Message – Where the Spirit led, they followed
Where the Spirit led, they followed
Last week we learned of how the Lord directed Peter by the Spirit to go to the house of Cornelius who was an Italian soldier to share with him the truth of salvation.
Our takeaways were:
- The partnership we have with the Spirit in the work of the ministry
- That God is still searching the earth for those whose hearts will be loyal to Him, to show Himself strong on their behalf.
- That God the Father is the One Who draws people to Jesus and that the invitation to come is both direct and through partnership between the Spirit and God’s servants.
- That those God draws are:
- Those who have sought for Him in faith that they would find Him. – Matt. 7:7-8; Heb. 11:6
- Those who fear the Lord and already worshiped Him to the degree they knew how. – Acts 8:27; Acts 10:2, 22
- God has ordained that the preaching of the Gospel come through mankind.
Now this week we are looking at what happened just after Cornelius, his household and immediate friends came to Christ, were baptized in water and the Spirit.
This will give us another good example of the keys of the kingdom of heaven through binding and loosening as well as the structure of authority within the body of Christ.
“(1) Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God.
(2) So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, (3) saying,
“You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.”
Now you remember how last week we drew attention to the fact that this was NOT allowed for Jews. In fact it was a large part of the reason for the dietary laws the Jews observed – it kept them separated from pagans. There is something about sharing a meal with people which scripture reveals is a type of commitment to them. This is LESS true under the New Covenant than it was – but it still has significance on some level.
Peter even told Cornelius upon arrival in his home… “You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, yet God has shown me that I should call no person defiled or ritually unclean. (29) Therefore when you sent for me, I came without any objection.” – Acts 10:28-29
So this is why these men had taken issue with Peter.
Now clearly Peter was an Apostle of the Lamb, and these men were those who had almost certainly believed in the Lord Jesus through the word of these Apostles, so Peter clearly had greater authority in these matters than they – given to him by Jesus Himself. Nevertheless, I want you to notice how they felt free to confront him and how Peter condescended to take the time to offer a point by point explanation to these men.
THIS is love – this is koinonia!
Notice also that these men did not run their mouths about Peter behind his back but came to him directly. This tells us two things…
- They were being straightforward and honorable in confronting this
- Peter was the kind of man who was approachable.
“(4) But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying,
(5) “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me.
(6) As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds.
(7) I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’
(8) But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’
(9) But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’
(10) This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again.
(11) At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying.
(12) The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation.
These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.
(13) He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, (14) who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’
(15) Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on us at the beginning.
(16) And I remembered the word of the Lord, as He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
(17) Therefore if God gave them the same gift as He also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?”
“(18) WHEN THEY HEARD THIS, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles.”
I LOVE this about the early church. They conducted themselves with honor, deference and godliness.
- They brought the accusation to Peter himself – they did not run their mouths about him behind his back.
- They let Peter speak for himself without interruption.
- They listened!
- They believed!
- They rejoiced!
“(19) Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the message to no one but Jews.
(20) But there were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene among them who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus.”
“(21) The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (22) A report about them came to the attention of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
(23) When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, (24) because he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and a significant number of people were brought to the Lord.
(25) Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to look for Saul, (26) and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.
So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people.
Now it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”
Remember I told you a while back that “christian” does not really mean “little Christ” but rather one who is of the party of Christ. This is a significant truth.
When one says they are of this or that party, it means they share certain values and goals, they are of like minds and conduct their lives in a way which is consistent with those beliefs and guiding principles. So in THIS case the result WOULD BE to be Christ-Like or like a “little Christ”, but the scope of its meaning is far greater. Also, it is significant that they were given this name apparently by onlookers. We need to ask ourselves, how would people of our age label us based solely upon our actions?
“(27) At that time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
(28) One of them, named Agabus, got up and predicted by the Spirit that a severe famine was about to come over the whole inhabited world. (This took place during the reign of Claudius.)
(29) So the disciples, each in accordance with his financial ability, decided to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. (30) They did so, sending their financial aid to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.”
Notice there had been a transference of authority from the apostles, which is where all monies were initially brought at the beginning of the Gospel, and now they were being brought to the elders over the churches.
Also, notice how these gentile Christians were sending relief to their brothers who were Jewish Christians.
We need to remember this because it was an ongoing collection and many significant truths are to be learned through it as it is brought up several times in scripture.
Furthermore, MISUNDERSTANDING this issue has caused not only great grief and misfortune in the body but also allowed for the outright hatred of Jews by many gentiles over the years.
Properly discerning scripture by diligent study and help of the Holy Spirit is PARAMOUNT for sound doctrine which is the basis and foundation of our faith – it reveals Jesus, for Jesus IS truth!
Looked at another way which I hope inspires greater diligence in this area is – to misinterpret scripture through negligence in study and communion with the Spirit is to misrepresent Jesus through the distortion of the truth.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Paul addresses this collection for the saints in Jerusalem…
“(1) Now about the collection for the saints: you should do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. (2) On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save to the extent that he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come. (3) And when I arrive, I will send those whom you recommend by letter to carry your gracious gift to Jerusalem. (4) If it is also suitable for me to go, they will travel with me.” – 1Cor. 16:1-4
A year later Paul sent messengers ahead of him to Corinth so that they would be ready with the funds they vowed to give.
“(1) Now we make known to you, brothers and sisters, the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia, (2) that during a severe ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in the wealth of their generosity.
(3) For I testify, they gave according to their means and beyond their means.
They did so voluntarily, (4) begging us with great earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping the saints.
(5) And they did this not just as we had hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
(6) Thus we urged Titus that, just as he had previously begun this work, so also he should complete this act of kindness for you. (7) But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you – make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too.
(8) I am not saying this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love by comparison with the eagerness of others.
(9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although He was rich, He became poor for your sakes, so that you by His poverty could become rich.
(10) So here is my opinion on this matter: It is to your advantage, since you made a good start last year both in your giving and your desire to give, (11) to finish what you started, so that just as you wanted to do it eagerly, you can also complete it according to your means.
(12) For if the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to whatever one has, not according to what he does not have.
(13) For I do not say this so there would be relief for others and suffering for you, but as a matter of equality.
(14) At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need, and thus there may be equality, (15) as it is written:
“The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
(16) But thanks be to God Who put in the heart of Titus the same devotion I have for you, (17) because he not only accepted our request, but since he was very eager, he is coming to you of his own accord. (18) And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his work in spreading the gospel.
(19) In addition, this brother has also been chosen by the churches as our traveling companion as we administer this generous gift to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show our readiness to help.
(20) We did this as a precaution so that no one should blame us in regard to this generous gift we are administering.
(21) For we are concerned about what is right not only before the Lord but also before men. (22) And we are sending with them our brother whom we have tested many times and found eager in many matters, but who now is much more eager than ever because of the great confidence he has in you.
(23) If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; if there is any question about our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.
(24) Therefore show them openly before the churches the proof of your love and of our pride in you.”
“(1) For it is not necessary for me to write you about this service to the saints, (2) because I know your eagerness to help. I keep boasting to the Macedonians about this eagerness of yours, that Achaia has been ready to give since last year, and your zeal to participate has stirred up most of them.
(3) But I am sending these brothers so that our boasting about you may not be empty in this case, so that you may be ready just as I kept telling them.
(4) For if any of the Macedonians should come with me and find that you are not ready to give, we would be humiliated (not to mention you) by this confidence we had in you.
(5) Therefore I thought it necessary to urge these brothers to go to you in advance and to arrange ahead of time the generous contribution you had promised, so this may be ready as a generous gift and not as something you feel forced to do.
(6) My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. (7) Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.
(9) Just as it is written, “He has scattered widely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.”
(10) Now God Who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow.
(11) You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God, (12) because the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God. (13) Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession in the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your sharing with them and with everyone. (14) And in their prayers on your behalf they long for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown to you.
(15) Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
…and in his letter to those in Rome he spoke of the completion of his journey and his intention to deliver the funds he had collected to the saints in Jerusalem.
He also told them that such contributions were the duty of all gentile believers to give to the relief and aid of their Jewish brothers.
Rom. 15:25-28, “(25) Now, however, I am traveling to Jerusalem to serve the saints; (26) for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. (27) Yes, they were pleased, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual benefits, then they are obligated to minister to Jews in material needs. (28) So when I have finished this and safely delivered the funds to them, I will go by way of you to Spain.”