Summary: A church split could have occurred in the Jerusalem church, but it didn't. That's the background of Acts 11:1-21. But a subtext is the role the Word of God played in the entire passage. Thats the subject of this passage.
What to Do with God’s Word
TEXT: Acts 11:1-21 – “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. 4 But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, 5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. 12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: 13 And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.”
Usually, when there’s a church split, it’s over petty, foolish things.
Illus. – I’ve heard of all kinds of dumb things churches have had splits over: One church split over which brand of toilet paper should be used. Another one split over whether to use 75 watt or 100 watt light bulbs.
Sometimes churches split over sinful power struggles.
Illus. – In church some friends of ours went to in South Carolina, when the pastor resigned, there was such a power struggle between the interim pastor whom most of the members wanted to be the pastor and the head deacon, who opposed the interim pastor. In a business meeting discussing the interim pastor’s election to become pastor, the head deacon came to the podium and punched the interim pastor in the face!
That’s an extreme and rare example, but tragically, it does happen.
In Acts 11, there was potential for a split that could have crippled Christianity in its infancy. When Peter took the Gospel to the Gentile Cornelius, which we looked at the last time we were in Acts, he did something that, in the mind of the Jewish believers, was wrong.
But a split did NOT occur in the church at Jerusalem, because its leaders had spiritual minds instead of carnal minds and personal agendas. Once they knew that the Gospel’s going to the Gentiles was indeed of God’s doing, they put aside centuries of prejudice against Gentiles and cooperated with God’s plan.
That’s the main theme of this passage of Scripture. This morning I want you to see the importance of God’s Word in the early church. What may not be apparent is the role the Word of God played in this entire story.
Today I would like to narrow our focus and examine the role of God’s Word in this passage of Scripture and see we should deal with the Word of God in the same way.