Withstanding God

by Gene Taylor

In his explanation given to his brethren at Jerusalem of what had happened at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10), the apostle Peter informed them why he taught Cornelius and the other Gentiles who were present in his house (Acts 11). Such an explanation was necessary because, until this occasion, no Gentile had been taught the gospel let alone allowed to obey it. So Peter had to explain, in detail to his Jewish brethren, his involvement in this conversion and what prompted him to teach the gospel to those, who in the eyes of the Jews, would be unfit to receive it.

He started by telling them of the vision he had seen while lodging at the house of Simon the tanner at Joppa (Acts 11:4-10). In that vision the Lord informed him that what had been cleansed, Peter should not regard as "common" or unclean (v. 9). He told of the three messengers sent by Cornelius from Caesarea and how the Spirit "bade" him to go with them (vv. 11-12). He told of his arrival at Cornelius' house. He related what Cornelius had said of a visit from an angel and how the angel instructed him to send for Peter so that he could tell him "words, whereby thou and all they house shall be saved" (vv. 13-14). Peter then told those Jews that as he began to speak that the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and the other Gentiles present as it had on the apostles "at the beginning," the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 when the gospel was preached in its fullness for the first time (v. 15). He said this stirred his memory and that he recalled the words of the Lord concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit (v. 16). He brought his defense to a close by saying that if God gave the Gentiles "the like gift as He did unto us...what was I, that I could withstand God?" (v. 27).

His explanation and defense could be summed up by saying, "It was the will of God that the Gentiles hear and obey the gospel. Who am I or what am I that I could withstand God and His will?"

Peter's actions and conclusions were correct. Even though he was an apostle, he did not have the right to rebel against, ignore, or alter the will of God in any way. No one has that right. God's will takes precedence over everything else.

Yet, even today there are many people who withstand God. But just as Peter did not have the right to do it, neither do they. Still, many persist in their resistance and rebellion. Some of the ways that people "withstand God" today follow below.

They rebel against the will of God by sinning. Sin is a transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4). Sin is nothing less than outright rebellion against God. God has stated His will for man and when people transgress that will they "withstand God." Instead of rebelling against His will, all should rather follow the example of Jesus found in John 6:68 where He said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me."

Ignoring God and His will is another way to "withstand God." God has provided the gospel to save sinful man (Rom. 1:16). One must give obedience to it. To disregard or ignore it is to "withstand God" for it is God's desire that all be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). Hence, disobedience to the gospel is contrary to His will. Those who disobey it will have to reckon with the vengeance of the Lord (2 Thes. 1:7-9).

Altering the word of God causes one to "withstand God" and makes him accursed. Galatians 1:6-9 states that no one, not even an angel, has the right to alter the word of God in any way. Revelation 22:18-19 says that no one may add to or take away from God's word. Still people "withstand God" by omitting certain of His commands in their religious worship, practice, and/or teaching. Others add to the word by adding practices that are foreign to the will of God. Some pull ideas from the Bible out of context thus perverting the intended meaning. In all of these, they "withstand God."

Do not be one who will "withstand God." Instead, imitate Jesus and Peter and do the Father's bidding in all things.