It is one thing to change your cultural or traditional identification it is another thing for others to accept that change. It was hard for Peter to accept that it was okay to go into a Gentiles home and offer them salvation but it was even harder to get his fellow leaders who did not witness it to do the same.
When I was born again my Roman Irish Catholic Grandmother was not happy for me, she thought I had joined a cult and was being brainwashed. My friends thought I was crazy and came against me hard. Unless you grew up in a Christian home when you were born again you probably experienced the same type of response.
Peter though was not dealing with unbelievers but people who believed like himself but just had been blinded like him to a false religious/cultural bias. Cultural traditions go into the very framework of who we are and changing that mindset often needs supernatural intervention. Just know that until it takes place you will be most likely rejected by family, friends, and even fellow believers. Some of you may be severely persecuted depending on your background. It would be nice to just keep it hidden until...., but the light of Christ shines without us saying anything and confrontation cannot be avoided.
Peter didn't have to bring it up because word already spread to the leaders in Jerusalem. So the moment he arrived they argued with him, saying "You visited uncircumcised men and ate with them!" They weren't having it they didn't want to hear that "God said," to them, God would never say such a thing. But, they did give Peter enough respect to eventually listen and Peter shared in order what took place. Once they heard it says in verse 18 "they became silent, then they glorified God, saying, "So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!"
Wow, what a quick change of events! God changed their hearts just like He did Peter's. So what can we learn from this? As our mind is renewed we need to be a willing vessel to help renew the minds of those around us. Knowing that initially, some truths are hard to swallow but if we persist in presenting them those who respect us enough will listen and open their hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit to change along with us.
God wants to advance His Kingdom and often in the way is false mindsets of traditions and cultural biases. Holy Spirit works first in changing the hearts of leaders through supernatural revelation where they come to grips with false thinking. As Truth is embraced and passed on to others, the highway of God is made straight and now the King of Glory can manifest His presence and transform the land.
Acts 1:8 says that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to empower the church to be witnesses to the innermost parts of the world. Yet, so far the message of Jesus had been spoken primarily to Jews alone. Even after the dispersion through persecution, the message went from Jews to other Jews wherever believers had scattered. It took some time for leadership to get beyond their cultural bias but now through Peter's experience with Cornelius, they accepted that salvation was for Gentiles as well.
We are introduced in Acts 11 to the city of Antioch, the capital of Syria, with an estimated population of 500,000, a multicultural city due to it being a commercial center. This city became the location to mobilize the church for world missions.
Initially, as has previously been the case ministry was geared towards the Jewish population which was around 25,000. The bible does say salvation is first to the jew but also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16). This is not by rank it is by sequence. It came through a Jew to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. We as Gentiles don't need to become Jews we just need to be born again and enter the Kingdom of God where we are all part of the One New Man, Christ Jesus. In Acts 11:20 it says some Cypriot and Cyrenian men came to Antioch proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the Greeks. These were those who knew how to acquaint with Greeks and so we're ready to be used to build on what took place through Peter with Cornelius.
The result of their mission was that the hand of the Lord was with them and many Gentiles believed. We need God's hands if we are going to be able to advance ahead. The Lord's hand represents His five-fold gifting. We need the grace of each gift of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher in order as it says in Ephesians 4 to be equipped to do the work of the Lord in all of His fullness. Missional activity will bear little fruit if the workers aren't fully equipped. Antioch was called to be an equipping center, with a mix of diverse gifts and diverse cultures for world influence. It was unlike Jerusalem which was for the Jews led by Jews.
The Apostle Barnabus who was a Hellenist Jew was sent from Jerusalem to witness the work in Antioch. It says he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. It is an honor to be known as a good man but we understand that in Christ it is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes us good not our own works. God is to get all the glory! Barnabus came and built on the work of grace that had been done and then he went and got Saul from Tarsus to join him in ministry in Antioch. Saul had been out of the scene for a while but now was the time for him to step into his call as an Apostle to the Gentiles. Tarsus his hometown was a place for him to grow in intimacy, learning the timing of God, Antioch was the place for training in his Apostolic call. Saul had spent his life around Jews and needed to learn how to relate with Gentiles so he could be sent to the nations.
It was at this place that disciples were first called Christians. It was initially a derogatory name but it stuck for there is nothing to be ashamed of regarding being known as followers of Christ. Yet we got to ask ourselves are we being good witnesses? Do we follow Christ every day, in every way? Have we asked for the baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to be empowered witnesses? Christianity has a bad name in many unbelievers perspective because of hypocrisy, it won't be an excuse that will be accepted on judgment day, but yet we don't want to be the ones people point at for why they rejected Jesus Christ.
In Acts 11:27-30 it says that some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch to give warning of future severe famine. This is the first mention of prophets in the new testament and it shows the significance of the gift for preparing the church for what is ahead. The future will catch people off guard if people are not ready for it. God the Father wants His church to be prepared to be the answer to the problems that arise in the world. He wants the world to see Him when they are crying out for help. We are His life bearers, it is not just done by proclaiming His Word verbally but also through action by responding to people's needs.
1.) Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any cultural biases that are hindering you from fully answering His call.
2.) Be in an environment where you can receive the grace of all five-fold gifts so you can be equipped for service and mature in the complete image of Christ.
3.) Examine yourself regarding your witness of Christ to the world around you? How many disciples are you teaching from what you have been taught?
4.) Seek to be in tune with the word of Prophecy so you are prepared for what is ahead