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30 DAY STORY OF THE BIBLE #29


ACTS 10:1-48 – THE GOSPEL GOES TO THE GENTILES

Our last reading was the conversion of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Today we read of the first Gentile converts.

This was traumatic for the early church, even more than the persecution that scattered them from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria. Persecution made the church grow; Gentile conversions threatened its unity.

There are traces of this in today’s reading: Peter resisted the voice saying to eat “unclean” food and took six brothers with him as witnesses when he went to Cornelius. Why? He knew how his brethren would react (see Acts 11). They rejoiced that God granted repentance to Gentiles, but soon some wanted these converts to become Jewish proselytes by being circumcised and keeping the Law (cf. Acts 15:1-31). There was great debate over this, but a letter was sent from Jerusalem to the Gentile churches with instructions to avoid Pagan practices – idolatry, fornication, eating blood, and things strangled.

Judaisers still dogged Paul. They wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and observe the Law. Several of Paul’s letters to churches dealt with this, for example:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6)

God’s call to Abraham said to him, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Isaiah had prophesied, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it.” (Isa. 2:2). The prophet Amos also spoke of this: “’In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,’ declares the LORD who does this” (Amos 9:11-12). Israel’s restoration would be incomplete without the nations (the Gentiles) coming to God to receive the blessing of Abraham.

It wasn’t circumcision and kosher food that would bless the nations. It would be faith in God and walking in the steps of Jesus that would “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

In fact, in Christ, “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:15-16). In Jesus, all who walk with him are sons of God and children of Abraham – without the special “markers” that separated Jews from Gentiles. Instead, Jesus’ disciples are known by loving one another (John 13:34-35).

The new creation is already breaking into the world in us because of Jesus. Tomorrow’s reading will be the end of the STORY, where the new heavens and earth are revealed as the fullness of the new creation.

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