Thursday, 3 November 2022
“If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” Acts 11:17
Peter had just recalled the words of Jesus concerning the giving of the Spirit. As those at the house of Cornelius have been given the Spirit, Peter asks a logical rhetorical question concerning that fact, beginning with, “If therefore God gave them the same gift.”
In other words, Peter acknowledges that the Spirit is a gift given by God. It is not something earned, nor is it something bestowed by the apostles. Those gathered in Acts 2 had received the gift apart from any merit. Those in the house of Cornelius had likewise only heard the gospel and they had obviously believed what was said. In their belief, the gift was given to them as well. Peter confirms this to those with him, saying, “as He gave us when we believed.”
Belief is the only condition set forth for the reception of the Spirit. It was true for the disciples, and it was true for the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. As God is the Source, and as the requirement for bestowal of the Spirit had been met, then what the apostles may have thought about Gentiles in the past is now wholly irrelevant. God had accepted them and therefore the matter was settled. Peter then continues with a specific note about where the belief was directed, saying, “on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Anyone can believe anything. Nothing stops a person from believing that Buddha is the path to enlightenment. But this does not make it true. Someone may believe the world is flat, but if it is not true, then it is wasted faith. Incorrect belief is not always a major issue, but sometimes it is. A person may wake up believing it is Thursday when it is actually Wednesday. If his routine doesn’t change between those days, it doesn’t really matter. But a person may believe a bottle of water is safe, drink it, and get a serious intestinal infection.
In the case of restoration with God, one’s belief must be properly directed. If it is, then apart from any merit of words, societal class, wealth, or any other distinction restoration is made. All other aspects of the person’s life are irrelevant. Cornelius and those with him met God’s standard for reception of the Spirit and God gave them the Spirit. The matter was settled. Because of this, Peter finishes with, “who was I that I could withstand God?”
This is the point of the discourse. In verses 11:2 and 11:3, it said –
“And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’”
Peter carefully explained what happened, finishing his words with a logical rhetorical question about the matter. In essence, he is saying to them, “What on earth could it matter if I stayed with these Gentiles and ate with them? God has accepted them. Am I going to fight against that? Not a chance.”
Life application: So, who is it that baptized the believers with the Spirit? In Matthew 3, John the Baptist said –
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11
Now in Acts 11, Peter said it was God who did this. But Jesus gives more explicit meaning to that saying –
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26
And yet, Jesus then says –
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” John 15:26
What is obvious from these and other verses is that the giving of the Spirit is a result of the work of the Father and the Son and that they are distinct despite being one. But more, reviewing statements about the Spirit elsewhere in Scripture tells us the same thing about Him. There is a distinction clearly made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And yet, they are each fully God.
This is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not something to be taken lightly. If this doctrine is taught in Scripture, and if it defines the very nature and workings of God, then it is to be heeded carefully. And more, as this is the presentation of God as it is revealed in Scripture, and as He is the One who accepts people by restoring them to Himself, then we should consider this carefully as well.
First, John tells us that if we do not accept the Son, we also do not have the Father (see 1 John 2:23). This is not merely speaking about the humanity of Jesus. It is speaking of Him as the God/Man. Logically, if we deny this, then we also do not have the Spirit because the Spirit comes from the Father and through the Son (as evidenced above). And if one does not have the Spirit, then he is not restored to God.
Secondly, though we may not like someone very much, we need to remember that if he does have the Son, he also has the Father. And if this is so, then God has accepted him by sealing him with the Spirit. As such, we should not attempt to fight against God by rejecting that person. If God has accepted him, we need to consider that and accept him as well.
But a note of warning from John is also given –
“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” 2 John 1:9-11
The doctrine of Christ is that God has united with human flesh in order to redeem man. The Father is God, and the Son is God. They are distinct and yet they are One. This also extends to the Spirit even though it is not specifically stated by John in these verses. One who does not accept the doctrine of Christ does not have God. As such by greeting him, we are validating his incorrect belief. In doing so, you are sharing in that person’s evil deeds. There should be no fellowship with such a person.
Be attentive to these things. God has set forth who He is and what His nature is like so that we can avoid error. Let us hold fast to the truth of God in Christ and not be swayed by those who have a perverse agenda through distorting God’s stated revelation of Himself.
Lord God, You have made the gospel so very simple, and yet it is hardly proclaimed correctly in the world today. How much more is this the case with the weightier doctrines laid out in Scripture? May we be carefully attentive to Your word and how it reveals You to us. Help us in our understanding and give us hearts that are directed to a fuller and more complete understanding of who You are. Amen.