Scripture reading – Acts 11-12
“There are hypocrites in the church!” Sadly true, and often the excuse some sinners give for rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, “hypocrites in the church” is also the pretext for carnal saints to excuse their unfaithfulness (Hebrews 10:25). Rather than defend the contention that there are hypocrites in the midst, let us acknowledge that such has been the case from the beginning of the New Testament assemblies!
Those who follow Christ are not exempt from disputes and contentions, as we will see in today’s Scripture reading. I marvel, not at the imperfections found within the ranks of the church, but that a membership so fallible might continue and not degrade into oblivion!
Acts 11-12 offer us four portraits of life of some believers 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). Today’s devotional will focus on the first portrait:
Contentiousness (Acts 11:1-18)
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). It is a striking scene to find brethren in Jerusalem who opposed the apostle Peter! Peter had been an early disciple of Christ, a member of the Twelve, and was named in Jesus Christ’s most intimate circle (along with the brothers, James and John). The thought of church members challenging Peter is perplexing, but a reminder that none of us are exempt from criticisms or personal attacks.
Having heard how Peter had preached the Gospel to Gentiles, who “had also received [accepted; welcomed] the Word of God” (11:1-2), there were some Jewish believers (“of the circumcision”), who were ready to fault him for eating with “uncircumcised” men (11:3).
Consider Peter’s response to the unjust inquisition, and his humility (Acts 11:4-17).
Peter might have taken offense that he, a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, should suffer such an interrogation, however, such was not the case. Demonstrating the humility of Christ, Peter lovingly rehearsed how the LORD had, in a vision, sovereignly instructed and providentially directed him to declare the Gospel to the uncircumcised sinners of Joppa (11:4-17).
Contemplate the dynamic between Peter and the members of the early church: While some came, not to enquire, but to argue; Peter responded with humility and truth explaining,
Acts 11:15–17 – “15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”
Disarmed by truth and his explanation, Peter’s inquirers “held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).
I commend those early saints, not for their contentious spirit, but for their humility and acceptance of Peter’s explanation. Though he was a formidable figure, and a leader among the apostles, Peter’s response to those who were contentious is a lesson in “servant leadership.”
What about you? What manner of believer are you? Contentious believers can become a curse to the church, and a discouragement to those who labor in ministry.
Are there hypocrites in the church?
Absolutely; however, be sure you are not one of them!
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith