Standing in God’s Way?

 

Racism and prejudice have been a part of human existence from the beginning.  You could even make a case it was biblical if you want to read the bible without remembering it all leads us to Christ.  It is with Him that all things in the world were turned upside down, and through Him all nations receive their call if they will believe.  
Sometimes we are a little slow to understand.  Even those closest to Jesus needed some extra guidance from time to time.  Here is Peter (of course) to be the example of how we as sinners tend to be toward each other, in order that God might specifically single him (us) out to reveal His truth to all of us.
Peter had walked with Jesus through His entire ministry, witnessed first hand His death and resurrection, and still did not get it.  God’s love and message of redemption is all inclusive, never exclusive.  He didn’t just pick me out and exclude that group.  Thank God for that….because if he was picking and choosing, I would not have been in the right side of things.  But he doesn’t pick and choose…we do.  We get to choose whether we believe Him, and we get to choose whether we follow Him.  Once we’ve chosen to follow Him – our choices are done!!  We don’t get to decide who to share His message with.  He decides for us.  We don’t decide who is worthy of hearing His Good News. All are worthy.  We don’t get to decide which people choose from there to make their own choice to follow Him.  God calls ALL people to Himself.  There are no groups of people we are NOT to share His love with.  
Peter had to be shown this specifically, for the purpose that we might be shown specifically.  A group of Jews, known as the circumcision party, claimed that a man had to be circumcised in order to receive salvation through Christ.  So, Jesus plus circumcision = salvation, right.  Wrong!!
 
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.   “What God has called clean, do not call common.”  Peter was so hardheaded, God had to show him three times to get through to him.  He had spent his whole life living by the Law given through Moses.  He had spent his whole life living by the law that he was not to enter the home of anyone who did not follow the Mosaic Law.  Even walking with Jesus of Nazareth for three years had not been enough to show Peter this was not part of the New Covenant God was making with man.  Just as God had given man dominion over all the things of the earth in Genesis, He was now explicitly overturning the Law He had given through Moses, and all things are acceptable to be eaten.  What God had has called clean, do not call unclean.  

  And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’   And here we see God taking it one step farther – despite everything in Peter’s body telling him not to go – And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.    Make no distinction.  Even though the Law said never to enter a Gentile home, the Spirit is commanding him to go.  Just as He had commanded Simon to come and get Peter.  These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’   It was not just Peter, but six other brothers in the faith went also.  Remember it takes two or more witness in the Old Testament to testify to a truth – maybe God wanted to have three times the witnesses just like He told Peter three times that all good was clean.  He wanted to make sure He got this point across.  

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”  Again, God wants to be sure to get this point across.  He brings His Spirit upon these Gentiles, these outsiders, to leave no doubt that just as all food is declared clean, all people are now allowed in the kingdom of God.  What was once exclusive is now inclusive.  Circumcised or uncircumcised, no matter the race or background, God is giving them the same gift as He had given the Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost.   And as Peter says – If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?  Finally – Peters eyes are opened, He is coming into daylight.  He sees these men as His brothers in Christ, despite all of his own baggage that kept him separated from those who were unlike him before.   

2000 years later – we still hold onto much of this baggage.  We see people of different races, different backgrounds, and try to exclude them from our lives.  There are still groups of people whom we might not want to visit for dinner.  Still groups we might not want to invite over for dinner.  Remember how Jesus views meals and breaking bread together.  If God sees all people as acceptable to Him, then who do we think we are??  


“Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.””
‭‭Acts‬ ‭11:1-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/act.11.1-18.esv

John Lewis

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