Acts 11:1 – 18
Now the apostles and the believers* who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers* criticized him, 3saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ 4Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5‘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. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 8But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” 9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The 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. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17If 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?’ 18When 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.’
After Peter left Cornelius’ home, and the city of Caesarea, leaving there a new cadre of believers, word soon got out that those Gentiles had accepted the Word of God. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the believers there asked him why he had gone into the home of a Gentile, why he had eaten with uncircumcised men. It was not really a question; it was an accusation. It was the accusation we are hearing quite a lot these days – Peter, don’t you know this is a slippery slope? You go into one Gentile’s home and first thing you know you’ll be welcoming Gentiles into our movement all over the world! I read a blog this morning that suggested that sometimes Jesus is the one holding our hand and leading us right down a slippery slope, to a new understanding. That was certainly the case with Peter!
And so, Peter tells them what had happened with the dream, and the command to eat from what was unclean, and to call nothing profane that God had made clean, and how the angel had spoken to Cornelius and told him to send for Peter – the whole story. (Interesting that Luke repeats the entire story here; it would indicate the importance Luke places on this event.) But the clincher in the story was this, the Holy Spirit descended on those Gentiles just as it had on the Jewish believers. And Peter says, “Who was I to hinder God?” And those who had accused Peter were silenced, and they all praised God and agreed that God had given this gift of salvation tot he Gentiles as well!
Of course, this is not the last we will hear of this conflict as we move through Acts. It will come up again as Paul has great success as a missionary among the Gentiles. Even in the early church, people who were in power (Jewish believers) were afraid of losing power, of losing control, if they allowed “others”, Gentiles, to be full, practicing members of the faith. But God had other plans – if Peter and Paul had not gone down that “slippery slope”, you and I would not be Christian today – Christianity would be a sect of Judaism. God had new things in mind – God often has new things in mind. It sometimes stretches our little human minds to catch up with the new thinking God is asking of us!