Isaiah 43:19Acts 11:1- 18: "Peter Defends The Grace of God"
Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!"
But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: "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. When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.' But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 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, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 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.' 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?"
When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."
Introduction: Peter Defends His Actions at Cornelius’ House
At the conclusion of chapter 10, Peter explained the gospel of Jesus Christ to Cornelius and everyone that was in his house on that day. Everybody on Cornelius house received the gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They like the people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost began to speak in other languages and glorify God. . This astounded the Jews who had accompanied Peter to Cornelius’ house. When this happened, the vision in Chapter 10 gave Peter greater insight of what the vision of the different animals really meant. That is, it was time for the gospel to be preached also to the Gentiles. These new Gentile converts were then baptized in the name of the Lord and begged Peter to stay, to the which, he did for an additional few days. After wards, Peter and the contingent of Jews headed back to Jerusalem where they were met by a contention group of the Jewish Council….
Defending the Grace of God (Verses 1-3)
The Contention: The Apostles and other Christians who were of the “circumcision” (Jewish Christians who were circumcised) heard about Peter (who was also part of the circumcision) spreading of the gospel to the Gentiles and going in Cornelius’ house and their conversion. They heard Peter fellowshipped with them, them being baptized in the Holy Spirit and ate with them also. This to them was unheard of, because the Jews did not associate with of entered into any league with the Non-Jewish nations. (Gentiles)
As far as they were concerned, what they heard about Peter never should have taken place because in their minds, Peter's actions violated God's "old" mandate of separation from the Gentiles. They didn't understand that the times had changed and God was doing a "new" thing. Christ was establishing the church, having fulfilled the Law in every way. The Temple was giving away to the Church. The Law, now fulfilled in Jesus Christ would be practiced and realized in the life and way the believer would first love the Lord God and second, how they would love their neighbor as themselves. Their neighbor would be inclusive of both the Jews and the Gentiles, united in faith by their belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Messiah. They knew nothing of "dispensations" or the meaning of the prophecy spoken by Isaiah in Isaiah 43:19.
Catholic Doctrinal Fallacy or heresy: Concerning the "sainthood" of declaring Peter a saint. (title Observe how the Jerusalem church (apostles and other early Jewish Christians) they went after Peter and why:
“We heard you went into the house of uncircumcised man and ate with them”.
What you are to take from the way they approached Peter in interrogation:
The apostles and early Christians did not regard Peter as having any particular supremacy over the church, or as being in any special sense the “vicar” of Christ upon earth. If he had been regarded as having the authority which the Roman Catholics claim for him, the members and apostle who made the accusation against Peter would have submitted at once to what he had thought proper to do. The earliest Christians had no such idea of Peter's so-called authority. This catholic claim for Peter’s state and status in Christianity is not only opposed to in Acts 11:2, but opposed in every way in the Apostolic theme in every part of the New Testament.
Jewish History: Why the Israelites were instructed by God it avoid intermingling with the Gentiles during Old Testament times.
All throughout the Old Testament, after the Exodus from Egypt, God commanded that the Israelites remained pure and refuse to intermingle or intermarry with non-Jewish people or nations. To get to the promise land, they were going to encounter and fight off many heathen nations that had open abominable religious and social practices.
Groups of Israelites violated this edict, including many priest so many times, especially during and after their 70 year captivity in Babylon and the years spent in Persia during the Persian Empire,. When you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you experience the affects intermarriage and intermingling had in getting the exiles beck to the homeland in Jerusalem. Not all of the Jews came back to Israel.
God detested the Gentiles living in this dispensation (Law) and considered them unclean pagans and heathen in their lifestyle and culture. God in this dispensation labeled every nation outside of Israel as a “heathen” nation.
The purpose throughout the Dispensation of Law was for God to create a chosen nation (Israel) and raise up a nation a people who would be totally dedicated to HIM and proclaim the “oracles” of God. Here in Acts 11, the Jews didn’t realize fully that the Dispensation of Law has passed and given away to the Dispensation of Grace (the Church Age to begin.
The book of Acts amplifies the change in dispensation from that of the Law to that of Grace and the beginning of the Church Age.
The policy of separation of God’s chosen from intermarriage and intermingling with Gentiles is going through a cataclysmic change. The love of God towards all men now requires for the preaching of the Gospel and the conversion of Jews as well as non-Jews. The Jews in the early church who clung to the Mosaic Law must show love and equality towards their fellow converts in Jesus Christ, regardless of national heritage and without requiring them to be circumcised or adhering to rituals.
Peter Defends His Actions (Verses 4-17)
But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, (vs.4)
In order to remove their prejudice, and to give them the fullest reasons for his conduct, he thought it best to give them a simple explanation of the whole affair:
First, Peter explains the vision he had. (vs. 5-11)
Then, Peter talked about the visitors from Cornelius’ house begging him to accompany them. As the Holy Spirit led, Peter obeyed the Holy Spirit and went, along with 6 men who went as witnesses to the events. (vs. 12)
Third, Cornelius after meeting Peter told Peter how the Holy Spirit sent the men from his house to find Peter and where they could find him. (at Simon the tanner’s house) (vs. 13)
Fourth, The men were told to expect instructions from Peter as to what to do when he got there. Peter told them how to get saved. And taught them the doctrine of Salvation (the Gospel of Jesus Christ.) (vs. 14)
Fifth, Peter revealed what the Holy Spirit did while he was teaching them. The Holy Spirit fell on them in the same manner he fell on the converts at Pentecost. They spoke in other languages. (vs. 15-16)
Finally Peter remembered what Jesus said concerning the baptism of the Holy Ghost, finally understanding that the gift o the Holy Spirit is for all believers and will come upon every believer in Jesus Christ regardless of national heritage. When the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles of Cornelius house, Peter saw his as a fulfillment of God’s promise. (vs.17)
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
Peter said: God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ: what was I, that I could withstand God. What Peter was saying was: (vs. 18)
God gave the Gentiles in Cornelius house the gift of Holy Spirit, and its various gifts and graces, in the same way and in the same measure in which he gave them to us Jews. What was I, that I could withstand God? God called them to salvation. I didn’t do this. This came from God and God alone. Nobody can cause the Holy Spirit to come upon another person or race but God.
The Church’s Response:
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life”.
- The Church (apostles and members present) held their peace because they were convinced that Peter told them the truth and what took place was the manifestations of God through the Holy Spirit of God’s will.
- The Church glorified God: Saying God has also granted repentance to the Gentiles unto life. (granted salvation to them too)
When the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught by Peter to the household of Cornelius, each one of them accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and the Holy Spirit fell on every believer in the house, from that moment the doors of the church became open to the entire Gentile world. This inquisition and its outcome immediately began to change the original views of the apostles and of the early Christians. In the following manner:
- The results of the Church’s decision to accept Peter’s account gave them a new, large, and liberal conception of the gospel.
- The end results of this inquisition against Peter broke down their long-cherished prejudices against the Gentile nations and people and indicated to them that God had indeed began to do a “new thing”.
- It taught them to look upon all people as their brethren, as well as impressed their hearts with the truth, never after to be eradicated.
- That the Christian church was founded for the wide world, and the Gospel opened the same glorious pathway to life wherever man might be found, whether with the narrow prejudice of the Jew, or amidst the degradations of the pagan world
Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Acts 11:27- 30 " Financial Relief to Judea"
And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Dr. William Edward Boddie