Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confirming the Work of the Lord

Acts 10

[In Acts 10 An Italian Centurion names Cornelius has a vision while fasting and praying in Caesarea . Peter was in Joppa he has the famous lunchtime vision, followed by a visit from the servants of Cornelius. So Peter goes to Caesarea with disciples from Joppa, to find Cornelius has assembled a house full of people to here Peter speak.]

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—

[Following the message of his vision Peter overcomes a lifetime of prejudice to preach to gentiles, seeing that Jesus is not just the savior of the Jews.]

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, 47 "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

[The sign gifts of the Holy Spirit were still at work confirming the power of God, and the Jews with Peter were amazed when they see uncircumcised gentiles receiving the same gifts, so they baptized the believing gentiles and remained with them.

Peter, no doubt on a spiritual high from what he had just witnessed in Caesarea, was met in Jerusalem by a company of Christian critics. Yet even in this "critical confrontation", we see God's Spirit of discernment, peace, and unity rule in His church.]

Acts 11

1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!"

[News travels fast! Apparently, one of the Jewish brethren who had traveled with Peter made a bee-line to Jerusalem to break the news. Before criticizing someone or something, it's always important to check and make sure you have ALL the information.

We dare not confuse these people with the Pharisees or some other group outside the church. They clearly represented a conservative minority within the church, a group dedicated to protecting a Jewish perspective on Christianity. And why not? Messiah was a part of the Jewish faith, promised for thousands of years, so they didn't immediately understand all that Jesus taught about the law being fulfilled in him. What was their contention? Not the proclamation of the gospel. Not the giving of the Holy Spirit. Not baptism in the Name of Jesus. No, such weighty and theological matters were pushed aside in order to protect a tradition of the Jews – don't EVER eat with a Gentile.

They didn't care about the particulars. They didn't want the evidence. They simply knew that a prominent church leader had done something to offend them, and they wanted to be sure he heard about it the moment he stepped into town. So to hold a committee meeting to see if they would allow whatever it was that happened in Caesarea, sound like a bunch of Baptist to me.]

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' 8 But I said, 'Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.'

[The old Peter may have wanted to cut off a few ears when confronted by such critics; but the new Spirit-filled Peter, with self-control, patience, and humility provides a thorough explanation.]

9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

[Peter's vision demonstrated that God was doing something new. "What God has cleansed you must not call common". As long as the gospel was being preached to the Jews the central message was Jesus is messiah. But Peter needed to expand their vision so they would see that Jesus was not just the savior of the Jews. But this was not God changing his mind; this also was foretold long ago in Isaiah 42

Isaiah 42

6 " I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
      And will hold Your hand;
      I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
      As a light to the Gentiles,
       7 To open blind eyes,
      To bring out prisoners from the prison,
      Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.

God had also promised to bless "all nations" with the offspring of Abraham way back in genesis 18. So Jesus fulfilled the covenant of Abraham by being a light to the gentiles. That's what the Jews in Jerusalem needed to understand. Peter wasn't making this up on his own, Peter was just being used to keep God's promise.]

11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.'

[The timing the men asking for Peter and the Spirit telling him to go with them were tell-tale signs that this was all part of God's sovereign plan.]

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.

[Here was the confirmation, the Holy Spirit fell on them just like us, there was no difference.]

16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"

[Peter drops the bomb. Who am I? I didn't choose, the Holy Spirit did. If an apostle says "who am I", then the circumcision crowd needs to hush and let God have his way.]

18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."

[The fruit of their wise contemplation was God's glorification and one of the most shocking admissions in Jewish history, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life". This truth had been prophesied by Isaiah but was now a reality through Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Jesus is a light to the gentiles. So in the end the committee in Jerusalem confirmed the work of Jesus. So we see God can choose to save whomever he wants. Sometimes when the Spirit of God moves in ways we don't expect, all we can do is stand back and cheer. They "glorified God", and that is always God's will.]

No comments:

Post a Comment