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The Evidence of Grace for the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18)

September 24, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon testifies to God’s faithful towards the Jews and Gentiles by sending the Gospel at the appointed time. Pastor Carter demonstrates vividly that pride and prejudices resurface in our hearts when we stop marveling at the great salvation secured by the Lord Jesus Christ. The focus of this sermon is on how Peter retells the evidences of unbelievable, undivided, and undeserved grace that the Gentiles received through preaching Christ.

Evidences of Unbelievable Grace

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 (Acts 11:1-2;ESV).

Throughout history, the Lord has been faithful to send His Word to His people (cf. Hebrews 1:1-4). First, He gave His Word to the children of Israel at Sinai, then through the Law and Prophets until the appointed time, when God would send His eternal Word into the world (John 1:1-16). However, Scripture consistently testifies that God is always faithful in spite of man’s faithlessness (John 20:27). The Jewish people rejected Christ as their King, and even thought His life and message was unbelievable (cf. Mark 14:55-62; Luke 23:13-14; John 10:36-38). Nonetheless, just as it pleased God for Christ to suffer for the sake of redeeming a chosen people, it also pleased Him to set His affections on both Jew and Gentile through the work of Christ (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Romans 9:18-26).

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Evidences of Undivided Grace

But Peter began and explained it to them in order… And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction… 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 (Acts 11:12, 17; ESV).”

The circumcision party and Peter understood that if the Gentiles did in fact receive the Word of God, then they were no longer enemies of God, but children. Pastor Carter describes the circumcision party as those who insisted that circumcision was necessary. Perhaps these men were previous Pharisees before they became Christians, yet they still brought their cultural and ethical baggage into the grace-filled community in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, these within the circumcision party forgot that they are no longer Jews and their works were too feeble to win God’s favor by keeping the Law (Galatians 3:28). Thankfully, Peter resolutely recalls the point of both the vision and visit, to show the Jews that the Gentiles received the same grace because God is gracious even to the underserving (Luke 6:35).

Evidences of Undeserved Grace

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. 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 (Acts 11:15-16, 18;ESV).

Though the Holy Spirit came first to the Jews, the Gentiles received the same importance, power and truth. Peter left Jerusalem with his pride and prejudices. He received a word and vision from God that was unsettling. Then, Peter went to Cornelius’ house to find Gentiles with prepared hearts to receive the Gospel and the power of God confronted his pride and prejudices. Now, returning to Jerusalem humbled by the grace of God with a new mind and renewed spirit Peter left the circumcision party speechless when they heard the evidences of grace toward the Gentiles.

Who am I to stand in Gods Way?

The Jewish nation, like us, made much of the gift rather than of the Giver. Oftentimes, we lose sight of the purpose of God’s grace toward us, which is not given to us to make much of us. If we think that we attributed anything to our salvation, then our natural inclination is to treat the mercy of God as an earning rather than a gift (Romans 4:4-5). Salvation is of the Lord. No one is saved simply by wanting to be saved, but because God chooses to save them.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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