But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order to them, saying,…
A man always takes an individual line, in opinion or in conduct, in peril of being misunderstood and called to account by his fellows. And yet the intellectual and moral advance of the race is made only by the pressure forward of individuals who, on some ground, refuse to keep in the old lines, and persist in making their own way even in districts marked by common sentiment as "dangerous." It is often the precise mission of youth to check the strongly conservative tendency around them, and utter fresh truth, or at least truth in fresh forms. This is illustrated in the case of St. Peter. He had come to grasp a truth which was a heresy from his own older standpoint, and a heresy to those with whom he had been working; but he knew it was truth, so, at the peril of being misunderstood, he acted upon the truth. He now knew that Christ's gospel was for Gentile as well as Jew, so he fearlessly went into the Gentile's house, and there preached the Word of life, and baptized the believing household. And he was misunderstood and called to account. The passage before us is his effective defense: to it there could be no reply. He rehearses the whole matter, and says, "God led me, and I followed. God taught me, and I believed. God sealed my work with the witness of his Spirit, and I know I have his acceptance." This is the answer which the sincere man who acts out of the common line may make to all who oppose or object. "I do but follow the Divine leadings and teachings; God sets my witness, and the testimony I make must be at least a portion of the truth of God."
I. GOD STILL OPENS HIS TRUTH TO INDIVIDUAL SOULS. We do not, indeed, expect new revelations. There is a sense in which the book-revelation in the Scriptures is complete: no man may add thereto or take therefrom; and no man's testimony can be of any value save as it can be tested by the revealed Word. And yet, though this may be fully admitted, we may recognize the fact that, through spiritual insight or through intellectual skill, men do bring to light missed and hidden things, or they do set received truths in forms that are new, and by their newness arrest thought and even arouse opposition. In this way every truth of the Divine revelation is brought prominently before men's thoughts every few years. God sends among us great thought-leaders; stirs, by their preachings or writings, the stagnancy of religious thought, and makes fresh and living to us truths which had become mere dead formalities. St. Peter had but a fresh hold of an ancient truth, one long revealed by psalmist and prophet: still, he had such a new grip as made him a power; even the agent that fulfilled Christ's will, and "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
II. THE INDIVIDUAL WITH A FRESH TRUTH MUST EXPECT OPPOSITION. It will surely come from:
1. His fellow-workers, who will feel a secret jealousy of his being made the medium of Divine communications, and who will keenly feel how the new truth interferes with their teachings.
2. Those of conservative tendency, who think the absolute and final truth is in their charge.
3. The earnest but timid people who fear that everything fresh must put God's truth in peril.
4. The friends of theological or ecclesiastical systems, who consider their systems complete and needing no changes, nor having any open places in which new truth may fit. St. Peter found that an imperfect report of his doings at Caesarea had gone before him to Jerusalem, and when he himself reached the holy city, he was assailed from the very narrowest platform, and accused of the very small sin from our point of view, but very large sin from the Jewish point of view, of eating with the uncircumcised." He very wisely refused a discussion on this mere feature of the matter, and explained fully what had happened. Those who contend often take a mere point of detail, and are best met and answered by putting the question in dispute on the broadest, deepest grounds.
III. PROOF OF DIVINE LEADINGS OUGHT TO SILENCE ALL OPPOSITION. This is the great lesson of St. Peter's conduct and narrative. All through he pleads that he only recognized and followed the Divine will as revealed both to him and to others. God spoke to him in trance, and vision, and providence, and inward impulse. God spoke to Cornelius by angel-form and angel-voice. God sealed the work of St. Peter with the gift of his Spirit, and, as a faithful and true man, he could only go where God led him, and speak as God bade him. To his audience it was the best of all answers, the one that would disarm all opposition. A sincere Jew must be loyal to God's will, however it might be revealed, and however strange to his feeling it might seem. And this is essentially the answer which every thought-leader and every advanced teacher now must be prepared to make and to prove. If he only speaks, as a man, some religious fancies and feelings of his own, we are rightly skeptical; but if it is plain to us that a man has been "taught of God," and if we can see signs of acceptance and Divine benediction on his work, then we too must hear his testimony with open and unprejudiced minds, seeking grace to enable us to express our old faith in the new form, or to add the new thought to our received doctrines. God may, indeed, not speak to us now by dream, or trance, or vision, or voice; but we need not therefore think that direct communication with our soul is impossible. Still we may say, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth;" and still we have with us that Holy Ghost, whose work it is" to lead us into all truth, and to show us things to come." And it should be our abiding conviction and inspiration that "the Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from his Word." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,