My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Someone asked Peter, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  Peter’s answer was “Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39).

Did Peter apply this command and promise to you and me?  Actually, he did not apply the Acts 2:38-39 answer to every living individual in 30 A.D.  It would be another ten years before any Jewish Christian considered an uncircumcised Gentile as a Good News candidate.  You and I are Gentiles.  When Peter was on his way to the house of Cornelius, it did not enter his mind that Gentiles, in their uncircumcised condition, would be accepted into covenant relationship with God (Acts 10:34-35).  Even though he made the statement in verse 34-35, he was just as “amazed” as his accompanying brethren when the Gentiles were immersion in the Holy Spirit.  Before returning to Jerusalem, some of the saints in the Pharisee Party were waiting to criticize his actions (Acts 11:2-3).  Paul and Barnabas debated this Party in Antioch.  They couldn’t settle this universal church problem there, so they took it to the first church in Jerusalem where the apostles and Jerusalem elders settled it by accepting James’ suggestion (Acts 15:1-2, 5-6, 13-22).  However, some Jewish members continued to be uncomfortable with the addition of uncircumcised Gentiles.  Peter got caught up in this problem and became hypocritical, causing Paul to publicly correct him (Galatians 2:11-15).  Apostles and prophets were too involved with Gentiles in their day to address those living in the twenty-first century.

The first century church was nearsighted as far as you and I are concerned.  After all, Jesus was the circumcised Jewish Messiah, sent to circumcised Jewish believers to fulfill Jewish scripture.  The mother church was Jewish.  The scriptures used by that church were Jewish which were good for “doctrine,” “instruction in righteousness” and would make the person “perfect” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Being circumcised put one in covenant relationship with God and was part of the doctrine, righteousness, and perfection of biblical teaching!  Peter could not see 1, 989 years into the future, when they weren’t sure about Gentiles in their own time.  How could Gentiles be exempt from a God ordained surgery which they had submitted to for 1,600 years?  Why weren’t Gentiles required to worship at the Temple, in the synagogue, sacrifice animals, support the Levitical priesthood, and keep the Law of Moses as they zealously continued doing (Acts 21:20)?  Obedience to those things were plainly visible in the Law, the prophets, and the writings (Luke 24:44).

Perhaps none of the inspired writers were thinking of us, but the problem we have today in modern Christianity was dealt with by Paul about twenty-five years after the events of Acts 2.  He discusses that problem in the first four chapters of his letter to the Corinthians.  That problem can be seen in their work and worship as one goes through the rest of the letter.

Christianity today is not divided into allegiance to “Paul,” “Apollos,” “Cephas,” or “Christ,” but into more than 5,000 other ways!  Jesus prayed that his followers would be “one” (John 17:20-21).  The more we divide, the more difficult that unity becomes.  Our beliefs and prejudices overshadow our allegiance to Jesus’ plea.  We justify our differences and magnify them even more.  The more we divide, the further we get from God’s goal.  The answer we need was given by Peter 2,000 years ago,

Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).  Perhaps Jesus looks at our divisiveness and asks, “Will you also go away?” (John 6:67).   What message does a divided Christianity tell the world (John 17:21b)?  Aren’t we all guilty?