Change is always hard, but when God initiates change, don't stand in His way!
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Acts 11 (ESV)
1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying,
3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order:
5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying,
and in a trance I saw a vision,
something like a great sheet descending,
being let down from heaven by its four corners,
and it came down to me.
6 Looking at it closely,
I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air.
7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’
8 But I said,
‘By no means, Lord;
for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven,
‘What God has made clean,
do not call common.’
10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.
11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea.
12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.
These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.
13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter;
14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’
15 As I began to speak,
the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.
16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said,
‘John baptized with water,
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
17 If then God
gave the same gift to them
as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard these things they fell silent.
And they glorified God, saying,
“Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
20 But there were some of them,
men of Cyprus and Cyrene,
who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also,
preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he came and saw the grace of God,
he was glad,
and he exhorted them all to
remain faithful to the Lord
with steadfast purpose,
24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year
they met with the church
and taught a great many people.
And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and
foretold by the Spirit
that there would be a great famine over all the world
(this took place in the days of Claudius).
29 So the disciples determined,
every one according to his ability,
to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
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Acts 11 Summary
The primary identity marker of God's covenant people from the time of Abraham on was that they were to be separate from the nations surrounding them. They were not to intermarry, and they lived by a strict moral and ethical code that was strikingly different than the rest of the world.
It just seemed natural that this separateness would continue into the new covenant.
So when word came that outsiders were being invited into the church, it was certainly concerning to the apostles.
Yet when Peter recounts how God had guided him into the home of the gentile Cornelius, and how the Holy Spirit had already been working on Cornelius' heart, the apostle's wholeheartedly support this massive cultural shift.
The persecution had flushed out many Jewish believers into the gentile world, and consequently even more gentiles begin to come to faith. Barnabas, a godly man, was dispatched by the apostles to ensure this was of the Lord's doing.
The chapter ends with God proactively calling the church - now being called Christians for the first time - to take care of its own as a terrible famine is about to beset Israel.
The relationship between the church and the world has always been a point of concern. In addition to the very Jewish cultural mindset of the early church, the fear has always been that the world will corrupt the church. Note how quickly the apostles send out Barnabas to investigate what was going on in Antioch to make sure that the great number who believed were actually turning to the Lord, and not dragging people from the Lord (v21).
This relationship is just as precarious today. As you interact with the world, let Acts 11 be your guide. Make sure that it's you who are bringing God's grace to them, and not them taking you from grace into the world.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God is the creator of all things, and the one who has made all things pure (v9).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God to help you identify ways in which you are standing in His way (v17).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: