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Responding to Criticism (3)

Acts 11:15-18
'As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: "John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God's way?' When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.' (NIVUK)

Peter had been called before the church council in Jerusalem. They were alarmed that the apostle had abandoned his traditional Jewish belief that God was offended if His people visited Gentiles in their homes (Acts 10:28). They felt that Peter's behaviour had dishonoured the Lord. So he explained how it was all the Lord's idea, and he had only been obedient. The result of his preaching about Jesus was that the Holy Spirit filled them, just as He filled the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:4).

As the Lord led Peter in this new gospel encounter, the apostle remembered that Jesus had recently reminded them of John's prophecy: God's servants can baptise people in water but only God's Son can authorise them to be baptised (overwhelmed and filled) with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5). In Cornelius' house, the Spirit had obviously filled them, so it would have been wrong not to baptise them in water (Matthew 28:19-20).

The effect of Peter's straightforward evidence was that the church leaders understood that God was doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19). Instead of clinging onto their tradition, they were willing to praise God that He wanted to bring Gentiles to eternal life. It was a new chapter and they were glad that God had opened it. Although the visit to Cornelius was Peter's experience, it became a pivotal lesson for the whole church preparing them to take the gospel to the Gentile-dominated world (Acts 26:15-18).

Criticism, about the good things God is teaching us, is always a gospel opportunity (even when it leads to persecution as in Acts 7:54-60). Our humble explanation about what the Lord has done will not only enable people to understand us, but also help them to understand what God is doing. The Lord is in command of all gospel mission; He expects us to learn from what He is teaching other people, and others to learn from us. Initially, we may be critical of an unconventional mission venture, but ask the questions and look for the marks of divine authenticity (and consistency with Scripture). When God has led you in an unusual way, simply tell the story and let Him validate you and glorify Himself.

Lord of all. Thank You for the amazing way in which You use the criticism of ignorant people to advance Your kingdom. Forgive me for my reluctance to engage with my critics, trusting You to bring the truth to light for my sake, theirs and for Your glory. Please help me to have more faith to realise that You only allow criticism of good things so that other people may have the opportunity to hear what You are doing, and be challenged to work with You instead of against You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams