9 January 2018Acts 10:34-43
“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.’” (vv. 34-35)
Psalm: Psalm 89:19-37
This passage takes place in the early days of the Church, some years after the resurrection of Jesus. It is in the context of Peter’s enlightenment about the Christian mission to the Gentiles (the non-Jewish nations of the world). He has just received a vision after which the Holy Spirit persuaded him not to be prejudiced about the outward things that divide, and encourages him to receive visitors sent from the Gentile Roman centurion named Cornelius. At this point in our biblical story, some of the restrictions of God’s holy law, which set apart God’s holy people, were being lifted; laid aside so that the good news of Jesus the Messiah-King could be received by all people, all nations. These barriers to God were lifted under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in ways that were confirmed by the visible results of the Spirit’s work in people’s lives. The floodgates were opened!
This is not to say that ‘anything goes’ or ‘every path leads to God’, but rather that Jesus, the Lord of the whole world, will invite and call people from every nation, every background and every culture into relationship with him: to trust him, to turn away from previous sinful ways, to worship him, to serve him and to be transformed by him. Being ‘Jewish’ is no longer required, but being ‘in Christ’ is essential. It is in this context that Peter begins his address to Cornelius and his family, which leads to the whole household receiving the Spirit and being baptized.
- This passage is often cited to simply support Western society’s views on tolerance and acceptance. Of course, tolerance of other peaceful citizens should go without saying! But is not the gospel actually more radical than that? What else do you think Cornelius received from God?
- What are the outward things that divide, the off-putting barriers, the marks of distinction, that we need to get rid of in the Church today? How is the Spirit leading you and the Church to lift the barriers to those who are ‘on the outside looking in’?
- What are the things you feel you must be true to, and not lay aside, if you are to be faithful to Jesus, the risen and anointed Lord of the world?