In Joppa, Peter stayed with a certain Simon, a tanner by trade (Acts 9:43). Meanwhile, in Caesarea, about twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) from Joppa, there lived a Roman centurion named Cornelius. He and his household were devout worshipers of God, though they had not yet formally adhered to Judaism, meaning that Cornelius was still an uncircumcised Gentile. In a God-given vision, he was instructed to send messengers to Joppa and invite Peter to visit him (Acts 10:1-8).
It is important to know that Peter’s vision was not about food but about people. Yes, it was around noon, Peter was hungry, and the voice told him to kill and eat; yet, God used the vision, not to remove the distinction between clean and unclean animals but to teach Peter about the inclusive character of the gospel.
The vision was explicitly intended to break Peter’s resistance against Gentiles. Peter’s view was that if he entered Cornelius’s house and fellowshiped with him, he would defile himself and so become unfit to worship in the temple or to come before God’s presence. First-century Jews from Judea and the surrounding areas did not associate with uncircumcised Gentiles.
The problem was with the contemporary theology, which excluded the Gentiles from the commonwealth of Israel, even though this view had become a perversion of the whole point of Israel’s existence as a nation, which was to reach out to the world with a knowledge of the true God.
Because circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, uncircumcised Gentiles came to be segregated and treated with contempt. They could have no part whatsoever in the blessings of the covenant unless they accepted circumcision and became Jews. Such a concept, though, was incompatible with the universal scope of Jesus’ death, as the early believers, over time, were coming to understand.
|Read Titus 2:11, Galatians 3:26-28, and Ephesians 2:11-19. What do these texts teach us about the universality of the gospel message? What should they tell us about how wrong it is for Christians to harbor prejudice against any group based on ethnicity?|
Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons