|Cornelius - Artist unknown|
TO CHEW ON: "And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Gentiles also." Acts 10:45.
Here Peter is at the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. Under ordinary circumstances that's the last place you'd expect to find him. But on this day, after seeing a vision and being summoned by Cornelius's servants because of his vision (Acts 10:9-16 & 3-7), he is convinced that this is a divine mission.
He has just finished explaining about Jesus and how "'… whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins'" when it happens: "… the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word" - Acts 10:44.
How do they know? They hear them speak with tongues and magnify God, just as it had happened on the day of Pentecost for Peter and the believers in that upper room (Acts 10:46).
The incredible thing to these onlookers (the Jewish "brethren from Joppa" who went with him - Acts 10:23) is that God has bestowed Himself on Gentiles in this way. It blows their idea of God's plan all to pieces.
Even Peter who earlier linked Joel's prophecy ("I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh - Joel 2:28) with the initial out-pouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:16-21) seems taken aback. But he is open to affirming this paradigm shift. For he suggests that there's no reason why these new believers can't be baptized (Acts 10:47).
In our day after a couple thousand years of living with the idea of the Gentiles included in God's plan, the incredulity of these early Jewish believers seems almost humorous. But I would submit we still have, in our minds, some Jew-Gentile-type barriers. These aren't based on race but other things like intelligence, education, the lifestyle a person has lived or the sins he or she has committed.
Does God really call, forgive, save everyone? Can the Holy Spirit indwell and empower someone who is mentally challenged? Someone with minimal education (who, say, can't even read)? What about the person who comes to Jesus after having a sex change, or is a repentant thief, pornographer, or child serial killer?
Whatever barriers we have erected towards some of these groups, the Bible doesn't support them. It tells us over and over, God's grace is for everyone.
- "Look to Me and be saved, All you ends of the earth…" Isaiah 45:22.
- "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters …" Isaiah 55:1.
- "… as many as you find, invite to the wedding" - Matthew 22:9.
- "'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink'" - Jesus in John 7:37.
- "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him" - Romans 10:12.
- "… who desires all men to be saved" - 1 Timothy 2:4.
- "Whoever desires let him take the water of life freely" - Revelation 22:17.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your invitation to ALL. Help me to demolish any barriers I might have toward people of any kind. May I see them all as candidates to receive Your saving grace and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.