The Gospel to the Gentiles
- The Report (1-16)
- The Repentance of the Gentiles (17-18)
- The Route of the Gospel (19-30)
Just as anywhere, word travels fast. Whether gossip or the gospel, people talk. You can’t help it. If something happens, it will be shared. From social media to news flashing on our mobile devices, to the air waves, we live in a generation where communication goes global in seconds. Despite the newness of our modern society the gospel also can spread quicker through these means. This is exciting especially as we consider the task of gospel ministry and Bible translation. There is little great news than to hear when a sinner repents and now walking in newness of life as the Holy Spirit regenerates their hearts and are now new creations.
In our text this morning we see that this great news of the Gentiles coming to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and their subsequent filling of the Holy Spirit travelled fast to Judea and Jerusalem. As Peter reached Jerusalem the circumcision party had already been ready to criticize Peter in breaking the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. They said vs 3, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” So this is the criticism. As with all criticism, some is true and some is not accurate. While it is true that Peter did in fact eat with gentiles, the truth of the gospel being offered to all men was also true.
Why then the criticism? The Jews had been set apart by God from the other nations over 2,000 years before and now God through the baptism of the Spirit upon these Gentiles proclaimed His intentions to save not just the Jewish race, but the human race through His redeeming work. Of course Jesus Himself told His disciples that not all would be saved but that many go the way of destruction but He was at work saving and redeeming that those whom He chose would walk in the living way, although narrow, would lead to life everlasting.
So in defense of this criticism, from verse 5-15, Peter recounts what happened with him, the receiving of the vision, Cornelius and his vision, the proclamation of the gospel and salvation and baptism of these gentiles of Cornelius’ household. We reflected on this story this last week and its implications. But here we see not only the issue of partiality, but also the criticism of those who really oppose God in His plan to take the Gospel to the nations.
So, we see the Peter’s response, let alone God’s answer is the evidence of the repentance of the Gentiles in Cornelius’ household.
The Repentance of the Gentiles (17-18)
Verse 17, “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?”
This was huge for Peter to accept, let alone the other Hebrew Christians. This was no longer an outward identity but rather a regeneration of human soul and spirit characterized by the presence of the Holy Spirit. God had truly taken up residence inside Gentiles, and who were they to stand in God’s way?
Look at their response, Verse 18, “They fell silent.” when God underlines something that He is done, who can speak against it? We are left silent, but that is not all. They also glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” This is amazing since we are just as surprised sometimes at how God works things for His glory and our good. Our ideas or theology are often corrected to be more God centered and we see His work and we are left silent only to praise Him for what He has done and that He does what He pleases. Remember God works not on our timetable but His. Are you entrusting yourself to Him or trying to somehow unsuccessfully to twist His divine arm to your will. Simply sit silent and glorify Him for His work and ways delighting in Him that He knows what is best. If He wants your input He will ask. 🙂
So, we have seen this report and the Circumcision party criticism to it, then the repentance of the Gentiles and now we want to see how the route the gospel takes from this point and through whom.
The Route of the Gospel (19-30)
This persecution came about because of the boldness of Stephen and now look where the gospel has gone! (Look at Map) The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church! The gospel spreads! But also in verse 19 we get insight to whom is coming to know Christ. They were speaking to no one but Jews. So, this was a problem as we have seen in this passage that the gospel was to go to all. Verse 20 tracks this trend towards the gentile world now. Those from Cyprus and Cyrene were coming to Antioch and sharing with the Hellenists. Verse 21 records that many were coming to the Lord. When word of this hits Jerusalem they send Barnabas. To Antioch.
Vs. 23 Barnabas is encouraged at what he sees and encourages them to continue and remain steadfast, again Barnabas was a trustworthy man full of the Holy Spirit. I find it interesting that a generous man like this who had surrendered all as we saw in the early chapters of Acts that He surrendered his land and gave it to the early church and now we see him giving of his time and energies. We can all be challenged by this. Have we surrendered all that Christ might be made famous among the nations? Sure we may not receive accolades this side of eternity, but we have made that deposit in the heavenly realms by faith.
Vs. 24 the result of the gospel going forth is that many continue to come to Christ.
Vs. 25 records that Barnabas goes to find Saul. Perhaps because he was concerned that Saul was not engaged as much as he ought to be or the fact that Barnabas remembered his call to the Gentiles and wanted to encourage him to continue despite threats against his life.
Vs 26 Barnabas brings Saul back to Antioch and for a whole year and taught. I love this because many would say we need to be busy evangelizing and not studying….well here is another example friends that equipping comes before evangelism. Studying before sending. Teaching before trekking out into the mission field. Why do I stop to point this out? Well even if we surrendered today in new ways to take the gospel where it needs to go, it will still be years before we go! Time is of the essence and we just get older! Sure God will accomplish this generation after generation, but oh that we would be the generation that isn’t accused of wasting our resources, time and energies on worthless things! Do you join me in the vision that equipped people here or Nicaraguan pastors are of much more eternal value than buildings or comfortable chairs? We are about the gospel and community that preaches God’s plan is people over programs. People are being equipped that more people might hear!
Vs. 26 notice here that this is the first time followers of Jesus were known as Christians. I think it’s amazing actually that the church at Antioch truly launches missionally westward with the gospel to the Gentile world. Oh may God have His way even today in war torn Syria that God would raise up gospel messengers to go to the Muslim world and beyond proclaiming the hope that is found in Christ alone. Prior to Antioch Christians, this people who followed Christ were called “believers, the church, disciples, brothers, the way, the Lord’s people, followers, and later on in the book of Acts we will see them called the flock.”
Are we identified with Jesus in such a way that people can identify us as Christians?
Vs. 27 – Luke now takes a turn in our historical narrative to explain about prophets coming down to Antioch. Notice this is plural. While we acknowledge that prophecy is “forth-telling” the word of God here, we also see that “foretelling” the future is also happening here as in the Old Testament. Agabus is mentioned here and later in Acts. While many think this may be two individuals the text does not make a distinction so it seems that Luke is talking of the same prophet Agabus. So, Agabus announces that a famine is coming. This is the famine that is recorded by the romans as well during the time of Claudius. Vs. 29 the disciples respond to this by taking up collections to help relieve the church in Jerusalem. Do we take care of the church this way? I think not, there is much work to be done to relieve the saints today. Its interesting to note that this church on the mission field was supporting the home church. Usually it’s the other way around these days. While many parachurch ministries are doing this how awesome in our global society could we work closer here to help our brothers and sisters. They also delivered this by hand, while it is easier to wire transfer money these days, I think we have lost the personal touch of visiting missionaries. It strengthens and encourages them. If you would like ideas in this area, to encourage missionaries you know, let me know. There are a lot of Creative ideas I have employed over the years.
So how do these verses challenge you? Consider these thoughts:
- Have you really responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How can you expect to take the gospel to the nations unless you have tasted it first yourself? Is He enough? Have you surrendered to Him in faith and repentance?
- Are we Christians partial in whom we proclaim the Gospel to?
- Are we critical of how the Gospel is going forth or do we celebrate each and every avenue by which God is using His church to proclaim His message? Are you criticizing how people share Jesus while you sit there and do not share the message? (ie Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
- Are you trying to dictate to God who and who He should not save based upon your wisdom? Do you in your finite mind try to decide who should be the priority in sharing the gospel with? Have you considered asking the Lord how and who you ought to speak with today concerning this message that even angels are not entrusted with? Its an awesome responsibility!
- Are you reaching out to people outside your “comfort zone”?
- Are you disregarding criticism? Peter got it and so will we. When I shared with many our desire to engage the work in Nicaragua, I was told that so much was needed to be done here. I agree but this county has had a gospel witness for almost two hundred years. There are still many who have never had a gospel witness let alone a Bible in their language. Tell me why we shouldn’t focus on those? We will get criticism….are we pushing forward looking unto Jesus whom we will give account. Are you willing to use your gifts and talents to support missions, go yourself, or motivate others? Is the gospel primary to your focus or other things?
- Are we all in? Are we leveraging all our resources, money, talents, gifts, family etc for the gospel ?
- Are you growing in your understanding and surrender or do we find ourselves stagnate and maybe even without joy in this time of your life? Turn your eyes upon Jesus, meditate on this great gospel and rejoice again.
May God use these challenges for His glory. Let’s pray.
February 20, 2018
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