Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’
Our narrative from Chapter 10 spills over into Chapter 11. There are a few things I think are worth while to point out.
First off, the account of the vision is re-told is a good amount of detail. Given how expensive books were at this time, and how efficient Luke is at various points throughout Acts, the double telling is very very intentional and thoroughly thought out. By appearing twice, it signals the importance of this story. This is something Luke really wanted us to know about.
Second is the way the disciples of react to Peter. At first they are wary of the further expansion of the kingdom of God. This mirrors the other times in history that the kingdom of God was expanded. Take for example when the Presbyterian Church USA started to ordain women. A bunch of churches broke off as a result, in protest, and created a new denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America or PCA. Years later, the ordination of women is now a generally accepted aspect of church life and is rarely questioned, in fact there are more women being ordained than men! No one should be surprised then when attempt to expand the Kingdom of God are faced with resistance.
Thirdly is the way the early church’s protest is quieted by Peter’s personal account of his vision. This is informative for being effective in sharing the Good News. Peter has already gained the respect of those gathered, and then he uses a personal account (as opposed to a declarative statement or a plea). Building trust and speaking from personal experience are two important parts of sharing the Good News in a way people will hear it. Too many in the church today think evangelism is about telling people they are wrong, or telling people there is one right way, or trying to talk with someone about an important topic when there has been no opportunity to build trust. Although Peter does resort to declarative statements throughout Acts, this example in regards to a touchy subject, one that can engage someones emotions, gives a great framework for how to proceed in dialogue in a meaningful way.
Fourthly, I want to again highlight the way Peter tells them; “Who was I that could hinder God?” This shows a deep well of faith and a close relationship with the Holy Spririt
Questions for Reflection:
When have you been the crowd and questioned the wisdom of someone like Peter who offers a new approach?
Have you been swayed on a issue that you feel very passionate about? What was that like? How did it happen?
What are ways you can use personal experiences in discussing difficult topics?