Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - Changing Is Hard - Acts 11:1-18

Changing Is Hard - Acts 11:1-18

One major part of living the Christian life is having the Lord constantly change our views. Some of these changes are small and sometimes they’re huge. To go through a radical theological paradigm shift can be painful and scary, both emotionally and culturally. It is never resolved easily or quickly just as we’ve seen over the past two weeks with Peter, as God worked in him to enter the Gentile’s home and preach the gospel. To Peter, culturally and religiously, it felt like God was telling him to sin. He had been preaching the gospel for at least seven years. Jesus told him and the other apostles, “you will go into all the world to preach the gospel,” but in their centuries-old Jewish way of thinking, they thought they’d only be preaching to Jews from different parts of the world. The thought of preaching to pagan Gentiles, that they could be saved through Jesus, without becoming culturally and religiously Jewish, was unthinkable. Regardless of how difficult it was, the power of Christ broke through the years of religion and culture within the Jews.

After the Lord sovereignly gave Peter a vision, he gathered witnesses to take to the Gentile home, in case of an uproar from the Jewish church of Jerusalem. In Acts 11, Peter gets reprimanded, rebuked and criticized, by fellow Jews for going into a Gentile home. Luke goes on to write Peter’s story again to drive home a lesson of this important transition in redemptive history. He wants the readers to grasp how God changed the thinking of early Christians to further spread the gospel of Jesus into the world. If the Gentiles had been required to adopt Jewish culture in order to be saved by Jesus, it would not have spread the way it did and the gospel would have lost its power. It wouldn't be a gospel of faith alone, apart from works.

The Jerusalem church was angry with Peter’s message. God’s covenant sign of circumcision was ingrained in their hearts. It’s what made them God’s people. For them, circumcision was a moral issue. They did not understand the mystery that was being unveiled with Christ that the gospel is for non-Jews as well, that God wants for Himself one church, made up of different people, which Paul goes on to resolve in Galatians 3 (Gal 3:16, 18, 25-26, 28).

Peter continued to explain the events in Cornelius’ home and defended his position by saying, “If then God gave the same gift to them, as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17). The Jerusalem church fell silent and glorified God saying, “then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). This did not sit well with many of them. Later in Acts 15 we see how Paul and Barnabas have a huge debate against Jews who still believe circumcision was necessary. They brought up Titus to Jerusalem to say how he was not forced to be circumcised so that the gospel would be preserved for the Gentiles (Galatians 2:3).

Huge, theological, cultural, paradigm shifts are never easy. If the change that God is calling for is an attack on human pride and arrogance, some people will never change. This was the case for many early Christians. Still, there is nothing strange about turmoils going on in everyone’s lives, because when we are weak, the grace of God makes us strong, more dependent on him and not the world. One of the major parts of living the Christian life is having the Lord constantly change our views, theologies, sinful feelings, or cultural givens because he is changing us from one degree of glory to another.

What shifts, whether cultural or theological, are you being called to go through in your life?

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