The shift from law living to grace living . . . from Hebrew Christianity (still with one foot in their native Jewishness) to “Come-on-in-all-you-Gentiles-absolutely-free” required a lot of print (Acts 10, 11 & some in 15). It seems like over-kill as we read it. Twentieth-first century believers can’t appreciate the agony of Peter’s struggle to accept this new mental landscape. His whole orientation from what he had been raised in and taught to view as “spiritual” had to change. Let’s consider it.
1. The Riff-Raffs Coming In A diligent Israelite invested considerable time, energy and money to stay ceremonially clean. To let the Gentile unwashed riff-raff in free was to dilute what was sacred! It just wasn’t right. Compromise! The Jewish Christians didn’t have much, but they had God. And it was revolutionary to share Him with Gentile dogs. Orthodoxy recoiled in horror!
2. Like Us, Peter Was Slow to Change Peter was wondering what a menu matter (his vision of a sheet let down with variety of animals in it) had to do with a membership matter (Gentiles coming into the church). Only God’s vision and providential timing convinced Peter of God’s new program and gained his reluctant participation.
3. Backslide Even so, Peter reversed himself on receiving the Gentiles (Galatians 2). Apparently he forgot that at Pentecost, he had predicted that the “Spirit will be poured out on all flesh” (Acts 2:17), and that his message was “to you and your children and all who were afar off” (verse 39).
Like Peter, we find it very difficult to shed the “spiritual” way of doing things. At the time of this writing, churches are deep into culture wars – what kind of music will be played and sung in the church? Neither kind is Biblical or anti-Biblical. Another battle is the evening service. Originally begun to evangelize people in liberal churches who had no church to go to on a Sunday night, such services today wear out the preacher (while the people in the pews are stuffed with more nourishment than they need). Congregations would get a better message if they asked their pastor to preach only once on a Sunday (and not teach Sunday School or speak on Wednesday night).
Peter walked with the Lord for three years, was spirit-filled for ten years of apostolic service prior to Acts 10, preached God’s acceptance of the Gentiles and he still can’t bring himself to put into operation what he himself preached! The theory of unity is in Ephesians 2; the agony of that was hammered out is in Acts 10 and 11.
Only Much Later Do We Realize We Were Wrong We Bible-believing, fundamentalist / Evangelical believers are the spiritual inheritors of that resistance to change. If we had been alive the century before our Lord walked this earth, most of us would have been Pharisees. We’re slow to see our warts and change. Oh, to have wisdom and understanding of our times!
To Be Continued