“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
There was a young-man of 75 years named Abram, who heard this message from the Lord and obeyed. This message is the beginning of the story of the Bible appearing in Genesis 12:1–3. Chapter 12 begins following a man who turned into a nation. God’s promise for obedience was threefold. 1. Land—“Go to the land I will show you.” 2. Seed—“you will be a great nation.” 3. Blessing—“I will bless you and make your name great…I will bless those who bless you…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” In todays passage, the third of God’s three promises to Abram (later Abraham) comes to fruition.
Acts 10 begins one of the most controversial issues of the early church—that is, does a person need to become Jewish to become a Christian? It was not uncommon for non-Jews to convert to Judaism and become “proselytes.” There were many more people, however, that were attracted to Judaism, but chose not to go through with the membership procedure involving a pair of scissors. As one might imagine, circumcision was a barrier for conversion.
One of the primary “problems” with Israel in the Old Testament was the belief that God’s blessing stopped with them. By the time we enter into the New Testament, the Jews thought pretty highly of themselves. We see this in Peter’s words to Cornelius, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” There is wisdom in the Old Testament about associating with non-Jews, but this statement missed the point. Israel, as promised to Abram, was supposed to be a blessing to the whole world. God’s Covenant, although beneficial to an individual, is something to be shared, never hoarded. This is a mistake we too often make as well. We are not saved only for our benefit. Although we benefit, we are saved to glorify God and make Him famous in our world by proclaiming the Good News of salvation to others.
Peter gets it. “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Then as Peter shared the message of the Gospel, we see the effect. While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
The amazing thing is that the Spirit came upon Gentiles without circumcision. They experienced the sign of the New Covenant (Jer. 31) without following the Old Covenant. The implications here are earth-shattering to the Jews. This is scandalous. This will be one of the central issues of the New Testament and will be a main topic for Paul’s later writings. Even after the issue is settled in chapter 15, this will be an ongoing struggle.
Questions for reflection:
What does it mean to you that your salvation was a part of God’s plan since the beginning?
Are you guilty of keeping the message of salvation to yourself?
What is one practical thing you could do to spread the name of the Lord today?
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate