Summary: Whenever a change takes place in a church there is often a stir among some of the members. And unfortunately, when the change is good, there is more contention. That tells a great deal about the character of the church.
The contention concerning the centurion.
Acts 11:1 -- 18. 02/25/04
You remember I said a great change came into the early church when the Gentiles got saved. This change produced contention in the early church and Peter was right in the middle of it. “When the apostle’s and brethren that were at Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him.” Vs. 1,2.
Well actually, we aren’t too surprised at this contention. Whenever a change takes place in a church there is often a stir among some of the members. And unfortunately, when the change is good, there is more contention. That tells a great deal about the character of the church.
But we want to examine this contention and learn from it. The contention was about accepting the Gentiles in the church.
Notice with me first of all THE CONCERN OF THE CONTENDERS. “They that were of the circumcision contended with him saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and did eat with them.”
You certainly can read through what they are saying here. They tried to hide their true feelings by criticizing some side issue. They did not come right out and say what really upset them. It was that the Gentiles were being included in the church. But they came up with something like eating with them. In doing this, it did not appear they were opposed to the Gentile being a part of the church. Of course if they could get one or more to agree with them, they would go on to the main issue at hand.
We see this happening today with the ACLU and those who are a part of their garbage. Anytime prayer is mentioned about being in school, they raise up constitutional interpretation questions about things as prayer, Bible and so forth. But don’t be fooled by any such thing, they are bothered by prayer and Bible because they are of their father the devil. They are no friends of God and they don’t want God in our schools.
The contenders in Peter’s day were not happy with the Gentile in the church. But it would look bad to be opposed to the salvation of Gentiles. Unlike most critics in church, these contenders were true believers and when Peter dealt with their sin, they quickly repented, which we will note.
We see not only the concern of the contenders but also THE CLARIFICATION FOR THE CONTENDERS.
The way Peter dealt with these contenders teaches us a great deal. First of all, Peter did not deal or respond to the charge of eating with the Gentile. He knew what the real contention was all about and that is what he addressed.
Another thing Peter did here that is a good lesson is that he did not lose his temper or make any counter charge. He just patiently answered their accusation. But notice his answer was firm and showed he was not going to back down. A cool head deal’s best with contentions.
Peter started by telling them about the vision in Joppa. He also told them about the witnesses that had gone with him. When witnesses and the Word of God can substantiate our explanations, then we are on solid ground.
We see not only the concern of the contenders and the clarification for the contenders but we see THE CONCORD WITH THE CONTENDERS. “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
That is the way we would want all critics and contenders to turn out. Now, why did this one turn out so well? It turned out so well because the contenders respected Peter. Respect is something that has to be earned.
They not only respected the fishermen but also respected the Father. The Scriptures tell us when they listen to what Peter had to say, even though it was some rebuke, they glorified God. They glorified God for saving the Gentile. They were more interested in the souls of men than they were of their honor. These people may get off the road for a bit but they won’t cause the church any trouble. They held their peace and accepted the change.