Ministry & Leadership - Spring 2017 - 21
too, the attitudes Jewish Christians had
toward what they considered unclean people no longer mattered (vv. 34-43).
But it's more weighty than that. God
told Peter adamantly, "Do not call common what I have made clean" (v. 15). This
puts the matter on a higher plane, to one
of moral compulsion that leads to a fundamental change of attitude - we must
not, outside of faith in Christ, consider
these people different in any way, Peter
This awakening by God within Peter
will fundamentally change the character
of the church going forward. God has revealed to him not to let cultural custom
inhibit his willingness to bring the gospel
into every situation and to every person.
What is more, forgiveness of sin is not
tethered at all to ritual purity; these laws
have been fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which brings atonement and
forgiveness of sins for the believing Jew
and Gentile alike. Peter realizes, How can
I bring a division into Christ's body that He
Himself does not recognize? That would be
to fall into the sin of partiality and call unclean what God has declared clean.
21 Ministry & Leadership
od has brought Cornelius and Peter
to this momentous point. He has
prepared them through angel and
vision. He is a merciful Father who
cares about His individual children.
But He also cares about the success of His fledgling church, and He is not
afraid to boldly intervene and kick down a
barrier that would inhibit its growth.
God the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would
empower the Apostles to bring the kingdom into the uttermost parts of the earth
(Acts 1:8), filled with unclean Gentiles
who need Jesus (10:45). And God will
continue to press this with His apostles
because a man such as Cornelius is not as
foreign to the Jewish Christians as some
rank pagans who will begin filing into the
church. Cornelius was already acquainted
with the living God. But God is rapidly
moving His church to the cusp of the wild,
uncomfortable world of pagan Rome, the
world that will eventually be turned upside down by the Christian message.
In light of God's eternal plan, though,
this was nothing new. If we were to look
carefully at God's covenantal message in
the Old Testament, He always had the
ends of the earth and all nations in view
(cf. Genesis 17:1-8). He worked among the
Israelite nation in preparation, but now, in
and through Christ, He has brought His
kingdom to the nations. The gospel of the
kingdom of Christ has universal implications. This has always been God's plan,
and we see it unfolded in time in Acts 10.
We are seeing every barrier between God
the Father and His gift to His Son removed
- His gift is the nations (Psalm 2:8).
And God is making increasingly clear
that no longer are His people only a light
that draws to itself - they are always that -
but also are sent to the nations. Any church
faithful to God's Word will be concerned
and active in missions and evangelism. God
is a missionary God, leading His people to
neighborhoods, communities, towns, countries - no area is off-limits to the proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ.
A Conversion Text, But of What Sort?
his is a conversion text, but whom is
God converting? He's certainly bringing Cornelius to Himself through
Christ. But he's also converting Peter in a way, enlightening him as to
what has changed of the old now that
Christ has come, as well as broadening
his understanding of the audience for the