WHEN GOD’S WAYS DON’T MAKE SENSE TO YOU, REJECT HUMAN PREJUDICE IN FAVOR OF DIVINE CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S WILL
There are lots of times in life when God’s ways don’t make sense to us as believers. Even though we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; even though we sincerely want to submit to God’s will . . . there are times when we face circumstances that just don’t seem to add up to us. That is because we still view the world through a grid that includes our own fallen human traditions and prejudices that are hard to cast off.
Maybe we argue with God about why He doesn’t do something in a certain way or according to our timetable. Why do we or our loved ones continue to struggle with severe health issues? Why do the wicked prosper? Why does God save this person whom we struggle to accept … or not save this person whom we have prayed for over a long period of time? Why can’t a find a better job? Why doesn’t God bring me a marriage partner? Why does God allow my marriage partner to act in such and such a way? Why don’t my teachers understand me? Why are people attacking me or speaking ill of me?
There are all sorts of issues that can cause us to debate with God. We know that God’s ways are not our ways … but we still struggle with embracing God’s will and seeing the hand of His goodness in His providential dealings with us.
Job struggled mightily: his situation was so bleak that his wife counseled him to curse God and die. His friends tried to convince him that some awful sin must have led to his dire circumstances. Job started to talk back to God and was stopped short:
“Then the Lord said to Job, ‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?’” (40:1-2)
Job came to understand that he needed to cease striving against the Almighty and His mysterious ways:
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.. . Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:1-6)
David debated with God constantly – just read through the Psalms and watch how his emotional state cycled through seasons of doubt and questioning and despair to the heights of joy and intimate fellowship.
“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth: Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (86:11)
Remember God’s rebuke to Jonah when the reluctant prophet did not share God’s heart of compassion and mercy for the wicked Ninevites – even when they responded with repentance to God’s warning of judgment: “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (4:4, 9)
Specific Issue: Should the Jewish believers accept the salvation of these Gentiles as legitimate?
WHEN GOD’S WAYS DON’T MAKE SENSE TO YOU, REJECT HUMAN PREJUDICE IN FAVOR OF DIVINE CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S WILL
I. (10:44-48) CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF BELIEVING GENTILES – DIRECTED TO PETER AND THE DELEGATION FROM JOPPA
A. (:44-46) Confirmed by Holy Spirit Baptism = Accepted by God Into the Universal Church = Gentile counterpart to Pentecost\
“speaking these words” = message of Acts 10
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST BRINGS FORGIVENESS OF SINS TO ANYONE WHO BELIEVES – EVEN UNCIRCUMCISED GENTILES
Not a message that was easy for Peter to accept – but God removed the prejudice in his heart and changed his thinking; now he was going to be used by God to help the change the hearts of the rest of the believing Jewish community – starting with his delegation of 6 witnesses that he had brought to the house of Cornelius
1. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is Sovereignly associated with Faith in Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Gospel
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.”
Not a subsequent post-conversion experience that should be sought by believers to elevate them to another plane of spirituality – although in these transitional passages we cannot take the order of events as the definitive argument for what is normative
We learn elsewhere that all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ at the moment of salvation and that if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you do not have Jesus Christ and you are not saved; we also learn that the Spirit is not given by measure – in other words it is not that you receive some minimal dose of the Holy Spirit at salvation and need to have that augmented later on with some dramatic experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit
John 3 teaches us that God controls the movement of His Spirit – not man – He blows when and where He wills
Gal. 3:2 “ did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”
Kent: The Holy Spirit is thus God’s provision to men when they truly believe in Christ. Faith is the common denominator in all of the instances described in Acts, and any differences should be considered in the light of historical factors that existed.
2. God’s Ways Can Surprise and Amaze Us when they stand in contrast to our prejudices and traditional understanding
“And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.”
defined here as “the gift of the Holy Spirit”
Should we be surprised that God can surprise us and amaze us?? He is God! There are many surprising aspects to His divine will and the outworking of His providential ways to accomplish His sovereign purposes
Ezekiel 36:26 – God had prepared them for this surprise
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
But this promise was not only to the Jews – but “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16) (Is. 56:8; John 11:52; Ephes 2:13-18)
3. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit can be accompanied with the special confirmatory sign of speaking in unknown foreign languages (tongues) – when a new people group is being brought into the body of Christ
“For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.”
We should expect that the gift of tongues practiced here should be identical to the tongues seen in Acts 3 – for the whole point is that what happened to the believing Jews at Pentecost was now happening in the same fashion to these Gentiles – we know that those were known foreign languages and not ecstatic utterances (or some type of angelic language)
Here you can tell that is the case because there was intelligence involved in terms of actual words that had meaning and could be understood to be exalting God
“they were hearing them” – implies understanding what was being said
So perhaps the 6 Jewish believers (circumcised ones) that Peter brought with him as witnesses had different backgrounds in terms of languages which they could speak – what a confirmation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to hear these Gentile believers praising God in these different languages
God has obviously accepted these Gentiles as legitimate believers – How can the believing community not do the same? Even though God’s ways surprise us, we must put aside our prejudices and traditional thinking and embrace God’s will and submit to it
That will solve all of our wrestling with God about Why are you doing this or not doing that …
Second Confirmation involving Peter and his delegation of believing Jews:
B. (:47-48) Confirmed by Water Baptism = Accepted by the Brethren Into the Visible Church
1. Denial of Water Baptism for any true believer = Standing Against the Purposes of God
“Then Peter answered,’Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’”
– shows the importance of water baptism – don’t minimize it – immersion = standard practice and the best symbolism
– shows that water baptism is subsequent to salvation – don’t make it part of the means of salvation – don’t give it undue importance
Is our fellowship more restrictive and more exclusive than what God intended?
How about if we set up standards for church inclusion and membership that would prohibit Jesus Christ from being a member?? That would be a sad state of affairs
2. Water Baptism Symbolizes our Identification with Jesus Christ and obedience to His discipleship
“And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
We are called to be transformed and to become like Jesus Christ; we are disciple of Jesus Christ – not of some human teacher
Who can perform baptisms?? Did not require the apostle Peter – appears that his six companions administered the baptisms – the administrator and his credentials are never the emphasis
3. New Believers Appreciate Fellowship and Hunger to be Taught the Word
“Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.”
Stott: The gift of the Spirit was insufficient; they needed human teachers too. And Peter’s acceptance of their hospitality demonstrated the new Jewish-Gentile solidarity which Christ had established.
II. (11:1-18) CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S ACCEPTANCE OF BELIEVING GENTILES – DIRECTED TO THE BELIEVING JEWS IN JERUSALEM
A. (11:1-3) Point of Contention = Intimate Fellowship with Gentiles
“Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
“received the word of God” = salvation = same point of reference for baptism of Holy Spirit
What should have been an occasion for great joy and unity was perverted into potential for strife and division
Toussaint: Eating with someone was a mark of acceptance and fellowship (cf. 1 Cor. 5:11).
“took issue with him” – point of contention; debate; serious difference of opinion; went against their personal convictions
Great model for resolving differences of perspective in the church
B. (11:4-17) Review of the Historical Facts and Their Confirmatory Significance —
10 Steps to Confirm God’s Way or to Resolve Sincere Differences:
1. (:4) Analytical Approach – orderly, logical, chronological explanation of events
“But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying,”
2. (:5a) Prayerful Posture – maintaining normal spiritual disciplines
“I was in the city of Joppa praying;”
3. (:5b-6) Spiritual Sight / Insight – Seeing the Divine Picture
“and in a trance I saw a vision, a certain object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, and when I had fixed my gaze upon it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air.”
4. (:7-10) Repeated Revelation – Hearing the Word of the Lord and Obeying
“And I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Arise, 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.’ And this happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky.”
5. (:11) Providential Proof
“And behold, at that moment three men appeared before the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea.
6. (:12a) Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
“And the Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings.”
7. (:12b) Objective Outside Counsel
“And these six brethren also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.”
Value of Peter taking along witnesses so it would not just be his word regarding what happened in the house of Cornelius
8. (:13-14) Angelic Announcement – not always available!
“And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa, and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’”
9. (:15) Physical Phenomena – nothing but the facts
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning.”
10. (:16) Prophetic Promise
“And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”
“If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
When we stubbornly persist in debating with God and questioning His Ways, we stand in God’s Way – sort of like God standing in Balaam’s way when he stubbornly tried to go his own way – not a very smart move on our part
Numbers 22:22-35; 2 Pet. 2:15-16
Don’t be dumber than a donkey!
Don’t be more arrogant than an ass!
Kent: By rehearsing the incident with considerable detail, Peter made it clear that this extension of the gospel to the gentiles was not some idea of his own to enlarge the church, but was God’s doing from beginning to end.
Lenski: In v. 12 the six brethren from Joppa appear in Jerusalem with Peter. This makes it unlikely that Peter waited so long a time before going back to Jerusalem, or that he first toured Galilee. It is most probable that the interval did not extend beyond two or three weeks, and that thus these six brethren from Joppa were still in Peter’s company.
Lenski: Peter asks his critics whether they thought that he was able to prevent God from dealing with these Gentiles as he did. Two questions are fused into one: “Who was I?” and, “Was I able?” The very idea that Peter might hinder God in this bestowal is preposterous. Did his critics intend to claim that he should have attempted that? The question asked them involves also whether they would so hinder God.
C. (11:18) Peaceful and Logical Resolution
1. Requires Patient and Respectful Listening
“And when they heard this,”
No jumping to conclusions; knee jerk decisions
2. Elevates Calm Logic Above Passionate Emotion
“they quieted down,”
3. Pursues the Unified Goal of Glorifying God
“and glorified God,”
4. Embraces Convictions that are Consistent with the Heart and Will of God
“saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’”
We arrive at a peaceful resolution when we submit to the God who makes the rules instead of trying to enforce our own prejudices and agenda
– God does not owe us an explanation of all of His ways.
– Recognize that our perspective is tainted by prejudice and tradition.
– Be sensitive to accepting all those whom God has accepted without reservation.
– Seek confirmation for God’s ways – but with priority on God’s revelation.
– But then embrace God’s ways and be willing to change your thinking and obey.