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!
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).
- A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles by H. Leo Boles © 1984 Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee.