Event(s): Peter defends the grace of God
Today’s Text: Acts 11:1-18
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 11:19-30
Peter must have anticipated the criticism he would draw for going to the home of Cornelius. This may be why he chose to take the six other believers with him. Now, he makes his way back to Jerusalem and sure enough, he’s met head on with opposition.
Acts 11:2 “those of the circumcision contended with him” Those of the circumcision refers to Jewish believers who believed that in order for Gentiles to follow Christ, they had to take on all the Jewish customs and convert to Judaism.
It would probably serve us well to provide a quick definition as to what a Gentile is. Quite simply, the term refers to anyone who is not a Jew. The Greek word used for Gentile is ethne, which means nations, people groups or people. These of the circumcision weren’t okay with the idea that the Gentiles could be considered equal with them based on nothing more than their faith in Christ. But that was in fact what God was doing. They contended with Peter about it. Contended meaning this was an intense confrontation.
Acts 11:3 “but Peter explained it to them” Not with an argumentative spirit, but with a heart to explain, Peter proceeds to defend the grace of God. The Gospel of truth is not to be debated. When we are confronted or questioned about our faith, we must always be ready to give an account for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15). But we must also be able to discern whether the person(s) is genuinely seeking the truth or just looking for an argument.
“Remind others about these things, and warn them before God not to argue over words. Arguing does not do any good but only destroys those who are listening.” 2 Timothy 2:15 ISV
Acts 11:12 “the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing” God knows that following Him will sometimes mean we will face uncertainty. Throughout the Bible we see He acknowledges this and in His mercy and grace, He always provides a word or a sign that will allow us to move forward in confidence.
Many times, people beat themselves up when they experience moments of doubt. But doubt is not the same as unbelief. We must not confuse the two. Doubt is a matter of the mind; unbelief is a matter of the heart. Doubt usually comes when we cannot comprehend or understand what God is doing or how, specifically, He will do it. Unbelief, however, is when we refuse to believe God’s Word. We reject what He is saying or what He has said, and we don’t move forward in obedience with what He’s told us to do. As we grow in maturity, our response should come more willingly, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will always be easy.
Acts 11:17 “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us” Notice that Peter said this gift was given as a result of belief in Jesus. That’s the only prerequisite. To believe doesn’t mean we just believe He exists, but that we receive Him as who He is and what He came to do.
Acts 11:18 “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” Peter’s defense did not rest on what he had done, but on what God had done. And now, the verdict was in. The Gentile should no longer be considered “unclean” or an outsider. God was no respecter of persons and His gift of life and the Holy Spirit was given to all who would believe.
The word used for life here is the Greek word, zoe. This does not simply mean physical existence. It is real life and genuine; a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed – in both the spiritual and physical sense. This is why Jesus went about doing good; healing, forgiving sins, and preaching the message of the Gospel. He healed and people experienced zoe life in their bodies; he forgave sins and people experienced zoe life in their mind, will and emotions. He preached the message of salvation and people experienced everlasting life in their spirit.
God has granted to all of us this new life, which is accessed through faith in Jesus Christ. The fullness of who He is is deposited within us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. With this gift comes no barriers or limitations in what we can experience in Him. He doesn’t give us little by little, rationing off doses of Himself until we “prove” we’re ready for more. How much we access, however, depends on us. Our life in Jesus is not about trying to get more of God. It’s about learning how to access what He has already deposited within us, and allowing His power and authority to heal, free, and transform us as we continue to take on His likeness.
Let’s not settle for less than what we were intended to experience. If life in the kingdom is defined as real life, active and vigorous, blessed – both spiritually and physically…and if we are ALL meant to experience it, then what area could we honestly say we are experiencing any less than that?
As we continue through this study, let’s not just wait passively to see some of these same acts take place in our own lives. Let’s be intentional about seeking God for this same transformational, miracle-working power to be at work on a personal basis. Why not take the top 1-3 areas you’d like to see God transform and then make that the focus of your prayer life? Even if it’s seemed impossible before, let’s believe that God can bring zoe life to it.