Acts 11: Conviction

Acts 11 – Conflicting Conviction

There were certainly some infuriated members in that congregation of the Lord’s church that day; in fact, far more than just a few! And that number included the vast majority of the leadership as well! One of their most valiant leaders and preachers – one who had even walked with Jesus and had become one of His most trusted “insiders” and faithful and powerful proclaimers – had just promoted (By his personal participation in, no less!) an idea to them that was akin to blasphemy, absolutely going against, and completely contradicting everything that they had ever been taught, come to believe, and been completely convicted of on the subject! Peter had actually gone into the house of a Gentile to eat, and preach the gospel! How dare he? And apostle, preacher, or not, he was now going to be taken to task for it!

What do you do when convictions bump heads?

What do you do when convictions bump heads?

The record of this event and the reason for Peter’s participation in it, is of course contained in Acts 10, concerning his divinely-directed encounter with the Gentile Cornelius (who, because of that visit, became a brother in Christ upon his by-faith baptism in water, into Christ, for the forgiveness of his sins: Acts 10:47-48; Gal. 3:26-29; Col. 2:12; 1 Ptr. 3:21). However, that made no difference whatsoever to either the Jewish-born membership, or leadership, of the congregation in Jerusalem when they were informed of it, oh no (Act 11:1). They were mortified! They were aghast! They were furious! They were offended! And they were going to let him know about it! For, “when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’” (Vss. 2+3). The word “contended” here means “to take sides against.” (Isn’t it interesting how, in their zeal and conviction to impose on Peter and the rest of the congregation what they had always been taught was righteous before God, that they themselves became guilty of the sin of “contentiousness” – as evidenced in Ro. 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20; 1 Tim. 6:4?)

In verses 4-17, Peter presents a very patient, very detailed, very well-ordered account of exactly what God had said and done, which led him to say and do what he had therefore said and done by faith in response. It is also very interesting to notice here, the complete contrast in approaches to the situation. As brother H. Leo Boles notes, “Peter’s mildness and patience in explaining the entire matter to them was put in contrast with the heat and excitement that his accusers manifested.” 1 And why should anyone have ever expected Peter’s approach to have been any different than that anyway? After all, he was standing on what God had commanded (Vss. 5-9); he had complied without question with what the Holy Spirit had commanded (Vs. 12); therefore he could be most certainly assured that his actions and conclusions which he was now calmly conveying, were completely correct!

And this leads us to some very important, very relevant, modern-day questions and applications. What do we come to bible class and worship for? What do we come seeking to accomplish?

Do we come with an agenda – such as to make sure that everything that is said, taught, and done is in complete agreement with our own previously-gained and personally-held conclusions? Or, do we come to challenge ourselves, by and with the word of God being therein presented, to perhaps gain a greater and more accurate insight into our own understanding and relationship to God, His Son, Their will, and Their church/people (1 Jn. 4:1-6)?

If (as in the case with the apostle Peter above and as reported in Acts 10-11), a preacher or bible class teacher has spent many hours the previous week in the diligent study, dedicated dissection, and direct diffusion and application of God’s word; and upon his righteously, faithfully, and fully expounding upon exactly what God has said and done on the subject (today from a “book, chapter, and verse” perspective of course); but that presentation disagrees strongly with our own previously-arrived at and personally-held conclusions and convictions, the question is, how do we handle it? And of course our options at that point boil down to basically only two.

#1). We can determine to not even think about the possible truths he is teaching, and instead, stubbornly close our ears to even considering them Scripturally, all the while steaming and stewing and making sure we psychologically begin the process of exacting some sort of vengeance upon him or at least his reputation, for even daring to say such things (even though they are completely scriptural and biblically accurate). This sort of reaction is routinely seen throughout both the Old and the New Testaments and is tantamount to destruction; always has been, always will be (Matt. 13:14-15, 21:12-22:46; Jn. 5:1-47, 8:42-55, 10:27-38; Acts 7:51-60; 2 Tim. 2:14-4:5; etc). Or…

#2). We can determine to continually humble, challenge, examine and re-examine ourselves and our previously arrived at conclusions, convictions, and understandings (2 Cor. 13:5) by: listening to his words intently, considering them objectively, and checking them out scripturally, to see if they are indeed what God actually said. And then of course, if they are, we should immediately repent of our prior erroneous understanding, by implementing our newfound knowledge into our overall spiritual wisdom and progression. This sort of reaction is what leads to salvation; always has, always will (Matt. 7:7-27; Jn. 6:60-68, 8:31-32; Acts 17:11, 26:9-20; 2 Tim. 2:15; etc.).

(One quick footnote here… This is not to imply that ANY preacher on this planet is infallible, because he absolutely is not – not even the Apostle Peter was [See Gal. 2:11-13]. And while it’s true that some preachers [tragically even in the Lord’s church today] are absolutely false teachers who should never be listened to on any subject but should instead be physically removed from the pulpit and thrust out the back doors of our buildings and unceremoniously dumped on the dirt for their damnable heresies and the deadly divisions they’re causing by preaching things contradicting what God said in His holy word – Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:6-10; 2 Ptr. 2 – what I am hoping to imply and impart, is the gospel truth that when faithful to the word gospel preachers whose only desire is to “preach the word” do exactly that [see 2 Tim. 3:16-4:2], that the words of God which they convey are intensely listened to and carefully considered no matter what we may have previously believed about whatever subject they may be addressing!)

And this latter response is exactly what the reaction the previously-contentious members of the Jerusalem congregation had, after listening intently to Peter’s dissertation on God’s directives – even though it challenged every fiber of their previously-believed, militantly-guarded, and personally-held conclusions and convictions! “When they heard these things, they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 11:18).

This is also what the previously proud of sin members of the Corinthian congregation did when they received the Apostle Paul’s divinely-dispersed rebuke and directive of 1 Corinthians 5 as well (see both 1 Cor. 5, and 2 Cor. 7:8-11). It’s what faithful and God-fearing folks and the congregations of which they are comprised, do, when confronted with previously-unseen, unknown, or unaccepted or unanticipated truth directly from God’s word, instead of suicidally deciding to close their ears, eyes, hearts and minds to those sacred truths, and continue insisting on their own understanding instead, perhaps even seeking to draw off disciples to their side in the process as well (Acts 20:29-32).

Let each and every one of us always determine to be like the Berean church members, who “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). And then, let each and every one of us also always determine to be like the Jerusalem church members, who, although what Peter taught contradicted everything they had previously been taught and had held near and dear on the subject, listened to God’s instruction, and then immediately changed their own conclusions and convictions, in order to comply completely with what He’d commanded.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes… My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Prov. 3:5-7, 11-15).

  1. A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles by H. Leo Boles © 1984 Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee.
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The Creation Accounts

The Harmony of the Creation Accounts

To man who has concluded by reason that God exists, there are no more beautiful words than Genesis 1:1.  The comfort such a man has knowing that not only does God exist but that He loved man enough to tell him about his origins is immeasurable.

two conflicting creation accounts in the bible

Two conflicting creation accounts in the Bible?

The story of man’s creation is found in Genesis 1 and 2.  Religious modernists have suggested that there are two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 that are contradictory to one another.  Specifically Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25 are contrasted.  These modernists suggest that there are two creations mentioned: of the earth and heavens (Genesis 1:1-19 vs. Genesis 2:4-6); of man (Genesis 1:26-31 and Genesis 2:7-8, 21-22); and of the animals (Genesis 1:20-25 and Genesis 2:19-20).  They also suggest that the sequence of creation is contradictory between the two accounts.  Are these suggestions legitimate?

In dealing with the question of sequence, we should take into consideration that the ancient’s conception of time and sequence was not necessarily the same as our own.  Ancient literature often rearranged the sequence of events for special purposes.  In that regard, Genesis 1 provides us with a daily account of the creation.  The focus of Genesis 2, however, is not upon the creation as a whole, but rather man’s relationship with it.  The purpose is different, and so the sequence is different (looking at creation from man’s perspective instead of God’s).  This would not have been a problem with the oriental mind, whose conception of time was not always linear.  However, with our modern linear conceptions of time, we find “contradictions.”  Let us not so think!

When we begin to understand that the sequence of the events in chapter two is not necessarily linear, we have cleared our first hurdle in seeing the harmony of these two chapters.  There is no difficulty in fitting the creation of man in chapter two within the sixth day of chapter one.  The events become complementary, including the creation of both Adam and Eve.  The narrative would naturally be included in the events of day six.

What about the creation of the animals mentioned in Genesis 2:19-20?  It appears in this section of Scripture as if God created these animals in between His creation of Adam and Eve.  There is no problem with such a suggestion.  All were created on the sixth day according to Genesis 1:24-28.  So long as the creatures were created at some point during that day, there is no conflict.  We could look at these passages in several different ways.  First, either the details of Genesis 1:24-28 are not given in sequence, but are given in sequence in 2:19-20, or vice versa.  Second, it is possible that both sequences could be correct.  God could have created one set of animals prior to Adam’s creation and another set afterward.  With either interpretation there is no inherent contradiction.

The suggestion that Genesis 2:4 references a separate account of the creation is easily enough explained by understanding that the chapter and verse divisions were not in the original biblical manuscripts. Genesis 2:1-4 really belongs at the end of chapter one.  Verse four then becomes a summary of the work of Genesis 1.

It can be challenging to read these ancient documents outside of our own cultural presuppositions.  Modernists and rationalists would so criticize.  However, wisdom dictates that we consider ancient literature outside of the prevalent philosophies of our day, and in terms understood by the ancients.  In so doing, we will avoid wrongfully accusing these ancient words of inconsistencies.

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The Work of Redemption

I Have Finished The Work

God gave Jesus the mission of going into the world to work (cf. John 3:16). He came into the world in order to work to redeem humanity. As Jesus nears His final hours on earth, He proclaims that He has finished the work that God gave him to do: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). What is this work that Jesus finished? To what does this refer?

christ finished the work of redemption

Christ Finished The Work of Redemption.

The work of God involved the planning, revealing and purpose of the means by which man could be redeemed from sin (Eph. 1:10-11). Jesus became the instrument through which that would be accomplished. It is well to keep this passage in mind, because one of the things that cause people trouble is to read verses in isolation. We are to be “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:6, 12). When man was alienated from God, God made him to be accepted in the beloved, that is, in Christ, through the provisions and arrangements God made. The next verse shows that redemption is through His blood (Eph. 1:7). In Philippians 2:6-11, Christ was coming in humiliation, living among men, being obedient to the death of the cross, and God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name. Mark the phrase, “to the glory of God the Father” (2:11; cf. Phil. 2:13; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Cor. 3:5).

If one is ever going to understand what the Bible teaches about the matter of work, here is the background of it. When man sinned, he brought about a situation that called upon God to engage in a new activity. If God remained inactive when Adam and Eve sinned, the world would have been forever hopeless. Yet, because the loving heart of God would not allow him to rest while His own creation was caught up in the bondage of sin and alienated from His fellowship, God set about to go to work again. God working out redemption makes it possible for man to be saved. When it talks about God working in us, it has to do with this plan and system of redemption, the impact, effect and motivation that comes to us through the provisions that God made. This is the reason that Ephesians 2:8-10 reads as it does. God is the author and the one that works to provide grace. He provided Christ, the plan of redemption and everything relating to it.

If God remained inactive and rested when Adam and Eve sinned, can we imagine how long and how much they and all descendants would have to work trying to restore and undo what had been done? What would have been the result? It would have been total failure. Thus, God went to work and became active.

The rest of God will not be complete until man is finally brought back into that same situation that existed in the first chapters of Genesis where they were in full fellowship with God in the absence of sin and its problems. He will not rest until sin is gone, the devil and all those who live for him are separated, and the redeemed are sent to that eternal reward as they were in the very beginning. Then, there will be the sweet rest that God knew in Genesis 2:2.

Therefore, when the Bible talks about the work of God, it talks about redemption. This is the reason that the Bible talks about a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). This is what the church is—a new creation, a new man. Because God worked, she came into existence. Finally, one day, all of that work will be completed and finished. He will banish all sin. The redeemed will be able to live with God and enjoy what Adam and Eve did before sin entered. The gracious heart of God will find satisfaction again as his redeemed will be in his presence and enjoy His fellowship undisturbed in every way. This is the work of God-work in the redemption of humanity!

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