The Spirit of Sect and the Spirit of the Gospel
Acts 11:1-18
And the apostles and brothers that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

I. SECTARIAN SUSPICIONS. In Judaea are the head-quarters of this sectarian spirit. There it centers and rankles. The very tidings which fill the generous spirit with joy fill the sectarian with jealousy. They hear that the Gentiles have received the Word of God. Happy news! Alas that any should regard them otherwise! But to the ideas of the sectarian any change is appalling which threatens to break down the fence and wall of the sect, and compel him to widen the extent of his fellowship. So the sectarians quarrel with Peter. Their charge is that he has visited the uncircumcised heathen and eaten with them.

II. THE TRUTH ELICITED BY OPPOSITION. God overrules all things for good, makes the wrath of man to praise him, brings the truth into clearer manifestation by the very means of resistance to it. Let us not be too severe on the sectarian, if he be honest in his opposition. Far more pernicious the hypocritical friend than the sincere and downright foe. Were every innovation tamely submitted to without inquiry, progress would not be so sound. It is by overcoming objectors that truth triumphs, not by silencing them. And again, facts are the best arguments. Once more Peter relates the vision at Joppa. To overcome others' objections, the best way is to show how our own objections have been overcome. The great point of opposition is the repugnance, inborn and strengthened by education, of the Jew to certain objects viewed by him as common or unclean. The great difficulty of overcoming the feeling lies in the fact that it is interwoven with all the best associations of the mind. The man, having learned the idea of holiness by means of a sharp physical distinction, fears that he shall lose the idea itself if that distinction be obliterated. No mere arguments in words will avail. But Peter can exhibit the argument of facts. Their fitting into one another with an invincible Divine logic can neither be denied nor refuted. The coincidence of the revelation to the centurion and to Peter has been already dwelt upon in previous sections. The end is the falling of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at the very moment when the Jew and the Gentiles are brought together and Peter opens his mouth to speak.

III. THE TRUTH OF THE PRESENT LIGHTS UP THE PROPHETIC DECLARATIONS OF THE PAST. Words deep in meaning slumber in the mind until the revealing event takes place. Then they are suddenly quickened into life and start up in all their power. Peter remembers the word of the Lord on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is in contrast to that of John at the opening of the evangelical era. It surpassed that of John as the positive surpasses the negative; the entrance into blessing, the denial of and departure from evil. The conclusion, then, of the whole is that the facts are irresistible. In these lie the clear intimations of providential will. Neither apostle nor angel can contend against fads, whether they refer to the outer world and are construed by scientific law, or to the inner world and are known by the devout soul as revelations and inspirations. The Gentile is placed on an equality with the Jew in reference to the blessings of the gospel; one does not stand in the vestibule, the other in the interior of the new temple, but both are gathered to the heart of God, who reconciles us to himself by Jesus Christ. A common faith in him entitles us all to the appellation" sons of God," and therefore brethren amongst one another: "Ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Thus, when the hour strikes, does God silence controversy, causes his voice alone to be heard, and presently draws forth a burst of praise from human hearts. Yes; at bottom the heart loves truth, and craves the revelation of love. "God then hath given the nations repentance unto life!" The signs of the times point to a similar revolution of the large and generous spirit of the gospel. May we be ready to meet it, and not be found amongst those who contend against the light and fight against God, but amongst those who herald with joy and thankfulness the approach of the new dawn; for the Sun of Righteousness shall arise to those that fear his Name with healing in his wings. - J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

WEB: Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

The Ecclesiastical Opposition
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