Defending Your Ministry
The apostle Paul was not the only one who needed to defend his ministry (2 Corinthians). Peter eventually made his way from Caesarea back to Jerusalem. The circumcised believers issued their complaint against him (11:1–3). Ignoring the miracle of Gentile inclusion into the church (v. 1), these people wanted to know why Peter received hospitality (food & fellowship) from someone unclean. Today, we call this majoring in the minors. In learning the grace of the New Testament, not everyone realized that the Law of Moses was no longer the rule of the community. The Holy Spirit now dictated community life and extension.
Peter opted to avoid direct conflict with his accusers as he simply retold the account of God’s work at Joppa and Caesarea (11:4–7). Now imagine the unbelieving skeptic wrestling with the concept of the voice of God giving Peter verbal and visual instruction to engage the unclean. One objective of the Enlightenment was to remove the supernatural from the life of the Christian. The miraculous parts of the Bible were dismissed. With Deist tendencies today, there is still too many who do not believe God talks intimately with His people.
Peter explained how he had resisted the vision and the voice at first (11:8–11). The design of Peter’s argument was to show a change in God’s program. His point was that God had repealed the unclean clause because the Law of Moses has been fulfilled in Christ. The unclean should now be considered clean. Favor with God is no longer found in merited works, but by faith in Christ.
Avoiding Gentiles and their unclean foods was a good work for Jews. The interpretation of how much contact was allowed was always disputed. This shows the difficulty in being sure one was actually keeping the Law. The Pharisees worked harder than anyone else. They were known for their meticulous tithing of gains, even gains in increased production of herbs, which no doubt brought pride from the accolades of the less zealous. The Law was never intended to save, but it did cause people to sin more.
Peter recounted the messages of the double vision (11:12–15). “The Spirit told me to go with them…” He was walking north 38 miles by the Spirit. The Spirit also speaks to local churches (Rev. 2–3) about their conditions. The church at Jerusalem was at a crossroad of potential schism because of this matter of halakic practice. Peter’s apostleship, not unlike Paul’s, was open to the challenge of others in the church. They had questions and issues needing resolution. Peter had six witnesses in addition to himself to help validate the events. Judaism required at least two.
Peter closed his argument with two proofs and a rhetorical question. First, he equated the Gentile Pentecost with the Jerusalem church’s own experience of receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit (11:15–17). Second, he recalled the words of Jesus promising the baptism of the Holy Spirit (v. 16). One should sidenote another compact revelation of the Trinity (vv. 16–17).
The conditional (if/then) question (v. 17) poses the fact that something extraordinary happened with seven witnesses. The extension of their understanding was that God had given the gift of the Holy Spirit and salvation to the Gentiles in the preaching of Christ. Salvation is God’s business. Who wants to inhibit Him?
Apparently, the circumcised believers did not want to interfere on that day. This group was convinced that, “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life (11:18).” Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25), not something we can do of ourselves, no doubt to ensure we glorify God for His good work. That is how good days, like that one, ended with the church at peace and in unity.
In conclusion, complaints abound in local churches, today. Most are individual complaints, but sometimes a group has a complaint. Leaders are often forced to defend their ministries, but grace abounds in the re-telling of the great work God has done in the midst of His people.
Peter was the object of His opponents’ complaint, but the Holy Spirit of God was the object of His reply. Ministers must help people keep their eyes on Jesus. Defend your ministry by defending the faith you have in the truth of God’s work you have witnessed. Always be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in you. Peter did.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 29, 2021