Summary: What happened in this passage is of critical importance to church history. The events in this passage need to be studied by every church and every body of believers.

MAR 17 2013PM Gaining a Worldwide Vision

Acts 11: 1-18

Usually as we begin each study, I lead in to the message with the ending of the previous week’s message. I don’t have to do that tonight because our passage comes from Acts 11: 1-18 and in it, Peter recaps the whole episode. So let’s get into the message.

What happened in this passage is of critical importance to church history. The events in this passage need to be studied by every church and every body of believers.

READ 1-3. The church’s early vision was narrow and traditional. It mentions the apostles and the brothers in v. 1. That was the church. They heard about Pete’s preaching mission to the Gentiles and about their having received the Word of God. As I have said before, it was unheard of that a Jew would fellowship and eat with a Gentile. So news probably traveled fast. And then to hear that Peter had baptized the Gentiles without first requiring them to be circumcised.

Remember, most if not all the believers at Jerusalem were Jews. They were circumcised as small children and had been committed to the Law of Moses since childhood. You see, when they accepted Christ, they didn’t have to forsake their Judiastic religion. They saw Christianity as an extension of Judaism. In their minds, Christ had only added new teachings to their existing law and religion. So, in their minds, if a person wanted to accept Christ, he had to become a Jew first. That meant being circumcised, committing himself to the Law of Moses. And observing all the ceremonies and rituals of Judaism. Once a person had done all these things, then and only then could he receive Christ and be baptized.

Peter had allowed Gentiles to receive the Word of God w/o circumcising them. He had broken the Law of Moses by going into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them. So the news was bound to travel fast.

The circumcised segment of the church was especially aroused. In v. 2 is says the circumcised believers criticized Peter. The apostles and most of the Christian brothers felt no contention or divisiveness. They trusted Peter’s walk with the Lord and felt sure that he would have an adequate explanation when he had the opportunity to share the experience.

Many church and church goers can learn some lessons from this.

1. Some church people want to hang on to their ceremony, rituals, rules and regulations. Those things are placed before the lives and salvation of people and that’s sad.

2. Note the true spirit of these legalists. Their spirits should have been rejoicing that some people were now saved and brought to the knowledge of Christ. Instead their spirits were full of contention because some religious practices were violated. But before we criticize, we are a lot like that. Don’t think so, change the order of a service. Do something different than we NORMALLY do. (Whatever normal is). Go against the grain in any fashion and someone will hear about it.

3. Prejudice, discrimination, rituals, and rules can blind us to God’s purpose to reach out to all people in salvation. Everyone is to be reached no matter who they are. No church should exclude anyone.

And here is a deep but fairly easy thought about all this. Listen closely. A disciple (you and me) is called to do the Lord’s will, to reach and evangelize the world. That’s the just of it. A disciple often has to break tradition and buck the tide of doing things the way they have always been done. And whenever that happens, whether it be the pastor, a deacon, or any church leader, that person can expect criticism from the traditionalists. But, the true disciple of Christ remains faithful just like Peter did. He does what God says.

If churches are not careful, they can commit a terrible crime: they monopolize the gospel, seldom if ever sharing it. They take the gospel and keep it to themselves, shutting out all others that don’t fit THEIR plan in things. This builds barriers of exclusiveness and prejudice, shutting themselves off from the rest of the world.

Now Peter recaps the whole story. READ 4-15. Peter simply shared what had happened. Even though we have been through this whole story step-by-step, let’s look at it from another viewpoint. Note what Peter stressed: God’s will is a worldwide mission, the door of salvation is to be thrown open to the whole world.

The stress of Peter’s story is on God’s intervention: God acting, moving , revealing, and making His will clear. Peter stressed:

• A trance and vision from God. READ v. 5.

• Also in v. 5, he stressed a large sheet descending FROM heaven TO him.

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