A Vision of Inclusivity

We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen — by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
Acts 10:39-44

Reflections

God brought together two men to change the Church forever.  But, God has to push Peter out of his comfort zone.  He started with the raising of Tabitha and then staying at the home of Simon the tanner, but then God gives him a vision:

  • He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.  Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat.”  “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.  “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”  The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Acts 10:10-15

You can tell he is surprised because he had never eaten anything unclean according to the purity code.  He’s never had bacon, or a honey baked ham, or even a McRib!  But the LORD is doing away with the purity code.  Peter protests and says, “No, Lord!” which is the ultimate oxymoron!  If He’s your LORD, you don’t tell Him no!  But now the barrier to food is completely lifted and the barrier to the Gentile world is completely removed.  This means two things: The food laws are fulfilled and ended in Christ, which means, it’s Baconators until your heart’s content!  And secondly, the Gentiles, the ones you considered unclean are not, why?  Because the blood of Jesus makes us clean.

Immediately after this vision, men from Cornelius’ house come to where Peter is staying.  And Peter hears that a Gentile wants to hear the Gospel.  No Jewish person would’ve ever invited Gentiles inside.  But by inviting them in, he was saying, “I have room in my heart for you.”

  • At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.  Acts 10:1-2

This man fears God, but he is still someone who needs the LORD.  Peter goes to Caesarea and knocks on his door and Cornelius lets him in.  He tells Cornelius, “Here’s the Good News, a man named Jesus was sent by God; He did a lot of good, but He was crucified on a cross, but He rose again on the third day.  I was there, I saw Him.  And He’s alive and forgiveness of sins and newness of life are available through Christ to anyone who wants it.”  And while Peter was speaking those words, the Holy Spirit falls on Cornelius and his friends and the Gentiles now experience what the Jewish people experienced on Pentecost.  Read this profound statement by Peter, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” Acts 10:34

“God, may all Jews come to know Jesus. And may all Muslims come to know Jesus. And may all Christians come to know Jesus.” - Arthur Burns, Economist

Peter had been held captive by his ideas of exclusivity and God changed his heart. Up to this point, most of the Jewish believers thought that God really did show partiality. But Peter learned grace trumps race.

This city of Joppa served as Israel’s primary port for centuries.  Joppa is only mentioned in two places in the Bible – here with Peter and in the story of Jonah.  Both stories are remarkably similar.  God told Jonah to go to a place called Nineveh to preach God’s message to the Gentiles.  But Jonah doesn’t want to go help Gentiles.  So, he runs.  And God sends a fish to swallow Jonah and then Jonah prays to be delivered.  But even after he goes to Nineveh, Jonah never likes what God is doing.  He’s the only prophet sent to a Gentile nation until the New Testament.  And He sends another Jewish prophet named Peter to bring His message to the Gentiles.  But now the Holy Spirit is involved.  Jonah and Peter were being taught the same lesson.

Both stories take place in Joppa; both involve taking God’s message to the Gentiles; both involve animals; both show a receptive audience of Gentiles; but one of the prophets, Peter, gets it, and Jonah does not.  Joppa is the gateway for understanding who is really welcome in the Kingdom of God.  Through Joppa God sends His message to the nations; to the Gentiles; to people like you and me.  Joppa’s greatest export is the Gospel!  Should we follow Jesus in breaking down those barriers?

Some of us have grown up with our own idea of a purity code and thought that some people need to be separate from us. We have carried these thoughts and felt hatred for people who are different than us.  And maybe we should ask ourselves who is the person I would struggle the most with in sharing Christ.  And don’t be surprised if that becomes your very first assignment from the LORD.

Written by Mark Forrest
Senior Pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church

Questions

Is there a particular group of people you hesitate in sharing the Gospel with? What needs to change in your heart for this to change?

Let's Pray

Lord,
Help all of your followers in our community come together over the cause of Christ. Lead us to share the Good News with anyone and everyone of all backgrounds. Give us courage and boldness. Forgive us where we have not been faithful.
Amen

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