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Sinclair Ferguson (Acts 11:1-11) Derek Thomas (Acts 11:1-18)

Remember the previous chapter has told the In the previous chapter, the story was told of
story of the experience of Cornelius in the experience of Cornelius in Caesarea and
Caesarea, and Peter going despite the how Peter had gone to the Centurion’s
reservations which he had expressed to the home… Despite Peter’s reservations
Lord, and how the Holy Spirit came down as concerning the visit (p. 306)
Peter was preaching the Gospel in Cornelius'
household.
… where the entire story of chapter 10 is
Acts chapter 11 repeats the same story in retold, as Peter related (in places, almost
places almost word for word that Luke had word for word) what had seen and done. By
described in the previous chapter. Indeed, the end of this section (Acts 11:18), Luke
when you take these two passages together, had told the story of Cornelius’ vision no
by the end of Acts 11:18, Luke has now fewer than four times!
recounted the story of Cornelius’ vision no
less than four times
What I'm telling you now is of absolutely To understand the story of the early church
immense significance. If you want to means understanding the conversion of these
understand the meaning of the acts of the two men: Saul and Cornelius. It would not
Apostles, if you want to understand the story be an exaggeration to suggest that between
of the early church, then here are two events Pentecost and the return of Christ as the end
taking place after the day of Pentecost that of the age, the conversions of these two men
have the greatest conceivable significance. form the key redemptive moments in the
Indeed, in a sense, it might be possible to story of the church (p. 307)
say that between the day of Pentecost and
the return of Jesus Christ, the conversion of
Saul of Tarsus and the events that took place
in the house of Cornelius may be the two
most important events in all church history
And so, this event is an event of major As we have seen, the events surround
proportions in the history of the church in Cornelius’ conversion form the third wave
the purposes of God, because, of course, it in the redemptive purpose of the risen Jesus
represents the third wave of Jesus' declared
purpose. We have seen this on more than
one occasion now in Acts 1:8. Jesus
programmed for the Apostles and for the
Christian church, the Gospel will be
preached in Jerusalem and Judea
And it is here, in Caesarea in the household In Caesarea, the power of the gospel, having
of Cornelius the Roman centurion, that the broken the resistance of Simon Peter, had
power of the Gospel, having broken down broken through the “middle wall of
the resistance of Simon Peter, now breaks partition” between Jew and Gentile, and
through into the Gentile world. And from from now on there is now stopping the
that point onwards, there is simply no advance.

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stopping the advance of the Gospel. And A Spiritual lesson of great important and
yet, as we have seen on every occasion enduring significance emerges at this point:
when the kingdom of God has grown, the wherever great advances have been made in
Gospel of Christ has advanced gospel expansion, a measure of spiritual
resistance always accompanies it
There has always been a sinister resistance.
There has always been opposition, trials,
hindrances, to Jesus Christ building his
church
And that is just as Jesus' program begins to In this instance, the opposition focuses on
be fulfilled, the opposition now focuses on the one individual, who until now, had been
the man who, until this point, has been the the leader of the church: Peter
leader of the entire Christian church

I want us to try this morning to notice that in … we will attempt to answer two basic
this passage, God seems to be working at questions: one concerns the large-scale
two different levels. Those of you who are scenario (or macro perspective): what was
in business these days are fed up hearing the God doing in church history? The other
terminology of macro-management and concerns a narrower perspective: what was
micromanagement. God doing on a more personal, individual
God, since the beginning of the church, has scale in the lives of certain people at this
been engaged in macro-management, time?
management on the large scale, fulfilling the
big vision, painting the big picture. And he
is also involved in micromanagement,
management on the small scale, working in
the lives of individuals. Because the God of
the Bible is never ever doing only one thing
at once
… Question number one, what was God
doing in church history? And answer
number two, to the question, what was God
doing in individual's personal history?

And you know when that happens, you


know how criticism works. Criticism is like … but just as one drop of blue ink in a
one spot of ink going into a bottle of pure container of water will turn the entire
water. It makes it impossible for any part of volume of water blue, so the poison of the
the bottled water to remain unaffected by it. few influenced the perspective of the whole
And the result, doubtless, was that while (p.308)
these apparently dominant individuals of
what came to be known as the circumcision
party voiced their criticisms of Peter.

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Those of the circumcision party… would The circumcision party had a doctrinal and a
have said, “Peter, we have a doctrinal social problem with what Peter had done.
problem with what you have been doing. We His apparent embrace of Gentile customs
have a doctrinal problem. What you have offended them greatly. Their views were not
been doing offends our sense of orthodoxy. governed by Scripture as much as by the
Peter was able to show their doctrinal traditions of men. God had spoken to
problem was really a problem with their Abraham and said that in his seed “all the
own doctrine, because it wasn’t rooted in families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.
Scripture. It was rooted in the traditions of 12:3)
men and not in the teaching of God.
Circumcision had been given as a sign of the
covenant with Abraham. ‘Abraham, in your
seed, all the nations of the earth will be
blessed (Gen. 12)

He released people saying we’ve got to keep Peter had held to a traditional understanding
by the old traditions. But the old traditions of things, one that developed from a
weren’t biblical in the first place. The old misunderstanding of Scripture… Peter had
traditions were actually a hindrance to the been a loyal member of Jewish
extension of the Gospel. And do, the old traditionalism… yet he learned that the old
traditions were actually instruments of traditions had been hindrances to the
opposition to the purposes of Almighty God purposes of almighty God! (p. 309)

… in the midst of this, Simon Peter gives us In the midst of Peter’s defence emerges one
one of the neatest explanations in all of the of the clearest answers to the question: What
bible, of what it actually means to become a is a Christian? (p.310)
true Christian…
What does it mean to become a Christian? For Peter, becoming a Christian involved
Oh, you don't need to be circumcised in three fundamental things:
order to become a Christian.
(1) recognizing Jesus as God’s promised
It means number one, recognizing Jesus for Messiah and Lord of a person’s life;
who He is, God's promised Messiah and the
one who claims to be lord of your life.
It means, second, coming to trust in Jesus as (2) trusting in Jesus as Savior, in which
they did as their savior. It means doing that there is a turning away from an old lifestyle
within the context of turning away from in repentance; and
your old lifestyle in repentance

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And [third] in that wonderful moment, (3) receiving the power of the Holy Spirit,
receiving the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit enabling a person to live for the glory of
who is enabling you to live for the glory of God (p.310)
the Lord Jesus Christ

On the macro level, God was signaling a


So that's what God was doing on the plan of what he intends to do for the rest of
macro-level. That's what he was doing as it history. He intends to bring men and
were for the whole of church history. He women, from every tribe, tongue, nation,
was breaking through these barriers that had and people from the four corners of the
been set-up in order to bring the Gospel to globe, to faith in Jesus Christ by the power
the whole Gentile world, to bring the Gospel of the Holy Spirit (p.312)
to you and to me.
On the micro level, God was working in the
But then note just briefly that God was heart and mind of the apostle Peter in such a
doing something in personal history. He was way that certain principles were enforced
doing that in the life of Simon Peter…, a that having abiding validity in our
classic description, of how God guides His contexts… In Peter’s life, we see the way
people… the circumstances differ. Peter had God revealed to him his will so that we may
an unusual revelation from God but the discern some vitally important lessons about
principles remain the same how God guides his people on a personal
level (p.312)

First of all, God reveals his word to him. First of all, God revealed his word to Peter.
And it’s on the basis of what God says that Peter found his guidance for action in God’s
he finds his guidance. word.

Then, secondly… the providence of God Second, providence unfolded in such a way
unfolds before him in a way that helps him that it helped Peter apply the Word that God
to apply the word that God has given with had given him.
the providences in which God has been
overruling

Thirdly… obedience Third, Peter was obedient