Peter’s Defense to the Legalists

A creative youth leader decided to show his youth group a missionary film. The film projector hadn’t been off an hour before a group of the leaders in the church called him in and asked him about what he had done. They asked, “Did you show the young people a film? He respond … More

Legalism

Peter wisely had taken some Hebrew Christians with him when he went to Cornelius’ house, because it was not long before he was to be confronted for ministering to Gentiles (vv. 1-3). When he returned to Jerusalem he was met by members of the strong legalistic party in the church of Judea, and was rebuked by them for fellow-shipping and eating with them. These Jewish believers did not understand the difference between law and grace. They didn’t have a New Testament to guide them.

The proof of Christianity always lies in facts. Its proof is that it works, it changes men, as it makes bad men good, by the Spirit of God. It is when a man’s words are guaranteed by his deeds that the world is presented with a proof for Christianity. Peter had nothing to fear as he faced these Jewish Christians, because he had only followed orders from the Lord. He simply told the whole story from beginning to end (vv. 4-10) and presented his witnesses who verified it (v. 12). Actually we could say that he had a three-part defense, as he presented three pieces of evidence:

  1. The vision from God (verses 5-11)
  2. The witness of the Spirit (verses 12-15,17)
  3. The witness of the Word (v. 16)
When the leaders heard these facts, they dropped their charges and rejoiced with Peter over the salvation of the Gentiles (v. 18).

Application

As a born-again Christian I am to receive other Christians and not argue over cultural differences, or minor matters of personal conviction (Rom. 14-15).

Acts 11:1-18 (English Standard Version)

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." But Peter began and explained it to them in order: "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. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But the voice answered a second time from heaven, 'What God has made clean, do not call common.' This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" 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."

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