July 1, 2014.
“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?”
Is it possible for us to stand in God’s way? This question might seem ridiculous to us, but I think we need to take a closer look at it. It seems that there were times, specifically here with what we reference as the first Gentile conversion, that Peter stood in opposition to God and God had to intervene to teach him a lesson.
The apostle Peter was a prominent leader in the early church who perhaps wasn’t as careful as the others when it came to doing things in the name of The Lord. I believe this is because he possessed a strong passion and zeal for the Lord that sometimes went unchecked. His character is somewhat revealed in the gospels when the apostles find out that the tomb of Jesus is empty:
“So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;”
Something subtle that can be drawn from this passage. The disciple whom Jesus loved out ran Peter to the tomb, but he stopped at the entrance. Peter went straight in without stopping. I think this reveals something about Peter that many miss. He was often guided by passion and zeal. This can be a very good thing when it comes to our spiritual walk. But we will see that this also can cause problems when your passions interfere with the word of God. This statement may seem impossible to some, but let’s see what I mean.
Peter was very zealous for the Lord, but he often let his strong Jewish background interfere with his love with people, specifically the gentiles. We see in the opening passage that God had to tell him in a vision (three times at that) that the Gentiles were also welcome into the kingdom. Even then Peter didn’t understand what the vision meant. It wasn’t until the baptism of the Holy Sprit, a tangible sign from God that was prophesied by John that Peter finally understood that there was no longer Jew or Gentile. This specific type of baptism is only specifically referenced twice in Acts, once a sign to the Jews and once a sign to the Gentiles. It was a sign of acceptance, a “listen to me” from God, if you will. And that’s what it took for Peter.
This is not the only time Peter fell back into this. Listen to what Paul says he had to do on one occasion when he had an interaction with Peter:
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Peter was still standing in God’s way, in his own words, when Jews and Gentiles mixed, so much so that Paul had to correct him. My question is, if Peter is not immune to this, being chosen specifically by Jesus, how could we today be immune to this? I don’t think we are. We should take an honest look at ourselves to make sure we are not standing in God’s way.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 3, Acts 10-11, Galatians 2.
The Lord bless you and keep you.