1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
Some in the Jerusalem church criticized Peter for lodging and eating with Gentiles. Peter then defended himself (Acts 11:1-18). The focus was to show Jews God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in the church. The inclusion of Gentiles into the body of Christ was of such great moment that Peter’s vision of chapter 10 is repeated in chapter 11 and Acts 15:7-9.
Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
Some Jewish believers in the Judean and Jerusalem church heard about the Gentiles believing the “word of God.” This information was consternation to them because they had not realized that God moved from dealing with the nation Israel of Jews to that of the church with both Jews and Gentiles.
The case of Cornelius marked the introduction of Gentiles into the church. He received the initial reception of the Holy Spirit at his conversion. With the introduction of Gentiles into the body of Christ, God established the normal order of the church’s economy for Gentiles; it marked the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles.
And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,
Contention arose among Jewish Christians in Jerusalem because Peter accepted Gentiles into the church. The circumcised (Jewish) Christians apparently wanted Gentiles to undergo circumcision to validate their Christianity. These men were Christian Jews who had not grasped that God had shifted from an economy of dealing with a nation to that of the church. If these people had won the day, there might not have been an effective Gentile mission.
saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
Verse 3 gives the specific cause for the contention among believers in verse 2. Peter had eaten with Gentiles, a sign of fellowship as fellow Christians. This act of Peter was a revolutionary idea to believing Jews.
Conflict within a local church should be biblically and factually oriented.
The conflict between Peter and Jewish Christians in Judea and Jerusalem was resolved by sharing facts, God-revealed facts. They did not allow unadulterated emotion to blur a doctrinal issue that was extremely important to the church. They first resolved the matter of eating or fellowship with Gentiles by God’s Word. Early Christian Jews still had not distinguished the codes of the law for Israel from freedom from those laws in Christ. They deemed eating with a Gentile as full acceptance into the church, so they did not accept Gentiles in their fellowship until they were circumcised.
Christians today should be wary of permitting non-doctrinal issues to divide the church. God’s church functions differently in different cultures, societies, and religious backgrounds.