“Who was I to stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:18)
The Apostle Peter spoke these words to the conservative Jewish believers in Jerusalem. It was right after he made the case that God has granted the Gentiles an equal share in the blessings of the gospel (Acts 11:4–17). Their opposition to Peter (for spending time in table fellowship with the Gentiles) was opposition to God. The gospel and the work of God are unstoppable. Like the wise Jewish Rabbi, Gamaliel, said before, “if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38–39) You can’t stop the work of God.
But you can stand in the way, can’t you?
You may dismiss this question on its face. After all, how could anyone resist omnipotence? Who could thwart his plans and purposes? In an absolute sense, I agree. We can no more resist God than an ant can resist a boulder rolling to land upon its sandy domicile.
But in another sense, people resist God’s will every day. Who among us is without sin? Could we truthfully conclude that our actions don’t have some effect upon the advancement of the gospel? God indeed works despite us. But it’s equally true that God works through us. Therefore, our actions do have some significance. Just as Peter evaluated things and said, “Who was I to stand in God’s way?” Paul confessed that he didn’t want to do anything to hinder the ministry of the gospel (2 Cor. 6:3).
Therefore, it’s helpful to ask and consider, Am I standing in God’s way? Am I opposing his purpose? Or, to put it in another way, Am I standing on the sidelines and not being useful?
As I evaluated this, I considered a few areas on the front-burner.
Some of our first words as babes in prayer are for the kingdom of God to come. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to our Father with intimacy, reverence, and a longing heart toward the coming kingdom. This priority does not diminish as the years go by. As the world seems to be on an ever-increasing downward spiral, prayer for the kingdom of God to come is not only fitting, but it’s best.
As the world seems to be on an ever-increasing downward spiral, prayer for the kingdom of God to come is not only fitting, but it’s best.
Acts shows me how the gospel advances through the mouths of ordinary people like me. I sometimes wonder how things would’ve been different if guys like Phillip or Stephen just stayed home or didn’t open their mouths to proclaim Christ. It’s convicting. I think we might even be okay with saying that we are standing on the sidelines in this area. But is this okay? If God’s purpose is for all of his people to be active in telling others about Jesus (Matt. 28:19–20), then it’s more than standing on the sidelines, isn’t it? It’s more like opposition to God’s plan.
The church is the outpost of Christ’s kingdom. It’s the place where and people with whom the kingdom rule is expressed. But too often, we can grow roots in the world and be absent from the church. Missing the Lord’s Day gatherings in favor of other events shouldn’t be easy. Whether worship, service, discipleship, or giving, our participation with our church family reflects our alignment with God’s mission. We’d have a hard time arguing that we aren’t on the sidelines if we aren’t among the sheep.
God’s purpose is to unite all things in Jesus (Eph. 1:20–22). His kingdom reign is demonstrated now through the church. And one way the people of God showcase the other-world-ness of Christ’s kingdom is by our unity. When we live in unity together, we declare that the flag of Christ is the highest. We salute him over all earthly things. When we fight and divide over secondary matters, we are saying something about the value of the King. We stand in his way as he broadcasts his supremacy through the church. Some professing Christians might want to evaluate what they say to others on social media in light of Christ’s rule and purpose for unity. Some days Twitter looks like a not so peaceful protest against the rule and reign of Jesus.
Some days (Christian) Twitter looks like a not so peaceful protest against the rule and reign of Jesus.
More could be said here, but this post is long enough. I think the thoughtful reader would be well-served to consider areas where they find themselves at odds with God’s revealed will. And as it’s considered, think of it in terms of not simply a fact of being a sinner but opposition of God. Such resistance hinders the work of the kingdom. And like the Apostle Paul, Christians should be sensitive not to do anything to hinder the ministry of the gospel. We should be like Peter and have quick reflexes to ensure we are not in the way.
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