Reflections From ACTS 11: “PETER’S WORLDVIEW CHALLENGED BUT THE GOSPEL SPREADS”

petrus_et_paulus_4th_century_etching

News got out that the Gentiles had received the word of God (V.1) which indicates a very important aspect of what true conversion is: it’s the reception of God’s word and submission to it that produces kingdom life as it is preached (Rom.10:9-10).  Without the word preached there’s no salvation, but by submitting to the word one evidences genuine conversion.

This implies that the apostles’ model is to be the model we use for reaching people for Christ.  Without the word, men remain dead in their trespasses and sins, they remain in darkness.  In the same way Peter needed his worldview to shift, so did the Jewish community in Jerusalem who disapproved of Peter’s exchange with Cornelius:

“And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Vv.2-3)

 Apparently they didn’t get the memo that Jesus had declared all foods to be clean.  According to Jesus, what makes men unclean is not foods but motives and attitudes of the heart that lead to murder, adultery and gossip (Mk.7:1-23).  By this declaration Jesus admitted to be divine for no prophet ever spoke on his own initiative as he does in Mark’s account.

Nevertheless, Peter explains the turn of events and points out the following which Luke emphasizes. First, what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.  In the New Covenant the ceremonial laws which God instituted to make Israel stand out in the world, no longer apply (V.9).  It’s because these have been already fulfilled in Christ.

Second, “the Spirit told me to go with them” (V.12).  Peter and six of his companions obeyed God’s command so that Christ who came to seek and to save the lost might be glorified by rescuing this Gentile—Non Jew!  There should have been much rejoicing here but it was slow coming from the Jews.

Third, God’s angel had to instruct Cornelius to specifically ask for Peter—the preacher.  Why Peter?  Because he, “will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” (V.14). Here again emphasized is the primacy of preaching the word in order for sinners to be saved.

Fourth, “…who was I to stand in God’s way” Peter concludes after explaining that these saved received the Holy Spirit as the disciples did when they had first spoken in tongues.  If God wants to gift them as he did us, then something much bigger than we anticipated is taking place in the Name of Jesus.

Fifth, “well then God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance which leads to life” the Jews rejoiced in God only after Peter explained the meaning of the events.  The early church’s theology was developing concerning the gospel of the kingdom and salvation.

In short, only after the light of God’s word is revealed, explained, understood and received can anyone be set free.  The hesitation of preaching to the Gentiles unfortunately remained to be an issue of contention for many Jews (V.19), but thankfully others got the message that Gentiles, not Jews alone, need the word also (Vv.20-24).   God answered prayers and converted many through the preached Gospel evidenced by many who “turned to the Lord” (V.21).

If the word of God is not central in our Gospel proclamation then many will not come into glory, but everlasting doom.  It’s sobering and yet it seems that many today enjoy their stupor in church week after week, not preaching this most glorious message.

(SDG)

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Reflections From Acts 10: “ST. PETER’S WORLDVIEW SHIFTED”

Baptism_of_cornelius

Just as it took some time for the Jewish believers to scatter for the sake of spreading the Gospel message, it appears that Peter, the early church’s leader needed to be reminded of Jesus’ words.  He needed to be “scattered” regarding his worldview.

In Acts 9:32 and onward, Luke focuses his account on Peter’s ministry where he raises Tabitha from the dead, thus fulfilling Jesus’ words of the greater works his disciples would perform.  But as we move into chapter 10 we see the extent to which the Holy Spirit goes in order to reach a non-Jew.

Cornelius a Caesarean centurion from the Italian cohort is a God fearing man who continually gave alms to the Jewish people and prayed.  An angel of the Lord was sent to him not to preach the Gospel but to get him to Peter who would.  The details needed to get a hold of Peter were specific; his name, his location, and so forth (Vv.1-8).

Concerning Peter, he too needed a vision from God in order to prepare him to meet Cornelius.  Jewish customs, some of which Jesus eradicated (E.g., all foods are now clean) would have kept the Gospel from going forth to this God fearer but the Lord’s mercy vanquished this exclusion.  Why Peter was still stuck with dietary restrictions after Jesus declared all foods to be clean is puzzling to me.  Perhaps he forgot or letting go of certain things for him was difficult.  Regardless, this obstacle had to first be removed for the Gospel to go forth.

The chapter ensues with Peter proclaiming the Gospel to Cornelius and his household.  As is the pattern in Acts, the historicity of Jesus the Nazarene, his life, works, death and resurrection are the centerpiece of Gospel preaching and so is the fact that the apostles were eyewitnesses of these events (Vv.34-38).  Real conversions occurred only after divine intervention followed for both Jew and Gentile alike.

It’s as if this account is bringing to the reader’s attention the need to remove any obstacle/stronghold (I.e., false ideas) from the hearer before Gospel life can be experienced.  May God have mercy on the church and those she longs to reach with His life giving truth, and may God’s people labor to understand those outside the fold so that we are not a hindrance to those coming into the kingdom.

(SDG)