What is the Meaning of Acts 11.1-18

“Justifying the Gentile Mission in Jerusalem”

Acts 11:1-18

This section is a continuation from chapter 9:32. Remember, Luke wants to encourage his readership to come underneath the leadership of the apostles. He highlighted Paul in most of chapter 9 and then transitioned to Peter. These chapters as well demonstrate the progression of the gospel into the Gentile world. Peter is being prepared for the Gentile mission as he moves from Lydda, to Joppa, to Caesarea with Cornelius. As readers we understand that and the Lord is with Peter as he heals Aeneas and raises Tabitha from the dead.

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After the events with Cornelius, now in chapter 11:1-18, we have the justification of the events with Cornelius. What will the Jerusalem church think of the fact that the gospel has progressed to the Gentiles? Will they receive such a ministry?

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We see throughout these verses the focus of the work of Christ and human response. It has three sections

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  • Criticism from Jewish Christians (Acts 11:1-3)
  • Peter’s defense (11:4-17)
  • Resolution (11:18)

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Criticism from Jewish Christians (Acts 11:1-3)

Jerusalem keeps their ears open concerning the expansion of the gospel. Cf. Acts 8:14; 11:21-22

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The word traveled to Jerusalem before Peter got there. The brethren in Judea heard that the Gentiles received the word of God. And then Peter arrives in Jerusalem a short time later. And when he arrives, he is confronted by “those of the circumcision” who contend with him. They have an argument.

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These Jewish believers have not been informed of how Jesus has baptized Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. Their issue is with Peter going in to the Gentiles and eating with them in Caesarea with Cornelius, et. al.

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There is no hesitation to challenge this eminent apostle. Peter humbly receives it, not forcing his apostolic authority. This does give a ‘congregational’ feel to the passage.

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Note: this is not ‘accept anyone at any cost’ mentality. Note Boice, bottom of 189.

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Peter’s defense (11:4-17)

Here we have 4 examples of how the Lord has intervened.

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1. Retelling of the facts from Acts 10:9-16 (11:5-10). Praying first … good start … and then … “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unclean.”

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2. These verses repeat Peter’s experience when the Holy Spirit told him to go with those three men, without doubting (Acts 11:11-12). He was responding to God’s clear working. Repeating 10:19

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3. Acts 11:13-14. This is Cornelius’ story about the angel appearing to him, repeating 10:30-32. This is God at work.

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4. Acts 11:15-17 … A repetition of the essentials in 10:44-46 where the Holy Spirit falls on the Gentiles just like at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

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Peter’s point in relating these four facts is to say that God is at work and he was responding to God’s working. We make decisions based on the way God has dealt with us before. If a believer is particular prone to sin and the Lord enacts certain discipline, God’s likely to do something similar again (Acts 5).

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Now, Peter brings in two other arguments.

1. Acts 11:16: Peter appeals to Jesus’ saying (cf. Acts 1:5). In other words, Peter is saying that Cornelius’ experience fulfills Jesus’ saying.

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2. Acts 11:12 An appeal to the 6 witnesses as proof. It wasn’t just Peter, but these Christians went along with him as well.

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This makes a total of six arguments as Peter responds to these Jewish Christians who desire to argue with him concerning why he violated Mosaic custom and ate with Gentiles.

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Peter clinches the argument in verse 17 Acts 11:17. You can see that his point is that God gave to the Gentiles the same gift as he did to the apostles. It’s dependent on faith in Christ. And Peter is saying that he does not want to withstand God. In other words, God is at work and Peter was merely responding to what God was doing.

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Resolution (11:18)

This finds favor with those who were argumentative.

They quiet down and praise the Lord…Acts 11:18.

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So Luke is showing us progression of the gospel how the Gentile mission is gaining acceptance. There is no reference to the necessity of obeying Mosaic Law customs… the common denominator is trusting Christ.

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