Acts 10: God Leads the Way

This was not Peter’s plan at all.

Go to a group of Gentiles?  Eat with them?  Even baptize them?  No, this is not Peter’s plan, at all.

But it was God’s.

All throughout this chapter God through His Holy Spirit is leading the way:

  • Long before Peter came along, Cornelius and his household had developed a reverence for God and a life of prayer and giving (10:2)
  • The messengers from Cornelius’ household were sent by God to Peter, not vice versa (10:5-6, 20)
  • God brought Peter the vision of the sheet and animals
  • The Spirit coaxes Peter along: “It’s all right; get up, go down, and go with them.  Don’t be prejudiced.” (10:20)
  • Peter says his change of perspective came because “God showed me I should call nobody ‘common’ or ‘unclean.“” (10:28)
  • Out of the ordinary pattern we see in Acts, the Holy Spirit fell on the household before they were baptized (10:44-48), which is best understood as God showing proactively that these Gentiles were acceptable and baptism should be extended by a reticent Peter

As one of you said in a recent comment, this book is more about the acts of the Holy Spirit than the “acts of the Apostles.”  And yet, it is the acts of the Apostles too, in that they are the vehicles of God’s gospel and grace in a partnership between God and humanity.  They have to obey and go.  Still, this is God’s mission to rescue a lost world.  Like Peter, too often we wouldn’t choose to go where God sends.  We wouldn’t reach out to the people He chooses.  Leave it to God to broaden our horizons!

May we find the places in life where God has already been working.  May we set out to simply play the part that is needed next.

Lord, send us to the Corneliuses of our neighborhoods!

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7 thoughts on “Acts 10: God Leads the Way

  1. I like that….” it wasnt Peter’s plan at all but it was God’s”… theres a lesson there. Lord help me go when its inconvenient and the reason why not understood!
    Thanks my brother for your blog
    Paul

  2. v4- Lord is also being use for “angel of God”. Interesting.

    v11 – 17: Actually it was a vision of Peter. It thought it was a real thing.

    I would like to give some comment regarding this story.

    >It was a vision;
    >Peter refuse to eat the foods;

    From earlier in Mark 16, I have a different about St. Peter. I think this is my third response about Peter, who refuse to call Jesus in court (Mark 16), Peter believe Jesus had killed by hanging him on a tree (Acts 5), and today. It look like he have different mindset from others yet he is Earlier Christian Father and selected among 12 apostle.

    v28 – But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.
    I thought Christian believe in “Original Sin”.

    v45 – “The circumcised believers”, I don’t understand why circumcised believer is being writing. As what I know Christian don’t circumcised.

    v46 – For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
    May be because I don’t believe Jesus as God, but more and more I read, Bible is always emphasize praising God, The Father.

    • Maybe a bit of background information would be good at this point.

      Christianity started as a kind of Judaism. Jesus was a Jew; they called him “Rabbi.” The first disciples and converts were Jews. This new movement was really just a purified version of the Old Testament that had been corrupted by the legalism, isolationism and lack of compassion for the poor of the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus did not come to abolish the principles of the OT, he came to restore them to their original intents.

      Therefore, early Christianity (in the first 25 years after Jesus) was very Jewish. Early Christians still worshiped in the synagogues. They maintained Jewish customs like circumcision and sacred days and food laws. They kept thinking like Jews: there are some things in life that are ritually “clean” and “unclean.” At this point, if a non-Jew wanted to become a Christian they would have had to have become very Jewish as well (get circumcised, follow Jewish customs, etc). The main difference between a Christian and a mainline Jew would have been that the Christian Jews would have said Jesus was the Messiah and the others would not. So this is why you would have “circumcised believers,” Jewish or non-Jewish men who believe that Jesus is the Messiah but are also trying to keep the Jewish customs. So, actually Peter’s thinking here about non-kosher/unclean food (think of it like halal) is what any good Jew or early Jewish Christian would have been thinking. His views here were not different from his contemporaries, though things are about to change for Peter and for everyone else.

      By the time the NT is being written, which is the historical time Acts is talking about (around 55-60 AD), Christians are realizing this set up isn’t working. Jewish religious customs are an added barrier to non-Jews who might believe that Jesus is the Messiah and want to live a life in obedience to him, but they found circumcision, food laws, sacred laws, etc. to be unnecessarily restrictive and culturally nonsensical.

      Then in Acts 10 we see that God has been thinking exactly this point. First century AD Judaism places too much importance on the distinctions (ritual cleanliness or uncleanliness) between Jews and non-Jews: God has made all people, therefore they all can be clean, and He wants all people to come to Him. Yes, He will honor His promises to the Jewish people from the OT (that is why Paul will always go to the Jews in a city on his missionary journeys before he goes to the non-Jews), but God wants to add everyone into His kingdom. So God acts in a pretty decisive way here, and forces everyone’s hand. Take the most important early Christian and make him see that God accepts uncircumcised, ritually unclean non-Jews who don’t follow Jewish food laws and do not observe Jewish sacred days.

      After this point, and especially through the work of Paul, Christianity becomes a Jewish movement that downplays Jewish rituals and customs. It seems they saw themselves as what Judaism or “Israel” was really supposed to be: a people who worship God through Jesus the Messiah who are ethically pure and holy/different people, who uphold the principles of the Mosaic Law, especially the 10 Commandments, but who have dispensed with the exclusionary customs like circumcision, for laws, and sacred days that often stood as barriers to non-Jews. Now non-Jews were more inclined t join them and become what God always wanted: an ethnically-diverse, multi-national group of people.

      Sadly, this was something mainstream Jews could not stomach, so it was not long before Christianity was seen as an entirely separate religion from Judaism and Christianity lost it’s Jewishness.

      One more point: “unclean” in this passage does not mean “sinful.” It just means different or less pure or less set apart than others. Think of it like “chosen people” (= clean) and non-chosen people (= common or unclean). This has more to do with how God sees a person. “Sinful” has more to do with what a person actually does, their rebellion against God. While all Christians believe that people are inclined towards committing sin and therefore become guilty at a point when God is reasonable in holding their decisions against them, not all Christians believe in “original sin.” That is more of a Catholic idea that says even babies are born guilty of sin and could foreseeably be damned to Hell. The majority of Christians do not believe in original sin.

      That is a lot of information, but it will make a lot of things we will read in other books make sense to.

      • That a lot of information, I try to digest it slowly.

        But seem from information you give, I have another hypothesis to study:
        1) Christian – in time of Jesus still live.
        2) Christian – according to 12 apostle
        3) Christian – according to 2nd generation (Paul, Saul, Barnabas, etc.)

        I think there will be a different theology.

  3. During this time of the year I teach an introductory course in Ethics to a group of high school upperclassmen. The field of Ethics is all about determining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Plato would change that wording and say the real issue is not what actions are good/bad rather Ethics is ultimately about WHO is good and bad. It is about your being, who you are. Be a good person.

    And for many Christians today, that is what the religion is all about too. Being a good person. I need Jesus because I am not good enough. I need to follow Jesus by being good. I am in trouble when I am not being good.

    But that is not Christianity. Be we aren’t right with God because of goodness. We aren’t somehow better off with God because we are good. We all stand equally in need of Jesus.

    Case in point: Cornelius. “He was a thoroughly good man.” “Captain Cornelius, a God-fearing man well-known for his fair play.” Yet he still needed Jesus.

    It is good to be good. But it is not enough.

  4. “God plays no favorites!” resonated with me this morning. I’m not sure why.

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