Acts Chapter 10 – The Coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles.

There are number of questions that this chapter raises. Not least the fact the Holy Spirit came upon the listening Gentiles before Peter had given any formal call for repentance. This appears to be in the wrong order. It occurred to me that the reason it happened in this way was because if Peter, and the Jewish believers who accompanied him to Cornelius’ house, had waited until he thought that his listeners satisfied any conditions he might have given we would still be waiting for the Holy Spirit to be given to us Gentiles. Such was the attitude of the Jewish people at that time to non-Jewish people. Previously, Peter had a vision of a large sheet being lowered from Heaven containing all sorts of animals which God had previously forbidden the Jews to eat. Then God spoke to Peter “Kill and eat.” Peter refused saying “I have never eaten anything unclean.” This happened three times, and the number three is usually considered very significant in theology, so God was trying to get a very important message across to Peter. Peter was puzzled. He was probably even more puzzled when Cornelius’ messengers arrived looking for Peter and the Holy Spirit told Peter to welcome those he would normally consider unclean and eat with them. Now we are all aware of anti-Semitism in this world, and the Church is not without such prejudice. Equally there is the attitude of Jews to non-Jews. It was the purpose that the Jewish people should be separate from the other nations so that the truth of God should not be diluted until the Messiah came and fulfilled the Law. So Peter’s difficulty in seeing the great commission as going to tell the Jews around the world the Gospel, with the possibility of including those who were partly Jewish like the Samaritans, or converts to Judaism. But taking the Gospel to Pagans was not something that Peter and his fellow Apostles had taken on board despite the hints from Jesus such as saying “I will only give you the sign of Jonah”, true he only directly referred to the three days and nights in the belly of the fish or whale, but Jonah’s mission was to the pagan Assyrians. Later Peter would revert to type under the influence of the Judaisers and Paul had to rebuke him. When Peter had to report his actions to the church in Jerusalem he had a frosty reception. He had to convince them that this was the work of the Holy Spirit. God knew the mindsets of the other Jewish Christian leaders. One should also remember that while Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism then it was under the protection that Judaism had under the Romans because they were exempted from calling Caesar Lord so there was pressure not to differentiate too much between the followers of Jesus and non-believing Jews. When this came about then the Church was open to persecution from the Roman authorities. The news that Gentiles were being converted made it more difficult to persuade religious Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, something hinted at by James when Paul met James at the end of his third missionary journey. If you were living cheek by jowl to Jewish Temple authorities in Jerusalem the last thing you would do would be to emphasise the distinctive aspects between Christianity and Judaism. So God had to intervene, to use a pagan metaphor, because once the genie was out of the bottle it could not be put back in. It was on God’s agenda that the Gentiles would be reached with the Gospel if not the Jewish Church.
David Rose, 2015.

About davidgrose

I am a Bible believing Christian, brought up in the Brethren Movement, and now find myself associating with charismatics even though I do not always agree with them. I am in full-time employment. I have interests in history and photography amongst others.
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