It would help understanding this article if you read first Acts 10:34-43 (ESV)
Peter is one of the Bible Characters that I have observed the most. Not because he was an apostle, but the gospel writers portrait him by offering to us his human aspects. One thing that set apart Bible writings to other heroic stories is that it’s heroes are full of faults. When you read the Bible for the first time, you are going to be surprised by the stories of people who were not perfect.
Look at the hall of heroes as you read the Hebrews 11. Do you envy their lives?
Is the Bible written that we might copy/paste what we did? NO. The Bible is a collection of stories that contain truth.
Peter in many aspects was a first.
- The first to be invited to come and meet Jesus as the possible Messiah – by his brother Andrew who was one of John the Baptist disciples.
- Peter was the first that got the revelation by the Father that Jesus was the Christ.
- Peter was the first of the apostles to be rebuked publicly as a tool from Satan.
- Peter was the first to publicly denounce Christ as his Master and was first to accept his acceptance back to the disciples’ crowd.
- He was first to experience the power of the resurrected Christ as he declared the Christ would make whole the born-cripple man at the temple’s gate.
- Peter was a first when arrested and beaten for the testimony of Jesus.
- He was the first to be asked to lead this new group of Jesus’ followers.
Now he was asked to do something more difficult – to have fellowship with Gentiles.
To eat with someone is a sign of fellowship.
You need to understand that according to Jewish law the Jews shouldn’t stay with Gentiles. If they did so, would be unclean and need to enter the purification process according to the law.
But, Jesus already gave them commands that we have in the bible regarding the group’s task:
- Go and preach the Gospel to every tribe of the world starting from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the world.
- Go and Make disciples
GO – is a action verb. Doesn’t mean – KNOW or AGREE.
God is a missionary. He always takes the initiative and approaches to those who are far from God. If you are far from God today, you must know that is not you who are looking for God, but God is trying to clean the hindrances for you to see Him better.
Now, the new church had preached already the gospel of Christ in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Even those who were spread around the nations, they reached only their kin-the Jews.
The revelation that the Gospel was even for the non-Jews didn’t come automatically and easily.
Peter – the influential leader of the church – needed to be convinced first and later to convince the Jewish church to get out of the known area of fellowship.
What God did to convince him? Gave him a vision.
Why God uses visions?
Is it not enough that people believe in God and his son Jesus to do every practical step of their life as believers? Practically, NO. Just having faith in God’s existence or his abilities, does replace our responsibilities to act accordingly. And our actions don’t always go with God’s plans as we find self-convincing excuses to do it later.
God’s given visions are messages that don’t contradict what God has said earlier. Sometimes they are like a movie made out of a short story and sometimes like a translation of a message into a different language.
In the vision, Peter heard a voice telling him to eat “ceremonially unclean” meat. He heard it 3 times – as once was not convincing. Bible has many stories when something is done three times and Peter remembered Jesus telling him that before the rooster sings 3 times you are going to deny me. Was it a sign from God to Peter, as a confirmation that it was God that was talking to him?
HOW MANY TIMES GOD NEEDS TO TELL US SOMETHING BEFORE WE BELIEVE IT AND DO IT?
Peter used the former knowledge to resist the commandment in the vision, but he understood the voice of the Master when he said: “What God has made clean, don’t call unclean”. The same voice that in Capernaum told to the man whose friends brought in a mat and put down through the roof: “Your sins are forgiven”. Or to the woman who was brought to be condemned by those who caught her in adultery: “I’m not going to condemn you”. Or to the Samaritan woman at the well, or to Mathew the tax-collector, or… to himself.
He remembered when Jesus called him and his brother from the fishing business to gospel sharing business.
Peter has learned to listen to God’s voice, so when God asked him to do something that was unusual and unheard, he obeyed.
WE NEED TO LEARN TO LISTEN TO GOD’S VOICE BEFORE THE TRAGEDY STRIKES OR WE ARE IN NEED OF WISDOM IN CROSSROADS.
So, Peter goes to Roman’s commander’s house not knowing every detail, but as he listen to Cornelius story he gives a beautiful revelation:
“God shows no partiality, in saving people. Whoever in their best knowledge who fear God and does what s/he knows is God’s will be accepted by God”
God accepts these people. Not based on religious affiliation, demographic ……. or social position. But based on the hunger of the person’s heart to know God and to do God’s will for God’s glory.
God doesn’t want to leave sincere seekers ignorant of Himself, His Will and His ways. That’s why He always needs the help of His people to go and explain these to the ones who already he is working with.
We don’t know who is the person who is looking for God. God only sees the true desires of the heart and he communicates with those who are looking for Him. We are very important in the expansion of His Kingdom and rule. We MUST GO, we must be willing to go.
Cornelius was so impressed and expectant of what could happen, so he invited all his trusted friends and family. Even without hearing himself the good news, he didn’t want to keep it for himself only. He had a special visitation from the Lord and he couldn’t act like nothing happened. His agenda changed, all around him and serving him now became servants towards something higher. He invited them to hear the news of a supernatural messenger.
We live in a connected society, unfortunately we feel it is somehow less then in the past, specially of us who have left lately our cities or countries. (Except the Social Media connections)
We know probably 1000 people. Everyone we know, could be blessed through us.
Imagine, you found that a recipe with herbs for a tea, helped a lot your family during flu times. Would you share gladly the news with those you have around? Yes. Because it is good news. Or if you figured out that certain combination of fruits like pomegranade help reduce the risk of cancer.
As Christians we must know this good news. Look how Peter summarized the Good News:
“36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”
- God has good news of peace. In every generation, people were looking for peace. Good times always have been peaceful times. Peter was talking to an army commander about peace. Who more than a soldier wanted peace? But who more than a troubled soul wants internal peace?
- God anointed Jesus with Holy Spirit and power. This Jesus was not anointed to do the amazing things he did, because of his position of God in flesh. NO. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, the same that anointed Peter and apostles who went and did the same thing Jesus did. As Jesus said: You are going to do the same things I did, even greater.
- Jesus did good everytime. Why? Because God is good and nothing He does is evil. We must conclude that the universal law is based on moral law: that’s why even atheists use moral verbs, although they deny the source of morality – the lawgiver.
- Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil. Here we have four important words besides “Jesus”: Healed, All, oppressed, Devil.
- Healed. Who can heal continually? Someone who has healing powers and willingness to do good to those who are sick.
- All. Not some, but all. This is encouraging and troublesome. Encouraging when we find reasons why to adore and thank Jesus, but troublesome why not all sick people get healed today.
- Oppress. This is a very dark word and even in our time we understand the power of oppression. When a person or group are oppressed always the oppressor is stronger. The oppressed know the situation of being oppressed but have no way out, that’s why they expect that the help come from outside-they can’t deliver themselves. We need to understand that alone we are weaker and prone to be oppressed.
- Devil. Here we have a name that represent a persona and the power this powerful persona has. The devil (former archangel Lucifer) although not omnipresent, he has employed an army of lesser evil forces who obey to their master for every reason except of love. If you don’t believe in the existence of the devil, you already lost half of your battle with your problems. Devil oppresses people, because he is a tyrannical leader.
Jesus healed all the oppressed, and that’s good news.
Peter told that kind of news, not in an historical tone, as he wanted to say: “Let me talk about something that happened once a long time ago, and let’s be amazed”
No! Peter was saying that this Jesus is risen from the death penalty for our sins and as a victor has sent his ambassadors to tell the good news, to every tribe.
Peter confesses here that (v.42) Jesus COMMANDED the apostles to preach that Jesus is the savior and the final judge. He is the good shepherd and the righteous judge. He is the healer, the deliverer, the friend closer than a brother, but also the one who sees deep in the heart and knows the realities of our heart condition. He knows if we stink in sin or if a beautiful aroma of cleanness evaporates from our heart – hot for the Lord.
The good news is that everyone (v.43) that believes in Jesus, receives the forgiveness of sins.
That’s very powerful.
God is not going to forgive you, because He already has forgiven you in Christ. In Christ we can RECEIVE the forgiveness of sins.
I remember last year when I applied to get a free thermostat from the Ontario Government. A good friend of mine, told me a long time ago that a program existed to get a free thermostat. I didn’t do anything – partly I didn’t believe that was really true and partly as I was busy with other things. Finally, I did it in the last weeks prior to the program to be closed. When I told the news to another friend, the program was closed.
For me it was good news. Free thermostat. All I needed to do was to apply, to give my address and expect it to come. Then let the technicians to installed it for free.
It’s so similar with the free gift of salvation. It is given free for everyone.
Why not everyone has the free gift?
- Not everyone knows it
- Not everyone believes it is free. Sometimes looks to good to be true, and sometimes the messenger is not very credible
- Not everyone is humble to accept that their way of doing sacrifice is not the right way and it is not accepted by God. Everyone of us is religious inside-we do things religiously, even to the higher power we don’t know. And we sacrifice to that power whatever we think, believe and want to give. So the concept of offering a sacrifice to get a blessing is old and is beyond the Biblical stories. Can you believe that your way is better than my way?
Peter needed a vision to be reminded to preach the Gospel to the everyone who was outside of their usual reach. When we are used to live in certain areas, work with certain people, engage with certain people – that becomes your world and if nothing unusual happens or you are forces to, you are not going to enter into another world.
We live today in one of the most diverse cities of earth.
Only in North York with 603,060 people we live among these religious groups:
Catholic 30.2%, Protestant 18.0%, Christian Orthodox 5.2%, Christian, 4.6%, No religious 15.8%, Jewish 10.1%, Muslim 7.8%, Hindu 4.1%
5 main languages are spoken in York Centre: 1. English (40.5%), 2. Russian (11.9%), 3. Italian (7.6%), 4. Tagalog (7.4%) 5. Spanish (5.0%)
HOW ARE WE GOING TO WITNESS TO PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF OUR COMFORT ZONE?
Let me tell you two personal stories by two friends of mine, both pastors in Albania.
The first one a non-Albanian pastor who opened the way (with his actions more than his words), to bring together in church two distinguished racial groups. In few years one-third of the church was with members from a brown skin group, instead of the usual in past – few countable members. In a country where the “whites” often use slang language to refer to the brown skin, this church broke the barriers.
The second one, an Albanian pastor when asked by me why he was not intentionally reaching people who were different then himself, his reply was: “God hasn’t called me to reach these people”. I was not convinced when I heard it and as time goes by, I believe my friend was not telling the full truth. The truth is that God has called us to bear witness to everyone, GOD is not respectful to certain groups than others.
What my friend should confess was “I’m not comfortable with people that are not like me”.
I want to clarify here that I’m not judging the person, but his excuse. Because he might not be comfortable confessing the true reason he tried to convince me that his excuse was completely legitimate.
Do you know that in the beginning of the reformation, very few churches believed in mission, so almost no missionaries were going to the un-Christianized world. They had an interesting theological excuse: “If God has already selected those who will believe, whatever we do will not change that. SO, why we need to sacrifice when it is already decided”
Every excuse we use, has some truth, but it is not all truth.
Let me pause and clarify something else here. I’m not saying that we should like, or be like other people. I can’t change certain things (skin, birthplace, parent) but I can change/learn/adapt others (language,traditions,food, social connections).
What God is asking/calling us into is to reach people with the love of God and the truth of Scriptures by letting aside things we don’t get along or we don’t like to each other. We are not called to like people and what they do, we are called to love them. And because of His love in us we can share the eternal truth with them.
Everywhere Gospel had an impact was because of the selfless life of certain people and churches. The history is full with the stories of people who dared to see cities, islands, continents changed with the Gospel of the Kingdom. Some of them paid with their blood, others with sacrifices. All of us are enjoying is some extent what others have planted with sweat and blood.
Now it is our time. Should we be like the generation of Joshua, who believed the promises and commandments of God and take what God calls us to take? Should we be the generation that will see strongholds fall and people delivered by the power of Jesus Christ?
I say YES. We can be and by the grace of God we will be.