Acts 11:1-181NIV New International Version Translations
1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The extent to which Peter was committed to a Jewish church is reflected in Acts 10, which tells us of Cornelius, a devout Gentile. Then it tells us of Peter’s housetop vision where God called him to kill and eat animals which were prohibited under Jewish law. Peter responded, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (10:14). But God responded, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean” (10:15). This vision was followed by God telling Peter to meet with three men, to include Cornelius. Peter said, “You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man unholy or unclean” (10:28). While Peter was speaking to these Gentiles, the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. So Peter ordered them to be baptized (10:44-48).
This dream of Peters is viewed as his vision and call to action to spread the Gospel of Christ to gentiles too. Peter shows how imperfect the human being is; even when we appear to be godly people, we can still become displeased that others have received God’s grace because they do not meet or match our own definitions and criteria. Nothing can damage the Church more than to decide to shut out some from our fellowship because they are different from us. We are not asked to accept or permit their sinful behavior (if any) but only asked to bear with the faith struggles of our bothers and sisters. Instead of taking offence, we should explain our motives, and show the nature of our reasons and beliefs. Society loves it’s own regulations. However, we should be cautious that they do not go against the heart of our own God. Those who love the Lord will glorify him when they understand that He has given repentance and eternal life to any fellow-sinners. Repentance is God’s gift; not only His to give it to anyone, it is theirs alone to accept.
Peter’s public is his personal experience and his experience of others’ faith. Sharing experience in this case results in the shared glorification of God (11:18). God’s gift for all is not always shared or communicated in high-brow “theologically correct” expressions. Such expressions often do not fit established denominational categories or even come through the typical channels. What they do is to testify to the fundamentally human nature of the way God breaks on through to people. Good news is not a standardized theological truth to be believed, but an experience of God that draws us into corporate and shared confession and glorification of God.
Items for Discussion
- What are the subjective decisions that we tend to make when meeting newcomers to our church?
- Are there physical characteristics that are hard to set aside when meeting newcomers?
- What makes personal experience and testimonies so effective in sharing our faith to others?
- What reasons have you heard from others as to why they do not share their faith?
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
The vision of the city with the gleaming golden streets and pearly gates, where death and tears are no more, has been the dreams of God’s people through the ages. African-American spirituals and gospel songs invoke imagery of this golden holy city and its river of life. Revelation’s holy city promises life and healing, reconciliation and justice.
The promise of newness – a “new heaven and new earth” – gives an image of resurrection and renewal. The first earth and the sea have “passed away”. John’s point certainly is not that the whole cosmos will be annihilated, but the “first earth” that passes away represents the earth as captive to imperial domination and sin. The earth and all things will become “new” just as our bodies will be resurrected, renewed.
New Jerusalem is a profoundly urban vision. “God wills to restore this world to a beauty we can not currently imagine. It is a city, not a desolate place. We are not alone wandering in the cosmos, we are together in fellowship. As faithful believers of Christ, we are invited to enter as citizens and to “inherit” (21:7) its blessings, as God’s own sons and daughters.
Items for Discussion
- Where can the earthly church today be like the “New Jerusalem?” In other words, what can we be doing with the world today to give them a greater appreciation of what our next world will bring?
- What are the most appealing parts of the New Jerusalem to you personally?
- If you consider the New Jerusalem heaven and it a great place, what would you be willing to do to make sure all you love are their with you?
- What would you be willing to do to make sure all you dislike and hate are there with you?
- How can the Christian Church today help people prepare to share their faith with others?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations