"Sometimes long held beliefs have to be laid aside as God
works his purposes out."
Read Acts 10:44-48
There is a presumption among some that all that we believe has been laid down in stone and should be tampered with at our peril - but of course what we have and cling to now as the bedrock of our faith has been refined over the centuries.
Scholars have studied Scripture and the life and theology of the early Church and come to an understanding of what is central to our faith, and sometimes those things that can be safely put to one side, as God increases our knowledge and wisdom, and leads us on our journey of faith.
Here we have a classic case in point. It’s just a group of
people being baptised you might say, and of course it is - a
source of great joy to Peter and the others who were there.
But the interesting thing is that when Peter says in verse
47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being
baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just
as we have” this is not something he would have said just 24
hours earlier. Peter was thinking on his feet and came to
the conclusion that sometimes God is a God of surprises.
Sometimes long held beliefs have to be laid aside as God works his purposes out.
Luke, who wrote Acts, spends quite a bit of time and
materials in expanding on this encounter, for a very good
reason. You see right at the very beginnings of Christianity
it could have quite easily just become another Jewish sect.
Then Peter went up on a roof to pray, fell asleep and had a
very vivid dream. In it God revealed to him that his People
were more than just the nation of Israel, that God’s arms
extended all around this world to all peoples and all
Peter puts it this way in Acts 10:35 “I now realise that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”
That’s why when he was called to go to Cornelius’ house and the Holy Spirit comes down on the whole household, Peter forgets that these people are Gentiles, and uncircumcised as well, and offers them baptism by water (an action for which he was roundly criticised by some Jewish believers, until he explained the whole vision and reasons why).
Yesterday he would have insisted that the men were circumcised before offering them baptism, that they should be adopted into the Jewish nation first. Today he sees no need, because he says in verse 43 of Chapter 10, “...everyone who believes in (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The message of this passage is be prepared, God might challenge what you believe and hold to be true, for the sake of the Church as a whole. Are you prepared to be challenged by a God who shows no favour and has no favourites, who counts all people as called to be a part of his family?
What would have happened if Peter had not been obedient to the message that came to him in that dream on the rooftop? Would we be here today? Probably not. Would Christianity have spread around the world? Probably not.
Peter was obedient, the Christian Church began to take on
its own identity outside of Judaism, and the rest, as they
say, is history – because Peter was obedient