No Favoritism with God
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, September 27, 1998
Copyright © 1998, P. G. Mathew
The tenth chapter of the book of Acts addresses the very important issue of discrimination and prejudice in the church of Jesus Christ. We know this subject is important to God because it is dealt with at such length in the book of Acts. Luke the physician, the author of Acts, probably wrote the whole book of Acts on a thirty-five foot long roll of papyrus, which limited what he could include. Thus, when Luke repeated things, he did so only because of the importance of those subjects. We find the events of Peter's visit to Cornelius not only told at great length in Acts 10, but also repeated in Acts 11 and 15, thus emphasizing this very important lesson God was teaching his church. Apartheid is not acceptable in the church of Jesus Christ.
The Sin of Apartheid
Have you ever sung the children's song, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world"? That is the theme of Acts 10. It speaks about God's love for the whole world.
Mahatma Gandhi was a great soul. In fact, that is what the name Mahatma means: "great soul." As a young man he was sent to England from India to study law, and there he read the New Testament gospels and the message of non-discrimination taught by Jesus Christ. Gandhi's interest in Christianity led him to visit an Anglican church one Sunday. But as he came to the door of the church he was told that he should go somewhere else to worship. At that point, Gandhi says, he realized that some Christians practiced the same type of caste system in which he was brought up as a Hindu. No doubt this incident contributed to his remaining a Hindu and later working to help the poor and downtrodden people of India. Gandhi's work, in turn, later inspired Dr. Martin Luther King to champion the cause of civil rights for those who were being denied of them in this country.
Many people within the Christian church have been afflicted by this sin of apartheid. If you study the history of South Africa, you will find that it was the children of Calvinists--Reformed people--who practiced apartheid in South Africa. I am sure as Reformed Christians they probably read this chapter, but apparently they did not pay attention to what it was teaching.
This is true of all of us. We all have our prejudices and pretensions that somehow we are superior to other people in terms of physical appearance, color, nationality, parentage, sex, social rank, wealth, and so on. We all are afflicted by sinful prejudices and discriminations because we all are fallen human beings. Therefore, it is very important for all of us to pay attention to the lessons of Acts 10.
God Must Change Us
Apartheid means apartness, but the Bible tells us there is no difference between men, and I glory in that. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All are sinners, and the Bible says the only way of salvation is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But it also says that everyone--no matter who you are or what your background is--who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. That is wonderful, isn't it?
Fallen people practice all sorts of evil discrimination and prejudice. Even now, we may have our own prejudices, but God is telling us to get rid of them. But we can never get rid of prejudice unless God takes the initiative and wipes it out from our hearts and minds.
In biblical times there were great distinctions made between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews considered Gentiles as fuel for hell, people who were to be treated as slaves and thought to be outside of God's mercy. In fact, a Jew was never supposed to help a Gentile woman in labor. Why bring another Gentile child into the world?
The Jews were God's chosen people, but they twisted the doctrine of election. According to the Jews, salvation was only for the physical descendants of Abraham. So the Jews became very proud and developed traditions which kept them apart from the Gentiles. To them any non-Jews were dogs, perpetually and permanently unclean people who did not eat kosher food or observe other ceremonial traditions. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, as we are told in John 4:9, or with Gentiles. Even in this chapter Peter states that it was against the Jewish law for a Jew to associate with Gentiles or visit them (Acts 10:28).
The Gospel Is For Everyone
Why did God choose Abraham and his descendants to be his people? So that in Abraham's seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. Thus, the concept of apartheid as practiced by the Jews was a total misunderstanding of God's choosing of Abraham. God chose Israel to be a light to the nations, to bring them to him. It was never his will that this light be put under a bushel and not shared with all people.
Even in the early Christian church the apostles initially misunderstood the great commission in which Jesus commanded them, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every nation." They thought Jesus was telling them to go throughout the world so that they could preach the gospel to the Jews of the Diaspora. But God wants all people to hear the gospel. Why? Because God loves the world, not just the Jews. "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
In this chapter God was preparing Peter to fully obey the great commission by eliminating his prejudice. It was to Peter that God had given the keys of the kingdom of God, and it was through Peter's preaching of the gospel that the doors of the kingdom of God would be opened, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles.
In Romans 1:16 Paul clearly states, "The gospel . . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." God was already breaking down Peter's prejudices, as seen by the fact that he had already been led to preach the gospel to the Samaritans, as we read in Acts 8:25. And the fact that Peter was staying in Joppa with Simon the tanner showed a departure from his Jewish heritage. Because tanners dealt with dead animals for their livelihood, they were considered to be perpetually unclean. Tanners were not permitted to live within Jewish cities or attend the synagogue. But a tanner named Simon from Joppa came to believe in Jesus Christ, and the church in Joppa accepted him. Since Peter was staying in Joppa for a while, he began to live with Simon the tanner, whose house was by the sea. Such an action demonstrates a lot of large-heartedness on the part of Peter and shows that he was changing in terms of his prejudice.
But God wanted Peter to change more. He wanted Peter to preach to the Gentiles, eat with them, and fellowship with them--to accept them as fellow Christians, in other words. This was God's will, and only God can deliver us from the mentality of prejudice and apartheid. But God took charge and began to change Peter, making him a lover of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews.
1. God Gives Cornelius a Vision
What was the first step in God's process of changing Peter? He gave a vision to a Gentile, a Roman centurion named Cornelius. I want to emphasize again that only God can change and deliver us from our prejudices. We cannot do it ourselves. God must do it, and he will do it.
Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army, stationed with a cohort of soldiers in Caesarea. A cohort was six hundred soldiers, and a legion was ten cohorts or six thousand soldiers. As a centurion, Cornelius was in charge of one hundred soldiers. Cornelius was probably named for Cornelius Sulla, a man who freed ten thousand slaves in 82 B. C. in Rome. Cornelius may have been a descendant of the freed slaves, many of whom took the name of their liberator Cornelius. As a centurion, Cornelius was a noncommissioned officer, but he and the other centurions were the backbone of the Roman army.
Caesarea was thirty-two miles north of Joppa. This area was formerly known as Strato's Tower and was given to Herod the Great as a gift. There Herod built a great harbor, a temple, palaces, amphitheaters, and a racecourse. Herod brought water from far away to the city through an aqueduct, part of which you can still see today. Herod named his city Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus. It was the administrative capital of the Roman province of Judea.
Cornelius was a Gentile, an uncircumcised person. Tired of paganism and its immorality, he turned to the monotheism of the Jewish people. He started reading the Scriptures and attending the synagogue, even though he had to sit at the back of the synagogue because Jews didn't fellowship with Gentiles. He began to keep the Ten Commandments and practice the ethics of the Old Testament by praying regularly and giving alms to the poor.
Cornelius feared God, but he was not a proselyte. For a Gentile to become a full proselyte he must be baptized as a Jew, submit to Mosaic laws, participate in the sacrificial system of the temple, and, above all, be circumcised. And at this time Peter believed that in order to be saved, a Gentile would have to become a Jew first and then believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, if a Gentile had already believed in Christ, he would have to be circumcised and come under the Mosaic law.
But God was about to adjust Peter's beliefs and he did so through this centurion Cornelius. One day while Cornelius was praying at three in the afternoon, which was the hour of prayer for Jews, God gave Cornelius a vision. Through an angel Cornelius was directed to send men to Joppa to a house by the seaside where a man named Simon the tanner lived. The angel said they would find another man there named Simon who was also called Peter. Cornelius' men were to bring Peter to Caesarea so that Cornelius and his household could hear what Peter had to say. Peter had a message for them from God. In fact, the angel made a wonderful promise to Cornelius, which we read in Peter's account in Acts 11:14: "He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved."
A centurion was one who was trained to take and execute orders. He could say to one, "Go" and he goes; to the other, "Come," and he comes. As soon as Cornelius received this direction from God, he called three of his men and sent them to Joppa to bring Simon Peter to Caesarea.
2. God Gives Peter a Vision
Who was taking the initiative in changing Peter? God. So the second thing God did was to give a vision to Peter. Why? Peter was still a very bigoted, prejudiced man. Peter had changed some, enough to preach the gospel to Samaritans, but he hadn't changed enough by God's standards. So we read in Acts 10 that God gave a vision to Peter. Just as God had given visions to Ananias and Saul of Tarsus to prepare them to hear God's message, now he was giving a vision both to Cornelius and to Peter. As we said before, to eradicate prejudice there must be divine intervention.
The day after God gave Cornelius his vision, Peter went up around noon on to the flat roof of Simon the tanner's house to pray.. He was very hungry. He went up to the roof to pray while a meal was being prepared. Luke tells us Peter fell into a trance and saw a vision of a sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners. When he looked into it, he saw "four-footed animals as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air," as we read in verse 12. Then God directed Peter to do something he had never done before in his life. "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat," the voice said. What was Peter's response? "Surely not, Lord! . . . I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." In other words, Peter was saying, "Don't you know I am a holy person, God? I can never do this thing you are asking!" What did God say? "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
The text tells us this happened three times. God told Peter to kill and eat and Peter refused three times. Why? Peter was trying to be more spiritual than God and God's law. But Peter's piety became impiety before almighty God.
Finally the vision ended and Peter sat, trying to figure out the meaning of the vision. The Greek text tells us he was thoroughly confused. Of course, Jesus had already dealt with this issue, as we read in Mark 7, beginning with verse 14. There Jesus made the point that nothing outside a man can make him unclean, for it does not go into his heart, mind, affection, or will. It merely goes into his stomach and then goes out of his body. And Mark 7:19 we read, "In saying this, Jesus declared all food 'clean.'" We must note here that perhaps this commentary was written by the apostle Peter himself.
What was God saying to Peter through this vision? That in Jesus Christ the time had come to do away with all distinctions. It was time to eat all sorts of food with thanksgiving. It was time to interact with Samaritans and Gentiles, to go into their homes, eat non-kosher food and praise the Lord. It was time to consider all people clean, in other words. No one was to be despised or considered inferior. It was time to abrogate the abominable practice of apartheid.
As we said before, not only did the Jewish people practice apartheid throughout their history, but the church also has practiced this throughout its history. In fact, the church often interpreted the great commission of "Go ye into all the world" to mean "Go ye to all civilized people, nice people, and rich people."
Again, the church today practices a form of apartheid when congregations are described by racial or social characteristics. Haven't you heard of the Korean church, the Chinese church, the black church, the white church, the rich church, the poor church, and so on? All of these distinctions exist in the modern church, but none of them are from the Holy Spirit.
3. God Gives Meaning to the Vision
Why do you think Peter was so confused by this vision? Because the idea of eating unclean things was a revolutionary idea to him. In fact, such a revelation contradicted his entire life and belief system! But the Holy Spirit was leading Peter, and the third step in God's elimination of Peter's prejudice was to give Peter understanding of the vision.
Acts 10:17 tells us that while Peter was trying to figure out the meaning of the vision, the three Gentile men sent from Cornelius arrived at Simon's home in Joppa. They called out, "Is this the house of Simon the tanner?" and the answer came, "It is." Then they asked, "Is there another Simon living here also known as Peter?" What was the answer? "Yes." And at that moment the Holy Spirit told Peter, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."
Here was the meaning of Peter's vision. The Lord of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ was, through the Holy Spirit commanding Peter to get up, go downstairs and go with these Gentile men, and the Greek text can mean "to go without discriminating."
Then God gave the reason why Peter should do these things: "for I have sent them." God himself had sent these Gentiles to Peter. Why? God had destroyed the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles in Jesus Christ. God was commanding Peter to get up, go downstairs, and go with these Gentiles without discrimination because he, the almighty God, had sent them. PGM What was God's reason for doing all these things? Because God loves the world and wants all people everywhere to hear the gospel and be saved.
Peter Obeys God
Peter obeyed God immediately. Why? God was rapidly eliminating Peter's prejudice and teaching him to love sinners of all races. And so Peter then did something that he had never done before in his life: He invited Gentiles into the house of Simon the tanner as his guests. What a wonderful change God had brought about in Peter's heart! And the next day Peter went with Cornelius' men to Caesarea. He took along six Jewish Christian brothers from Joppa as witnesses because he was doing such revolutionary things. When they reached Caesarea they entered the home of Cornelius the centurion without hesitation.
Acts 10:24 tells us "Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends." Cornelius greeted Peter with great reverence and then he told him, "Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us" (v. 33). This group of Gentiles, called together by the God-fearing centurion Cornelius, was ready, eager, and willing to hear the gospel, to believe and be saved. That is the type of hunger, desire, and thirst we must have in order to evangelize.
Peter Learns a Lesson
In Acts 10:28 we read what Peter said when he reached Cornelius' house: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him." In other words, Peter was saying, "Cornelius, I want you to know that I have never in my entire life stepped into the house of a Gentile. This is unprecedented, and, I might add, highly contradictory of our Jewish law." Then Peter explained why he was doing this unorthodox thing: '"But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?" What a change God had wrought in his apostle Peter!
When I was growing up in India I would go with my father to the home of untouchables and sit on the floor with them while my father talked to them about Christ. That was not the usual thing to do, but we did so without any problem. But the biggest test came when we were offered food and expected to eat it with them. What did we do? We ate, because the Holy Spirit had come upon us and had destroyed all our discrimination. Earlier in my life no untouchable or lower-class person had ever entered my parents' home. But once the Holy Spirit came into my parents' lives, all people became welcome in their home, no matter what their race or social standing was. This is the way God destroys evil discrimination.
So Peter told Cornelius and those with him, "It is entirely against our custom, tradition, law and culture for me to visit you and go into your house with you. But God has shown me that all men are clean and that he wants all people from all races to hear the gospel. He has shown me that he loves Jews, Gentiles, men, women, poor, rich, powerful, weak, slaves, free. God loves everyone, and he has just broken down and destroyed the walls of apartheid and prejudice in my heart--my superiority complex--so that I could come to you without raising any objections. I have learned my lesson so well that I have violated my lifelong rules of behavior, and, for the first time in my life, I have entered into the house of a Gentile without any qualms or unease of conscience. God made me do it because I now understand that God loves Gentiles as well as Jews."
Peter Preaches the Gospel
Then Peter began to preach the gospel, as we read in Acts 10:34-43. What was the reaction of Cornelius and his family and guests? They listened eagerly, sitting on the edge of their seats. They wanted to hear what Peter would say. Why? God had already told them as soon as they heard Peter's message, they would believe and be saved, as we read in Acts 11:14. They were eager to listen because they knew that in Peter's words there would be salvation, hope, peace, healing, restoration, freedom, and life for them.
When we examine Peter's sermon in Acts 10:36-43 we notice that it is an outline of Peter's gospel, which is the gospel of Mark. He spoke about the word, the message that brought peace between God and man. He started with the life of Jesus, telling how he was anointed by God and went about doing good, healing people and delivering them from the tyranny of Satan.
Peter was speaking of the tremendous deliverance of God. This is our need too, isn't it? Someone told me the other day, "Pastor, I want deliverance." This person was seeking the kind of deliverance promised by high-profile "deliverance" ministries so popular today. But let me tell you, when you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be set free from the power of Satan once and forevermore. That is true deliverance.
In verse 38 Peter spoke about, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power," meaning the tyranny or oppression, "of the devil." We read about such deliverance also in Acts 26. Every unbeliever is under the tyranny, captivity, and oppression of the devil. But the moment he believes in Jesus Christ, he is set free.
Next, Peter said that Christ died for our sins, which is the heart of the gospel. Next, he spoke about Christ's resurrection, saying, "On the third day God raised him up," which is also essential. The Christ we serve is one who was raised from the dead, who holds the keys of hell and death. It is he who brought immortality to life for each one of us.
Peter then spoke of the appearances Jesus made to people after his resurrection. Paul wrote about this also in 1 Corinthians 15, saying that at one time Jesus appeared to five hundred people, many of whom were still living at the time. The implication was that if anyone doubted the truth of Christ's resurrection, he could speak with these witnesses who saw Jesus raised from the dead.
Next, Peter said he and the other witnesses ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection. We see these events recorded in Acts 1:4, 10:41 and in Luke 24:30 and 43. This was additional proof that Christ was raised from the dead.
Then, in verse 42, Peter mentioned an interesting fact: "[Christ] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead." Peter spoke of Christ's ministry of judgment before speaking of his ministry of salvation. "Jesus is the one who is going to judge," Peter was saying. Paul said the same thing in Athens in Acts 17:31-32 when he said that Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead, was God's appointed judge of the living and of the dead. The writer to the Hebrews also spoke of this in Hebrews 9:27, where he said that it is appointed for man once to die and then comes the judgment, meaning judgment by this Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, who died and rose from the dead. He alone is the final judge.
In verse 43 Peter said that Jesus was not only Judge but he is also Savior. "All the prophets testify about him," meaning the whole Old Testament spoke about Christ, "that everyone" including Jews and Gentiles, "who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins in his name." This was the glorious message to the Gentile Cornelius and his household. Jesus Christ is the Savior of all people who would believe in him.
What happened when Cornelius and his household and friends heard all these things? They instantly believed and were saved. They received forgiveness of sins and were delivered from the tyranny of Satan, brought out from darkness to light, death to life, hopelessness to hope, depression to celebration. It all happened instantly.
4. God Pours Out the Holy Spirit
Then God took the initiative again in destroying prejudice in the church. In verse 44 we read that the fourth step God took was to pour out the Holy Spirit upon all who were listening to Peter's message.
What was God doing? He was destroying the "barrier, the dividing wall of hostility" between Jew and Gentile that we read about in Ephesians 2:14. Notice, God did this without checking first with Peter or anyone else. God wanted to show Peter that he does not discriminate, and Peter should not discriminate either. God is the God of the world who saves Jews and Gentiles, poor and rich, men and women, without regard to their birth, appearance, nationality, sex, or position in life.
As Cornelius and his friends and relatives were listening to Peter, all of a sudden the Lord Jesus Christ poured upon them the Holy Spirit--a Gentile Pentecost! And Peter gave a fuller description of this event in Acts 15:7-10 when he spoke to the council of Jerusalem: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us."
Then Peter explained: "He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now, then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Gentiles, thus signifying that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, men and women in the kingdom of God. No difference! To everyone who repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, even those who are uncircumcised, God will pour out his Holy Spirit. God gave these Gentiles who believed in Jesus Christ his personal seal of acceptance.
5. Whom God Accepts, We Must Accept
The fifth step in eliminating prejudice was the realization God gave to the other Jewish Christians of what he was doing. Acts 10:45 tells us the six Jewish Christians who had come with Peter were greatly astonished when they saw what God was doing to these Gentiles. In fact, the text says they stood out of their own bodies when they saw that the Holy Spirit had come upon Cornelius and his guests. These Jews had been so filled with apartheid that they could not believe God would pour out his Holy Spirit upon these uncircumcised Gentiles as he had done for them. But he did.
What do you think these Jewish Christians were thinking? "We never thought God would have anything to do with Gentiles. Haven't we always been taught they are unclean dogs--outside of salvation and God's mercy? We never thought they could be saved, let alone receive the Holy Spirit or be baptized." God destroyed all these human prejudices instantly. How? By pouring out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles. God does not make distinctions.
6. The Gentiles Were Baptized
The sixth step in eliminating prejudice was to baptize these Gentiles, just as they were. What was the great lesson Peter and the others were learning? That if God accepts someone, they must accept him also. God accepted these Gentiles, and now he was telling Peter that he had better do the same. God knew that Peter would block the baptism of Cornelius and his household, so he poured out the Holy Spirit first to demonstrate beyond any doubt that these people were accepted by him. Now Peter had no choice but to baptize. In Acts 11:17 we find Peter's own account of this: "So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"
Later on, as a result of the salvation of Cornelius' household and friends, the Pharisaic believers in the Jerusalem church brought a case against the apostle Peter. They brought him to trial, accusing him of going into a Gentile's home and eating and fellowshiping with Gentiles. What was Peter's response? That God had poured the Holy Spirit upon them, and we cannot oppose God!
Pharisaic believers are always opposing God. We see that even in the church today. When we do not receive those whom God has received, we are opposing God.
Forced by the Spirit of the living God, Peter ordered that all who had believed be baptized. Cornelius and his family and friends were baptized and became members of the church in Caesarea.
7. The Final Test: Fellowship
The seventh step to eliminating prejudice is to engage in fellowship with all believers. In Acts 10:48 we read, "So [Peter] ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days."
If you really accept the other person who is saved and who has received the Holy Spirit, you must fellowship with that person. You cannot say to a person, "Oh, I am so glad that you have believed in Christ, but this church is not for you. You should go out somewhere else--maybe to a church where brown people get together. Or did you say you are Chinese? Then you should go to a Chinese church someplace. We cannot fellowship with you. Or you said you were poor? Then you have to go to the poor people's church." Making these distinctions violates biblical law.
So God tested the sincerity of Peter's heart. The Gentiles asked Peter, "Would you stay with us?" Perhaps they themselves wanted to find out how serious Peter was in loving them. And we know Peter did stay, because we read that he was criticized for doing so in Acts 11:1-3: "The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea had heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'"
What is fellowship? It is when Christians spend time together as believers, devoting themselves together to the apostles' teachings, eating together, being discipled together, and celebrating Holy Communion with each other. This was the pattern given by God for his church in the book of Acts, and it transcends all racial and socioeconomic lines. Why? Because the church of Jesus Christ consists of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultured international society.
The story is told of a missionary in Africa who went to preach among the Ngoni tribe, the Senga tribe, and the Tumbuka tribe. Before the gospel came, members of these tribes were killing each other. But after the gospel was preached, the leaders of these tribes came together to celebrate Holy Communion. How could they do that? They realized they were one in Jesus Christ.
No More Discrimination
Like Peter, Paul was illumined by the Holy Spirit about this issue of no discrimination in the body of Christ. In Ephesians 2:14 he wrote, "For [Christ] himself is our peace, who made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." And in Ephesians 2:18-19 we read, "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." The same Father, the same Savior, the same Holy Spirit. "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." And in Ephesians 3:6 we read, "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel," together with Israel, on the same footing, "members together of one body, and sharers together of the promise in Christ Jesus."
In Galatians 3:26-29 Paul writes, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed," the new Israel, "and heirs according to the promise." And in Romans 3:29-30 Paul writes, "Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith."
The Gospel Invitation
The gospel is for all people. In Isaiah 55:1 we read, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!" And in Revelation 22:17 we read, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."
What is the condition for salvation? If one is thirsty or not. It is not "Are you a Jew? Are you a Gentile? Are you rich? Are you poor? Are you a man? Are you a woman? Are you a boy? Are you a girl?" The question is, "Are you thirsty?" because Jesus only saves those who are thirsting after God. So John writes, "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."
In Acts 10:34 Peter said, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." What a wonderful promise! If anyone comes to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, God will receive him. He doesn't need to become a Jew first, or be circumcised. Simple saving faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation.
Therefore, I ask you: Have you trusted in this Jesus Christ--born of a virgin, the eternal Son of God who took upon himself human nature; the holy one; the righteous one; Christ the Lord, who went about doing good and delivering people from the dominion of sin and still does so now; who was crucified in our place and raised up for our justification; who is coming again as the Judge of the living and the dead? As we read in Acts 10:43, everyone who believes in this Jesus Christ shall receive forgiveness of sins.
Every one of us will have to face Jesus Christ at the end of our lives. He will either be our Savior or our Judge--there is no other option. If you have not placed your trust in Christ for salvation, I urge you to do so today. And if you have strayed from Christ, but want to serve him anew, I urge you to call upon his name today. Let him forgive your sins, break the chains that bind you, take away your misery, deliver you from the power of Satan, and give you eternal life. Let him heal you, restore you and give you peace. And let him fill you with the Holy Spirit that you may serve him now and forever. Amen.
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Copyright © 1998, P. G. Mathew
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