#carmelprays – Acts 11:1-18
Opening Song: Your Grace Still Amazes Me
Read Scripture: Acts 11:1-18
“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (v2-3)
I can almost imagine what the apostles and believers of the early churches throughout Judea were saying about Peter as news spread like wildfire about Peter “consorting” with Gentiles, even visiting Gentiles, and horrors – sharing food at the same table as them! Exclamations of “this is not right!”; Concerned murmurings like “Oh dear, Peter has been led astray” and “We have to pray for our dear brother Peter”; criticisms of “how can Peter as a leader even do such things?” Many, I believe, reacted this way not out of malice or ill-intention, but fear of change, perhaps fear that God’s teachings/purposes were being subverted.
Has there been a time in your life when your church leader has introduced a new idea or way of doing things in church/ministry and your first reaction was to balk, criticize and/or shun? You may have had different reasons for such a reaction. Perhaps you were only concerned for the church. But perhaps it was a fear of change because “we have always done things this way”, or negative thoughts or even fear of the judgment of men because a different method would expose your weaknesses. Whatever the reason, God, in His sovereignty, sometimes moulds us by changing our thinking. He wants to set us free from the chains that bind us from doing His will, carrying out His purposes…and He sometimes does it by forcing us out of our comfort zone.
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth…” (v8)
Peter shares with the church the vision that God gave him and it is not an easy vision for the church to swallow! In fact, as if to pre-emptively make His point clear and free of doubt, God showed Peter the vision three times! In the vision, God commands Peter to kill and eat the animals that were forbidden for Jews to eat (See Leviticus 11). Peter’s exclamation of indignant protest is a reflection of the revulsion most Jews would feel about such an idea – “Surely not, Lord!” Indeed, this may well be our reaction when confronted with a change that offends our traditional ideas of the “right” way of doing things and the “wrong” way of doing things.
But God tells Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (v9). Do not stand in the way of God’s plans and purposes. Do not keep excluded what God decides to include. Do not make judgments on a new thing God is doing in His kingdom. Peter shares with the church the process of how God changed his erroneous thinking. If Peter felt any misgivings and doubt at even this clear repeated vision, God knew his needs and provided confirmation of the message through the form of three men arriving from Caesarea and the Holy Spirit prompting him to go with them. He obeys in faith and meets Cornelius and hears the astounding news that an angel had visited him. The icing on the cake most certainly had to be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentile household “as he had come on us (the apostles) in the beginning” (See Acts 2:1-13).
Peter’s conclusion is “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (v17). If the changes that confront us are in God’s sovereign plan to expand his kingdom, who are we to stand God’s Way? Who are we with our limited minds to pass judgment and murmur? Instead, let us listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings with open hearts and minds. Hearts and minds that are open even to radical change lest we miss out on being involved in God’s work and our church leaders are deprived of the support that we ought to give them.
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (v18).
As we look around us, especially in this era of the Covid-19 virus, church as we know it – services, care groups, Sunday School, youth groups, evangelism etc is changing and will need to change. God’s commission to us however remains the same – to make disciples. Who else may God be guiding us to reach? Let’s be open to exploring new ways we can reach more souls for His kingdom for His glory.
Pray in Response
You are our Sovereign God, the Source of all wisdom and knowledge. We pray that You will give us heavenly wisdom, knowledge and depth of insight to be able to discern, test and prove what is right and best in doing the work You have given to us. We pray that where change is needed in our lives, or methods, or thinking, You will show it to us as clearly as you showed Peter. And we pray that we will have the strength and humility to submit to Your direction in our lives. Let not our stubbornness, pride and fear get in the way of our being involved in Your work. Holy Spirit, fall afresh on us! In Jesus’ mighty Name we pray, Amen.
Response Song: Be Thou My Vision
By Valerie Heng