Peter’s Defense of the Faith
November 13th, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
PETER’S DEFENSE OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-13-77 7:30 p.m.
On the radio station of the great Southwest, KRLD, and on the radio station of our Bible Institute, KCBI, you are listening and sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts. And if you will turn to Acts chapter 11, we shall read out loud together verses 15 through 18 [Acts 11:15-18]. And the message, entitled Simon Peter’s Defense of the Faith, is an exposition of the first eighteen verses in chapter 11 of the Book of Acts [Acts 1:1-18]. This morning we concluded with the last verse in chapter 10 [Acts 10:48]; now tonight, we begin with chapter 11 [Acts 11:1]. Let us read therefore out loud and together, verses 15 through 18 in chapter 11 of the Book of Acts. Now together:
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?
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life
Now the beginning of this story of the pouring out of the Spirit of God, the saving grace of the Lord upon the Gentiles, is in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts. Simon Peter sees a vision, and in that vision God says, “Rise; kill, and eat” [Acts 10:13]. And Simon Peter said, “Lord; I have never eaten unclean, ceremonially unclean things” [Acts 10:14]. And God said to the great apostle, “What God hath cleansed, call not thou common or unclean” [Acts 10:15]. Then come the emissaries from Caesarea, the hated and despised Roman capital of the province of Judea, a sign of their foreign slavery and oppression. And these men are inviting Simon Peter to come up to Caesarea [Acts 10:17-23], about thirty miles north from Joppa to Caesarea, and there to bring words that the angel said would be salvation to Cornelius, the Roman officer, and his household [Acts 10:5-8, 11:14].
So Simon Peter arrives at the home of the Roman centurion [Acts 10:24-25]. And after the centurion recounts to him how an angel had instructed him to send for Simon Peter, the apostle begins, “I perceive that God has revealed to us that I am to call no man common or unclean” [Acts 10:28], and that God is no respecter of persons: but that anybody anywhere who believes in Him shall receive remission of sins [Acts 10:34-35, 43]. Then upon them fell the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of saving grace. And Peter commanded them upon the authority and vote of the brethren to be baptized [Acts 10:44-48].
So we begin. Then the apostles and the brethren that were in Judea heard what had happened and that Simon Peter had gone into the Gentiles [Acts 11:1]. “And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of this Judaizing party, diakrinō—contended with him” [Acts 11:2]. The basic meaning of diakrinō is “to separate” and “to sever.” It finally came to mean to accost, to confront, to contend with, to dispute with, to condemn vigorously, violently. “And they that were of this Judaizing party contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and you did eat with them” [Acts 11:2, 3].
Isn’t that a marvelous revelation of human nature? Whenever you have trouble in the church, it will not be, it will hardly ever be over any great commitment or doctrinal statement; but it will be over some meeny-miny, miserable, measly minutia of some thing that is not worthy even to be said. They said to him, “You ate with a Gentile” [Acts 11:3]. Didn’t mention about the marvelous salvation of grace that went to those Gentile people [Acts 10:34-48], not anything about God’s mercy for the whole world [Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:2], but they contend, they condemn Simon Peter because they say, “You went in to a man uncircumcised, and you ate with him” [Acts 11:3]. Isn’t that something? Unless we think, oh! that church in Jerusalem, that is exactly like these churches today. We don’t ever have any tremendous altercation in the churches over some vast doctrinal dogma. But always, if there is trouble in the church, it will be over some two-by scantling, sorry thing that when you mention it, it is hardly worthy to be said. “You went into a man uncircumcised, and you ate with him” [Acts 11:3].
I was preaching over there at the state convention in Mississippi, and I preached there for three days. And every time I got through preaching, when the benediction was said, all of those preachers gathered over there in little knots in that corner, and little knots in that corner, and little knots in that corner, and little knots down there in that corner, and some of them in the basement, and some of them in the attic, and some of them in the choir room; all over they were gathered in little knots, and you never saw such carryings on in your life. They were highly displeased about some picayunish thing that I won’t even grace it to name it here in the pulpit.
I preached at a church one time that had a vicious and violent split right down the middle. Half of them left and went out and organized another church. And what they split over was whether the piano ought to be there in front of the pulpit or over here on the side by the choir; just split the church wide open. Now that is people. They accosted Simon Peter, “You went into a man uncircumcised, and you ate with him” [Acts 11:3]. Isn’t that unbelievable? Now this is the church that began with one accord. Isn’t that what the Book says? “And they were all with one accord, loving God, praising the Lord” [Acts 2:46-47]. And they got into some kind of an altercation over the Hellenists and the Aramaeans, the Greek-speaking Jews and the Aramaic-speaking Jews [Acts 6:1]. And now they have come to blows over this thing of eating with the Gentiles [Acts 11:3].
Now the only way that Simon Peter could exonerate himself was to tell them what God had done. Then it continues, “Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded to them by order, saying” [Acts 11:4], and then he follows through: this is what God did. “The Lord told me to rise: kill and eat [Acts 11:7]. And the Lord told me not to call any man common or unclean. And the Lord God said, What God hath cleansed, call thou not common [Acts 11:9]. And the Spirit bade me go with these men, nothing doubting. . . . [Acts 11:12]. And the Holy Ghost fell upon them while I was preaching to them . . . and God gave them the like gift as He did to us at Pentecost, and who was I that I could withstand God?” [Acts 11:15-17]. The only way that he could exonerate himself was to say, “God did that.” This whole plan and purpose and revelation and commandment was from heaven. God did it.
Now we have this Judaizing party in the churches and in Christendom to this present day. You will stumble into them everywhere, everywhere. The Judaizers followed Paul and were his bitterest enemies. In the third chapter of the Book of Philippians, Paul calls them dogs, dogs [Philippians 3:2]. And in the fifth chapter of the Book of Galatians—I don’t have the willingness to translate what Paul says, in the fifth chapter of the Book of Galatians about the party of the circumcision. Circumcision was a sign of the Mosaic law. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul says, “I would that they themselves were cut off”—were mutilated, destroyed, that they destroy and just cut off themselves from the Christian faith [Galatians 5:12]. It was an awesome thing that they faced in these Judaizers in the days of Peter and Paul, in the days of the New Testament [Acts 11:2-3].
And we have that Judaizing party with us forever. You see, the gospel is that we are saved in the Lord, and in Him alone [John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12]. As Ephesians, the second chapter, says, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should say I did it; lest he boast” [Ephesians 2:8, 9]. In Romans the tenth chapter it says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. John 3:16: “Whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting life.” That is the gospel. It is a message from heaven. It is something God does. God saves us. But these Judaizers are always with us. They come along and they say “To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept Him as you Savior that’s not enough! You must believe in the Lord Jesus AND you must do this.” And so they have all kinds of things.
And the Judaizers here: You must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, AND you must be circumcised [Acts 15:1], AND you must keep the law of Moses [Acts 15:5], AND you must make distinction between clean and unclean, AND you must do a thousand other things in order to be saved [Acts 15:5]. Believe in the Lord AND keep the Law of Moses. And then some of them say, “You must believe in the Lord AND you must be baptized. And if you are not baptized, you cannot be saved; just by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must believe in the Lord, AND you must be baptized, then you will be saved.” And then there are others who say, “You must believe in the Lord AND you must take the mass. You must be faithful in the mass. If you don’t be faithful in the mass, you will be damned and go to hell.” And that is what they say, “You must believe AND you must keep the mass.” And then there are others who say, “You must believe in the Lord AND you must do good works, AND you must do this and do that, AND you must believe and if you do not do this, you will be damned and go to hell.” That Judaizing party is forever around us, and it is practically the party that governs Christendom today. But the gospel message is never that. It is not that. And that is the great revelation of the Lord God on these pages in the Holy Scriptures. We are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, by Him alone [John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12], and by nothing that a man can do or add to that atoning grace of the Son of God from heaven.
So let us look at this thing of repentance. “When they heard these words … then they said, Then God also to the Gentiles has granted repentance unto life” [Acts 11:18]. Even saving repentance is a gift of God. We don’t work ourselves into it. It is something that comes down from heaven. It is a gift of God [Acts 11:18], like the gift of saving faith that comes from Him [Ephesians 2:8]. And the gift of saving repentance comes from Him. It is a gift of God [Acts 11:18]. You look at the result of our efforts, human efforts toward repentance; a man can listen and he can tremble and be moved, but that is not saving repentance. When Felix listened to Paul preach, “he trembled, and then said, Go thy way … I will call you at another convenient season” [Acts 24:25], and died lost. A man can listen and be greatly impressed and greatly moved as Herod Agrippa II. In a “legein, in a summation, you want me to be a Christian?” [Acts 26:28]. And after they dismissed Paul and his chain, the soldiers by his side, he said to the procurator Festus, “There is nothing that this man has done: he could have his freedom had he not appealed to Caesar” [Acts 26:31, 32]. But he died lost! To be greatly impressed is not saving repentance [Acts 26:28]. To be scared to death is not saving repentance [Acts 24:25].
Elijah said to Ahab, “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs shall lick up thy blood” [1 Kings 21:19]. And the Lord God said to Elijah, “Look how he has humbled himself, and how he walks quietly” [1 Kings 21:28-29]. But that prophecy came to truth [1 Kings 22:38]. Jezebel and Ahab her husband never repented to saving of their souls. Being scared to death by the threatening of God is not saving repentance. Reformation is not saving repentance. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord describes a man who has an evil spirit in him [Matthew 12:43-45]. And he thrashed him out. He pushes him out. He casts him out—the evil spirit. And after the spirit has been gone, he comes back and looks at that man’s heart and finds it swept, garnished, clean, empty, and he goes and gets seven spirits worse than himself and comes back and lives in the heart of that man, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Reform, I have been drinking, or I have been cussing, or I have been carousing, or I have been whoremongering, or I have been gambling, or I have been desecrating God’s name, and I have been disgracing the Lord, and I have been, just name it, name it, name it. And I am going to quit that. I am going to turn over a new leaf. That is reformation. That won’t save you. That is not repentance unto salvation. Nor is remorse repentance unto salvation. Judas, when he saw what the iniquity of his traitorous betrayal [Matthew 26:14-16] had done, took the [thirty] pieces of silver and cast them down on the temple floor saying, “I have betrayed the innocent blood,” and went out and hanged himself [Matthew 27:3-5]—remorse. The Greeks have a name for that: metamelomai, “remorse.” That is not saving repentance.
Well, what is saving repentance? “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto salvation” [Acts 11:18], when the Holy Spirit came upon them [Acts 11:15]; that is very simply answered in the Bible. Saving repentance is when the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of God, takes a man’s heart, and takes a man’s eyes, takes a man’s mind, takes a man’s soul, and leads him to look at Jesus; looking at the Lord Jesus. You see, in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord said, “The Spirit shall not speak of Himself” [John 16:13]. He never exalts Himself, never points to Him, but He shall take the things of Mine and show them unto thee. “He shall glorify Me” [John 16:14]. And this is saving repentance; when the Holy Spirit of God, a gift from heaven—when the Holy Spirit of God takes a man’s eyes, and his ears, and his heart, and his soul, and He takes it and he looks upon Jesus. [The] first thing that will happen to him is he will have a feeling of sorrow. “My sins did that? Drove those nails in His hands [John 19:16-18], thrust that Roman spear into his side? [John 19:34]. My sins did that?”
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing grace and love unknown.
[from “At the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
God’s Spirit of preciousness poured out beyond degree. That is the first thing. There will be a spirit of sorrow. “Lord, Lord, my sins did that?”
Second: when the Spirit takes a man in saving repentance, leads him to look upon Jesus, he will be filled with the love for the Lord that is indescribable. Loving the Lord Jesus who died for me, personal. The old-timers used that word so much. “Jesus, our personal Savior, had there been nobody else in the world, then He yet would have died for me,” personal Savior. And when you look at the Lord Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit of God, there comes into our souls a great love for the Lord. If there were no hell, we would still love Him. If there were no judgment, we would still love Him. If there were no rewards for the righteous, we would still love Him. Serving Jesus for the love of God; not for anything we propose or hope to get out of it; just for the love of the Lord.
And third: the first one was, when the Holy Spirit takes us to Jesus, there is a sorrow in our hearts for our sins, and you will feel it. “Lord, I am not proud of the wrong that I have done. I am sorry, Lord, in Thy presence.” And second, a great love for Jesus will well up in your heart; not for any reward or anything ever, but just loving the Lord for the Lord’s sake. And third: there will be in it a great turning. You will be somebody else. You will be a new creation. You will be a new man. They won’t even recognize you, had they known you before. There is a great turning.
May I illustrate that two ways? One, I read in the South Pacific, a missionary and his wife went down there to live among those lost and benighted indigenous people in the South Pacific Islands. And while they were there, those islanders came and stole everything that the missionary and his wife had in their house, everything. They took everything out; they stole everything that he had in his house. Then, as the missionaries worked with the people, the Holy Spirit led them to that saving repentance and to that saving faith. And you know what happened? One by one, there would be a native come and knock at the missionary’s door and said, “Missionary, I stole this out of your house, but since I have found the Lord, I am bringing it back to you.” And they set the chair down. And another would come and knock at the door, “Missionary, I stole this out of your house, but since I have found the Lord, I am bringing it back to you,” and put the stove down in the house. They would come, knock at the door, “Missionary, I stole this out of your house, but since the Lord has saved me, I am bringing it back to you,” and he put the dishes down in the house. And in the grace of God, I read, those natives that had stolen everything that the missionary had, one by one came to the missionary’s house and returned everything that they had stolen. That is saving repentance.
And I have one other. As many of you know, I was pastor in Muskogee, Oklahoma, before this dear church called me to be the undershepherd. And in Muskogee, which is the capital for the Five Civilized Tribes, in the public library in Muskogee there is a large room filled with the lore and literature and history of those Five Civilized Tribes. I used to go to that library and pore over those old volumes—looking at those old newspapers, reading those old stories and volumes of literature written by the Indians. And this is something that I copied out. In the Choctaw Nation, on a dark and stormy night, “the parson,” they called him, the preacher, he was speaking to ninety criminals gathered up by the United States marshal; vicious and vile, bold outlaws and murderers. He was preaching to those ninety men in the marshal’s prison, and this is what happened.
“I am going to preach, and I’ll try to teach
To the ninety men in here
Of the words of love from the throne above,”
And his tones were loud and clear.
I preach to you of a Savior true
In a happy home on high,
Where the angels dwell, all saved from hell
And the righteous never die.
And he prayed a prayer in the prison there
As the ninety bowed their heads,
The bold Choctaw and the Chickasaw,
The whites, the blacks, the reds.
He prayed for the chief with his unbelief,
For the black highwayman bold,
For the robber too, and his bandit crew,
For the criminals young and old.
Then he sang an hymn in the prison grim.
He sang, “Turn, sinner, turn!
It’s not too late to reach God’s gate
While the lamp holds out to burn.”
Then from his bed–then from his bed, ‘tween the black and the red,
Up rose an outlaw bold,
With trembling steps to the parson crept
All shivering as with cold.
And a vicious flash of the lightning’s crash
Showed his features pale and stern,
As he bowed his head and slowly said,
“I am resolved to turn.”
And it seemed to me no one shall see
A scene so glad, so grand
As the white and the red on their blanket bed
‘Round the Christian one did stand.
While the night came down like a silvery crown
And a promise gave to all,
For the ninety men in the marshal’s den
Heard only the Savior’s call.
[“The Criminal Convert,” Clarence B. Douglas]
Lord, I’d love to have been there and seen that! That was like heaven, and that is saving repentance, turning to the Lord Jesus. “I am resolved to turn.” And that is God’s gift to us. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit to us [Acts 11:18]. It comes from God’s hands. It is not something that we work up ourselves, but it comes from the Lord Jesus—”I am resolved to turn” [Acts 11:18].
And that is God’s invitation to you. “I have been going this way, but I am going to turn around and I am going this way. I have been saying ‘no’ to God; tonight, I am saying ‘yes.’ I have been following my own way; now, it shall be God’s way. Been thinking about myself; going to think about Him. Been loving myself in my own vain and empty visions and dreams; now, I am going to dream the dreams of God, walking in the way of the Lord. I am resolved to turn.”
That is what it is to repent unto salvation, and the word is exactly that—metanoeō, to turn [Acts 11:18]. Do it, and find the happiest pilgrimage you could ever dream of in life, and it leads to God and to heaven. Do it now. In a moment, we are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal; and in the balcony round you; on the lower floor you; a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle, “Pastor, here I am. I am on the way.” God bless you and angels attend you and give you strength as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
PETER’S DEFENSE OF THE FAITH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-13-77I. Contention in the church (Acts 11:2-3)
A. Diakrino – “to separate, to sever”
B. Judaizing party contended with Peter about eating with the uncircumcised
1. Trouble in the church rarely over any great commitment or doctrine
2. Mississippi State Convention
C. Church began “of one accord”(Acts 2:46)
1. Altercation over Hellenists and Aramaeans(Acts 6:1)II. Peter’s defense
A. He tells them what God had done(Acts 11:4-17)III. Always that “circumcision party”, the Judaizing party
A. Followed Paul and were his bitterest enemies(Philippians 3:2, Galatians 5:12)
B. With us forever
1. We are saved in the Lord alone(Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:13, John 3:16)
2. They say we must believe AND do thus and soIV. Repentance a gift of God(Acts 11:18)
A. Are we able to work ourselves into saving repentance?
1. Felix was stirred, moved, trembling(Acts 24:25)
2. Herod Agrippa II was impressed(Acts 26:28, 31-32)
3. Ahab was scared(1 Kings 21:19)
4. Man with evil spirit reformed(Matthew 12:43-45)
5. Judas was remorseful(Matthew 27:3-5)
B. It is a gift of God – we cannot bring down power of Holy SpiritV. How the Holy Spirit works in our lives to bring about saving repentance
A. He takes us to Jesus (John 16:13-14)
B. Looking to Jesus – sorrow for sin, love for Him, a turning
1. South Pacific missionaries