I want to continue the story of Peter and Cornelius which we began to look at on Saturday. And as I said then it is a very important story, because it is the first detailed account of the Gospel going to Gentiles. Perhaps I could add, that behind it all, is the issue that runs through a good part of the rest of the New Testament, how does salvation and grace that comes through Christ fit in with the law that was given by the Lord in the Old Testament?
Or to put it in a different way which might resonate more with us today, how do God’s people, who are used to being seen as special and distinct, interact with the outside world?
So, our passage today is Acts Chapter 10 verses 9 to 23a. The previous section introduced us to Cornelius, today the focus switches to Peter, like a different scene in a play at the theatre or on the TV.
And behind the scenes, behind it all of course is the Lord, who spoke to Cornelius via an angel, and to Peter in a vision in the middle of the day (vs.9-16). The Lord was preparing Peter to cross cultural barriers with the Gospel message.
Now in a sense Peter had already started to do this, because he had been staying in Joppa at the house of Simon the tanner (Ch.9 v.43 and Ch.10 v.6). A tanner dealt with the treating of skins of dead animals, which would have rendered him unclean in the eyes of strict Jewish law.
Also the words of what food is clean or unclean had come up in Peter’s life previously although probably he hadn’t grasped the reality of it at the time. In the gospels (Matthew Ch.15 vs.1-20 or Mark Ch.7 vs.1-23), Jesus had a discussion with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law about what causes uncleanness and impurity, and had concluded that it was out of the human heart that uncleanness comes, and Mark adds the sentence, ‘In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean”.’ (Mark Ch.7 v.19)
Back to our passage (vs.17 to 23), the Spirit speaks to Peter that visitors are about to arrive for him, and that he should go with them because the Lord had sent them. And so Peter invites them into the house to be his guests; and by providing lodging, which was again against prescribed Jewish practice, Peter took another step towards accepting Gentiles.
We will continue with our story tomorrow, to see what happens next!
In our extended church address list, please remember in your prayers today former church members who continue to worship with us on Zoom,
– Vikkie & Robbie, and baby Nora
– Tina Tibbett