Acts Part Two Deep Dive
THE CHAPTER THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING | KATIE HALDANE
It is easy to overlook things that change the course of history, you can miss moments that you didn’t realise had so much impact. When you are reading the Book of Acts, there are incredible moments that formed the Christian church as we know it and if they didn’t happen, we would be in a very different church indeed.
One of these pinnacle moments is found in Acts 10. As you read the Book of Acts, Jesus is building His church and it is not going to look the way everyone thinks; the New Testament Church is going to include Gentiles, women, slaves and the poor. I love reading Acts because it is upon the foundation of the decisions made in this book that the church is built.
Let’s look at Acts 10. It opens with a statement, ‘At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment’. Who is this man? He is a Roman, a Gentile, a person that Peter would not be allowed to associate with. But Jesus has other ideas and, in a dream, God removes Peter’s prejudices for the sake of the gospel and starts the process to change the future of the Church.
Peter, as a good Jewish man, did not associate with Gentile believers, could not enter their house or eat with them as they were unclean (have a look at Peters statement in Acts 10:27). But God changed his mind in an incredible vision, which makes me laugh every time I read it. Have you ever been so confident in your own opinion and prejudices that you even argue with God that you are correct? That is what Peter does in Acts 10:14. A sheet comes down out of heaven, containing ‘all kind of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds’ and God says to Peter, ‘kill and eat’. Now, these are animals that are classed as unclean the the Jewish people, so Peter corrects God, saying, ‘Surely not Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean’. Basically, Peter is saying he is clean by his actions and wouldn’t dare touch anything that causes him to be unclean. But God rebukes him, saying ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’. God is saying, ‘open your mind Peter, remove your prejudices and see what I am about to do’ [Katie paraphrased].
This is the best story. While Peter is still sitting there completely confused by the vision, wrestling with his prejudices, traditions, preconceived ideas of cleanliness, God interrupts him with the answer and tells him that three men are looking for him, to not hesitate to go with them. Peter gets the hint, invites the three men into his house and then goes to Cornelius’ house the next day. Still trying to come to grips with what God is doing, Peter chats to those gathered in Cornelius’ house and does the best opening speech I have ever heard. He tells them that he is not supposed to be with them as they are ‘unclean’ but God gave him a vision and he has realised that God does not show favouritism, but accepts every nation. This is a ‘How to win friends and influence people’ moment, calling your host ‘unclean’!
God is trying to change Peter’s mindset to see the bigger vision of the Church. It reminds me of a preach that one of my youth leaders did years ago, he said this statement and it has always stuck with me, ‘When you think you have God all sorted out and put Him in a box, He will get out of the box and slap you over the head. God cannot be contained in your limited thinking!’
That is what God does here to Peter, He jumps out of His box of prejudice and slaps him on the head with one mind blowing act, but He is not finished with Peter yet, He does one more unthinkable thing: He baptises these ‘unclean’ people in the Holy Spirit. Look at Acts 10:44 ‘While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God’.
Now that is revolutionary, while Peter is speaking – no-one laid hands on them – God interrupts and baptises them in the Holy Spirit and they begin speaking in tongues. This is God’s endorsement of the seemingly ‘unclean’, He gives them the Holy Spirit! He makes them clean! I love this! Peter cannot deny now that God has accepted these people, and who is he to argue with God? You can imagine God’s words resounding in his head ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’ (Acts 10:15).
Foundations of freedom
This changed the Church as we know it, we as Gentiles are allowed into the people of God through salvation in Jesus Christ alone. As we read the New Testament, we are going to see Paul build upon this foundation, and declare that there is ‘neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’.
Continue to read this incredible journey of the Church accepting the Gentiles, read Acts 15 where they had a Council meeting in Jerusalem to decide if Gentiles had to be circumcised as a sign of salvation. Paul, Barnabus and Peter spoke at the Council and they decided that Gentiles do not need to become Jews to be accepted (praise Jesus). Without Acts 10 and Acts 15, the Church would look very different today. Don’t miss these incredible moments, orchestrated by God, in working the foundations of His church. We are all saved one way: by confessing with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believing in our hearts.
These incredible truths are going to be unpackaged in the New Testament letters, but they began in the development of the Church in Acts. Jesus came that we all might be saved and given the gift of the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing us of our future life in heaven.
Don’t miss these incredible chapters that are the foundation of the freedom that we stand on today. It is upon these visions and revelations that God has built His church.