PETER LEARNS HIS LESSON
This time Peter remembered well the lesson he learned with such difficulty in Matthew 17. You remember how the Lord Jesus brought James and John together with Peter to the mount of transfiguration, but Peter did not consult with them; Peter did not care for them. This time, however, Peter remembered. When the men from Cornelius came and the Spirit bade him go with them, he took six other brethren. On the mount of transfiguration he had only two brothers, James and John; but this time he took six brothers with him. Seven brothers went as one to visit Cornelius. There was no more individualism—Peter had learned the lesson. He could no more act individualistically; he was quite careful about this. In this matter Peter was religiously wrong, but so spiritually right. The Lord never told Peter to take six brothers with him; the Lord never gave him this kind of command. But Peter was on the alert: he realized that if he went to the Gentiles he would certainly be put on the spot by all his Jewish brothers. Therefore, he took these brothers not only to be his witnesses, but also as his protection. That was really good. Peter took it upon himself to do this. Sometimes we must do something which the Lord Jesus has never told us to do. There are instances when to do something which He has not commanded will please the Lord even more than doing that which He has told us to do.
Then they went to Cornelius—you know the story. While Peter was speaking to them, the Holy Spirit came down upon the Gentiles exactly as He did upon the Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost. All the brothers who accompanied Peter saw it. Then when they returned to Jerusalem, just as Peter had suspected, all his Jewish brethren asked, "How come?" They said in effect, "Peter, you went to a Gentile home; you had fellowship with Gentiles. How come?" What is this? This again is religion. Not to eat anything unclean was religious, and not to contact the unclean Gentiles was again religious. Religion was still with them and was quite prevailing. But Peter had gotten the vision, and he stood and rehearsed the whole matter from beginning to end. He said, "I was not the only one who saw the Holy Spirit descend upon the Gentiles. These six brothers were with me—they saw it too." Two, you know, is always the number for testimony; but now Peter had three times two. Peter learned the lesson so well in Matthew 17 that he could never forget. The Lord brought only two to the mountaintop with Peter, but now Peter took three times that many with him to visit Cornelius. Praise the Lord. Peter really learned his lesson. Thus, in chapter 11, he could speak so strongly, "Don’t blame me. If I am wrong, the six brothers are wrong also. They all went with me—what can you say?" Seven is the number of completion. Seven brothers stood together against religion. Isn’t this good!
The point is this: religion is within our blood. Peter was outside of religion, but religion was still in him, and not only in him, but in so many Jewish believers. They had seen how the Lord Jesus did everything outside of religion, but there was still an amount of religion within them. I’m still concerned that within so many of us, after seeing so clearly the nature of religion, there is still a certain amount of religion. The time will come when you will be tested and you will say, "Not so, Lord; throughout all my Christian life I have never done that."
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)