- Sermon Notes
Let God Make the Call
Illus. In or out?
As we open to Acts chapter 11 this morning, we will study the confirmation of a choice God made clear to Peter in Acts 11 regarding a people God had chosen, yet up to Acts 10, God’s people weren’t much willing to see, or agree.
The story is detailed out three times between Acts 10 and 11, we studied the story last week and will again study this week from another perspective. It seems to me that the story is being repeated because there is something God wants us to see. The factors and truths to the story are something that the Lord desired His people to clearly see not only that, but in our posture towards people in our present day.
The call that is being made clear here, is God’s call regarding group of people, the Gentiles. It was a call that needed to be made clear because in the cultural and religious climate of the day there were many who were not willing to look at Gentiles as equals in the eyes of the Lord, and others questioned whether Gentiles could every truly be saved.
As we open to Acts chapter 11, know that the Lord had opened Peter’s eyes and heart to His call for all in the previous chapter. Peter responded by going and ministering to a group of Gentiles. After remaining amongst them for a few days, he made his way back to the church in Jerusalem. Interestingly, back at the church, they had already heard the news, and there were issues amongst the people surrounding what the Lord had called Peter to do. In response, Peter will recount the story, and to the necessity of letting God make the call when to comes to people, and His call was that salvation was available to all.
- Look to Him in Every Issue
Acts 11:1-3, Now the apostles and the brothers and sisters who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, the Jewish believers took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
- From the end of chapter 10, we know that after Peter preached to the group of Gentiles and the Holy Spirit fell upon them, they asked him to stay for a few days.
- It seems that while he remained there, the news traveled fast and reached the apostles and church in Jerusalem.
- When they heard the news, they began to formulate their views about it all.
- Verse 2 tells us the Jewish believers took issue with him. These were the Jews who had converted to Christianity.
- Amongst the Jews who had converted to Christ, there was a prominent posture surrounding the path to Salvation for a Gentile.
- Most believed that Gentiles could be saved, but only if they followed all the Jewish laws and tradition – in other words, some believed the Gentiles needed to become Jews before they could come to Christ.
- With that posture and belief in mind, they hear the news and express their views on the issue.
- When Peter arrives, the people don’t ask how it went, or share any excitement in learning that the Gentiles had received the word of God, rather they were offended and contended with Peter’s approach to going and eating with Gentiles.
- Verse 2 tells us they “took issue with him.” The statement is translated in the New King James Version as “they contended with him;” and in the NIV as “they criticized him.”
- The Greek word means to separate, oppose, judge, discriminate, or withdraw from.
- What they were putting on people was according to their tradition rather than specific to what the Lord had given.
- Their posture was a product of their tradition. It was not the heart of God, not the will of God, not the Word of God, but a commitment to customs.
- It was necessary that they look to the Lord in the issue, what did He have to say about the issue? What was He trying to show them? What was this work of grace that had happened, and why?
- The church in Acts 11 didn’t have all of the same understandings and writings that we have in our day presently. They didn’t have the book of Romans, the book of Hebrews, Galatians, and Ephesians. They didn’t have the writings of Paul, they didn’t yet see it all in full view, but we do.
- Interestingly, though there is much we have been given in Scripture and can clearly see, their posture can easily become a familiar one amongst the people of Christ presently.
- There are many times where tradition or methods overtake mission.
- We, like the church in Acts 11, can be more concerned about what a person did, that what God is doing.
- The focus of the church was on what Peter did, not on what the Lord had done.
- Two things had taken place, the Gentiles had received the word of the Lord, and Peter had gone to and eaten with Gentiles.
- They said nothing of the first, their focus was on what Peter had done, and gave no though to what the Lord said He was going to do, and who He was going to use.
Acts 1:8, …You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.
- As they asked questions about Peter’s sitting down with Gentiles for dinner, I wonder if Peter was reminded of the time Jesus met Matthew the tax collector.
- There are people many are avoidant of or resistant to. But we must pursue being a people who before taking up issues and conclusions regarding our view, continually look to and consult the Lord on the issue.
- Get on Board with the Word of the Lord
- In response to the criticism, Peter is going to recount the story we went over last week and give the opportunity for those opposing him to get all the information.
- It seems that Peter thought his best defense would be to tell his story and recount the events that lead to the conversion of many Gentiles, and his willingness to go to and eat with them.
- Beginning in verse 4, Peter explained how the word of the Lord was spoken to him, and the details associated with his willingness to listen.
- Let look again at the details of the story originally given in Acts 10:
Acts 11:5-7, “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came to where I was, and I stared at it and was thinking about it, and I saw the four-footed animals of the earth, the wild animals, the crawling creatures, and the birds of the sky. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’
- While in Joppa, Peter had gone up to a rooftop to pray. It was the sixth hour which means it was twelve noon.
- One detail he left out that we know from Acts 10 was that as Peter went up to pray, he was hungry and wanted to eat, and lunch preparations were being made. It was then that he fell into a trance and sees food in a vision.
- In the vision there is a large sheet lowered down by the four corners to the ground, and there were all kinds of animals on it, including animals that were unclean according to Jewish law. Peter had a vision, and a voice came to him, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”
- Peter will later acknowledge that it was the Lord showing him all of this and this is an interesting vision, but why is the vision about food?
- It seems that the vision is corresponding with what he is experiencing. He is hungry, he wants to eat. The vision gets his attention because he has an immediate need.
- In the Old Testament, there were certain dietary restrictions for Israel. There were foods that were forbidden, these are found in Leviticus 11.
- The sheet came down before Peter, full of forbidden foods, and it is these foods that were once forbidden that the Lord is telling him to eat.
- From verse 8 we know that what the Lord was asking Peter to do, was something he had never done. It seems to be a significant challenge to the conclusions he had previously come to.
- At first, Peter thought the Lord was speaking to him in his hunger, only about his posture towards food and a dietary change; but from Acts 10:28, we understand that the Lord was also speaking to him about his posture towards people.
Acts 10:28, “You yourselves know that it is forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner; and yet God has shown me that I am not to call any person unholy or unclean.
- The Lord was bringing about a change in Peter’s heart, a change that was needed regarding his heart toward a particular people, the Gentiles.
- Certain foods would make it difficult for a Jew to eat with Gentiles without risking defilement, and the point of it all was that God was now working outside of Israel, and if Peter was going to be a part of what God was doing, he needed to understand that nothing was unclean.
- There was a New Covenant, and a calling of a new people, the days of the previous restrictions, were over.
- When Peter first saw the vision, he responded with… “By no means, Lord!”
- But the Lord continued to speak, and Peter was ultimately willing to get on board with the word of the Lord.
- Peter needed this. There was someone he desired Peter to be, there was a change he wanted to see. There was a people God wanted His people to pursue.
- But we see in Acts 11, it was not just Peter who needed to change his posture towards the Gentile’s, it was also God’s people who needed change.
- And the posture He was calling them to was not new, however they needed a different view, a commitment to His call for all.
Illus. The Word of the Lord.
Acts 10:34-35, Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
- Peter had said to the people that he realized something; God shows know partiality. He has received it now; he perceives it now. No one is “off limits,” the ground is level at the cross.
- The word there for partiality is “one who discriminates,” and Peter says clearly, God doesn’t do that. His call is for all.
Acts 10:43, To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.
- As he spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles, just as He did for the Jewish believers at Pentecost (11:15).
Acts 11:16, And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
- Peter remembered the words of Jesus and that His words did not just apply to the Jews who decided to choose Jesus, but to the Gentiles, to all who would believe, to you, and to me.
Acts 11:17, Therefore, if God gave them the same gift as He also gave to us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
- Peter tells the story, and says God gave them the same gift He gave us when we believed in Jesus, it was about His call, what He gave, what He had to say, and who was I to stand in His way?
- Peter remembered the word of the Lord, look at what the Lord was doing, and decided to get out of the God’s way and the people were willing to listen to what Peter had to say.
Acts 11:18, When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has also granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
- The people heard Peter’s words and their first response was silence, and then surrender. Perhaps they had previously gotten in God’s way, listening to others rather than what He had to say, but their posture changes that day, they were all willing to let God make the call.
Romans 10:9-13, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Now the apostles and the brothers and sisters who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, the Jewish believers took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained at length to them in an orderly sequence, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came to where I was, and I stared at it and was thinking about it, and I saw the four-footed animals of the earth, the wild animals, the crawling creatures, and the birds of the sky. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. And behold, at that moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea came up to the house where we were staying. And the Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send some men to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore, if God gave them the same gift as He also gave to us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has also granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”