Summary: The inclusion of the Gentiles in the church was not an easy thing to accomplish. But watch here how God goes about changing the hearts and minds of these staunch Jews.
Passage: Acts 11:1-18
Intro: In 1972, I had the opportunity to stand in front of the Berlin Wall
PP Berlin Wall
1. This wall separated the people of West Berlin from the rest of East Germany, which was communist.
2. this piece of barbed wire is from that wall. (I picked it off the wall in 1972)
PP Map of Berlin,
PP Map of Germany surrounding Berlin
3. I also had the privilege of being in Berlin after the wall came down in 1989
PP destroying Berlin Wall
PP pile of rubble
4. that was a great moment in history, and caused great celebration
PP celebration at the fall of the wall
5. the passage we have before us today is also about the destruction of a terrible wall built of pride, racism, and superior attitudes.
6. every Gentile believer here today is testimony to its destruction by God
7. let’s learn some things about how God worked, and still works today.
I. Pride Builds Barriers
1. Peter and his friends returned to a firestorm.
2. and notice who it was. Apostles!
3. this means John and James, and all those men who had walked for 3 ½ years with Jesus.
4. they are referred to as “circumcised”, denoting that they were Jewish believers.
5. and these guys had a problem.
6. they had heard that Peter had preached the gospel to them, but that was not the issue.
7. they hadn’t gotten that far yet!
8. they were believers, followers of Christ, preachers of the gospel.
9. but they were also extremely legalistic Jews who still had a long ways to go to manifest the character of Jesus.
10. v3 “you went into the house and ate..”
PP we might have the similar reaction to a believer going into a bar and having a drink with someone.
11. legalism promotes a superior attitude that retards the progress of evangelism.
12. if you won’t have anything to do with people, you are not going to share the gospel with them.
-they are too unclean
13. at this point in the church, legalism was severely limiting the call of Christ to take the gospel to the entire world.
14. these men were Jews first, Christians second
14. it happens to us, as well.
15. we need to admit that we are more apt to share the gospel with people like us than with people different than us. Why?
16. because those are the people we hang around with.
17. hang with people who share our values
Il) see my neighbors hanging around drinking beer, I’m apt to scurry into my house and pull the blinds.
Il) hear Spanish in Wal-mart, reaction as an English speaking American instead of a believer.
II. Grace Destroys Barriers.
1. Notice that Peter did not get into an argument about the Law with them.
Il) would have been his natural inclination
2. instead, God caused him to share in great detail the path that God led him on.
3. details establish the truth
Il) the police know they have their man when he knows details no one else knows, and sticks with them.
4. relates the vision from God, clearly he did not make this up because it was so repulsive to him.
5. when he told of the animals and the command to eat, they were probably sickened, shocked
6. when he told of his refusal, they probably gave him a standing ovation!
7. but listen to the grace of v9. “God has made clean.” What a statement!
8. if these animals, unclean by God’s decree for millennia, were now clean, there was no limit to miracles
9. “anything impure” means that God has made everything unclean clean, and that would include people!
10. do you see how this description brought them in to the experience?
11. so when he related God’s words, it was if God was speaking to them.
Il) even the language is more descriptive, more like a play than a report.
12. and this gracious cleansing by God called for a response.
13. that was to break past pride-based legalistic barriers and go to a Gentiles home.
14. and this barrier breaking did not stop with this group.
15. the glorious message of grace comes down to us today.
16. grace looks at every man or woman, regardless of race, sexual orientation, legal status, criminality, religion, national origin, as a potential recipient of the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.
17. it’s not grace that stops us from involvement, but the same kind of legalism that these Jewish apostles used to justify their outrage at Peter’s actions.
18. grace destroys these gospel-restricting barriers.
19. never forget, God sent His perfectly righteous Son Jesus, infinitely holier than the holiest human, to walk among us and to die for us.