Devotions for the Praying Heart
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Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him .…
Acts 11:1 – 2

The first few chapters of Acts reveal God’s initial pattern for the New Testament Church. It is represented by the church in Jerusalem.

When we study that church, we find it was a massive body of believers that was marked by explosive growth. It grew from 120 to 8,000 members in just a few weeks. The Jerusalem church was outfitted with strong leaders as well as signs, wonders, and miracles. The members loved each other and were such committed givers that, according to Acts 4:34 – 35, no one among them lacked anything, “for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”

What an amazing testimony of love and generosity!

There was only one problem. That generosity primarily focused on meeting only the needs of their own local body.

That kind of thinking seemed to be a hallmark of the believers in Jerusalem. Despite Jesus’ command to take the Gospel to every creature in every nation, they found it difficult to concentrate on anything other than the work in their own city.

For the most part, the only people they evangelized were the people right around them—people from their own race, religious background, and culture. When God goaded Peter into crossing those cultural lines to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, it upset the Jerusalem brethren so much that they contended with him about it. No kidding. They actually got upset with Peter for taking the Gospel outside their own little circle.

When Peter explained the situation, they forgave him for it. But even so, they didn’t change their myopic perspective. That became clear when they were scattered by the persecution and “traveled as far away as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, without delivering the message [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] to anyone except the Jews” (Acts 11:19 Amp).

Don’t misunderstand. The Jerusalem church was a marvelous church. It provided a strong base in the early stages of Christianity. It served as a wonderful pattern of power and unity among believers. It advanced the kingdom of God.

But the church at Jerusalem was a nearsighted church. Like many churches today, it had trouble seeing beyond itself to the rest of the world that Jesus came to save. Content to take the Gospel only to those nearby—to people who looked and talked and thought like themselves—the members of that first wonderful Church fell short of the Great Commission.

Let’s pray for the grace to follow the Jerusalem pattern of love and unity without falling prey to their nearsightedness. Let’s learn to look beyond our own little circle.

Scripture Reading: Acts 11:1 – 19

Source: Devotions for the Praying Heart by Lynne Hammond.
Excerpt permission granted by Lynne Hammond Ministries

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