Posts Tagged Gentiles

The Gentiles and the Spirit

Acts 10: 44 – 45

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Peter, once brash and impetuous, matured into a grand spiritual leader. In this passage we see the perfect model of a New Testament preacher. The best message one can deliver is the one which invites and gives space to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us the Spirit would teach us, guide us and be our constant helper. Jesus’ departure ushered in the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit is on the scene, miracles happen, people are healed and the blessings of the Lord touch the hearts of believers. The presence of the Spirit of God is what is needful because he is the power of God.

How do we know, however, when the Spirit is present? In today’s passage the circumcised believers (Messianic Jews) were amazed because they witnessed the pouring out of the Spirit upon the Gentiles. How did they know God poured out the Spirit on these Gentiles? Verse 46 reads, “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.” The manifestation of speaking with tongues comes with the Holy Spirit. These people began speaking with tongues and exalting God and the Jewish believers recognized the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon them. Apparently, as they listened to Peter’s message about Jesus, the Spirit fell upon all who listened and the Spirit’s presence was obvious to those who accompanied Peter.

It must have been quite an occasion for celebration in Cornelius’ home that day. His family was saved, adopted into the family of God and they received the out pouring of the Holy Spirit. I would say Peter did his job.

It is not important that we say lofty, eloquent prayers or deliver sophisticated sermons. Jesus said only one thing was needful. That needful thing is the Divine Trinity. Where they are allowed freedom and communion, they charge the atmosphere with power and the glory of God. We just need God in all three persons. In this generation, we have given ourselves to the lordship of Christ. Through him we have met the Father face to face. Now we need to actively pursue the same sort of relationship with God’s Spirit. That relationship takes the same thoughtful and purposeful seeking which we each employed in coming to know the Father and the Son. If we do not pursue Him, then we will never know him or the power of his might. We will not have all Jesus died to give us. We can spend our entire lives never knowing him. Our Christianity will likely remain intact but will we be two-thirds Christian? How can we be fully united with God if we do not know one-third of the Triune Divinity?

I think these are troubling questions, theologically. The fix, however, is perfectly simple. It is our responsibility to seek the Spirit and come to know him as we do the Father and the Son. Second, as we wander through this world, engaging with others, our relationship with the Spirit brings him into association with those we encounter. We are the vessels which carry the Holy Spirit into all the world. It sounds trite but it is, none the less, God’s plan. Let us devote ourselves, therefore, to knowing the Spirit or, indeed, coming to know him better. Let us pursue him relentlessly. He is the teacher Jesus spoke of so importune him to teach you about himself and about all the things of God.

Holy Heathen

Acts 10: 4

Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

This is from the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. It is a story of faith and devotion. Cornelius garnered God’s attention, which is remarkable in that he was a Gentile. This soldier, though, is responsible for a major change in the church.

The Messiah was the promise of the Jews. There was a great debate in the first century church about Gentiles becoming members of the fold. It was a radical idea, to say the least. For all time, there was great separation between the Jews and everyone else. The Jews were set apart as God’s chosen. Most of the Old Testament is the chronicle of God’s people opposing and be opposed by the Gentile nations. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of promise clearing out the nations before them. At times, He even gave Israel explicit instructions to slay every person, even women and children. He not only condoned, but in specific situations, ordered genocide. You will understand, then, how opposed the Jews were to share the Messiah and salvation through him with Gentiles.

As if that is not enough incentive for the Jews to exclude Gentiles, consider also that the Romans were an occupying army. They were rulers over Israel, military oppressors. The Jews were under Roman rule as defeated foes and Rome exerted great control over the Jewish nation. In most meaningful ways, Israel was again captive to a foreign power. Imagine, then, when some of these Gentiles began clamoring to join the church of Jesus. Cornelius was worse than the garden variety Gentile. He was an officer of the oppressor army. He was part of the power structure which allowed the Jews Messiah to die a horrible death on a cross. Could anyone be more vile to a Jew?

None the less, God heard this Gentile officer. Cornelius’ gifts of money and his devotion to prayer ascended to the throne room of God. Cornelius moved God through his faith and devotion. God was so moved that He summoned the Apostle Peter and sent him to Cornelius.

Peter was one of those who argued for the sanctity of the Jewish elect. In this bold move, though, God gave Peter a vision that forever changed the complexion of the Christian church. Upon his arrival at the home of Cornelius, Peter broached this very subject saying, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him,” (Acts 10: 28). None the less, there he was, standing in this heathen’s home. Why? It could not have been easy for him to depart from cultural norms and laws.

Gentiles are now welcomed members of God’s holy family but it began with one man’s devotion to prayer and the giving of alms. His prayers and his giving caught the attention of heaven. God sent an angel to him and a vision to Peter. God roused the leader of the church and sent him to the home of a Gentile so that salvation could come upon Cornelius’ household.

What will God do for those who are already of the household of faith when we emulate Cornelius by dedicating ourselves to prayers and to giving alms? How would you like the report about your prayer life and gifts to God ascending to the throne room? We need to understand that from our position here on earth, we can cause a stir in heaven. Perhaps God will send an angel to you or stir a prophet to visit you. Cornelius was as unlikely a candidate for divine intervention as one could imagine and yet because he was faithful, God literally moved heaven and earth for him. What a splendid testimony!

This is a call for us all to dedicate ourselves to greater devotion. It is early in the year; still a good time to make a New Year’s resolution. What would life look like, what would the church look like if we all resolve to be known, by heaven, as people of prayer? What if we each set a personal goal to distinguish ourselves through our giving?

Post your thoughts below in the comment section or visit our site at www.iveyministries.org. What does this story tell us and how might it impact our lives as well as the church?

Christmas Joy for All

Matthew 2: 10

And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

The second chapter of Luke also tells the Christmas story. In the tenth verse the angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” Hallelujah! The good news of Jesus’ birth is a message of great joy for all people.

Sometimes we think and act like our fellowship with the Lord is a private club only for those with special membership. We begin to divide the world into we, the saved, and they, the unsaved. There is something very interesting revealed in today’s passage, though. The first worshipers of Jesus were heathen. However, they received the good news of Jesus and rejoiced exceedingly.

The Magi were from the east, perhaps Babylon. They were star worshipers, probably worshiping the sun and moon. However, when they saw the Christmas star, they abandoned their home land and journeyed to Jerusalem. There they found the baby Jesus. Matthew 2: 11 says that when they saw the child, “they fell down and worshiped Him.” As we tell the Christmas story we should remember that Jesus belongs to people from every land. His birth was for all people. Every nation will bow down to him and we can also expect them to receive this good news with great joy. He is not just our savior; he is the savior of the world.

Jesus went to his own people but the Jews didn’t receive him. Fortunately for most of us, we gentiles were invited to the wedding feast. We need to keep that in mind as we encounter people who are not yet Christians and as we consider the blessing of Jesus’ coming this Christmas. He came to and for all people. We need not divide ourselves into the “us” and “them” category because it was “they” who traveled many miles, perhaps over 100 in order to worship the newly born King of the Jews when the Jews didn’t go across town to take him expensive gifts. The heathen magi received the new king with great joy and bestowed honor on him.

So remember, the first worshipers of Jesus were Gentiles. There are many people who are not Christians right now who will receive the good news with great joy. Jesus’ birth is such good news for all people. There is no separation. We are all the beloved of God. The only difference in us versus them is time. We received our salvation yesterday while they will receive theirs tomorrow. The important thing is for us all to receive this gift of the child king with rejoicing. Let us not lose our joy over what Jesus has done for us. Let us all worship him with great joy.

Read the whole story at Matthew 2: 1- 11