They held their peace - Their prejudices were confounded; they considered the subject, and saw that it was from God; then they glorified him, because they saw that he had granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life. As the word μετανοια, which we translate repentance, signifies literally a change of mind, it may be here referred to a change of religious views, etc. And as repentance signifies a change of life and conduct, from evil to good, so the word μετανοια may be used here to signify a change from a false religion to the true one; from idolatry, to the worship of the true God. Rosenmuller thinks that, in several cases, where it is spoken of the Jews, it signifies their change from a contempt of the Messiah to reverence for him, and the consequent embracing of the Christian religion.
The Christians who were present were all satisfied with St. Peter's account and apology; but it does not appear that all were ultimately satisfied, as we know there were serious disputes in the Church afterwards on this very subject: see Acts 15:5, etc., where Christian believers, from among the Pharisees, insisted that it was necessary to circumcise the converted Gentiles, and cause them to keep the law of Moses. This opinion was carried much farther in the Church at Jerusalem afterwards, as may be seen at large in Acts 21:21, etc.
They held their peace - They were convinced, as Peter had been, by the manifest indications of the will of God.
Then hath God - The great truth in this manner established that the doors of the church are opened To the entire Gentile world - a truth that was worthy of this remarkable interposition. It at once changed the views of the apostles and of the early Christians; gave them new, large, and liberal conceptions of the gospel; broke down their long-cherished prejudices; taught them to look upon all people as their brethren; impressed their hearts with the truth, never after to be eradicated, that the Christian church was founded for the wide world, and that it opened the same glorious pathway to life wherever man might be found, whether with the narrow prejudice of the Jew, or amidst the degradations of the pagan world. To this truth we owe our hopes; for this, we should thank the God of heaven; and, impressed with it, we should seek to invite the entire world to partake with us of the rich provisions of the gospel of the blessed God.
When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had gone to the house of a Gentile and preached to those assembled, they were surprised and offended. They feared that such a course, which looked to them presumptuous, would have the effect of counteracting his own teaching. When they next saw Peter they met him with severe censure, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” AA 141.1
Peter laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience in regard to the vision and pleaded that it admonished him to observe no longer the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean. He told them of the command given him to go to the Gentiles, of the coming of the messengers, of his journey to Caesarea, and of the meeting with Cornelius. He recounted the substance of his interview with the centurion, in which the latter had told him of the vision by which he had been directed to send for Peter. AA 141.2
“As I began to speak,” he said, in relating his experience, “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?” AA 141.3Read in context »
Peter related the plain interpretation of these words, which was given him almost immediately in his summons to go to the centurion and instruct him in the faith of Christ. This message showed that God was no respecter of persons, but accepted and acknowledged all who feared Him. Peter told of his astonishment when, in speaking the words of truth to those assembled at the home of Cornelius, he witnessed the Holy Spirit taking possession of his hearers, Gentiles as well as Jews. The same light and glory that was reflected upon the circumcised Jews shone also upon the faces of the uncircumcised Gentiles. This was God's warning that Peter was not to regard one as inferior to the other, for the blood of Christ could cleanse from all uncleanness. AA 193.1
Once before, Peter had reasoned with his brethren concerning the conversion of Cornelius and his friends, and his fellowship with them. As he on that occasion related how the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles he declared, “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?” Acts 11:17. Now, with equal fervor and force, he said: “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” This yoke was not the law of Ten Commandments, as some who oppose the binding claims of the law assert; Peter here referred to the law of ceremonies, which was made null and void by the crucifixion of Christ. AA 193.2
Peter's address brought the assembly to a point where they could listen with patience to Paul and Barnabas, who related their experience in working for the Gentiles. “All the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” AA 194.1Read in context »
When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had preached to the Gentiles, and had met with them and eaten with them in their houses, they were surprised and offended by such strange movements on his part. They feared that such a course, which looked presumptuous to them, would tend to contradict his own teachings. As soon as Peter visited them, they met him with severe censure, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” SR 290.1
Then Peter candidly laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience in regard to the vision, and pleaded that it admonished him no longer to keep up the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean, for God was not a respecter of persons. He informed them of the command of God to go to the Gentiles, the coming of the messengers, his journey to Caesarea, and the meeting with Cornelius and the company collected at his house. His caution was made manifest to his brethren from the fact that, although commanded by God to go to the Gentile's house, he had taken with him six of the disciples then present, as witnesses of all he should say or do while there. He recounted the substance of his interview with Cornelius, in which the latter had told him of his vision, wherein he had been directed to send messengers to Joppa to bring Peter to him, who would tell him words whereby he, and all his house, might be saved. SR 290.2Read in context »
Those who have gained an experience in this work have a special duty to perform in teaching others. Educate, educate, educate young men and women to sell the books which the Lord by His Holy Spirit has stirred His servants to write. God desires us to be faithful in educating those who accept the truth, that they may believe to a purpose and work intelligently in the Lord's way. Let inexperienced persons be connected with experienced workers, that they may learn how to work. Let them seek God most earnestly. These may do a good work in canvassing if they will obey the words: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.” 1 Timothy 4:16. Those who give evidence that they are truly converted, and who take up the canvassing work, will see that it is the best preparation for other lines of missionary labor. 6T 330.1
If those who know the truth would practice it, methods would be devised for meeting the people where they are. It was the providence of God which in the beginning of the Christian church scattered the saints abroad, sending them out of Jerusalem into many parts of the world. The disciples of Christ did not stay in Jerusalem or in the cities near by, but they went beyond the limits of their own country into the great thoroughfares of travel, seeking for the lost that they might bring them to God. Today the Lord desires to see His work carried forward in many places. We must not confine our labors to a few localities. 6T 330.2
We must not discourage our brethren, weakening their hands so that the work which God desires to accomplish through them shall not be done. Let not too much time be occupied in fitting up men to do missionary work. Instruction is necessary, but let all remember that Christ is the Great Teacher and the Source of all true wisdom. Let young and old consecrate themselves to God, take up the work, and go forward, laboring in humility under the control of the Holy Spirit. Let those who have been in school go out into the field and put to a practical use the knowledge they have gained. If canvassers will do this, using the ability which God has given them, seeking counsel from Him, and combining the work of selling books with personal labor for the people, their talents will increase by exercise, and they will learn many practical lessons which they could not possibly learn in school. The education obtained in this practical way may properly be termed higher education. 6T 330.3Read in context »