Acts 11-13 Fellowship with the unclean

From Acts 11-13

44 twelve apostlesQ. What kinds of responses did Jesus receive when he associated with tax collectors and sinners?

This post is part of my bible in a year series. 

Passage and Comments

Peter had stayed for a few days with the Gentiles who believed his gospel. In doing this he did something that appeared sinful to the other Jews around him. He had had fellowship and ate with with them. Look what happens.

11 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.” (Acts 11.1-3)

God had said all things were clean (Acts 10). He didn’t only mean food, but people as well. But the Jews who criticised Peter didn’t know this. So Peter has to do some explaining.

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. (Acts 11.4-12)

Perhaps Peter was a little nervous obeying the Spirits leading at that time. It is good he did.

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.’ (Acts 11.13-14)

The angel is reported saying, ‘He will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” Peters message that brought them salvation is the gospel he shared in Acts 10.34-43. Basically the message contains a narrative of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, coming judgment and says all who believe receive forgiveness in Jesus’ name.

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?” (Acts 11.15-17)

Here is the clincher in Peters argument why he ate with Gentiles and had fellowship with them, even though the are normally considered to be unclean. Peter says, ‘the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning’. The point is, if God has accepted them he should as well.

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.” (Acts 11.18)

Note the reference to ‘repentance’. Peters message in Acts 10.34-43 does not mention the word repentance. But they did repent in a fashion. Normally we associate repentance with grief over some sort of sin or wrongdoing and resolve not to do it again. But repentance in the scriptures does not always signify that.

As I mentioned in an earlier post. Repentance in the New Testament could mean;

  • A continuing state initiated when someone has orientated their life towards God and been baptised (Mt 3.8,11; Mk 1.4; Lk 3.8; 15.7; Acts 11.18; 17.30; 20.21; 26.20; Heb 6.6; 12.17; 2 Pet 3.9)
  • Repenting of sin at some point in a persons life (Lk 17.3,4; Acts 8.22; Rom 2.4; 2 Cor 7.9,10; 12.21; Rev 2.5,16,21,22; 3.3,19)
  • An overlap of the two above for people out of relationship with God (Mt 3.2; 4.17; 11.20,21; Mk 1.15; 6.12; Lk 3.3; 5.32; 13.3,5; 15.10; 16.30; 24.47; Acts 2.38; 3.19; 5.31; 13.24; 19.4; 2 Tim 2.25; Heb 6.1; Rev 9.20,21; 16.9,11)

I suggest here the concept of repentance indicates the moment of conversion where a person turns towards Jesus and reorients their life to following him. They agreed with what Peter said and decided to follow Jesus.

About Mission

Peter faces conflict from his own people. The Gentile inclusion will continue to be a major source of conflict as we will see in Paul. Peter is able to describe what the Spirit did in order to convince his peers that God had truly accepted the Gentiles. I suspect this is the reason why God made it noticeable to Peter. Conflict with other Christians can be especially painful, but as in this example keep hoping that it will end well.


Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights

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