Well, Happy New Year! May this new year, if the Lord delays, be a great one full of blessings — especially spiritual blessings — for you.
We’re continuing to plow through Acts and today’s reading expands the Kingdom to the Gentiles. This is no small matter from a Jewish point of view and it is the fountainhead of an early doctrinal controversy.
The Gospel really is for all — Acts 10
Who knows what the apostles thought Jesu was really saying in Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”? Perhaps they thought that He was talking about making disciples of the Jews of the dispersion scattered around the world; but Jesus had something much broader in mind. But neither Peter nor the other apostles conceived that Gentiles could be citizens of the Davidic Kingdom, part of the new covenant, followers of the Jewish Messiah. It took a vision of a sheet of clean and unclean animals descending from heaven with the command, “Kill and eat” — three times; AND the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a sign that it really was authorized by God for Peter to believe it! But he did believe, and Cornelius and his household was baptized into Christ without having to submit to circumcision and other Mosaic laws. Acts 11:17, 18 — “’Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?’ When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” God is the God of more than any one racial or ethnic group; His love is wide enough to include every nation, race, language, economic class, and culture on earth — thanks be to God.
Good isn’t good enough — Acts 10:1ff
Hopefully you noticed how good a man Cornelius was — Acts 10:2 “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.” But despite his righteousness and godliness, Cornelius needed salvation. This is important to notice, because his story is the story of many men in our own day — good, moral folks, who believe they’re going to Heaven, because by the world’s standards, they’re good. Some are even religious, but they also need to be saved. Because good isn’t good enough. Why? Because (Romans 3:23) “for all (even the “good”) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and (Romans 6:23) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
About the baptism of the Holy Spirit — Acts 10,11
The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs twice in the New Testament — once in Acts 2 regarding the apostles and a second time to Cornelius and his household. In both cases, we should notice, it was not for salvation; rather it was for the purpose of demonstrating God’s approval. The apostles had no credentials with the mixed Jewish crowd on Pentecost, yet they had the most important message of the ages, the Gospel of Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit (the sound of the mighty wind, the tongues of fire over their heads, and the ability to speak in various tongues) gave them instant and unmistakable credentials as spokesmen from God. Cornelius, being a Gentile, had no eligibility to become a part of the Kingdom in the eyes of the Jews. The baptism of the Holy Spirit gave Cornelius and his household the eligibility and authorization from God that they needed in the eyes of Peter and later the other apostles. Again, this baptism was not for forgiveness or salvation — Cornelius was commanded to be baptized for salvation at the end the story. There is more than one kind of baptism and they are for various reasons. As we’ll see in a later story (Acts 19) more clearly, the medium of the baptism and the reason for which a person is baptized does make a difference.
Saved at the eleventh hour — Acts 12
Peter’s miraculous release from prison the night before his scheduled execution has an important principle for us to remember as we face our own set of difficulties — it’s not over til it’s over. Now this is not to say that God will deliver us from every trial, every test, every tragedy, every tight spot — God’s greater purposes sometimes must be take precedence. But it is to say that God’s deliverance is always a possibility, especially when His people are united in prayer about it.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.