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God Saves Gentiles (Part 4)

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Introduction

It has now officially been ten years since I graduated from Bible school. As I thought about that recently I reflected on one of my regrets. You see, I went to Bible school because I wanted to know the Bible. I wanted to be able to answer people’s questions with a Bible verse the way my Dad has always done. Anyone who has been to college knows that it can be very busy, hectic, and stressful. By the time my last semester rolled around I have to confess that I had lost my focus. I wasn’t thinking about learning as much as I could. I wasn’t thinking about how this was probably my best chance to learn. I was thinking about having an easy semester. I was also thinking about Jessica, but that’s a different story. I had been going full steam for 2 1/2 years and so my last semester I took the least amount of classes I needed to so I could graduate. I still kick myself for that.
I think all of us could list times in our lives when we have lost our focus. Generally, a loss of focus does not mean we focus on nothing, it is focusing on the wrong thing. It is a change of focus from what is good and right, to something else. When that happens, we need to restore our focus.
As we wrap up this section which has been focused on Gentiles as a whole coming to Christ, we see how the Jewish believers have lost their focus and need it to be restored.
What is to be the focus of the church? Turn back to .
Acts 1:8 NKJV
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
We are to be witnesses. Everything else in the NT, the commands about how we live and interact with one another, these are to support and enhance our ability to share Christ!
I believe that it is just as easy for us today to lose our focus.
I believe that it is just as easy for us today to lose our focus.
What this passage explores is why the focus is lost, why it needs to be restored, and what the focus should be on.
Peter is going to defend his work with Cornelius
This defense provides us with vital lessons to learn as we move forward in our proclamation of the gospel.
For effective gospel preaching, our focus must be on God, His glory, and the salvation of sinners.
There are three pieces necessary to achieve this focus.
Piece #1. We must understand…
This defense provides us with vital lessons to learn as we move forward in our proclamation of the gospel.
Piece #1. We must understand…

1. The Need For A Restored Focus vv. 1-3

Peter has had kind of a wild ride. He healed Aeneas in Lydda, raised Dorcas from the dead in Joppa, and then received a vision from God. He met with Gentiles, preached Christ to them and saw them saved. Some of the ideas and prejudices he has held for a lifetime have just been shattered!
He arrives back in Jerusalem only to find that there is a need for the focus of the gospel to restored. There are two reasons for this presented in the first 3 verses.
First, the focus needs to be restored…

a. Because the story is out v. 1

READ v. 1
Apostles and brethren. A distinction between the two. They are in Judea; they hear the Gentiles have received the Word. “Received” has the idea of accepted. The Gentiles accepted the Word.
. 1 – Apostles and brethren. A distinction between the two. They are in Judea; they hear the Gentiles have received the Word.
Word = message. What message? The gospel, the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
The Gentiles have accepted Jesus Christ!
News travels fast. The story has already been told.
We don’t know whether this news was presented in a positive or negative light.
You would think that this would bring rejoicing.
It doesn’t. It doesn’t…

b. Because the significance is missed vv. 2-3

READ v. 2
The first hint we get of trouble is the word “Contended”.
Contended – διακρίνω (diakrinō) doubt; waver. To dispute. To have a disagreement over something.
Contended – διακρίνω (diakrinō)
There is disagreement and disputing about what Peter has done.

The grammatical voice that signifies that the subject of the verb is being affected by its own action or is acting upon itself.

So what? Peter isn’t arguing with them. They are arguing with themselves.
Isn’t this what we do when we lose our focus? We begin to argue with ourselves.
Who is arguing?
Those of the circumcision.
This is kind of a slang term to describe legalistic Jewish believers.
It is most often used when they are not acting like grace filled believers, but like those bound to the Law.
Peter arrives in Jerusalem and he is greeted by his brothers and sisters in Christ arguing about Gentile salvation.
Notice what they are concerned about.
READ v. 3
How did they miss the point so completely? Their focus was on the wrong thing.
There is no concern for the reality that Gentiles are now part of the body of Christ! They could care less about salvation for Gentiles, they are concerned that Peter broke tradition.
This has church wrecking potential.
I believe Peter knew this was coming. He mentioned this tradition in 10:28.
The Lord is all about breaking barriers. Jesus did this! This is similar to accusations made against Him.
Turn to (p. 1120)
(p. 1120)
Matthew 9:10–13 NKJV
Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Peter and Jesus broke barriers, they broke tradition and societal taboos, why? It is the sick, the sinner, who needs to be saved!
Do we understand that? What would this look like for us?
Tattooed and pierced. Homosexual. Transgender. Homeless. Drunk.
Are we reaching out to those in need?
Which side of this occasion would we be on? Would we be Peter, going where the “religious” of his day wouldn’t go? Or would we be like these people, concerned about things that don’t really matter?
When we no longer reach out to the hurting, our focus needs to be restored.
We miss the whole point of the gospel when we become obsessed with outward appearance. We are not called to share the gospel only with those who make us comfortable! As Jesus was the friend of tax collectors and sinners, so we need to reach out to those most in need.
Our focus get’s lost because we are consumed with the temporary instead of the eternal!
Who cares if that person is involved in things you don’t like? Reach out to them with the love of Jesus! Tell them about Him! He will change their behavior.
These people have heard what happened, but they have completely missed the point. Therefore, Peter gives us our second piece to the puzzle of restored focus. Piece #2…

2. The Reasoning For A Restored Focus vv. 4-17

Once we understand the need, we need to know what to do about it. When focus is lost, instruction is needed.
These are not bad people. They are simply misguided.
Have you ever made conclusions without all the facts? It gets you in trouble, right?
These people do not have all the facts.
Peter is determined to give them the information that they need.
There are three lines of argument that Peter uses here. The first two were used by God with Peter.
The first line of argument is that…

a. God cleanses the common vv. 4-10

READ v. 4
Peter explains everything. He starts at the beginning and walks them through the events.
We looked at these previously so we won’t spend too much time here.
READ v. 5
1. The container vv. 4-5
The container. Big sheet.
Again, the significance here is that these animals are coming down from heaven.
Also significant is that it comes to Peter. He is the recipient of God’s instruction.
READ v. 6
After careful observation and consideration Peter determined what was inside.
The contents. All of these animals, coming down from the presence of God, are unclean.
As shocking as it would have been for these things to come from God’s presence, what happens next is more shocking still!
READ v. 7
God wants to transform Peter’s thinking. Therefore, Peter is given a command that no “good Jew” of his day and age would follow.
I can only imagine the open-mouthed amazement Peter’s words must have been met with. And he isn’t done yet.
READ v. 8
As we noted before, saying “not so, Lord” is a contradiction. Peter refuses to eat as God has commanded.
This is our #1 problem when it comes to sharing the gospel. What do I mean?
All four of the Gospels, Matthew-Mark-Luke-John, have a version of the great commission. In John Jesus says, “so send I you”. In Luke Jesus reminds them that remission of sin is to be “preached to all the nations”. Matthew has the commission as we most often hear it. Of all of them, Mark’s account is my favorite. (S).
Mark 16:15 NKJV
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
This command is just as relevant to us today as it was to the disciples. This is the responsibility of every believer.
Whenever we fail to preach Christ we are saying “not so, Lord!” Just. Like. Peter.
Like Peter, we have our excuses. Too busy. Don’t know the words. What if… fill in the blank.
The bottom line is this.
The servant obeys the command of the master.
It is God’s response to Peter’s refusal that changes everything.
READ v. 9
This voice is speaking to Peter from heaven. This is where God dwells.
Peter is being corrected here. God wants to be crystal clear. God cleanses the common.
This is who God is! Amen?
He redeems sinners! He sanctifies His enemies! He purifies the filthy! He rescues the lost! He wraps the weary wounded soul in His arms!
This is at the heart of the issue. God is in control.
When God cleanses something, it is no longer common.
This goes for you and me as well.
We are not what we once were!
Cleansed – καθαρίζω (katharizō) purify; cleanse; make clean. To declare clean, ritually or ceremonially pure.
Cleansed – καθαρίζω (katharizō)
The idea here is that God has declared these things to be clean. This is what He does with us. He declares us to be righteous based on the sacrifice of Christ.
What God has declared to be clean, cannot be made unclean.
God is in the business of fixing what is broken. If we are not ministering to, and reaching out to the broken, how can we expect God to heal them?
READ v. 10
1. Transformed estimation vv. 7-9
a. By command v. 7
b. By correction vv. 8-9
God does this three times. When something is repeated in Scripture three times it bears the idea of certainty. God is driving this point home.
i. Correction’s call v. 8
ii. Correction’s clarity v. 9
When He cleanses something, it is clean.
Peter’s reasoning. Why do we need our focus restored?
Our focus needs to be restored because of God’s program. He cleanses the common.
2. Transformed experience v.10
Peter now moves to the second argument…

b. The Spirit saves the sinner vv. 11-15

READ v. 11
Now comes the application of the lesson Peter just learned.
READ v. 11
Three men from Caesarea. Three Gentiles.
God doesn’t care about their nationality.
i. Saved without distinction vv. 11-12
In God’s plan, sinners are saved without distinction.
Peter’s next words show that God also has no regard for tradition.
1. No regard for nationality v. 11
READ v. 12
2. No regard for tradition v. 12
Tradition stated that Jews were not to enter Gentile houses.
Yet the Spirit commanded Peter to go “doubting nothing”!
Easier said than done.
and both exhort us to pray “doubting nothing”.
Why is it so important that we do not doubt? What does Scripture say? The just shall live by...”
Those who have been justified are to live by faith. Doubt is the opposite of faith.
When God commands, we obey, doubting nothing.
Peter now recounts the words of Cornelius as well as the conversion of the Gentiles. He has six people with him who can serve as witnesses to what God has done.
ii. Saved without difference vv. 13-15
These events demonstrate an important truth.
In God’s plan, sinners are saved without difference.
Without distinction and without difference.
All are saved the same way! That is what we will see.
READ v. 13
There is no way to deny the divine element of this event. The Holy Spirit speaking to Peter, God giving him a vision, an angel speaking to Cornelius.
The Gentiles are going to be saved the same way the Jews were. In fact, it is the same speaker, the same message, and the same Holy Spirit!
Cornelius is to send for Peter who would be God’s messenger.
READ v. 14
The message Peter is to preach will tell them how to be saved.
This is their greatest need. Not circumcision. Not an external form of godliness.
They need the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse them from sin! They need to throw themselves on the mercy and grace of God!
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Peter is re-centering their focus. It isn’t about the external, it is about “Christ in you the hope of glory” ().
READ v. 15
As Peter is preaching, the Holy Spirit indwells these new believers.
The Spirit saves the sinner.
Nationality doesn’t matter. Social status doesn’t matter. Skin color doesn’t matter. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory!
We are all equally condemned, equally in need of salvation. For all of us, there is only one way, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Remember what Peter is doing. These people are arguing because Peter ate with Gentiles.
Peter is letting them know that they are missing the point! They are so focused on the breaking of tradition, they don’t see what God is doing!
Peter informs them that the Spirit came to the Gentiles just as He did with the Jews.
There is no distinction.
Same messenger, Peter. Same message, believe in Jesus. Same indwelling, the Holy Spirit. Same sign, tongues.
Again, why does our focus need to be restored? God program, cleansing the common. Also…
Our focus needs to be restored because of God’s purpose. He saves sinners.
So far Peter has recounted what we saw in ch. 10. However, his third line of argument gives us some new information. Peter presets that…
a. The messenger v. 13
b. The message v. 14
2. The same Spirit v. 15

c. Men obey the omniscient vv. 16-17

READ v. 16
Peter is giving a glimpse into his thought process as the Gentiles begin to speak in tongues. He sees and hears that the Holy Spirit has come upon the Gentiles. He remembers what Jesus had said.
This is a very important distinction. There is a big difference between water baptism and spirit baptism. Water baptism is symbolic. Spirit baptism is what places us into the body of Christ! Water baptism is outward and temporary. Spirit baptism is internal and permanent.
Jesus prophesied that the Holy Spirit would come, the disciples just didn’t expect Gentiles to be included.
Alberto Valdés writes that,
The Grace New Testament Commentary C. Peter Confirms the Cleansing of the Gentiles to the Apostles (11:1–18)

Peter’s witnessing of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles jarred his thinking so that he saw that Jesus’ promise extended beyond the Jewish nation.

Peter has recounted the events. He has indicated that these events were foretold by Christ Himself.
Now he gives those present a challenge.
READ v. 17
i. Obey because of prophecy v. 16
God granted them the same gift. Don’t stand against Him! He gave the Holy Spirit as promised, they just didn’t expect who all was included.
ii. Obey because of power v. 17
This “if” = since. What is Peter talking about? Day of Pentecost, .
Peter can’t withstand God.
Could – δυνατός (dynatos) strong; powerful; possible. To be able. To be or become sufficient to meet a need or task.
God granted them the same gift. Don’t stand against Him! He gave the HS as promised, they just didn’t expect who all was included.
Could – δυνατός (dynatos)
Withstand – κωλύω (kōlyō) hinder; prevent; forbid. To stop (someone or something) from doing something or being in a certain state.
Withstand – κωλύω (kōlyō)
Peter has no ability, no power to stop God from exercising His will.
This is a lesson we would all do well to learn. We cannot stand against God. Turn to (p. 839).
(p. 839)
Isaiah 46:8–11 NKJV
“Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.
God did what He had promised. Peter couldn’t stand against that.
God is going to keep His Word. He will do what He has promised. We cannot and dare not stand against Him!
We serve an all powerful God. He is to be obeyed.
Are we trying to withstand God in our lives? Is He speaking to you and me about something we need to surrender?
Peter is addressing Jews who wanted to argue about him eating with Gentiles. Now they have been confronted with the reality that this is a God thing. God orchestrated these events from start to finish. He is bringing Gentiles to Himself! They need to adjust their focus.
Our focus needs to be restored because of God’s power. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and He will keep His promises. We dare not stand against Him!
How will they respond?
We find as we consider the final piece of our focus puzzle. Piece #3…

3. The Reality Of A Restored Focus v. 18

How are hearts changed? How is focus restored?
How is focus restored?
Through the truth. Sanctify them by truth, your Word is truth (Jn. 17:17).
That is all that Peter has given them!
He recounted the events and challenged them with God's role in all this.
As they come to grips with what has taken place we find two ways that focus is restored. First…

a. Focus is restored in silence v. 18a

This is a huge contrast to their attitude in v. 3. Where they had been arguing and contentious, they are now silent.
This is how we learn.
Turn to (p. 649).
(p. 659)
Psalm 46 NKJV
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song For Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Be still and know that I am God.
In the stillness and silence of our hearts and minds. God speaks.
He brings our focus back to Himself.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, writes powerfully of keeping our mouths shut. ; (S).
; (S).
;
Proverbs 10:19 NKJV
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.
Proverbs 10:19 NKJV
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.
Proverbs 17:28 NKJV
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
(S).
Ecclesiastes 5:2 NKJV
Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.
esteemed a man of understanding
Does anyone else tend to get in trouble with what they say? or is it just me?
Learning is done in silence.
We cannot learn how God is at work until we are silent and hear.
Once we know what God is doing, it is time for the second way that focus is restored…
Secondly…

b. Focus is restored when God is glorified v. 18b

I love this verse. They glorify God because He has granted the Gentiles repentance!
Though their first response left a lot to be desired, once they know the truth, they rejoice.
This has been Peter’s goal. He wants them to know what God has done!
These people were not malicious, they were just a little over zealous of the Law. Which is understandable. To them, the Law had always been a necessary part of salvation. The problem was that they had come to think of the demonstration of their faith as the object. Meaning that the Jews had come to the conclusion that the Law saved. That was never true. Salvation has always been by faith. The keeping of the Law was a demonstration of faith. The object of their faith was God and His promises.
We are neither saved nor sanctified by works. Salvation and sanctification come by the power of Almighty God! Works are merely the evidence and natural outflow of one who is saved and sanctified.
This is God’s goal, to bring people to Himself. To transform them through the blood of Jesus Christ. Look at (S).
(S).
Acts 17:30 NKJV
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
Repent literally means to change your mind. About what? Sin, God, Jesus Christ, all of it! This change of mind leads to a change of behavior.
Thomas Constable explains this really well.
Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible The verdict of Peter’s critics 11:18

‘Repentance’ can be a summary term for conversion stressing that a change of orientation has taken place when one believes. Faith stresses what the object of belief is. Faith is directed toward a Person, namely, Jesus. Repentance stresses what belief involves in that it is a change of mind or of orientation from oneself and his own works to a reliance on Jesus to save him.

According to this verse, what should be our focus? God granting repentance and life to sinners who believe in His Son.
Our focus must be the glory of God accomplished through the redemption of sinners.
Do we glorify God for who He saves?
Even if it is our worst enemy?
This should be our attitude. We should rejoice when people come to Christ.
This reveals a restoration of focus. God is being glorified.

Conclusion

Acts 11:1–18 NKJV
Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
3 pieces to this puzzle.
First, we must understand the need.
Focus is lost when we become fixated on the external.
Second, we must grasp the reasoning.
God’s program - He cleanses the common.
God’s purpose - He saves sinners.
God’s power - He keeps His promises.
Third, we must change our focus.
The glory of God through sinners brought to repentance and life.
May we get our focus off of the external and temporary and onto the internal and everlasting.
Only when God, His glory, and the salvation of sinners is our focus will our gospel preaching be effective.
“Be Unto Your Name”
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