Peter Reports to the Church
1The apostles and the followers in Judea heard that Gentiles had accepted God's message. 2So when Peter came to Jerusalem, some of the Jewish followers started arguing with him. They wanted Gentile followers to be circumcised, and 3they said, “You stayed in the homes of Gentiles, and you even ate with them!”
4Then Peter told them exactly what had happened:
5I was in the town of Joppa and was praying when I fell sound asleep and had a vision. I saw heaven open, and something like a huge sheet held by its four corners came down to me. 6When I looked in it, I saw animals, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds. 7I heard a voice saying to me, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.”
8But I said, “Lord, I can't do that! I've never taken a bite of anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.”
9The voice from heaven spoke to me again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don't say it isn't fit to eat.” 10This happened three times before it was all taken back into heaven.
11Suddenly three men from Caesarea stood in front of the house where I was staying. 12The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry. Then six of the Lord's followers went with me to the home of a man 13who told us that an angel had appeared to him. The angel had ordered him to send to Joppa for someone named Simon Peter. 14Then Peter would tell him how he and everyone in his house could be saved.
15After I started speaking, the Holy Spirit was given to them, just as the Spirit had been given to us at the beginning. 16 I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So how could I have gone against God?
18When they heard Peter say this, they stopped arguing and started praising God. They said, “God has now let Gentiles turn to him, and he has given life to them!”
“False friends” is a term used in linguistics for pairs of words in two languages that look and/or sound the same, but have different meanings. Being embarrassed in English means something rather different than to be embarazada (pregnant) in Spanish.
We live in an age when many mistakenly think that the essence of Christianity is inclusiveness or “unconditional love.” We have been conditioned to misinterpret this passage as a power play in which one group imposes its values on another. The sense of superiority of the Jewish Christians seems distasteful. They are setting conditions on inclusion.
We need to read more carefully. The Jewish followers don’t deny that Gentile believers are also followers of Jesus. They simply think that they ought to be circumcised and bear the covenant marks of the Jewish nation. This is not something they made up. It was what God himself had required of strangers in the past (Exodus 12:48).
The problem then is not actually that these Jewish believers are being exclusive or unloving. It is that they have misunderstood the terms of inclusion in the body of Christ, which have changed from identification with the nation of Israel.
It is not a superficial matter. Tied in with circumcision are the laws governing the nation of Israel, to which believers must conform in every respect to receive God’s blessings.
The Jewish nation had failed to do that, and had now been rejected.
This is not bad news, but good news. God has come to do what they could not. The new covenant of God’s love has come by God’s grace through faith in Jesus for both Jew and Gentile. “Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven” (1 John 4:10).
Lord of the covenant,
We thank you that you are not like us. You always fulfil your promises.
Your word is truth, and you have sworn by your blameless character to do
what you have demanded of us, to make us a holy and blameless people.
Work in us today. Sanctify your people, for your glory.