In the previous chapter the Apostle ·Peter adventured in faith and obedience to Caesarea to proclaim the Good News to the Gentiles. He had overcome, for the present, his hatred of the Gentiles. The chapter ends with the Gentiles :being added to the Body of Christ. As we enter into a study of the first eighteen verses of the eleventh chapter we see that not all of Peter’s fellow-believers were happy with his actions. Peter is glad that he took six witnesses with him on his journey of faith. Please study along with us as we strive to open up the Scriptures.
PETER IS CALLED ON THE CARPET: Acts 11:1-3
It seems by the reading of the text that Peter and his fellow-workers spent some time in Caesarea after the conversion of the household of Cornelius. H is also apparent that the news of Peter’s actions preceded him to Jerusalem. Gareth Reese writes the following,
“In Acts 8:1 Luke has told us that the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, even though the Church was scattered by the persecution that arose at the time of Stephen’s death. The “brethren who were throughout Judea would be many of those who were dispersed by that persecution. Throughout Judea is the correct translation, and we are apprised of the fact that news of what happened at Cornelius’ house spread like wildfire across the length and breadth of Judea. It was something the Christians were talking about.”
It seems that one of the things the Jewish Christians could not understand was the Gentiles had received the word of God. Gareth Reese further writes,
“Gentiles as well as Samaritans! Cornelius and his friends were representatives of Gentiles in general, and their baptism and welcome into the Church was a precedent. Receiving the Word is equivalent to their belief and obedience. We do not know how long after the conversion of Cornelius and his household it was until the news reached Jerusalem, but the context implies that the news reached Jerusalem while Peter was still staying in Cornelius’ house in Caesarea.”
In verse 2 we have the phrase, “And when Peter came up to Jerusalem.” Was Peter summoned to appear or did he come on his own accord? This is a question that only eternity will yield the answer. In verse 12 were told that Peter was accompanied by the same 6 witnesses he took with him to Caesarea. In the latter half of the verse the brethren of the circumcision took issue with him. This opposition would later evolve into the Judaizing party which would plague Paul later. That fellow-believers were taking issue with a position that Peter favored has caused some problems for those who like to claim that Peter was the first Pope. Barnes wrote the following,
“This is one of the circumstances which show conclusively that the apostles and early Christians did not regard Peter as ·having any particular supremacy over the church, or as being in any peculiar sense the vicar of Christ upon the earth. If he had been regarded as having the authority which the Roman Catholics claim for him, they would have submitted at once to what he thought proper to do. But the primitive Christians had no such idea of his authority. This claim for Peter is not only opposed in this place, but in every part of the New Testament.”
in verse they were more concerned about Peter’s entering and eating with Gentiles than anything else. This apparent violation of ceremonial rules was not based upon the Law of Moses but rather on tradition. When the people should have been giving God the glory for the victories in Peter’s ministry, they were arguing about “unclean” foods. Do we argue about unimportant things while the world goes to Hell?
PETER RECOUNTS THE VISION FROM THE LORD: Acts 11:4-10
Here in the next seven verses, the Apostle Peter recounts the events that transpired to those who have assembled. He tells them what led him to be with the Gentiles. Peter had prejudices based on tradition. Even today we in the Lord’s Body have prejudices based on traditions.
He begins to explain about the vision. In verse 4 we’re told that he proceeded to explain to them in an orderly manner what had transpired. In verse 5 Peter relates to them that he was in Joppa praying. He tells them that it was at this time and place that he went into the trance. It was at this time that the object came down to him. In verse 6 Peter says he fixed his gaze upon the object. It was then that he saw the unclean creatures. In verse 7 he heard, ” rise, Peter, kill and eat.” Peter recalls his arrogant answer ‘based hatred and prejudice. Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” In verse 9 Peter recounts what the voice from heaven replies. In verse 10 Peter tells them and us that this event happened three times. Also he tells them that the object was drawn back into the sky.
PETER IS INSTRUCTED TO GO TO CAESAREA: Acts 11:11-12
Here in verse 11, Peter tells those assembled that it was at that time three Gentiles appeared before him. In verse 12 Peter says that he was commanded by the Holy Spirit to go with the Gentiles without any misgivings. Gareth Reese writes the following,
“The verb translated “without misgivings” is the same verb translated “took
issue” in verse 2. Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, raised no such opposition
as the Jewish Christians were raising.”
Further on n this verse Peter tells of the six brethren that accompanied him Caesarea. He makes it clear that both he and the six entered into the house of Gentiles. Reese writes further on the subject,
“.. Here we see that the six that accompanied Peter from Joppa to Caesarea have also accompanied him to Jerusalem. Perhaps we have now learned the purpose for which Peter had these brethren accompany him to Caesarea. They were witnesses with him of what had been done. Not only Peter, but the six brethren too had broken traditional rules, because they had been instructed to do so, without any misgivings in their hearts about
what they were doing. The six brethren have learned from Peter’s instruction; it is implied can the brethren in Jerusalem also learn?”
PETER RECOUNTS CORNELIUS’ EXPERIENCE: Acts 11:13-14
Peter tells those assembled of what Cornelius had told him happened in his life. Cornelius had been instructed to send for Peter. Why had Cornelius been instructed to send for Peter? In verse 14 we have the answer, “And he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and your household.”
PETER RECOUNTS THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Acts 11:15-17
Peter relates that he had begun to speak to Cornelius and his household. This message appears in Acts 15:34-44. Peter says that as he was speaking, “The Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the ‘beginning.” What does “at the beginning” mean? It is here that we ‘have the only date of the beginning of the church, the Day of Pentecost.
In verse 16 Peter recalls the words of Jesus in Acts 1:5. In verse 17 is the phrase “If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also.” The same gift is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and “us” has reference to the apostles. Further in the verse Peter says that since they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ he felt that he could not stand in God’s way. Gareth Reese writes the following,
“Peter is saying that to take issue with what was done, as his opponents in Jerusalem were doing, was an attempt to oppose or resist God. Who wants to do that? Peter’s presentation causes .the other apostles and Christians in Jerusalem to withdraw their opposition to Peter and to begin to commend him for what he did, and they rejoice with him for what he did in the conversion of the Gentiles.”
THE RESPONSE OF THE FELLOW CHRISTIANS: Acts 11:18
Luke tells us that when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God. They were, as Peter was, convinced that the Lord was behind it all and they were ready to praise Him. In our next essay we’re going to study about the beginning of the
work in Antioch. The events took place prior to the events that we have been studying about. It is believed that they fit into the narrative after Acts 8:1-4. Please read Acts 11:19-30. Until next time