Scripture reading for May 20th: Acts 11
The news that Peter took the Gospel to the Gentiles reached the Jewish believers in Jerusalem and caused a stir! They had trouble understanding how Peter could go into the house of a Gentile! The old teachings of Judaism were hard to overcome! Jesus had told them that it was not possible to put the ‘new wine’ in ‘old wine-skins’! (Matthew 9:17)
Peter met with these circumcised believers and explained how God had given him a vision of a sheet with unclean animals on it and told him to get up and eat. He told them how he had protested that the animals were unclean and he had never eaten any of them before in obedience to God’s law. Then the voice from heaven spoke to Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 11:9) After this had occurred three times, a group of men sent by Cornelius appeared at Peter’s door asking him to come and share a message that would bring salvation to the entire household. The Holy Spirit told Peter to go with them.
Peter recounted his experience to them, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as He had on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God? When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life!” (Acts 11:15-18)
Recognizing and believing on Jesus Christ brought ‘repentance unto life’ to the Gentiles! Have you entered this new life?
Scripture reading for June 17th: Acts 11:1-30
Without a vision, people cast off restraint. (Proverbs 29:18) Spiritual vision is the ability to see with the eyes of the heart what God is doing and where He is taking you. Accurate spiritual vision will always line up with the Word of God, which never changes.
The leadership of the early church was overwhelmingly devout Jews who had come to Christ. Their understanding of God’s plan was filtered through their religious training and traditions. There were parts of the Holy Scriptures that they were not open to and God had to help them. God worked with Peter first, helping him to see the need to go to the Gentiles. When the others in Jerusalem heard that Peter went to the Gentiles, they did not understand and criticized Peter. (Acts 11:1-3)
Peter explained how God had helped him to see that the Gentiles were also to be saved. (Acts 11:14) God worked in such a miraculous and supernatural manner, that their eyes were opened to God’s bigger plan. When these Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues, all doubt was removed! (Acts 11:15-17) Those who heard the testimony began to praise God for granting the Gentiles repentance to eternal life!
With this new vision, the scattered church began to preach to the Gentiles in distant lands. Some went to Cyprus and Cyrene and Antioch preaching to the Greeks there. “The Lord’s hand was on them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) God’s grace brought salvation to all who would believe! The disciples in Jerusalem sent Barnabas who found Saul and both went to preach in Antioch and instruct the believers there. Great numbers of people were brought to the Lord as these apostles taught in Antioch for a whole year together. It is recorded that Christ’s followers were first called “Christians” at Antioch! (Acts 11:26)
New vision, expanded ministry, and great numbers of people being saved brought excitement and joy to the early church. Men and women, full of the Holy Spirit preached and taught, bringing the Word of Jesus Christ to Jew and Gentile alike. God saved all who believed! This simple program is still in effect today! God wants to use you to reach the world you live in! Are you full of vision and equipped with the Holy Spirit?