Editorial: What a Difference the Spirit Makes

As soon as Peter returned, they were waiting for him. You can almost envision the scene as he entered the room. With loaded muskets the sharpshooters of the circumcision were ready to decimate this unfaithful Christian Jew who had eaten with Gentiles (Acts 11).

To defuse the situation, Peter explained how that God had been at work granting them repentance unto life (ch 11:18), the same identical (“like gift”) Spirit of God had been given to them (v15), and that the words of the Lord Jesus had anticipated all this (v16). The entire Godhead had been at work in the home of Cornelius. How could Peter withstand a work of this magnitude and with this divine attestation? Indeed, how then could these of the circumcision possibly stand against the work which God had done?

The inclusion of Gentiles on the same identical ground with Jews in the Body of Christ is the big story of these chapters in Acts (ch 10, 11). But there is another story which, while not in capital letters, still demands attention. It is the change in Peter.

Imagine the same confrontation somewhere back in the Gospels! How would Peter have responded to the challenge to his leadership and actions? The man who dared to correct his Lord (Matt 16:22) and to cut off an ear in the garden (Luke 22:50), would no doubt have risen to the occasion and confronted his accusers with vituperative zeal. Their shotguns would have been met by his howitzer. Assertive, outspoken, impetuous, and self-assured, Peter would have responded in kind to the harsh accusations leveled against him.

But this is a different Peter. Rashness has been exchanged for patience; self-assurance for empathy. With patience and understanding, validating their concerns, he answers in such a way as to defuse the situation, resulting in the united praise which occurred at the end of the meeting. How wonderful to have a meeting which began with disagreement and strong emotion, end in glory for God!

Peter is a changed man. No doubt the contrition which followed his encounters with the Lord had done their work (John 21), and led to fresh resolves to faithfulness. But the coming and indwelling of the Spirit of God had given power to accomplish all that renewed resolves planned. Peter has developed Christlike qualities in his dealings with harsh and difficult brethren. Neither force of personality or assertive authority was in his arsenal. He patiently brought before his brethren the Word of God.

The immeasurable importance of this is highlighted as the chapter progresses and we see the gospel prospering in Gentile territory and the new focus of assembly gospel activity, Antioch, formed. The furtherance of the gospel among the Gentiles hinged on the spiritual growth of Peter, even more than on his gift. What a difference the Spirit of God made in his life. What a difference He is able to make in our lives and assemblies!