connecting theology and life in gospel-centred ways to the glory of God and our joy in Him
[Ed – the final day! It’s been a big, exhausting, yet exciting week. The Bible has been opened wonderfully by Tim, our strand groups have been challenging and encouraging, and the conversations I’ve had and the workshops sat through have also been as encouraging. For those inclined, please keep praying that the seeds of gospel ministry and challenge will continue to grow and flourish in churches across Brisbane for the growth of God’s Kingdom everywhere!]
Acts 10:1-48 | To the Ends of the Earth | Tim Omrod
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria. Where to NEXT?!
Tim’s travels – one of the most spectacular places he’s been to has been to the bottom of the Cape of Good Hope – the most southern part of Africa. At that area is a sign post with the directions of various cities in the world – Rio De Janeiro being 6K km away, Paris being 9K km away… etc. It’s amazing to think about! Tim stood there and thought about the vastness of the world – it’s so big, so spectacularly large.
And God cares about all the people in it.
As we come to Acts 10 we’ll see a major landmark in the book of Acts – where the witness to Jesus breaks into Gentile territory. That causes us to reflect on the size and scope of God’s plan and purposes for this world and for his people. A plan to save a people not just from Israel or Judea, but from every tribe and nation in the world.
An Unlikely CONVERT (v1-8)
First we meet Cornelius – an unlikely convert. He reports (later) that an Angel of God visits him and instructs men to visit Joppa and find Peter.
Cornelius is a centurion, a Roman soldier, an enemy of God’s people – a devout man, who prays continuously – he gives generously to the people in his city. So what is he? Consensus is not that he’s not converted to Judaism but he’s very sympathetic to the people. He’s not a proselyte – a Jewish convert – but appears very open. He’s also from Caesarea, just above Samaria – which was a gentile city. Not a Jewish city at all. As one scholar puts it, ‘the showpiece of Roman culture’ with a temple inside devoted to the Roman Emperor.
We note in v3 that he is praying at the 9th hour, 3pm – which was a Jewish time to pray. God meets him there!
So in the vision from the angel he is told to send soldiers to Joppa – which, in Jonah, is an important place because it’s the place where Jonah goes in order to flee from God. I wonder if Peter is in Joppa – the last time someone was tasked with a job of meeting Gentiles they ran to Joppa to run from God… what’s Peter doing there? Hmm…
An unlikelier MESSENGER (v9-23)
Peter is praying, around midday, and fell into a trance. Sounds fun.
The vision itself is unsettling to Peter. A vision of eating ‘common/unclean’ animals. It’s easy to miss how big a deal this is.
The OT law made abundantly clear that there was a bunch of food that the Israelites could not eat. Leviticus 11 details that. It was such a big part of the identity of a Jew.
Think about it this way. If you’re from the Gold Coast a fake tan is a defining part of your identity. If you’re an eschay, the ‘Champion’ jumper. If you’re a middle-aged Christian woman: floral dresses and birkenstocks. Pastors – coffee roasting and Apple products.
The food laws mark the Jews out – and more than just an identity marker, they were spiritual markers. That’s why Peter describes eating these animals as unclean. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with eating bacon or camel – but these laws were given to Israel to set them apart from others. A people made clean by him for his service.
So that’s why Peter reacts with revulsion. But the angel persists, three times (that seems to be Peter’s number!) – don’t call unclean/common what God has made clean.
Yet also another crazy request – v20 – go to a Gentiles home.
As the vision comes and the request by the soldiers comes, the penny drops for Peter. The Laws that separated Israel from the nations are no longer relevant. Those laws were keeping the people apart.
Peter’s story here is encouraging. Peter didn’t get things immediately, he balked at God’s request. Yet he grew and was obedient in the end. His story is a story of growth.
And if Peter went through that sort of growth, how much more with us? It may not be that we need to work out the food laws and what they mean – it may mean that the things we grew up with and our attitudes need adjusting. For example, if you grew up in church that often shapes you to think through the world through Christianese eyes. Imagine growing up in an insular Christian culture – Jesus died for you… and just you. Not for anyone else. You’d need to let God change this attitude – towards a servant attitude, fellowshipping with others, and bringing the gospel out.
An extraordinary GOD (v24-48)
When Peter arrives and hears Cornelius’ story he explains it all – and references God and Jesus so much in his speech from v28 onwards.
And as Peter explains the gospel the Spirit pours out on the Cornelius and his household. It’s difficult to overstate how significant this moment is. Jesus promised that his disciples would go to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel. And here we have this astonishing moment – the Spirit is poured out on Gentiles, and they break out in tongues like what happened in Jerusalem with the disciples.
There have been many events in world history that have been profound. The fall of the Berlin wall, the Stolen Generation Apology. Yet they never had global impacts like this moment in Acts 10 – the pouring out of the Spirit on gentiles.
That we are included in the gospel story. At last.
You, me, and the ends of the earth…?
What part are we playing in the gospel story? There is no one size fits all answer to that. But there are heaps of possibilities for how we can be involved. Many of us will be involved for the rest of our lives – to welcome people in to the kingdom, to our churches. Some of us will take up responsibilities of leading and teaching. Some will serve behind the scenes. Some will take the gospel to other nations, to the poor, to those with addictions. Some will be gifted in particular ways. Some will witness well at work, others will cross cultures. Some will use vocational skills to get into a country to serve the gospel.
All of us will pray – for opportunities, for missions, for evangelists around the world. Some will be able to be really generous with our time or material resources that God has gifted us. As we earn we will give more.
Some of us will have families that we are witnessing to, our children, who will go on to witness to others.
There are so many possibilities.
Yet we all share the responsibility to share in the task of bringing the gospel to the world.
So, how will we be involved?
[Ed – what a wonderful way to end the conference. A big push to keep being a part of faithfully proclaiming the gospel to our world, in whatever station of life we find ourselves and wherever we may end up. Time to finish the strand groups and, hopefully, pass on more good books to everyone here! See you next year folks :)]
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