The Bible describes how the early Jewish believers received the Gentile believers. Warren Wiersbe says, “Having fellowship with the Gentiles was a new experience for these Jewish Christians, who all their lives had looked on the Gentiles as pagans and outsiders. Tradition said that a Gentile had to ‘become a Jew’ to be accepted. Still, now Jews and Gentiles were united in the church through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26-28).” Apparent from Scripture, Gentiles were repenting of their sin, believing the Gospel, and following Jesus. However, early Jewish followers did not quite understand and wanted to put specific “rules” on these new believers. “Most Jewish believers thought that God offered salvation only to the Jews because God had given his law to them (Exodus 19-20). A group in Jerusalem believed that Gentiles could be saved, but only if they followed all of the Jewish laws and tradition- in essence if they became Jews before they became Christians” (Life Application New Testament Commentary).
The apostle Peter became quickly acquainted with those early Jewish believers who ultimately criticized him for fellowshipping with Gentiles (Acts 11:2ff). They simply could not understand why Peter would socialize with these people. In a rebuttal with them, Peter describes his vision along with other details and testimony. One of the most critical testimonies that Peter gave was about Cornelius (Acts 10:1-7; 10:30-32), a man who was a Gentile. In this regard, one author says, “In two sentences [Acts 11:13-14] Peter summarized the experience of Cornelius…It would be important to the Jewish audience to hear that an angelic messenger had also appeared to the principle Gentile figure in the drama” (Life Application New Testament Commentary). Peter describes how Cornelius and his family received the Holy Spirit when they trusted Christ (Acts 11:12-15). He knew how important it was for his Jewish audience to hear this. For them to better understand, Peter gives evidence. “In his personal defense in Acts 11, Peter presented three pieces of evidence: the vision from God (Acts 11:5-11), the witness of the Spirit (Acts 11:12-15, 17), and the witness of the Word (Acts 11:16)…The witness of the Spirit was crucial, for this was God’s own testimony that he had indeed saved the Gentiles” (Warren Wiersbe). Moreover, it was a great teaching moment for early Jewish believers to understand the Gospel was for everyone, not just the Jews. In studying this passage, a reminder for us is, “Keep in mind that these Jewish believers did not yet understand the relationship between law and grace, Jews and Gentiles…after all, we have Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Hebrews!” (Warren Wiersbe)
Gospel For All
The Gospel is good news! It was good news to the Gentile believers during Peter’s ministry, and it is good news for people today. To better understand, John MacArthur says, “Although the widespread salvation of Gentiles came about because Israel as a nation refused her Savior, that extension of grace was not an afterthought with God. From His first calling of Abraham, God intended that His chosen people should be the instruments of bringing salvation to the Gentiles…God’s ultimate plan of redemption has always included the Gentiles in every way as much as the Jews, His specially chosen people under the old covenant. Through Jesus Christ, believing Gentiles are as fully saved, as fully the children of God, and as fully citizens of His divine kingdom as are believing Jews. The church is the new people of God, called from among the nations.”
How are you sharing your faith in Jesus with others?
Are you showing God’s love to those who may be different from you?
Be Dynamic: Experience the Power of God’s People (Acts 1-12). (Warren Wiersbe)
Life Application New Testament Commentary
Acts: The Spread Of The Gospel (John MacArthur)