The Jews had been receiving God’s word for 1500 years, but now the Gentiles had received it (v. 1). You’d think the 12 apostles would have been happy about that, but they gave Peter grief about sharing the Word with Gentiles (v. 2,3). They knew Gentiles weren’t supposed to receive the Word until “every one” of the Jews was turned from his iniquities (Acts 3:25,26). They thought Peter had committed a serious sin, so they “contended” with him (Acts 11:3), a word that’s only used in serious matters (Nehemiah 13:11,17; 13:25).
But that was only because they didn’t know God had sent Peter to that Gentile. They had no clue God was reversing His policy of not allowing His people in Israel to fraternize with Gentiles, but they found out from Peter’s rehearsal of it
“Rehearsal” (Acts 11:4) means to repeat (I Sam. 17:31). Peter is about to repeat everything God told him when He sent him to Cornelius. Since Peter’s brethren asked him to explain himself, he “expounded” what happened (Acts 11:4), a word that means explained (cf. Mark 4:34). “In order” (Acts 11:4) means he gave a step-by-step rehearsal of God’s reversal.
And the reason God included Peter’s repetition of what happened is that Acts 10 is so significant the Bible repeats it as it does with the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:22,26.
The reason God told Peter that unclean animals were no longer unclean was to introduce Peter to the dispensational change He made when He cleansed the Gentiles and saved Paul and sent him to the Gentiles. Peter accepted this change, but when you try to introduce men to the Bible’s dispensational changes, they often say God never changes (Mal. 3:6). Take believers like that here to Acts 10,11 to show them that God never changes, but His rules often change.
Not the rules based on the principles of morality and righteousness, like the laws against lying, stealing, etc. But the sabbath law was changed because that was a temporary, artificial rule that God made to illustrate how someday believers could rest in Christ (Mt. 11:28). But when you tell your 7th Day Adventist friends we are not under the law of the sabbath (Rom. 6:15), they often point out the sabbath preceded the law (Gen. 2:2,3). But we know that no one before Moses was told to keep the sabbath because Nehemiah 9:13,14 says that God made known the sabbath to Moses when He gave him the law.
God told Peter three times that unclean animals were no longer unclean (Acts 11:10) to make sure he made the connection that Gentiles were no longer unclean when 3 Gen-tiles knocked on his door (v. 11). But in case he missed it, the Spirit spoke up and told him to go with them (v. 12).
When the angel told Cornelius that Peter would tell him words to help him get saved (v. 13,14), that shows Cornelius was saved into the kingdom program, for the kingdom gospel of Acts 2:38 is the only gospel Peter knew. But before he could talk about how men had to be baptized to be saved, the Spirit interrupted him (Acts 11:15). We know that that’s what he was about to say for it says he was interrupted as he “began” to speak, but he’d already spoken 225 words! It must mean he began to speak the gospel, but was interrupted.
All of that made Peter think of how the Lord said water baptism was just a means to receiving the Spirit (Acts 11:16). How would that help him make sense of what was happening? Well, when people were trying to figure out why Paul was going to the Gentiles before every one of the Jews was saved, he quoted verses that talked about how the Gentiles were supposed to be saved through the Jews that God sent Christ to (Rom.15:8-12). That’s not how it was happening, it was happening through Paul instead. But it was happen-ing, so who cares? And when the Lord said men had to be baptized before being saved, that wasn’t how it happened with Cornelius, but it happened, so who cares?
Peter’s brethren rejoiced when they heard about this dispensational change (Acts 11:18), as believers always should. Later we’ll see that unsaved Jews didn’t receive this change, and tried to make the Gentiles be circumcised and keep the law. That means when believers today don’t rejoice when you show them dispensational changes, they’re acting like unbelievers. But don’t be smug. You do too when you sin!
Video of this message is available on YouTube: The Rehearsal of the Reversal – Acts 11:1-18