Peter, Paul, Practices and Persecution

Our reading this week Acts 10-14 starts out with Peter having issues with his orthodox practices and food previously understood to be unclean. We have to remember that Peter was a devout Jew. Sometimes it is difficult to accept the freedoms that Grace gives, when we have been so accustom to the Law’s limits. While Peter was the Apostle to the Jews, and Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles; neither men were confined to their specific group. In fact Paul had to admonition Peter at Galatia for being hypocritically eating with the Gentiles until renown Jews came and then he separated himself from them. I also noted that Acts 10:1-8 shows Cornelius as devout man, fearing God, giving alms and praying continually; was still lost!. It was through Peter’s vision and meeting with Cornelius that he and his family got saved.  The point here is that we can act like a believer without actually being one. I say this because in verse the Holy Spirit is received by those who heard the Gospel through Peter. Some may say that He was already saved, but the Holy Spirit was not given to the Gentiles yet. That could be a valid point, but the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our lives, verifies the salvation of the person. Also the report given in Acts 11:12-14 indicates a lost condition.  This brings to question are there a lot of “Cornelius’ in the church today? Good people, even appear to be religious, yet are unredeemed? When Peter reports that the Gentiles have been included in the Salvation plan, he take heat from the circumcised. This cultural and religious differences of Samaritans, Greeks and Gentiles will be an issue for the practicing Jews for years to come. The struggle with “New” is always difficult for those who have been institutionalized or become systemic products.

So now we have the Gospel moving from Jews to Greeks to Samaritans and now the Gentiles. Truly the Gospel is for all. The only limits to it are those imposed by man. Peter and Paul would not only have repercussions from internal conflict but also from “Jews or Judaizers” opposed to the “Christ faith” Gospel. I laugh out loud when Perter is persecuted, thrown in jail, the church is praying and when the answer of Peter’s release is given, the Church in prayer refused to listen to Rhoda. How often do we doubt the Lord and his ability/willingness to answer prayer? Another thought, How many times do we miss the answer to our prayers when it is knocking at our door?

Paul is the topic in chapters 13-14. He and Barnabas are set aside for missionary work. As was Paul’s norm he went to the Jewish synagogue to seek out those that would be receptive to the Gospel. The reason for this is because Christianity came out of the Jewish religion, so some familiarity would make a great beginning point. Paul bridges the gap between the Law and Gospel with an eloquent historical speech. While the Gentiles received the Good News heartily, the Jews were overcome with jealousy and incite riots and opposition to Paul’s preaching. This will be an on-going problem for Paul, everywhere He goes the Judaizers will follow behind trying to cause dissension. When the Gospel is preached, it seems that it is met with opposition, just as Jesus’ ministry and teaching did. Point of the passages is that if the Gospel is preached with clarity and the Holy Spirit is moving in people’s lives, it is considered to be offensive even blasphemous for the established Jews. We face similar things today – often we become entrenched into what we have always known Christianity to be; any new method or means of proclamation cause great conflict. Today in our society there is a growing animosity towards the things of God. Less people are receptive to Christianity, because it appears to intolerant and narrow-minded. When God is moving, you and I can count on the evil forces of Satan to be close behind. Paul shows a tenacity when Acts 14:19-22, shows Paul after being stoned, got up and went back into the city. Glutton for punishment or fully trusting in the Lord for strength and power to spread the Gospel? I choose the latter.

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