Where we last left off, God spoke to Simon Peter, a Jew, and Cornelius the centurion, a Roman to get together. For this to happen, there was hardness of heart to get through but not in the Roman surprisingly.
So now Peter shows up as directed and is taking a step of faith. Due to the deeply entrenched oppression by the Romans for a few generations Peter may have longed for the leap of faith in walking on water to Jesus. After all, the water never did anything to him personally.
Acts 10: 34 “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.’
Right here Peter talks about how God provides equal justice. He will not tip the scales over any person over another by superficial standards in terms of His judgment. Next, Peter recognizes signs of light in those that are different from him. More than that, those who have faith and does what is right are acceptable to what he used to think was only a Jewish God.
Peter then brings in a serious drive to the point. He quickly says Jesus is Lord of all. This is not an authority trip. Yes, authority is part of Jesus being Lord, but it also involves how he is personal and not a person on the other side of the universe.
43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” If you remember from last post, Jesus tells Peter to not call unclean what He calls clean. Forgiveness is there even for those people.
But the teaching and experience that Peter brings to these gentiles is not just an emphasis on what American Protestants called, “Confessing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.” If people come into Jesus, then it is meant to be lived out in a corporate context and on the other side of a solid, measurable dividing line.
44 “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.”
The Holy Spirit falling down on the gentile crowd is powerful. Peter sees that grace of God on the people that confirms not only redemption but a call to communion in fellowship. You see, in the Church, knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior is a start. But with the Holy Spirit active and crying from our hearts, we can call God “Daddy”. Peter sees that they share the same Daddy. I long for the day that no Christian fellowship on earth is an ethnic or racially based church!
The next part is about recognizing the grace of God in fellowship. This is why the Catholic Church recognizes the coming of the Holy Spirit to enlighten one to be a fully active member in the visible body. The gentiles received a touch of God’s grace in their hearts, but baptism would further enlist their experience as a solid context for their bodies too to experience the New Covenant (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 to see that passing through inspired water is covenential). It is baptism that seals the mark salvation (1 Peter 3:21).
So Peter has come a long way. He swallowed his ethnic and religious pride. Further change is happening and Peter had to roll with it. Do we? Where is our prejudice? Are we content to keep the Other, Other? Or do we want to be like Simon Peter or the Good Samaritan and take our own part of being a bridge to those that are yet seeking God in their understanding.