Year 2 Day 144
Read — Acts 11:1-18
Message Alan Burke
“First posted Year 1 Day 88 - 17 June 20”
There are divisions amongst us, we all know it, look at our own wee county and it’s clear. Our names, the sports that we play, how we say the letter ‘h’, where we live, what school we went to, what tradition we grew up in, the churches that we go to or don’t go to, divisions are everywhere. Some of those divisions are inconsequential, what school we attended doesn’t really matter its the education we received, the house that we live in doesn’t really matter whether its a two up two down, a bungalow, semi or apparent what matters is that we have a roof over our heads. For some though arbitrary divisions do matter, social and cultural boundaries matter.
We see a similar division in this passage in Acts today as the good news of the Gospel was spreading. Chapter 10 gives the account of the conversion of Cornelius and we know others had received the word of God (1). The reaction of the Jewish Christians (circumcised believers) is all important though, it reveals a deep rooted division as they criticised Peter (2). To know what’s going on we need to remember how the sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace was circumcision (Gen 17:9-14), that sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace was replaced with Baptism for believers and their children in the household of faith, but these Jewish Believers were still of the mind that believers had to follow institutes and traditions of their forefathers, they believed Peter had broken the law by by eating with the unclean Gentiles (3).
To this, Peter responds by giving an account of all that had happened, first his vision that shows how dietary laws that once marked a distinction between Jew and non-Jew are abolished. There is no distinction now between Jewish believers and Gentile believers for all are one in Christ (11:4-10). Then God led him to go to Cornelius immediately after this vision, as three men arrived and he heard a message from the Spirit to go (11-12). They entered the house of Cornelius who had received an angelic message that Peter would bring him a message of salvation (13-14). Then just as at Pentecost the Spirit came upon them (15-16). After recounting all that had happened, Peter challenges his critics, that no-one should try to prevent God’s expanding of the church to the Gentiles, for Cornelius and his household were baptised because of God’s saving grace that extended to Cornelius and his family just as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their families for God (17, Gal 3:28). In response the Jewish Christians praised God for what he had done (18).
What is the take home message for us? Well firstly, divisions like that in the church in Acts 11 remain. We only need to look around to see how many churches or fellowships their are across our land, remember thought if someone is saved, it doesn’t matter where they go the Gospel Hall, Free’s, CoI, Baptist's, PCI, etc etc, what matters is, if they are our brother or sister. If they are then we can share fellowship with them. I’m not belittling the difference in belief that there are, the distinctions between us that mean we cannot worship together but if they are manifested in cultural snobbery, sexism, racism, tribalism etc they have no place among us, we have to learn that God does not show favouritism just as Peter learnt ( Acts10:34). Next, God works by his Word and Spirit in the lives of sinners, salvation is the gift of repentance, we may expect the ‘outsider’ to meet our standards, our criteria but God has called sinners to himself that if we are honest we would not have. Our response always should be the praise of God for the salvation he has brought. But are we too comfortable to want God to move among the perceived undesirables no matter who they are or their history?
Q33 What is justification?
Justification is an act of God’ s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, (Rom. 3:24–25, Rom. 4:6–8) and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, (2 Cor. 5:19,21) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, (Rom. 5:17–19) and received by faith alone. (Gal. 2:16, Phil. 3:9)