Lesson 25: "Then Hath God Also to the Gentiles Granted Repentance Unto Life" (Acts 11:18)
Welcome to Acts Lesson # 25. We are ready to start Acts Chapter 11, and glad to have you with us. Get your Bible open and let's study. In our last lesson Peter preached the first sermon to Gentiles at the household of Cornelius. But when Peter got back to Jerusalem he was called on the carpet by his brethren for entering the house of a Gentile. Let's read v. 1-3. Ready? Let's read! "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." When the news about Cornelius and the Gentiles spread through the churches in Judea, they questioned the propriety of this. Since the other apostles and brethren are mentioned in v.l, it would appear the complaint was heard by the other apostles first and not knowing the circumstances waited until Peter returned to home base at Jerusalem and then the apostles and the other brethren confronted Peter with the issue. Now, since it would appear (in v. 12 below) the six men from Joppa also accompanied Peter to Jerusalem; it very well could be, that Peter either got wind of these questions or anticipated this action. And, for this reason brought the men from Joppa. Those Jews who witnessed the event that had taken place in the household of Cornelius. We can see, it was very prudent of Peter to bring the men from Joppa. Whether that was the primary purpose of mem being mere or not, of course, we can not be sure. V.3 is the charge these brethren at Jerusalem brought against Peter. "Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised and didst eat with them." They do NOT contend with Peter because he taught and baptized the Gentiles but because he went IN to them and ATE with them. Actually, it's one of those cases where emphasis is put on a minor charge, implying that if he did that then he is guilty of much more. V.4-16 gives a record of Peter's defense. It contains nothing new to us. Peter merely summarized the substance of Acts 10. Let's read 11:4-16, Ready? "ButPeter rehearsed the matter from the beginning and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, a certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fouls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: and he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost." He told the brethren how he saw the vision at Joppa on the housetop. How the three men fro Caesarea asked him to go with them. How the Spirit told him to go doubting nothing. How he took those six disciples from Joppa and obeyed the Spirit. The angel told Cornelius in Acts 10:6 that Peter "shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." Cornelius in explaining this to Peter (Acts 10:32) paraphrased what the angel said like this: "Who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee." Peter paraphrased the angel here in Acts 11:14 as saying "who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." I see nothing inconsistent in the three ways the purpose of the mission is worded but by comparing the three statements it is quite clear that Cornelius was to be instructed in the plan of salvation. Notice in v. 15 Peter said, "the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning." It does not say so here, but it is not likely they saw the "cloven tongues like as of fire." and heard, "a rushing mighty wind," as the apostles did in Acts 2. As I said, we simply don't know. Peter said he was reminded of the promise Jesus made to the apostles in Acts 1:5. Peter summarizes his conclusion in v.17, Let's read it, "Foreasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God?" So, Peter put it to them like it was, and then asked in essence: what other alternative did I have except to obey God? Notice, Peter emphasized that, "God gave them the like gift as he did unto us." I.e. speaking in tongues. This established that speaking in tongues by the Gentiles in Cornelius' household was speaking foreign languages as the apostles did in Acts 2. Now, Peter's explanation was convincing to his brethren and satisfied them. V.I8, let's read! "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Please notice these apostles and disciples DID NOT reluctantly accept this. They "glorified God." They did not feel hurt the Gentiles had been made equal to them. Instead they were Happy and felt no jealousies at all. Their general conclusion is summarized in the last part of v. 18, "Then hath God ALSO to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." The warmth with which they accepted this fact again tells you something about the character of these men. This had deep and far reaching implications to them, i.e. it involved a departure from the customs they had always observed with reference to the Mosaic code. No unclean foods, no distinction between circumcision and uncircumcised persons; i.e. anyone can eat with or keep company with anyone of any nation. Naturally, as you might anticipate, NOT ALL Jewish disciples accepted this as readily and as unbiased as the apostles and disciples at Jerusalem. As we shall see later in the book of Acts MANY Jewish disciples had difficulty turning loose from the Mosaic customs. Perhaps, it is unnecessary for me to say: some of those customs are taught and perpetuated by some religious groups yet today. This was the second issue that had come up that could have divided the brethren right down the middle. This time, as it was with the Grecian widows issue, there was no bias and the question was settled in perfect harmony. This time it involved more the apostles and leaders; but, it was settled in the same business like way. And there is a real lesson (for us) couched in that thoughts. Another thing you might observe with respect to this incident is: there seems to be other disciples referred to as :brethren" in v.l. Though not mentioned by name, it is evident other men are participating with the apostles. AND it would appear their leadership is accepted and respected. In Acts 6, that incident of the Grecian widows was handled exclusively by the apostles (with respect to leadership). This would tend to verify that the great commission; (teach others to teach others, etc.) was being carried out. Thus, evidence of growth in church leadership is showing. V.l9 is the beginning of a new thought AND a new section so we shall hold that material until lesson #26. Let's devote the remaining minutes left on this tape to a general discussion of the Holy Spirit. We did a quickie on this subject in connection with Acts. 2. I promised you I would get back to this when we covered pertinent material. This subject always seems to attract interest and it is one of those subjects that is highly perverted and misunderstood in our denominational world today. If you have followed closely what has been said on this subject in this study this far, then you should by now, have a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit. So, in the remainder of this lesson, we will merely review that subject. Ready? God, Christ and the H.S. make up the Godhead (Rom. 1:20 and Col. 2:9 uses that term "Godhead"). Jesus said, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24). Jesus gave a principle there with reference to the nature of God. That writer, the apostle John began his book, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN like this, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." John continued in v. 14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." Thus, Christ was part of the Godhead that took on himself the bodily form of a man and lived upon this old planet earth for about 33 years. He was miraculously conceived in Mary's womb, born in a manger, grew up in Nazareth, and undoubtedly learned the carpenter trade. Hebrews4:15 says Jesus, "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." In John 16:28 Jesus himself said at the end of his ministry: "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world and go to the Father." Hebrews 5:9 has this comment, "being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Thus we can see Christ came from God and Christ is the author of eternal salvation; but, he requires that we obey him. Now, the H.S. is a personality of the Godhead just like Christ. But, the H.S. DID NOT take on a human body as did Christ. He worked IN and WITH those that were human. He worked with different ones in different capacities. The Bible speaks of this as a measure. Jesus possessed the Spirit without MEASURE according to John 3:34, "he who God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." That simply means without limitation. John the Baptist prophesied (in Matt. 3:11) that Jesus would baptize with the H.S. And, you will recall, Jesus told the apostles (Acts 1:5) "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the H.S. not many days hence." Then Luke proceeds to show (in this book) how this power came to the apostle in Acts 2. Jesus had assured the apostles,"Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John 16:13-14. Remember, Jesus was speaking to apostles. Jesus also told those apostles this: "the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I had said unto you." (John 14:26) Now, I hope you understand the only reference in the Bible to being baptized with the H.S. Is concerning the apostles and Pentecost as we have already discussed. Therefore, the apostles received a baptismal measure of the H.S. on Pentecost. That is Jesus' own figurative description, in Acts 1:5. Peter said in Acts 11: 15-16 with reference to the household of Cornelius (as we covered in this lesson) that, "the H.G. fell on them; as on us at the beginning." Thus, although it is not here specifically referred to as a baptismal measure; we are led to conclude those Gentiles at Caesarea received a measure, similar at least, to what the apostles received on Pentecost. Now, you should keep in mind Pentecost and the Household of Cornelius are the only references in the N.T. where such a measure of the H.S. was given. It is quite clear, the indwelling of the Spirit that is received by every believing person who is baptized (in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins) is a different measure and a more limited measure than the Baptismal measure that we have already discussed. May I emphasize again, EVERY believing, obedient disciple according to Acts 2:38-39 receives this gift of the H.S. Numerous references are made to this in the N.T. For example Eph, 1:13 in speaking to the saints of Ephesus, Paul said, "after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise..." Now, besides the baptismal measure given to apostles and the in dwelling measure given to every disciple; SOME were given a miraculous measure like the Samaritans in Acts 8, by the laying on of the apostle hands. They did miracles! But, they received a more limited measure than the baptismal measure that the apostles received.. As I tried to point out in Ch. 8, the apostle passed on these powers to some by the laying on of hands. But, there is no evidence that those who received such powers from the apostles (by laying on of hands) ever passed these powers on to any one else -OR- even had the capability to do so. Thus, when those died and the apostles died: all miracles ceased. The Bible was written and the church is perpetuated by that word. As has been said before, NO ONE possesses a baptismal measure -OR- any miraculous measure of the H.S. today. All disciples (or baptized believers) today receive the ordinary measure; i.e. the gift of the H.S. as referred to in Acts 2:38., We should NOT look upon this as mysterious or miraculous. The Spirit DOES NOT dwell with us (or in us) in a physical, empirfical or measurable way. But, I John 4:12 says implicitly: "God dwelleth in us..." The next verse SAYS: "...he hath given US of his Spirit." Now, the broader context there makes it clear THIS is contingent upon our obedience and upon our love for God AND our love of God manifests itself in our love for one another, i.e. in loving our brethren. Furthermore, it is clear, if we DO NOT HAVE that love we DO NOT HAVE that Spirit. Those two verses paraphrase down to: God dwells in us...we dwell in him. This is a kind of two-fold indwelling; a reciprocating indwelling. We dwell in God. God, through his Spirit, dwells in us. This is not some abstract form of physical energy. He is described as a person of the Godhead. And as I said, we should not think of this as some mysterious shuffling of molecules that have weight and takes up space and all that. It's not! And there is mystery, in that, we don't understand this to the nth degree. But Christians are given a special relationship with God. It's a clear N.T. teaching. Now, May I summarize our review of the H.S. like this. Jesus had unlimited miraculous powers. He shared this with the apostles in that it was given to them in a more limited way. The apostles shared it in turn with others in a still more limited way. This was the means by which the church was established and perpetuated until the Bible was written. Miracles ceased when then- purpose was fulfilled. We now have the Bible to guide us. It will thoroughly furnish us according to II Tim. 3:17. Through a knowledge of the scriptures we can learn all things that pertain unto life and godliness, II Pet. 1:3.
Undoubtedly you are aware, many religious bodies today CLAIM to have the baptism of the H.S. These religious bodies differ in doctrine and in practice. If the Spirit guided them (as they claim;) then they would ALL teach the same gospel, the same plan of salvation and all those religious bodies (making that CLAIM) would be in fellowship. Thus, their doctrines, their actions and practices betray their CLAIMS. Jesus said, "by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt 7:20). Again, "God is not the author of confusion." (I Cor. 14:33). I know! They jabber and call it tongues, they want me to believe they have seen persons healed, miraculously. These religious groups try to establish their miracles by their claims. The apostles established their claims by their miracles. And that's quite a difference! These tongue speakers today, CANNOT converse with foreigners in this or any other country. As I said before, they teach a plan of salvation that is NOT taught in the Bible. It is beyond me how they can CLAIM baptism of the H.S. and refuse to follow the teachings of the H.S. In conclusion, may I remind you the baptism of the H.S. was for the purpose of establishing the kingdom of the church. The primary purpose of such powers was NOT to heal or raise from the dead. These were secondary or a mere bonus. The apostles did not use these powers to benefit themselves or maintain the health of their associates. The Spirit helped the apostles accomplish what they could not otherwise have done. If they could accomplish it, they did it, WITHOUT miraculous powers. If you still have your N.T. open: may I use this conference in Acts 11:1-8 as an example. The H.S. could have given the apostles at Jerusalem miraculous understanding of what happened at the household of Cornelius and then that conference would have been unnecessary. However, they could get the information another way. And, they DID get the information another way. That's why they had the conference and learned the information through Peter and the other six brethren. Miracles have ceased today, see I Cor. 13:10. Now, God is just as much alive and just as powerful today as he ever was. God COULD give us miraculous powers today, if he wanted to. But until he wants to, let's be content with the gift we have. God bless you in your study. Have a good day!