You Are Included

     Why do I believe the Church is of God? Because the Church has gone through crisis after crisis for over two thousand years and is still standing today. One such crisis the Church faced is found in Acts 10-11. It is the crisis of what to do with the gentiles. Let’s look at some history to understand the problem.

     The Church began at Pentecost. All twelve apostles were Jews as was the one hundred and twenty who met in the Upper Room. Jews came from long distances to celebrate the Festival of Harvest’s. Jerusalem was filled with Jews from every corner of the ancient world. But there were no Gentiles in the early Church until we come to the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion.
     Cornelius had a vision of an angel to send some men to Joppa to the house of Simon the Tanner and get Simon Peter. Cornelius sends three men to Joppa. In the meantime Peter has a vision of a sheet descending from heaven with all kinds of non- Kosher foods. The word came to him, “prepare them to be eaten”. Peter protested and said, “I have never eaten anything forbidden according to Jewish law.” The voice said, “Nothing is unclean if God declares it clean.” (Acts 10:15) This happens three times.
     In the meantime, the three men from Cornelius show up and ask for Peter and explained their reason for being there. The next morning Peter leaves with the three men and goes to the home of Cornelius. Peter tells them “it’s against the Jewish law for me to associate with or even visit the home of the one who is not a Jew.” (Acts. 10:28) Peter asks why Cornelius sent for Peter. Cornelius explained how the angel appeared to him and asked that he send for Simon Peter in Joppa.
     Peter realized that God was doing a new thing and including gentiles into the Church. Peter said, “Now I know for certain that God doesn’t show favoritism with people but treats everyone on the same basis. It makes no difference what race of people one belongs to if they show reverence for God and are committed to doing what is right; they are accepted before him.” (Acts 10:34-35)
     While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell on all those listening to his message. Peter and the other Jews who came with him were amazed that the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who weren’t Jews. Those who received the Holy Spirit were also baptized.
     This was the first group of gentiles to be included in the Church and it took some doing to convince hardened traditional Jews that the gospel was meant for all people regardless of who they were.
     The lesson for us today is to make sure all persons are invited to be included in the Church and receive the gospel and offer them a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s make sure no one is left out of this invitation.
Pastor Gene Wells