THE ACTS 20
GOD IS WAITING TO ACCEPT AND FORGIVE
ALL WHO WILL COME TO HIM IN HUMBLE FAITH
After the wonderful events in the house of Cornelius at Caesarea,
Peter returned to Jerusalem. His Jewish brethren from all over
Judea had heard the story of Peter’s adventure with the Gentiles.
This disturbed them, for they had grown up with the belief that the only people acceptable to God were the Jews. So they asked Peter why he had gone into a Gentile house and eaten with them, which was strictly against the Jewish Law.
In answer to their question, Peter recounted the entire story of what had happened there. He told of the appearance of God to him and to Cornelius, and the miraculous coming of the Holy Spirit on the
Gentiles, showing His approval of them. It was quite obvious that it was necessary for God to perform the miracles as proof to those who otherwise would never have accepted the Gentiles. Otherwise the church today would be only an extension of Judaism. When these Gentiles were hearing about and accepting Jesus Christ, they received the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews had on Pentecost. The arrival of the Holy Spirit was with miraculous actions and visible evidence. This left no question about God being the source. It was this undeniable proof that made the Jews know that God had accepted the Gentiles.
Those miracles were necessary in the early days but are not necessary today. When one receives Jesus Christ, they are given the Holy Spirit, which is the presence of God in their life. We know this today because the Bible, the record of God’s Word, assures us of it. Of course we see miracles which give evidence of God’s presence every time the sun comes up or a baby is born. As David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork”. But the miracles, outside the realm of God’s natural world, which were performed to get people’s attention and make them know that God was endorsing the words of the Apostles and establishing His Kingdom on earth, are no longer necessary. We have the Bible, which tells the story and has done so across twenty centuries, and it is enough. Those who claim to perform such miracles do not have God’s approval.
In one short paragraph, Luke records an event which changed history and set the future pattern of the church. He says that those who were scattered, after the death of Stephen, were preaching only to the Jews, but some men from Cyprus and Cyrene came to Antioch and preached to the Greeks, and a great number responded. The center of the church was at Jerusalem until this time. From here on we find the action takes place mostly in and around Antioch. The church has become a worldwide church, not an offshoot of Judaism.
In these events there is a serious lesson for us today, which many in Christendom have never learned. The great barrier to unity is something called Sectarianism. That means being so tied to the rules and rituals of a certain group that we feel no others are accepted by God, and we are the only ones who have the truth. This was the attitude of the Jews, but God showed them differently.
The unity of the Body of Christ does not depend on our perfection, nor our complete agreement with one another. Such can never be. I must realize that God forgives mistakes, even mine. This takes away from the concept of the perfect church. All churches are made up of men, and all men make mistakes. The unity of the church has to be based on our mutual faith in Jesus Christ and our love for all who claim Him as Savior and King. We do not make the rules…He does. And men can neither condemn nor forgive other men for their mistakes in understanding. If one claims Christ as Lord, he is my brother, whether he agrees with me or not. This is the lesson the Jews had to learn in this passage, and it is a lesson sadly needed across all Christendom today.