Gentiles Too

The Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea
heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God.
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem
the circumcised believers confronted him, saying,
‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.”
Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying,
“I was at prayer in the city of Joppa
when in a trance I had a vision,
something resembling a large sheet coming down,
lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me.
Looking intently into it,
I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth,
the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky.
I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.’
But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir,
because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
But a second time a voice from heaven answered,
‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’
This happened three times,
and then everything was drawn up again into the sky.
Just then three men appeared at the house where we were,
who had been sent to me from Caesarea.
The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.
These six brothers also went with me,
and we entered the man’s house.
He related to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying,
‘Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter,
who will speak words to you
by which you and all your household will be saved.’
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them
as it had upon us at the beginning,
and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said,
‘John baptized with water
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us
when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I to be able to hinder God?”
When they heard this,
they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying,
“God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”
(Acts 11:1-18)

Scripture Study

The Jewish Christians of Jerusalem were scandalized to learn of Peter’s sojourn in the house of the Gentile Cornelius. Nonetheless, they had to accept the divine directions given to both Peter and Cornelius. They concluded that the setting aside of the legal barriers between Jew and Gentile was an exceptional ordinance of God to indicate that the apostolic kerygma was also to be directed to the Gentiles. Only in Acts 15 at the “Council” in Jerusalem does the evangelization of the Gentiles become the official position of the church leadership in Jerusalem.

11:2 the circumcision party: Believers from Israel shocked at Peter’s disregard for the Jewish policy of separation from Gentiles (10:28). Some of them stubbornly maintained this policy even after the Gentiles were openly accepted into the Church (Gal 2:12).

11:17 the same gift: The equal footing of Jews and Gentiles before God is shown by their equal reception of the Spirit. Peter appeals to this fact at the Jerusalem Council when he denies that Gentiles must add circumcision to Baptism to become full members of the New Covenant (15:7–11).

11:18 repentance unto life: Involves turning away from sin and leads to Baptism (2:38).

Scripture Reflection

We are in the midst of a leadership transition from Peter to Paul—a leadership transition that mirrors the transition from a Jewish church to a Jewish-Gentile church. Peter was the most prominent apostle in the first part of the book of Acts, but Saul’s conversion in chapter 9 signaled the beginning of a new era. Chapter 10 tells the story of the vision that opened Peter’s mind to the inclusion of Gentiles in the church—and of Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized. Chapter 11 tells of Peter defending his association with Gentiles to the Jerusalem church. Chapter 12 will tell of Peter being imprisoned by Herod and released from prison by an angel. Beginning with chapter 13, Saul (Paul), the great missionary to the Gentiles, takes the lead among the apostles, and we will hear only once more from Peter (15:7-11). Transitions can be challenging for us as they were for the two apostles. Our ability to move effectively through these transitions is very often a result of our ability to remain open to God’s direction in our lives.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.