By KATHY HORAN|CONTRIBUTOR
A quote from Derek Thomas set the tone for our class this week.
“…there’s a sense in which these two chapters [10 & 11] are among the most important chapters in the entire New Testament in an understanding of what the nature of God’s purpose in this world is and in our understanding of what the church is, and of what the mission of the church ought to be.”
Since our Women’s Ministry has been focused on ministry in the local church, this was especially timely. We are introduced to Cornelius, who represents the Gentiles who are being welcomed into the Kingdom of God. We see how God reveals his plan of redemption for not only the Jews, but to the Gentiles, to all the earth. Cornelius who is in Caesarea receives a visit from an angel of God who tells him to send to Joppa for the apostle Peter.
God also sends an angel to Peter to prepare him to meet with these gentiles. Through a vision God teaches Peter that things are radically changing. No longer would certain foods be seen as unclean, and even more confusing, Peter would learn that the old barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles would cease to exist. God’s plan of salvation was to be for all peoples, and Peter was to be a messenger for the new “way”.
Paul does indeed preach to a group of gentiles, and unlike his sermon to the Jews earlier, he does not quote scripture as it would mean nothing to them, but teaches about who Jesus is and what he has done.
We also witness a conflict brewing among the Jewish Christians. They were arguing that Gentile converts must be circumcised to receive salvation. Additionally, the Jerusalem Jews are dismayed to find that Jerusalem will no longer be the center of their worship. As the church grows and spreads, Antioch becomes a vital center of the church of “the Way”. For over a thousand years, Jerusalem had been the center of all things religious. There was resistance to this change, as tradition continued to be important to the Jewish converts.
In verses 17 and 18 of chapter 8, Peter tells us what defines a Christian. He makes no mention of circumcision but gives us three important components of being a Christian.
- that there must be a recognition of Jesus as God’s Messiah and Lord of my life;
- that there must be a trust in Jesus as Savior, which involves a turning away from a former way of life in repentance;
- that there must be a receiving of the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling me to do so to the glory of God…[a recognition of Jesus as Messiah and Lord; a trusting in Jesus involving repentance from a former way of life; and a receiving of the Holy Spirit that enables me so to do.
We are learning about God’s guidance. God uses circumstances providentially to accomplish his purposes and he confirms by opening those doors he wants us to enter. Without studying scripture, one cannot know how to obey God, nor his character and expectations.
Next week, November 7th, we will finish up our study for the fall with chapter 12. We will resume in January.