Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 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?” 18 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.”
Criticism is a close companion of creativity. Whether you’re creating a new idea, a paper for class, or even a new ministry in the church, the presence of criticism is not far behind. Whether it’s merited or not, there are many sources of criticism, especially those that express the fear of something new and different. This is exactly what Peter faced back in Jerusalem.
After God extended the gospel to the Gentiles and smashed the social barriers that existed between them and the Jews, the “circumcision party” in Jerusalem criticized Peter and his recent exploits (Acts 11:2). We’re not told why they had a problem, but whatever it was, it was clear they didn’t like Peter’s association with the Gentiles.
We can learn a great deal from Peter’s response to the criticism he received. He didn’t become angry and vengeful. He didn’t cower in submission and hide in the corner. And he didn’t seek to minimize or belittle their opinion. He simply recounted the events and brought glory to God. In doing so, his audience was won over. What could have been a divisive time in the church turned out to be a unifying moment.
- Why did the “circumcision party” criticize Peter? How is their criticism similar to the criticism we level against other people or churches for conducting “new” ministries?
- Peter saw God’s desire to include the Gentiles, so he stepped out of God’s way (Acts 11:17). Is there any work of God in your life, family, or church that you’re standing in the way of? If so, why?
- How do you handle criticism? Do you tend to react negatively or respond openly? What can you learn from Peter’s example?
This devotion is adapted from the Acts Study Guide: Chapter 6–11. Pick up a copy today for only $9.99. The Study Guide includes an 11-week curriculum with small group studies, group inductive studies, as well as 55 daily devotions for your personal or family worship.