When you discover a disagreement does it typically lead to discouragement or discovery? That’s a lot of “D”s I know but follow me. Most of the time in our culture, when we discovery that someone disagrees with us about something, it can often lead to a disagreement or disheartened relationship. It can be flat discouraging. This does not mean that debate is not a diligent way to dialog, it is. As long as we remain open to discovery.
As the Apostles had been spreading the Good News of Jesus, they had been remaining good Jewish men in their other practices. This included continuing to follow all of the Jewish customs and laws. But as we saw in the last chapter, Peter had been directly challenged by God about calling some of God’s creating ‘unclean’. As a result, Peter listened to this challenge, shared the gospel with Gentiles and witnessed the first Gentiles to receive the Holy Spirit.
However this exciting news was not so ‘exciting’ to everyone. “Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” (Acts 11:1-3) Notice that this included the other Apostles. However, Peter’s experience with the Holy Spirit descending upon these Gentiles had opened his eyes to the fullness of Christ’s love.
The immediate reaction of this group of ‘the circumcised’ was disappointment and disagreement and that led to debate. They were disappointed that another Apostle would seemingly break the customs they held so dearly. If these Jews had remained closed hearted, they would have simply continued to debate (as many Jews have continued to do ever since).
However, these Apostles and other disciples in Jerusalem actually remained opened to discovery. As they learned what had happened, they were changed. The next several verses have Peter repeating everything that had just happened. The final verse in this passage demonstrated the receptive heart of one who has the Holy Spirit residing in them. “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'” (v18)
Only by being open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit could this group so quickly discover this truth and deeper level of the love of Christ. Later in 1 John 4, we hear that we are to be open but also ‘test’ the Spirit. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the power of discernment to test. Be open to that Spirit, discover what He is teaching you. Christ’s love conquers all.
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