Friday 12 May 2017

Bible Book:

“Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (v. 17)

Acts 8:14-17 Friday 12 May 2017

Psalm: Psalm 3


I find it strange! When we read Paul's letters we find himstressing that Jesus' death broke down barriers and that we are nolonger subject to a legalistic system. We are at peace with Godthrough grace: "...since we are justified by faith, we have peacewith God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we haveobtained access to this grace in which we stand" (Romans5:1-2).

So we trust that we are right with God… just like that, noeffort, not earned, just unmerited grace. Sometimes it feels asthough the early Church was still learning this and sometimes todaywe still haven't grasped it!

In this passage, we hear about people who had been baptizedusing water, but whom it was assumed had not received the HolySpirit. It was felt that they were not fully Christian until theyhad received this gift. On another occasion, it seemed people hadbeen graced by the Spirit, but not yet been baptized.

It is as though the people were trying to legalise again the wayin which God worked, even though Paul was trying to argue away thislegalism. And we go on doing this. We need to have a legalstructure for our own security so we know who is, or is not,acceptable to God. Or is it that we are hankering after control sowe know who can be let into the church?

What a muddle we're in. And at the base of it is our difficultyin accepting that God, as Jesus demonstrated, accepts people, usingcriteria that we might find difficult to accept. This is beyond ourcontrol. Baptism does not control God but marks what we believe tobe God's acceptance. The Spirit "blows where it chooses" (John3:8), beyond our control.

As Frederick Faber, the hymn writer put it, 'There's a wideness in God's mercy', yet thereis a tension here for we, human beings, tend to "magnify [God's]strictness with a zeal he would not own".

To Ponder

  • How do we control who can or cannot be part of the Church?
  • How comfortable are we with people who have come into thechurch by a route different from our own?

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