1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’

8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’

Acts 11:1–9 ESV Read More

Remember how shocked Peter was to hear God tell him to kill and eat those unclean, non-Kosher animals? Peter didn’t let that fear stop him. He obeyed God and watched the first large group of Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit and be saved.

Weeeeeeell, not everybody had the same experience as Peter.

Who was the circumcision party?

Luke says that the circumcision party was critical of the fact that Peter took the Gospel to Gentiles and ate with them. The best description of these people were people that thought that salvation came by some external activity that they did.

Yep, they thought that in order to be saved, you had to do this or that. Follow this rule or stop going bowling and listening to rock and roll.

And you know what that means: the circumcision party is still around.

Peter’s great defense against legalism: The Holy Spirit

Instead of Peter telling them they were stupid or defending himself, look what he did. He walked them through the same process of spiritual growth that he experienced. He starts with “I know, right?!” and proceeds to explain how he couldn’t believe God would call things clean that he thought were unclean.

An honest, personal testimony is so much more pure and humble than clobbering some sucker with an argument. Peter shows empathy as every one of those circumcisers would relate to his story. They would probably tell God “By no means, Lord” too, just as Peter did.

The good news that Jesus has reconciled us to the Living God is a big deal. It changes us more than an amazing Black Friday deal or a powerful song. It calls us to change our lives and to live our lives according to God’s Holy Spirit and not some set of laws or even our changing list of pleasures.

Not everybody is going to get it, but we want them to. As we present our journey to others, some will relate and join us. Some will be changed just like we have been. Others will be changed even more.

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