28 August 2015

Jew or Gentile

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. ~Acts 10:44-48
The context of these verses is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Cornelius, a Centurion, believed. He taught his household. They lived faithfully, and Cornelius took seriously the charge to relieve the suffering of others, to care for the poor. This faithful man was visited by an angel and instructed to send for Simon Peter. Cornelius did so, and as his servants were traveling to ask Peter to come to Cornelius' house, Peter had the vision of the sheet let down from heaven holding all manner of traditionally unclean animals, with God telling him three times to kill and eat. He pondered on this, and as Cornelius' servants were literally at the door, asking for Peter, God revealed the meaning of the vision to him: “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them” (Acts 10:29b-20).

I love how God orchestrated these events, happening in perfect concert, to open the way for what happens next.

So Peter went with these Gentiles who came calling, and when he reached Cornelius' house, preached the reality of Jesus' life, death, and victory. As he bore witness--personal witness that he had seen Jesus Christ--the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles. The Jews there, in Cornelius' house, had received the ordinances they believed were necessary for God to favor anyone . . . and yet, here were these uncircumcised Gentiles speaking in tongues and praising God. Various translations render the word "magnify" in verse 46 as extolling, exalting, praising, and declaring the greatness of God. And let me tell you: when Holy Spirit falls upon you, that's all you want to do, so great is your awe and wonder at the love and acceptance He pours out without measure.

The Jews had faith in their ordinances.

The Gentiles had no ordinances.

Yet God poured out upon both groups without respect to that difference.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8
The gospel is so, so simple: Jesus WON. He will rescue us, and in so doing, win our hearts with the sheer beauty of His love and the wonder of His gift, and then we follow Him forever more, as our lives become a love offering to the One who has given us everything.

We don't need to complicate, pad, or embellish the gospel. We just need to live it, in its simplicity, its no-limits, boundless possibility. Praise God! :o)

He says to us:
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. ~3 Nephi 11:30
And:
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. 
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. 
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth. ~3 Nephi 11:38-41
And:
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. ~Luke 22:19-21 

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!