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Apr 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 10, 2016 – Acts 11

Building and Repairing Relationships

(for our mental, physical and spiritual health)

Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Acts 11:1-3

Intro: All the commotion in the second half of ths chapter reminds me of Jesus Movement

By 1970 Calvary Chapel could not build a sanctuary large enough to accommodate all the new Christians
– it was sprouting offshoots all around Orange County, then Riverside County and San Diego County
• and other vital communities were emerging at the same pace in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berkeley
– initially, the branches from Calvary Chapel’s roots were not organized as conventional churches
• rather, they were communes collecting disenfranchised hippie converts – the churches came later
◦ that era seems to have exemplified what Greek scholar A. T. Robertson observed regarding Acts 11:
“God always has a man prepared for a great emergency in the kingdom.”
• that was true forty years ago
◦ and it was true of people we will meet in today’s text

But that is not what we’re going to track today
– instead, we are going to observe the way relationships are formed and strengthened
• it seems every time I turn around lately, this is what I’ve bumped into
◦ in my reading, in our Wednesday and Thursday evening meetings, and addressing the needs of our grandchildren

Daniel Siegel has written, “As relationships are the most important factor in studies of good health, longevity, happiness, and wisdom, finding a way to promote interpersonal integration may be an essential step in developing these positive aspects of having a full and rewarding life.”

• mental integration and relational integration are mutually dependent

Bessel van der Kolk explains, “Everything about us–our brains, our minds, and our bodies–is geared toward collaboration in social systems. . . . it is important not to ignore the foundations of our humanity: relationships and interactions that shape our minds and brains when we are young and that give substance and meaning to our entire lives.”

– our life in God is defined by relationships: love for God and love for others
• unfortunately, every relationship is always at risk

Vv. 1-17, News spread quickly of Peter’s encounter with Gentiles

The reason it did is because what he did was extremely controversial
– the complaint here is similar to the one raised against Jesus (Lk. 15:1)
• eating implied close contact, which forms a bond
◦ this sort of bond with Gentiles would transfer impurity to the observant Jew
• one of Israel’s core beliefs regarding God’s future intervention in world history
◦ Israel’s salvation would bring their total victory over Gentiles
– remember “circumcision” is a technical word
• the crew that believed Jewish conversion had to come before Christian conversion
◦ they did not begin their interview of Peter with a question, but had already come to a decision
◦ as A. T. Robertson observed, “Peter is at once set on the defensive as their contention went on.”
• of course, Peter had exactly the same attitude before God told him to go

Peter walked his audience through the story
– his version is slightly different from Luke’s report, so that is what we’ll go over
• v. 5, right down to me – Luke had, to the ground (10:11)
◦ this detail personalizes the vision – it was aimed at him
◦ it also brings the whole experience closer to them
• v. 6, fixed my gaze – another “personal touch”
◦ he had not decided on his own that he would disregard the purity rules
◦ God took him through a sequence of uncanny events
◦ and it was all just as surprising to him as to them
– notice he doesn’t mention Cornelius by name (or his position)
• but he gives more information Cornelius gave him regarding the purpose of his visit (v. 14)
• 15, Peter says he was just beginning his messate when the Spirit interrupted him
◦ and before his eyes, he witnessed the same phenomenon they experienced (Acts 2:1-4)
◦ it was then that he made the connection with Jesus’ word

And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” (v. 14 & cf. Acts 1:5)

◦ but the quote had a wider application than anyone expected

If we step back for a moment, we discover something
– the natural human reaction when attacked is to fight back
• Peter could have taken this issue head on
◦ in fact, later he’ll be more confrontational and aggressive

God . . . made no distinction between us and them . . . Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10)

◦ telling a story produces a different sort of effect than a direct assault
• it drew them into his situation and his dilemma
◦ what else could he do? What would they have done?
◦ experiencing it with him, they’re ready to concede

Verse 18, when Peter finished there was silence
– there was no rebutal and did not speak
• he let his words sink in – when they finally spoke, it was to praise God
• it was not so much that they came to a conclusion as they received a revelation
repentance to life – a change that brings a person to life

To strengthen and repair relationships, we need Storytellers
We frame and reframe our entire lives with stories
We need stories that change minds, reconcile opposing factions, and mend relations

Vv. 19-21, A change in the evangelistic agenda

Luke revisits Stephen’s lynching, after which persecution fanned out
– in the earlier report, the scattered evangelists worked only in Judea and Samaria
• but now Luke reports a geographical shift into Gentile territory
• at first the message was taken to no one except to Jews alone
◦ but disciples from other regions evangelized Greeks also
◦ the disciples from North Africa and Cyprus did not have the same reluctance as the Jerusalem crowd
hand of Lord is a familiar Old Testament term (especially in Ezra)
• it signifies God’s approval and assistance

To strengthen and repair relationships, we need Risk-takers
People who are willing to explore new places and share with unlikely subjects
People who do not live in a world of enemies or strangers, but potential brothers and sisters

Vv. 22-26, The Church at Jerusalem (its birthplace and headquarters)

They sent the right man – Barnabas rejoiced at what he saw in Antioch
– other Jewish believers who visited Antioch later did not rejoice (Acts 15:1)
• the new believers in Antioch had turned to the Lord
◦ Barnabas encouraged them to stay true to the Lord
• it is not without significance that he was a good man

To strengthen and repair relationships, we need Encouragers

Barnabas saw a need for assistance in Antioch
– he had not stopped thinking about Paul or lost sight of him
– now for first time, folks in Antioch are also the church
• what Jerusalem was to the Jewish believers, Antioch became for Gentile believers
• and in Antioch, the mixed church of Jews and Gentile were the first to be called Christians

To strengthen and repair relationships, we need People who reach out

Vv. 27-30, All that needs to be said regarding these verses:

The believers in Antioch were real deal
– they considered to be one with their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem (v. 29)

To strengthen and repair relationships, we need to Be people of sincere empathy and compassion 

Conc: Bessel van der Kolk says communities are needed for recovery from trauma

Communities that “provide physical and emotional safety, including safety from feeling shamed, admonished, or judged, and to bolster the courage to tolerate, face, and process the reality of that has happened.”

– to the list I would add commnities that maintain friendship confidentiality
• if you value the friendship, keep your mouth shut
• whatever a friend confides in you is not your information to share
◦ if you tell someone else, you betray a confidence — you betray your friend

I believe we have been moving the right direction
So let’s keep going–let’s BE a healthy environment for developing relationships of grace

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