Saturday, November 4, 2017
Daily reading assignment – Acts 11-12
“Hypocrites in the church” is an excuse the unsaved offer as cause for rejecting Jesus Christ and the Gospel; however, it is also the defense of carnal saints who neglect assembling with believers for worship (Hebrews 10:25). Rather than defend the assertion of hypocrisy in our midst, let us acknowledge such has been the case from the beginning of the church.
The church has never been perfect because its membership and leadership is inherently imperfect! While disputes and contentions belied the church from its inception, so too has a spirit of humility, love and self-sacrifice bonded its members like no institution the world has ever known. The marvel is not the perfection of the church, but that a membership so fallible might continue two thousand years after its inception!
Acts 11-12 offer us four portraits of life in the early church…contentious (Acts 11:1-18), diversified (Acts 11:19-26), charitable (Acts 11:27-30), and persecuted (Acts 12:1-19). My focus for today’s devotional will be the first portrait…contentiousness.
We read, “when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [argued; opposed; judged; disputed] with him” (Acts 11:2).
Learning the apostle had preached the Gospel to Gentiles who “had also received the Word of God” (Acts 11:1-2), Jewish believers (“of the circumcision”) in the Jerusalem church were waiting to contend with Peter and dispute with him concerning reports he fellowshipped and ate with “men uncircumcised” (11:3).
Peter’s response to the inquisition is a wonderful illustration of humility. He might have taken offense that he, a man called to be a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ would be questioned. Such was not the case. Evidencing the humility of Christ, Peter calmly rehearsed how the LORD had sovereignly instructed and providentially directed him to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the uncircumcised sinners of Joppa (Acts 11:4-17).
It is good to take note of the dynamics between Peter and the members of the early church. While some came, not to enquire, but to argue; Peter responded with humility and truth (Acts 11:16-17). Those men might have turned the matter into a full-blown inquisition; instead, “held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).
What a wonderful illustration of humility we see in Peter’s response and a revelation that even the apostles were not above being called into question.
One of the great maladies of the church has been pastors who act as dictators and members who give them almost “infallible” authority. Peter was a formidable figure in the early church and leader among the apostles; however, his response to those who were contentious is a lesson in “servant leadership”.
Peter taught the members of the Jerusalem church a truth that is central to the Gospel…salvation is not “by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).
Galatians 2:16 – Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith