebble In The Shoe-- Now I knew a man who saw one race of people as unfit for him to worship with. And so when a person of that race came to Church one Sunday, he grumbled and complained about it. But then another Church member asked him this question (and I paraphrase), “Brother, what do you think it’s going to be like in heaven?” You see? A question. And the man stopped and thought. And the person continued, “Do you think that Jesus is going to have that same kind of division in heaven?” And the answer was obviously “no”, which the man acknowledged. And that question led to another question, “If there is no distinction in heaven (which this passage in Revelation indicates) why would we make that kind of distinction now?” Now that didn’t change the man’s mind that day, but it put a pebble in his shoe and got him thinking.
Jesus’ Question To Us-- Now some of the greatest revelations that will come in your own personal life will come when you also begin asking and answering the right questions. And there are several that Jesus may be asking you today. Maybe there is somebody that when you think of the words “common” or “unclean” or “sinful” they immediately come into your mind. Perhaps this is somebody of a race you don’t approve of worshiping with; or maybe it is somebody's who has wounded you that you are not yet willing to come to table with and say (as Jesus said in his breaking bread of bread with Zacchaeus) “I love and accept you and acknowledge a mutual commonality between you and me.” Now whoever that is that came to your mind, Jesus is asking you today, “Does the way you treat that person mirror the way that I have treated you?” And (if not) “Do you have the right to make a distinction?” Now in our hearts we know the answers to those questions. We know that the the cross is the great equalizer of all persons; because there is no one good enough so as not to need the blood of Jesus. All of us are unclean before the touch of Christ. But does that knowledge translate into our treatment of those poorer than us; different from us? “Are we going to take that knowledge and apply it?” How are we going to receive those Jesus sends to us who may not be like us? Are we going to be used by the Spirit to help the people He’s trying to graft into the Church, or are we going to resist? God’s challenge for us today is for you and I to commit right here and now to be men and women who (like Peter) are able and willing (and even seeking) to be used by God to draw all people unto Himself. Let’s do so. And may the words God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 be true also for you and me. God says…
Genesis 12:3 (NKJV)-- 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Be a blessing this week. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.