How Then Should We Live?   1 comment

This is part of a series. Check it out.

Sometimes non-Christians with an ax to grind on the Christian resistance to certain social trends will argue that Christians don’t keep the Old Testament dietary requirements, so we are not allowed (the claim) to old a line in other areas. We are hypocrites and have no standing on any opinion that disagrees with the culture zeitgeist.

These folks speak from a lack of Biblical knowledge. If you’ve never read Acts, you ought to. Although it is a narrative history of the early Christian church, it contains many spiritual insights.

The early Christians were, for the most part, Jews by culture and some by ancestry. The Hellenistic Jews who became believers at least knew the Judaic law and came from a base of having tried to maintain their orthodoxy.

At about the same time as Antioch was sending Paul and Barnabas to Asia Minor, Peter was heading toward an encounter with God’s plan for the Gentiles that was going to push him in a direction that he was not really prepared for.

Jewish opposition to Christianity had pushed Jewish Christians into the hinterland and forced the apostles to leave Jerusalem to tend to the flock. Peter went to Lydda near Joppa (modern day Jaifa ont he Mediterranean coast). In Acts 9, a disciple named Tabitha (or Dorcas) became ill and died. She was a grat lady, but she still died. She’d been laid out for mourning when the disciples heard that Peter was nearby, so they sent for him. Peter showed up for the memorial service, but then he ordered the room cleared and he broke a cardinal rule of a good Jew in the 1st century — he touched a dead body. He then told Tabitha to resurrect and she did.

Many came to know the Lord because of this story. I have to wonder if any of the more Pharisaical believers were bothered by Peter’s indiscretion or if Peter wasn’t really telling that part of the story. On the other hand, Peter, a former fisherman, was staying with Simon, a tanner. Both tanners and fishermen spent much of their lives in a ritually unclean state because their profession required that they touch the dead. Just a little point that gets missed by many people.

A man Roman centurion in Caesarea (also near Jaifa) was a God-fearing Gentile. This means he admired the Jewish religion and sort of played around the edges of it, but he may not have been perfect in keeping the Law. While he was praying, he had a vision of an angel who he recognized to be the Jewish God, who complimented his works of charity as a form of worship to God. The angel told Cornelius to call for Peter.

While his three servants were heading to Joppa, Peter was up on the roof praying. He was hungry (it was near lunch) and he saw a vision of a large sheet descending from heaven. On it were all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles and birds. The a voice that Peter recognized as God-Jesus said “Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!” Peter immediately protested “Lord, I’m a good Jews, I’ve never eaten anything that was ritually unclean.”

The Lord rebuked him, saying “What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.” This back and forth was repeated three times before the vision ended.

While Peter was considering the implications of this vision, Cornelius’ messengers appeared that the gate and the Holy Spirit prompted him to go with them “without hesitation because I sent them”. Peter did so and invited these Gentile men to remain at Simon the tanner’s house overnight.

Peter then traveled to Caesarea. He explained to Cornelius that what he was doing was very much against Jewish law, but that God had told him that there was no difference between himself and Cornelius. Then he asked “So why have you invited me here?”

Cornelius explained and his explanation brought Peter to a realization that God does not show favoritism to certain groups of people over other groups. The gospel is meant for people from every nation. It just happened to start with the Jews.

Peter never missed an opportunity to preach and he was no different that day. While he was preaching, Cornelius’ household became Christians and began speaking in tongues. The circumcised among Peter’s entourage were shocked, but Peter recognized the hand of God and ordered baptism. He then spent several days with these Gentile believers.

Somewhat like our modern day Christian detractors, there were people owe objected to Peter reaching out to Gentiles and getting himself “dirty”. When he returned to Jerusalem, some of the circumcised believers argued that he had made himself ritually unclean and this was just wrong.

Peter argued with them by relating what had happened to him.

The Acts narrative does not give us an immediate response of the church at Jerusalem to Peter’s revelation, but instead follows the story of Barnabas at Antioch and the missionary journey he and Saul undertook. God didn’t hit pause on Peter so that the story could continue with Paul. The events at Antioch were occuring at the same time.

More on that later.

One response to “How Then Should We Live?

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  1. Pingback: Cultural Dance | aurorawatcherak

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