Summary: Paul is commissioned to preach to the Gentiles
Title: A VOICE, A VISION, and A VISIT
Peter was staying at the home of Simon the Tanner.
This wasn’t a place that a Jew should have been staying. Simon dealt with dead animals and that made him unclean. But Peter was there anyway.
(How many of you know that just when you are someplace you shouldn’t be, God shows up?) Well, in this case it was the perfect place for God to show Peter he was exactly where He wanted him. He gave him a vision that was meant to transform Peter’s view of people to God’s view of people.
Peter’s vision is loaded with symbolism. The animals that came down in this sheet were forbidden to be eaten by Jewish Law. Food laws had always been a significant distinguishing feature of Israelite religious life and culture, so to observe these food laws symbolized all of the important distinctions that the people of Israel wanted to maintain between themselves and their pagan oppressors.
For thousands of years Jews did not eat with Gentiles or accept their hospitality for fear that they would be religiously and culturally polluted.
God not only gave Peter the vision but the interpretation of the vision also. Giving permission to Peter to eat non-kosher foods was symbolically giving sanction to taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles … to the very soldiers that had nailed him to the cross.
What had been repulsive must now become inclusive in their missionary outreach. God was saying that ANYONE can be saved. It doesn’t matter what nationality they are and it doesn’t matter what they’ve done wrong:
Adulterers can be saved.
Prostitutes can be saved.
Homosexuals can be saved.
Thieves can be saved.
Drunkards can be saved.
Slanderers can be saved.
ANYONE can be saved!
They don’t have to be good, upright, moral, church-going people to receive salvation!
God’s gift of grace is free to anyone!
Perhaps Peter had already been struggling with this freedom and God made it plain to him that he was on the right track and encouraged him further by giving him some immediate candidates for baptism.
If there had been a “Joppa Journal” in those days the headlines would have read:
“Gentiles join the new Christian Movement”
Somehow the news spread anyway. But it wasn’t received with joy!
Peter did something that had never been done before, and believe it or not, he got criticized for it. (Imagine that!)
The “apostles and the brothers” called Peter to a meeting in Jerusalem.
Peter probably wasn’t surprised, since they had criticized Jesus, too (Luke 15:2) “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
To their mind, a convert had to be a circumcised Jew first and then he could become a Christian believer within the Jewish community.
Peter went through the whole story from the voice and the vision, to the Holy Spirit’s visit.
Notice the chain of events.
And the conflict was resolved.
Let’s look at these more closely.
Peter remembered what the Lord had said (16).
"John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
When did the Lord say this? In Acts 1:5 just before the Lord ascended into heaven and just days before Pentecost.
(What is the difference between John’s Baptism and being baptized by the Holy Spirit?)
John’s baptism was a baptism of preparation – preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah.
The Holy Spirit’s baptism was a baptism of identification – identifying those who have placed their faith in Christ
The second thing Peter did was he reasoned (17).
"If God gave them the same gift as he gave us,
Peter reasoned, since the same occurrence of the Holy Spirit happened in Cornelius household as happened to them on the day of Pentecost when they believed on Christ, it must be God’s way.
So Peter got out of the way and allowed God to do what he was doing. “Who was I to oppose God?” he said.
The third thing that occurred was the conflict was resolved
(v.18).They began to praise and glorify God, admitting “…God had granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
The conflict was resolved, because they allowed God to have the last word. The Jews didn’t consider Peter infallible, but they believed the word from heaven and the Spirit’s work.
They were moved from contention to concurrence when they knew all the facts.
How open are you to God’s asking you to build relationships with a non-Christian? Or cooperating with another denomination for that matter?
Are we so bent on maintaining our “Christian identity” that we have become closed to having serious friendships with people who do not share our faith?
I think it is a sad fact that most people can find more fellowship and acceptance in a bar than in the average church!