Acts 11:1-18

Today's Passage: Acts 11:1–18

I forget the exact quote, but you’ve heard it said that “if you’re a Christian, you have more in common with another believer on the other side of the world than you do with an unbelieving next door neighbor or co-worker.” If an Uzbekistani tow-truck driver or a Thai housewife is a believer, we have eternity in common. We hold an affection for Christ in common. We are indwelt with the same Spirit, pointing us to the same Heavenly Father. Our differences may be many—proximity, language, culture, occupation, type of electrical wall outlets in our homes—and many other things. However, what matters most is exactly the same.

When Peter returned from the events recorded in Acts 10, “the circumcision party criticized him.” I’ve said it before, but Gentile inclusion into the promise and plan of God’s redemptive history is the great scandal of the New Testament (at least from the Jewish perspective at the time).

Peter concluded his retelling saying, “‘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?’ When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’”

Those of the “circumcision party” to whom Peter was speaking got it. They understood that God had brought salvation to these people and that mattered more than their own prejudice. They had been raised to view every part of life through the lens of clean and unclean—and that’s not something you can just shut off. However, they began to understand that while Moses’ Law helped to define clean and unclean, Jesus redefined it. They had a cultural/religious lens through which they viewed the whole world and hearing Peter’s words they fell silent. We see them take the lens off, examine it, adjust it, and put it back on—they heard Peter’s words, fell silent, then glorified God.

In seminary, I learned the word—"prolegomena.” Prolegomena simply means “first words” (as in “prologue” or “introduction”). As it applies to theology, Prolegomena is important because it serves as a critical evaluation of one’s own biases, background, and method of study before entering into a discussion of systematic theology. A person’s conclusions are always influenced by their pre-conceived notions. Thus, we need to evaluate what those are.

Examining ourselves doesn’t just matter in how we do theology. It matters for our evangelism as well. It’s  a relatively easy thing to approach someone exactly like us (culturally speaking) in hopes to share the Gospel. It takes self-evaluation and critical thinking to evaluate oneself to be effective cross-culturally. Many of our biases aren’t based in Scripture, they’re preferences we’ve picked up from family or culture. I’m not saying they’re all bad. However, if it prevents you from going to someone from a different race, age-group, gender, culture, etc. for the sake of the Gospel, then it ain’t good.

The New Testament is filled with examples of Jewish believers trying to get Gentile believers to live Jewishly—under the Law. Even when the Gospel set them free from the requirements of the Law, they struggled to let their own cultural norms go. We shouldn’t make the same mistake.
Take some time today to think through your own experiences and norms. Then ask yourself, how might these things impact my study of the Word? Also, how might these things impact those to whom I’m trying to reach for the Gospel?

Written By: Tyler Short

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