Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus the Christ—the Church—as it was written and recorded in the book of Acts by Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book. “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes I considered, and saw four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven” (Acts 11:1-10).
“And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we wentered into the man’s house: and he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:11-17).
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles g ranted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:19-26).
“And it these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27-30).
When you come to the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find a continuation of the events which took place in the previous chapter. As you come to the eleventh chapter you will find word of what had taken place in the house of Cornelius reaching the ears of the apostles and brethren which were present in the city of Jerusalem. In the opening verse of the eleventh chapter you will find that the apostles and the brethren which were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God and would desire an audience with the apostle Peter as to the events surrounding Cornelius and his household. The second verse describes how the apostle Peter returned and came up again unto the city of Jerusalem and how that were of the circumcision contended with him concerning his going in unto men which weren’t circumcised and ate with them. It is actually quite remarkable to read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter for although what we find here would indeed have a positive outcome it would set the tone and stage for what would happen throughout the rest of this New Testament book. Upon reading the words found in the eleventh chapter it is absolutely vital to pay attention to the phrase “they that were of the circumcision” as it directly points to the Jews for it was unto the Jews the rite of circumcision was given by Abraham according to promise and covenant and through Moses by commandment of the Law. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of what is found in this passage of Scripture—particularly and especially as it pertains to those which were of the circumcision—for what we find here is the beginning of an opposition that would be meted out against the followers of Jesus Christ by those who were Jews—not only be lineage and heritage but also perhaps even by deliberate choice.
As you read the words which are found within the New Testament book of Acts you will find that one of the biggest threats and dangers to the gospel—and not only the gospel but also to the freedom and promise that is associated with the gospel—was that of the circumcision and of the Jews. With this being said we must needs realize and understand that in the eleventh chapter those of the circumcision had issue with the apostle Peter going in unto the Gentiles and eating with them yet throughout the rest of the book of Acts you will find that the offense of the Jews and those of the circumcision would center upon that which was given as a free gift versus that which was given by the Law. It would be throughout the rest of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the greatest and staunchest opponent to the apostles and followers of Jesus the Christ was not those who weren’t of the circumcision and were thus Gentiles but rather the Jews and those to whom the rite of circumcision had been given. You cannot read this New Testament book without witnessing and experiencing the apostle Paul experiencing firsthand the direct opposition that would be lobbied against him by those of the circumcision because of what was freely given by the grace and promise of God.
I sit here today thinking about and considering that which is found in the opening verses of the eleventh chapter and I can’t help but come face to face with the issue those who were of the circumcision took with the apostle Peter going in unto the Gentiles and eating with them. Within this passage of Scripture we find that word and report had reached the apostles and brethren which were present in Judaea and how they would desire an audience with the apostle Peter concerning the events which took place there in Caesarea and the house of Cornelius. What’s more is that if you read the words which are found in the final verses of the tenth chapter you will find that even those brethren which were present with the apostle Peter at Cornelius’ house were astonished and amazed when the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out and released upon those of Cornelius’ household. Up until that point the gift of the Holy Ghost had only been poured out among the Jews and those who were in Samaria when the apostles Peter and John came unto them to follow up on the preaching of Philip. It is in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book you find Philip who was one of the seven deacons chosen, ordained and appointed by the brethren in the sixth chapter not only preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus but also casting out unclean spirits who came out their hosts with great cries and screams. What’s more is that it was in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we find that many who were taken with the palsy and many who were lame were healed and received strength according to and by the name of Jesus whom Philip preached. There in Samaria a great and mighty work would take place as the Samaritans not only heard and received the word of the gospel with great joy but also believed and were baptized.
As you continue reading the words found in the eighth chapter you will find that when report had reached the apostles and the brethren which were present at Jerusalem concerning the Samaritans receiving the word of God and being baptized the apostles Peter and John were sent unto and among them. It would be upon the arrival of the apostles Peter and John the Samaritans who received the word with great joy, who believed and who were baptized would experience the apostles Peter and John laying their hands on and praying for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Up until that moment in time they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and had been baptized in water yet the promise and gift of the Holy Ghost had not come upon them. When, however, the apostles Peter and John came unto them the Holy Ghost would be poured out upon the Samaritans as well just as it had been done among the Jews which were in Jerusalem and Judaea. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for what took place in Samaria would be a portent and precursor of what would take place in the coming days as the gift and promise of the Holy Ghost would not only be poured out upon the Jews and the Samaritans but would also be poured out upon the Gentiles as well. Pause for a moment and consider that within the first ten chapters of this New Testament book you will not only find the Jews receiving the gift and promise of the Holy Ghost, and you will not only find the Samaritans receiving the gift and promise of the Holy Ghost but you will also find the Gentiles receiving the free gift and promise of the Holy Spirit. It would be in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you find the apostle Peter going in unto the Gentiles according to an angelic visitation Cornelius had experienced, as well as a vision the apostle Peter himself had received alongside of the leading and direction of the Spirit Himself.
The more you read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts the more you will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding an initial distaste and rebuke in the mouths of those of the circumcision concerning the apostle Peter going in unto and eating with Gentiles. In all reality this is takes on an even greater meaning when you consider that which the Lord Jesus Himself faced when He walked among and with them as the Word made flesh. If you turn and direct your attention to the four gospel narratives found in the New Testament you will the Lord Jesus continually being ostracized, condemned, accused and judged by the religious leaders and rulers of His day because He Himself would go in unto sinners. Throughout the four gospel narratives you will not only find Jesus entertaining publicans and sinners but also going in unto them and eating with them. What’s more is that one of Jesus’ own disciples and apostles would be a publican whom He would personally call from the receipt of custom. It is with this in mind I feel a tremendous need to also declare that not only did Jesus choose a publican to follow Him as one of His disciples but He would also choose a Pharisee to be one of His greatest apostles and champions of the gospel unto and among the Gentiles—the apostle Paul. In all reality it is truly astonishing to read the four gospel narratives together with the New Testament book of Acts for within them you will find Jesus not only entertaining sinners and publicans as He went in unto them eating and drinking but we also find Jesus choosing a publican as one of His disciples and a Pharisee as perhaps His greatest apostle and missionary of the gospel unto the Gentiles which were present in Asia and Europe. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for what we find in the eleventh chapter is but a different manifestation of what we saw within and throughout the four gospel narratives.
I sit here today thinking about that which is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book and I can’t help but be brought face to face with an opposition that would be manifested in the New Testament book of Acts that would appear to be different than that which is found in the gospels and yet is intrinsically linked and connected to it. I would dare say that what we find in the eleventh chapter is but a continuation of the opposition, the criticism, the condemnation, the accusation and the judgment which the Lord Jesus Himself experienced as He walked among us as the Word made flesh. You cannot read the four gospels without encountering time and time again the religious leaders and rulers as well as the Jews themselves indicting Jesus for His eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. Moreover you will also find in the four gospel narratives Jesus being condemned and judged by one named Simon who was a Pharisee when a woman from the city who was a sinner entered into the house uninvited and poured out her extravagant worship upon the Lord Jesus. Moreover you will also find in the gospel narrative written by the physician Luke the Jews grumbling and murmuring against Jesus when He decided to go in unto the house of Zacchaeus who was the chief publican in the city of Jericho. Oh you cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous opposition Jesus experienced throughout those three and a half years of publican ministry because He chose to eat, drink and fellowship with publicans and sinners. Not only this but the three parables which were told and spoken in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke were given in direct response to the opposition Jesus experienced because He chose to eat and drink and fellowship with sinners.
Before we delve any further into the words which are found here in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book of Acts I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need among us to consider that which took place within and throughout the public life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. What we find in the eleventh chapter would be but the beginning of an even deeper and an even greater persecution that would take place during the days of the early Church as before the days of Nero emperor of Rome who would incite Rome to rise up in persecution against the Christians the greatest opponents and adversaries to the brethren and to the Church were actually the Jews themselves—those who were of the circumcision. During the days of the Lord Jesus it would be the religious leaders and rulers together with the Jews who were His greatest adversaries and opponents because He chose to enter in unto publicans and sinners and eat and drink with them. If we wish to truly understand that which is found in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book it is absolutely necessary that we consider the different passages found within the four gospel narratives written concerning the life of the Lord Jesus and the tremendous opposition He experienced because He dared go in unto publicans and sinners—and not only go in unto publicans and sinners but also chose to eat and drink with them. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following passages which are found within the four gospels presented at the beginning of the New Testament and behold the murmuring, the grumbling, the condemnation, the accusation, the criticism and the judgment directed against Jesus because He dared eat and drink with publicans and sinners:
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).
“But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children” (Matthew 11:16-19).
“Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him. Not: but the publicans and harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:31-32).
“And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And it came to p ass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and the Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:13-18).
“And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:27-32).
“And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee, And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins which are many are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).
“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:1-7).
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zaccheaus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheaus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zaccheaus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
We dare not and must not miss the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within them we see the Lord Jesus Himself being criticized and condemned for not only eating and drinking with sinners but also entering into them. You cannot read the words found in this portion of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and His eating and drinking with sinners. What’s more is that it would be because Jesus ate and drank with sinners he would draw the ire and the angst of the religious leaders and rulers during those days. After Jesus called and chose a publican by the name of Levi who was sitting at the receipt of custom to follow Him as one of His disciples that same publican would make a great feast in his house for Jesus and the other disciples whom He had called. It would be unto this feast that many publicans and sinners would come in as well as they ate and drank with the Lord Jesus. The Pharisees and the scribes saw this and immediately murmured and grumbled among themselves and asked the disciples of Jesus why their Master ate and drank with sinners. Jesus would be aware of and hear the murmuring and grumbling of the religious leaders and rulers of that day and would emphatically declare unto them that He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
In all reality I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated when I read the four gospel narratives written concerning the life of the Lord Jesus for what we find within them are powerful instances when the Pharisees and scribes as well as the Jews themselves murmuring and grumbling at Jesus because He ate and drank with sinners. The entire fifteenth chapter contains three parables Jesus told and spoke unto those during that day who murmured and grumbled that He went in to eat and drink with sinners and that He deliberately and intentionally chose to fellowship with publicans and sinners. In fact the seventh chapter contains a narrative of a Pharisee named Simon inviting Jesus into his house for to sit down to meat with Him and a woman from the city who was a sinner came in uninvited daring to pour out her extravagant worship before and upon the Lord Jesus. It would be there in the house of religion and there in the house of a Pharisee this woman from the city who was a sinner would not only wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, and would not only dry them with the very hairs of her head but would also anoint His feet with the precious perfume and ointment she had brought with her. When Simon witnessed and beheld this woman’s actions in his own house he murmured and grumbled within himself thinking and believing that if Jesus were a prophet He would have known who and what manner of woman this was that she was a sinner. The words which Simon spoke within himself were actually shared among most if not all of the Pharisees and scribes of that day who witnessed and observed Jesus eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. It’s worth noting that when Simon looked upon this woman he could not see her worship nor could he see her humility, brokenness and repentance but only that she was a sinner. Simon could not get past the fact that this woman was a sinner and it was that knowledge of this woman being a sinner [for she undoubtedly had a reputation in the city for being a sinner] that caused him to murmur and grumble within himself concerning the actions of Jesus.
The more you read the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the Lord Jesus the more you will encounter a tremendous amount of grumbling, complaining and murmuring against Him because He deliberately and intentionally chose to eat and drink with sinners. You cannot read the gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and His willingness to entertain publicans and sinners—those whom the religious leaders and rulers of that day had absolutely no place for. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that the religious leaders and rulers of Jesus’ day judged, condemned, accused and even ostracized those who were publicans and sinners and chose to distance themselves from them. When Jesus, however, came to the earth He came eating and drinking with sinners. Not only this but Jesus also declared unto the Pharisees and the scribes how the publicans and the prostitutes entered into the kingdom of God before them because they not only chose to believe the word which John the Baptist had preached but also believed the word which the Lord Jesus Himself preached. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as it invites us to consider the days and times in which Jesus walked upon the earth for He was a man who was continually judged and criticized for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. It would be during those days publicans and sinners were considered the outcasts of society and were considered to be common and unclean.
This reality and concept of common and unclean which the apostle Peter had heard from the Lord Himself is actually quite necessary to understand and recognize when considering the ministry of the Lord Jesus. It is in the four gospels we find and encounter the Pharisees and scribes as well as the Jews considering publicans and sinners as being common and unclean. Those who were themselves of the seed of Abraham were considered to be common and unclean—perhaps even in the same manner as lepers were considered unclean and even as those who were lame, blind, deaf, dumb, impotent, and the like. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that the religious leaders and rulers of Jesus’ day thought and perceived the lepers and lame as being common and unclean as well as the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the like. The four gospel narratives are replete with example after example of the scribes and the Pharisees viewing, looking upon and treating those who were destitute and in need as being common and unclean. This is perhaps seen in the greatest light when you consider the words and language surrounding the Lord Jesus eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. What makes this all the more interesting and astounding when you consider it is that Jesus deliberately and intentionally chose to eat and drink with sinners and did not ask or even require them to clean themselves up before He would do so. There is absolutely no place in any of the four gospel where the Lord Jesus declared unto publicans and sinners that they needed to somehow clean themselves before He would eat and drink with them. Jesus didn’t demand of Levi whose surname was Matthew that he repent and clean himself up before calling him to follow Him. Jesus didn’t make any demands or issue any commands to Zacchaeus before entering into his home to eat and drink with him and yet this chief publican would give half of his goods to the poor and restore four-fold unto those whom he had oppressed through extortion.
When you come to the seventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that Jesus knew this woman’s reputation and how she was a sinner and yet He not only allowed her to wash His feet with her tears but also allowed her to dry them with the very hairs of her head. What’s more is Jesus allowed this woman to pour out the precious ointment and perfume she had brought with her as she anointed His feet with that oil. Jesus didn’t make a demand of this woman to clean herself up before He allowed her to draw near unto Him and to touch Him. Nowhere in any of the four gospels will you find Jesus demanding of any publican or sinner that they clean themselves up before they come unto Him. Time and time again Jesus declared that He came not to call the righteous or those who thought they were righteous in their own eyes but sinners unto repentance. As it pertains to this woman from the city who was a sinner and dared enter into the house of religion to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, dry them with the hairs of her head and anoint them with the precious perfume she brought with her Jesus declared that her sins which were many were forgiven unto her. The account of the woman who dared enter into the house of religion is actually quite powerful and beautiful when you take the time to consider it for the only thing we read concerning this woman is the tears which freely flowed from her eyes and ultimately from her heart and soul. There is not a doubt in my mind that this woman did more than break the alabaster box at the feet of Jesus but was herself broken and allowed herself to be broken in the sight and presence of Jesus. It was there in the house of religion where this woman would allow herself to be broken in the sight of all and in the presence of Jesus and would in and from that place find forgiveness from the eternal and only begotten Son of God.
This reality of calling no man common or unclean is actually something that must be recognized and understood for it is at the very heart and center of the apostle Peter’s encounter with Cornelius and his entire household. During the days when the Lord Jesus walked upon the earth as the Word made flesh publicans and sinners were considered common and unclean while here in the book of Acts it wasn’t necessarily publicans and sinners that were considered common and unclean but rather the Gentiles. In fact it was the Lord Himself who had to bring the apostle Peter to the point where he would no longer call common or unclean that which the Lord had cleansed and that which the Lord God had deemed worthy in His sight. What’s more is that when you read the narrative and account of Cornelius in the opening verses of the tenth chapter of this book you will find that he was a devout man who feared the Lord and gave much alms and prayed to the Lord continually. This centurion—although he was a Gentile—was found faithful in the sight of the living God and as a direct result of this faithfulness his prayers and alms went up as a memorial unto heaven before and in the presence of the living God. It would be in response to this memorial that came up before the Lord that He would dispatch one of His holy angels to come unto Cornelius in a vision and instruct him to call for one called Simon whose surname was Peter who was in Joppa lodging at the house of one Simon the tanner. On the very next day after Cornelius had sent certain of his servants and another centurion who continually ministered before him to Joppa the apostle Peter would enter into a trance while he was praying upon the rooftop and would see a vision of all manner of unclean and common beasts and living things which the Lord commanded him to rise and eat. The apostle Peter would respond to the Lord saying it ought not be so for he had never eaten anything that was unclean. It would be in response to the words which the apostle Peter spoke the Lord would declare unto him that he call nothing common or unclean that which He had considered worthy.
As I sit here today thinking about the narrative of Cornelius and the apostle Peter I can’t help but think about the fact the apostle Peter would and could have considered this man to be common and unclean simply because he was a Gentile and yet he did not know this man feared God and was devout. The apostle Peter could have considered this man to be unclean and common and yet not even recognized and understood that he gave much alms and offered many prayers before the Lord and was beloved of the nation of the Jews. The only thing the apostle Peter would and could have seen at this time was one who was a Gentile—and not only this man who was a Gentile but also his entire household who was with him. It would have been very easy for the apostle Peter to look upon this centurion and his entire household and see nothing more than those who were common and unclean in his sight and perhaps even according to the Law of Moses. Even when the apostle Peter entered into the house of Cornelius he declared unto him that it was unlawful for he being a Jew to enter into the house of those who were uncircumcised and fellowship with them. The apostle Peter declared unto Cornelius and his entire household that it was not lawful for him to enter in unto Gentiles but how the Lord had appeared unto him and declared that he call nothing common or unclean that which He had called clean.
The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture—as well as that which is found in the tenth chapter—the more I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with something that is of great importance within our culture and society. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we find within this passage of Scripture is a powerful picture of how many within our culture and society treat others before and around them. There is not a doubt in my mind there are countless men and women among us within our culture and society who look upon those before and all around them and consider them to be unclean and common. There are those among us—even within our own churches and houses of worship—who look upon those before and around them and cast their judgment and condemnation upon and against them. In all reality I can’t help but read the words found in the tenth and eleventh chapters of the New Testament book of Acts and come face to face with the awesome truth that we as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus ought not to call or consider any man common or unclean. During the generation in which we have lived and are presently living it is very easy to consider others as being common and unclean and to do so is a great affront and atrocity before and in the sight of the living God. Please recognize and consider that this has everything to do with those who are part of the LGBTQ community as it does those who are rapists, pedophiles and rapists. I would dare say that it is and it has been very easy for us to consider those who are part of the LGBTQ community as being common and unclean and to consider them as being nothing more than sinners. Perhaps one of the greatest questions I can’t help but ask myself is what would we do and how would we react if we were called to be a witness unto and in the midst of the LGBTQ community as a beacon of hope and light for the Lord Jesus.
WHO ARE THE GENTILES AMONG US IN THIS GENERATION? WHO WOULD WE CONSIDER COMMON IN THIS GENERATION? WHO WOULD WE CONSIDER AS BEING UNCLEAN IN THIS GENERATION? Oh dear reader I sit here today thinking about the fact that we who call upon the name of the Lord are ourselves Gentiles and have been grafted in together with the Jews as the apostle Paul mentioned in the ninth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. Outside of the Jews themselves who live and dwell in Israel and throughout various countries throughout the world we are all Gentiles living in the age of the Gentiles. With this being said we must needs recognize that in the generation we are living in it is no more about Gentiles themselves being considered as unclean and common. We might all be considered as being common and unclean in the sight of the living God and yet the truth of the matter is that the free gift of grace and of salvation has been offered unto us who once were enemies and adversaries of Christ and of His cross. What we must needs recognize and understand is that it is no longer about Jews and Gentiles in our culture and society but now it is about gender, it is about race, it is about political affiliation, it is about sexual orientation, and even religious affiliation. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for no longer are we bound to the same arguments and trouble the apostles and the brethren faced during the days of the early church. When it was once a matter of Jew versus Gentile or even Jew versus Samaritan it is now about race versus race, gender versus gender, sexual orientation versus sexual orientation, and the like. No longer is it and no longer has it been about Jew versus Gentile but rather about those means and lines by which we are and have been divided in our culture and society.
As I sit here today thinking about and considering this particular truth and reality I find myself encountering the tremendous invitation given unto us to call no man common or unclean. The apostle Peter was instructed by the Lord to call no man common or unclean and it was the Spirit who instructed him to go with those men who had come unto the house where he was lodging doubting nothing. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what took place in the tenth chapter for not only was there the instruction given not to call unclean and common what the Lord had called clean but there was also the instruction to doubt nothing. CALL NO MAN UNCLEAN & DOUBT NOTHING! There is not a doubt in my mind that these are two of the most difficult things for many within the church to do—particularly within this nation in the generation in which we are living. If there is one thing this past and present year has taught and revealed unto us it’s just how divided we have been and continue to be. It is absolutely undeniable and unmistakable within our culture, within our society and within our generation to not see and consider just how divided we are. We are and have been divided across racial and gender lines and we are and have been divided across religious affiliation and political affiliation lines in this generation. One cannot argue, contend or even ignore this tremendous truth within our nation and this generation for the past year and a half has proven and demonstrated just how bitterly divided we are. What’s more is that there are certain events which have taken place over the past year and a half that have marked just how divided we are and have been—namely the day the death of George Floyd was broadcast throughout the nation on television screens, on news websites online, on apps on mobile phones and across social media platforms. What’s more is the very Presidential election marked and signified just how divided we are when the outcome of the election indicated that Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden would become the forty-sixth President of the United States. Moreover, the events which took place on January 6th of this year marks another bitter division that is present within our nation, within our culture and within our society.
We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of these realities for each of them point to just how radically divided we are and have been throughout the years. Oh it is true that this nation has been divided throughout and over the years, however, at no other time than perhaps the days of the Civil War has it been as evident. While this nation is not divided between the Union and the Confederate armies it is nonetheless divided across various other lines that are not respecter of state lines and borders but crosses over them. It is absolutely unmistakable that we are and have been bitterly divided and perhaps one of the greatest sources of division is who one supported during the last four years of this nation when President Donald Trump served as the Commander in Chief. You need only look on social media platforms and on all the various media outlets to see just how bitterly divided this nation has been and the tremendous schism that surrounds those who supported the previous President of the United States and those who voted for and supported the current President. In all reality President Trump and support of him has become such a polarizing reality that many within our own nation have no room or place for Americans—those who were born free in this nation—who voted for and continue to support President Trump. Social media and the media itself demonstrates and proves just how radically and bitterly divided we are and how one man and one President has become such a polarizing and dividing factor within our nation, culture and society.
The more I read the words presented in the eleventh chapter the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the initial response of those of the circumcision upon hearing the apostle Peter went in unto the Gentiles—those who were uncircumcised and not of the lineage and heritage of Abraham. It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to this for what we witness here is but the beginning of those who would seek to introduce schisms and division within and among the brethren surrounding the free gift of salvation as well as the promise of the Holy Spirit. In fact the entire epistle written by the apostle unto the churches in Galatia was written to instruct them to be able to withstand those of the circumcision who attempted to dissuade them from walking in faith in the free gift of the grace of God and the promise of the Holy Spirit. That which the apostle sought to do in this epistle is call and invite those in the churches of Galatia to recognize the free gift of grace and the promise of the Holy Spirit and that they not allow those of the circumcision to draw and entice them away from the simplicity that is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Moreover throughout the New Testament book of Acts you will find and discover the Jews being the staunchest opponents to the gospel of the Lord Jesus as they would raise themselves up against the apostle Paul and his companions. You cannot read this New Testament book without encountering and coming face to face with this tremendous reality and how the Jews and those of the circumcision were great adversaries and enemies of the grace of God found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is present here in this chapter are those of the circumcision initially calling into question the apostle Peter going in unto the Gentiles and those who were uncircumcised. Although there is no mention of direct opposition found within this passage you will find Luke writing how those of the circumcision contending with the apostle Peter over his actions and decision to go in among the Jews.
As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Peter needing to rehearse all the events which transpired—both that which took place in Caesarea and that which took place in Joppa. It’s actually quite remarkable to consider how the Spirit working together with the Lord Jesus would bring together those who were uncircumcised in Caesarea and those who were circumcised in Joppa to accomplish and fulfill the beginning of what had been spoken and promised by the Hebrew prophets. It is utterly fascinating to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and see how the Spirit worked in the life of Cornelius a Roman centurion dwelling in Caesarea who feared God and was devout and would bring into His presence one of the very apostles of the Lord Jesus. Pause for a moment and consider how truly astounding that is that because of this man’s much alms and prayers which came up as a memorial in the sight of the living God the Spirit would bring one of the apostles of the Lord Jesus into his house to preach the gospel and word of Jesus of Nazareth. What’s more is that Cornelius had absolutely no idea what would take place when this one Simon called Peter entered into his house and began speaking unto him. There is absolutely no indication that Cornelius knew that the apostle Peter—one of the apostles of the Lord Jesus Himself—would enter into his home and preach unto him concerning Jesus of Nazareth and that he and his entire household would be baptized in the name of Jesus. There is no indication Cornelius had any clue that while the apostle Peter was speaking about this Jesus of Nazareth the Holy Ghost would be poured out upon them and they would be the first of the Gentiles who would receive the free gift of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, I would dare argue and contend that Cornelius had absolutely no idea that he and his entire household would be baptized and water and would be the first Gentile believers who would receive the promise of the Holy Ghost.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely incumbent to draw and call your attention to the apostle Peter’s initial response to the Lord declaring how nothing common or unclean had ever come into his mouth. It would be upon hearing these words spoken by the apostle Peter the Lord would instruct him to call nothing common or unclean that which He had cleansed. It’s actually quite remarkable to read these words which were spoken by the Lord for what He was referencing were Gentiles—those who did had not received the covenant of Abraham, those who had not received the covenant and Law of Moses and those who weren’t circumcised. What’s more is that the Lord was speaking of Gentiles as though they were clean in His sight—and not only clean in His sight but also those which He had personally cleansed Himself. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and discover how the Lord declared unto the apostle Peter that he ought not call common or unclean that which He had cleansed as well as instructed him to doubt nothing. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the work of the Lord and specifically among the Gentiles. The apostle Paul was clearly instructed by the Lord to not call any thing common or unclean that which the Lord had personally cleansed and we have great need to recognize and understand this within our own hearts and lives. The scribes, the Pharisees, the religious rulers and leaders together with the Jews viewed publicans and sinners as being common and unclean and yet Jesus deliberately and intentionally went in unto them eating and drinking. Although publicans and sinners were largely ostracized and marginalized during the days in which the Lord Jesus walked upon the earth He emphatically declared and proclaimed that He had not come into the world to call the righteous and those who considered themselves to be righteous but sinners unto repentance.
Perhaps the single greatest challenge facing us today is the same command and instruction given unto us to call no man common or unclean—particularly and especially that which the Lord had cleansed. If there is one thing that has been incredibly easy to do in the generation and days in which we are living it’s calling others common and unclean when the Lord hath cleansed them or when the Lord would cleanse them. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we dare not position ourselves as the scribes and Pharisees did as judge and jury for those whom they considered to be sinners in the sight of the living God. One of the greatest dangers facing the scribes, the Pharisees and the religious leaders and rulers of Jesus’ day was how they set themselves up in the seat of judgment to pass judgment. Not only did they pass judgment against and upon Jesus Himself but they also passed judgment on His disciples as well as publicans and sinners. Moreover they even passed judgment on the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and demanded the woman be stoned according to the Law of Moses. It is absolutely amazing how Jesus declared unto the woman from the city who was a sinner that her sins which were many had been forgiven and unto the woman caught in the act of adultery that He did not condemn her and then instructed her to go in peace and sin no more. Even to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus emphatically declared that He which spoke to her was the Messiah and He did so without judging or accusing her. Even when He revealed unto her the past relationships she had as well as the one she was presently in Jesus neither condemned not accused her.
I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding that which is found in the eleventh chapter for within it we find the apostle Peter rehearsing unto the brethren how God had not only taught him to call no man common or unclean which He had cleansed but he also rehearsed unto them his refusal to fight against and/or contend with God in this matter. The apostle Peter discerned the Lord was at work upon arriving at the house of Cornelius and proceeded to preach the Lord Jesus unto them. It was in response to his obedience working together with the faith that was present in the hearts and lives of Cornelius and his household that caused the free gift of the Holy Spirit to be released unto and upon them. Oh it is vital that we neither call any man common or unclean when the Lord hath cleansed them and that we do not fight against and resist God in matters of men. The apostle Peter could have chosen to refuse the command and voice of the Lord and he could have chosen not to go in unto Cornelius and his household and yet to do so would have been to fight against God Himself. This is something we must needs recognize for I am convinced that in the midst of all the division within this country and in the midst of all the judgment there are many who are fighting against and contending with God. Those who allow themselves to be divided across racial lines, across gender lines, across religious lines, across political lines, and even across sexual orientation lines are such who might very well find themselves resisting the Holy Spirit and fighting against God. Who are we to determine who is qualified and deserving of the free gift of salvation and hearing the gospel of the Lord Jesus? Who are we to call and treat others common and unclean when the Lord of hosts hath cleansed them? Oh that we would make a conscious and deliberate decision that we would not be those who call others common and unclean and that we neither fight against the Lord nor resist His Holy Spirit when it pertains to matters of men and matters of the heart.