Who are We to Hinder God?
Acts 11: 15-18 (NRSVA)
15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’
Acts 10 confronts us with the incredible story of Peter bringing the good news of Jesus to Cornelius and his household. Then in Acts 11, Peter, in fear and trepidation, reports to the Jerusalem believers how the Gentiles (Cornelius and his household) had accepted the word of God. He does so in the face of stiff opposition from the Jerusalem believers, who are unhappy with Peter. In their eyes, Peter has allowed the unthinkable to happen.
So, Peter retells the story of his three-fold vision of the great blanket full of all kinds of animals which he refuses to eat because they are unclean. He explains how the voice from heaven warned him against calling unclean that which God has made clean and how three men from Cornelius' household arrived, informing him that an angel had directed that he should accompany them. At this point, Peter realises that he is really in trouble, so he takes six men to bear witness to what God is doing. He then explains how God had confirmed that the Gentiles were welcomed into God's kingdom by telling of Cornelius' vision and how the Holy Spirit had come upon Cornelius and his household as they listened to his message. Finally, he states, "If then God gave them the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" The result was silence, and then they praised God.
When God desires to do a new thing in the world, to work in a new way, we must be careful that we don't seek to hinder the purposes of God. God is often at work in both the church and the world, doing new things. However, there is also a danger of mere human innovation. So, how do we respond when a new movement comes along, a new theological ideal, a new approach to being missional, and so on? That is the question we must ponder!
Lord, grant us the ability to recognise the new things you are doing and not be deceived by counterfeits. Amen!