Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Place At The Table

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. "You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!" they said. Then Peter told them exactly what happened… When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, "We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life."
~ Acts 11 

It was a problem that began in the Old Testament. The prophet, Jonah, would rather the Ninavites come under the judgment of God than repent and receive the grace of God. Likewise, Messianic Jews in the early church were no less eager to embrace God's grace toward Gentiles. And with good reason. As it was in the past, so it was in the present, the Chosen People were under Gentile rule and a continuing saga of oppression.

Then, God sends Peter into the house of a Gentile to minister, just as His Son had. And now those who for ages were considered unclean and unredeemable were to be received as brethren? That would take some convincing. God chose the fisherman--turned preacher, and the military man--turned seeker to break down that barrier.

In Caesarea, Peter did his part and shared the story of Jesus. God did what only He could do, and gave those Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life. And God did something else... He put an exclamation point on the moment. It had been twelve years since God had poured out the Holy Spirit with the miraculous signs of Pentecost. With conviction, Peter testified, The Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Gentile Cornelius, along with his friends and family were gifted with repentance, the Holy Spirit, and a place at the table in the Kingdom.

One more thing to consider…

Peter was a stand-up guy and championed the reception of those first Gentiles into the kingdom. However, Scripture's record gives testimony that Peter fell off the grace wagon lapsing into prejudice toward those unlike him. That's an age-old tendency for all of us to keep in mind. Guarding against consciously or unconsciously closing the door on any people group and giving up on them as unredeemable is every believer's battle.

While here on earth we will never reach an epoch of time when our society is beyond the Gospel's reach.  

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