Tom: This is our Understanding the Scriptures segment, and we’re in the Book of Acts. We’re in Acts 11, and, Dave, we got as far as v. 11, and we’re going to start in with 12. But just a little backup: Peter is now having to explain to the apostles, the disciples…
Dave: Yeah, defend himself.
Tom: …defend himself, because he went into the home of a Gentile, but it was at God’s command. Peter had a vision; the vision was very strong. Peter almost rejected it, but God prevailed here, and Peter understood that God was telling him that previous to that it was the tradition of the Jews not to associate with Gentiles, the unclean, but God said, “No, they’re not unclean,” and Peter understood that. But now he has to defend himself, as you said.
Dave: Yeah. Well, it was not just a vision left to his own interpretation, but God spoke with an audible voice from heaven and explained it to him, and even told him, “There’s some men knocking at the door right now, Peter, and they want to talk to you. And they’ve come from someone far away, and go with them.” And so he went, and that’s what happened. He went into this house, these people believed the gospel. The Gentiles believed, and the apostles and elders back in Jerusalem could not believe it, even though it was all through the Bible that the gospel was for everyone, okay? And we won’t go back over those verses.
Tom: Now, Dave, but I find it interesting that Jesus, before He ascended into heaven, He gave them the Great Commission, and it took them a while. How many years later is this that they’re finally getting the picture of what God wants?
Dave: Well, he told them, “Go into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature.” So this is probably 10 years later.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Picking up with v. 12. Again, Peter continues, “And the Spirit bade me go with them,” that is, the Gentiles, “doubting nothing. 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…”
Dave: Now, Tom, pretty hard for Peter to argue at this point. Here’s a man—I don’t know how far this was; he’s a centurion, he’s had no contact with Peter, and yet he gets a message from an angel that identifies Peter, tells him the house he’s living in, where he’s living, and so forth. What are you going to do about that, you know? And God tells him, “Go with them.”
Tom: Right. After God telling him, “What God has cleansed, don’t call it common.”
Dave: Right. In other words, common meant “unclean,” you know. Gentiles were unclean. They were apart by themselves. But you know, Tom, that was a misunderstanding of the law, because all through the Old Testament even, it says the Messiah would be for all people. In Genesis:12:3, God said to Abraham, “In you and in your seed all the nations will be blessed.” And He said the same thing to Isaac and Jacob. So they had a misunderstanding of God’s will and God’s word.
But anyway, so this is why He had to really shake Peter up. Pretty hard to ignore what’s going on.
Tom: Verse 14: “…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…”
Dave: Let me stop there, Tom. Now, the angel is stating to Cornelius, and Peter is saying what the angel said to him, “Go to find Peter in Joppa, the house of Simon the tanner. He will tell you words whereby you can be saved, or you must be saved.”
Well, here again, here’s a statement from heaven. Salvation is for the Gentiles. Salvation is for these people, and Peter saw it with his own eyes. But the apostles up in Jerusalem, they were upset. So I don’t think they’re going to be able to deny all the evidence that Peter is giving to them.
Tom: Dave, isn’t it interesting: It’s in the Word, it’s in the Word, it’s in the Word. They supposedly knew the Word. I mean, Jesus, before He left, He explained all the things about Himself that had to take place. Yet God goes the extra mile with these guys: He demonstrates not only in His Word, but certainly through the experiences that Peter had.
Dave: Well, Tom, how many times did Jesus tell His disciples while He was with them He’s going to be rejected, He’s going to be crucified, He’s going to rise again the third day? I don’t know, I could go back and count it, but at least a dozen times He has reiterated this. And when He’s crucified, they think that’s the end. And then when He resurrects, they’re all upset because the grave is empty. They don’t have His body anymore. And that’s why in Luke 24 to those two disciples who are—you know, they’re on the way to Emmaus now, going home, discouraged, shattered—it’s all finished. Jesus couldn’t have been the Messiah, they crucified Him. And Jesus says, “You fools, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Isn’t this what the scripture said?” And it says, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” But they just don’t get it. Jesus said to the Rabbis, “You search the scriptures, because in them you think you have eternal life.” This is John 5. “But these are they that testify of Me. But you won’t come to Me, that you might have life.”
So the Bible is all about Jesus Christ. He’s the subject, and that He would be the Savior of the world—well, John the Baptist got it, but I don’t think he understood it, either. In John:1:29, as he sees Jesus walking, he says, “Behold the Lamb of God that bears away the sin of the world.” So there it was again, repeatedly. But they’re going to get it this time, although more problems will come up as we will see a little bit later.
Tom: Verse 15: “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.”
Dave, it brings an interesting question: you know, these apostles back in Jerusalem, they were Spirit-filled. Now, we can understand prior to the Holy Spirit being given that they would have trouble, and so on, but this is the Spirit of truth. Why do you think they couldn’t get it, even though they were really Spirit-filled Christians at that point?
Dave: Well, Tom, that’s a very good point to make. We are not automatons. We have a free will, and we only believe what we understand, and we can only go as far as our understanding goes. And so these apostles, although, as you say, they’re filled with the Holy Spirit, not only on the day of Pentecost, but Acts 4 says, “The place where they were gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spake the word with boldness.” But because you’re filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean you know everything, and you will automatically… In other words, we talk about the Spirit-controlled temperament, but it’s not like an automaton. We must yield control to the Lord on the basis of understanding. I’m not going to yield control to the Lord to cause me to jump off of a building and kill myself, you know. So we have to have some understanding, some reason about this.
So they’re still inhibited in their understanding of the Scripture, although Jesus, it says, “He opened their understanding that they should know the scriptures.” But that doesn’t just suddenly come. There must be a willingness, because the Bible is going to say things to us that we don’t like. The Bible is going to correct our false ideas. The Bible is going to correct our behavior. So you can be Spirit-filled, and not just automatically do everything that you should. And we see that process here, and I think it’s very instructive.
Tom: And later we’re going to see Peter goes to them. At some point later, Paul goes to them, and they dispute these things. I mean, they wrestle through them, but they come to a conclusion that’s true to the Word of God.
Dave: So it takes two chapters, but this is a very, very important part of Scripture, and I guess we’ll have to come back and deal with it further next week.