And Peter knew they were ready for the next step, so they were all baptized. Cornelius wanted Peter to remain with his family for several days which he and his Jewish companions were happy to do. But notice what happened when they returned to Jerusalem.
“Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. ‘You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!’” (Acts 11:1-3, NLT)
The popular sentiment among the people of Israel at that time was decidedly negative toward anyone who wasn’t a Jew. And even among Jewish believers a clear distinction was made between “outsiders” and “insiders.” If you were a Jew, you were an “insider” who was favored by God. This was the accepted thought in Israel.
Blurring the Lines
The Gentiles were viewed as a problem because in the eyes of the Jewish traditionalists they were sinners, outcasts, and “uncircumcised” pagans who should be avoided at all costs.
The Jewish believers were thrown into turmoil when God sent Peter to “evangelize” those whom the elite Jews believed were unredeemable. When he returned to Jerusalem, Peter had a lot of explaining to do, which he did quite well.
“Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. ‘I was in the town of Joppa,’ he said, ‘and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’ ‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’ But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’
This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven” (Acts 11:4-10, NLT).
God made it abundantly clear they were not to look down their proverbial noses at those who were not in their genealogical tree. There may have been a time when God instructed the Jews to separate themselves from others to help preserve their faith, but he had always intended that Israel’s “specialness” would benefit and bless the rest of the world.
No Respecter of Persons
There is no advantage to being Jewish, or American, or of a particular religious faith. Whoever you are, you are loved by God with an eternal, everlasting love! Whether you are Russian, Guatemalan, Mexican, or Swedish, you are loved by God. Whether you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, you are loved by God! Cultural status or race is meaningless with him. National borders are arbitrary manmade distinctions that are meaningless in heaven’s view.
Scripture makes it clear that God is no respecter of persons, or “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34-35, NLT).
Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.
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