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Did You Look?

June 2, 2011

Can we just agree that sometimes…not always…but sometimes, it takes a few times for us to learn a lesson. As a parent, you pick up on this pretty quickly. When I am walking through a parking lot with the three year old, we’ll get to the place where it is important to stop and look and I’ll just ask, “Is anything coming?” Sometimes (I check to see if it’s safe first), I’ll just let him step out there and then ask, “Did you look?” Obviously I do this so that eventually, he’ll learn, and he won’t meet an unfortunate demise because he stepped in front of a car.

Okay…now…take a moment…and read through Acts 11:1-18.

 If you have been following this…this is now the third time that we have heard the story of how Peter went to the home of Cornelius in Caesarea to share the Gospel. We saw it twice in chapter 10 and now here in chapter 11. The first time, I’m not sure Peter understood what was happening. The second time, Cornelius couldn’t hardly believe what was happening. And now, his boys back in Jerusalem are having a hard time understanding what was happening…and despite what you might have assumed, the people of the Bible are strikingly similar to us…and they were ready to criticize what they didn’t understand. Yep…we do that too.

Peter’s response is both simple and beautiful. He doesn’t take the power route and claim greater authority because he is Peter…the rock…the apostle. He just says…and I hope you won’t miss this…”This is what happened.” I know…it’s almost unheard of…instead of choosing to exert his own status and position…instead of claiming higher authority…he just tells them the truth about what happened. And then verse 15 happens. He says, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.” There it is. That’s the definitive statement. Peter has just finished unpacking what happened and then in verse 16 he throws it out there…”John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” What he just said was, “They are the same as we are…these Gentiles…they’re brothers in Christ.”

Don’t miss the importance of this. The Holy Spirit is often misunderstood and cast as a rogue spiritual force that makes people talk funny, wear bad suits, and ask for money…but here we see that it is the Holy Spirit who comes upon the elect of the Father, and brings them to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Peter sees this takes place and asks the question, “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” That’s a good question…not just in the rhetorical sense…but literally. Who am I that I could stand in God’s way? What we must understand, and what Luke has recorded now three times for us in this book, is that God does what He does. We may not say the words, “Can God save gentiles?” But if we are honest, we ask this question all the time. We doubt what God can and will do every day. Maybe it’s your boss…your best friend…the lady with all the birds who lives across the street…we doubt what God can do all the time.

What God is reminding us through the hand of Luke in this text, is that even when we see Him at work…even when the God of creation is flexing, and moving, and we can see it…we still need to be reminded. That’s what is happening here. The wall that separated the Jew from the Gentile has been destroyed by the blood of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit…there is no distinction. God likes reminding us of what He is doing…maybe we’ll eventually learn to remember.

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