BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday February 5, 2012
BARRIERS COME DOWN
(Christianity breaks through all barriers)
Acts chapter 10 relates how GOD used Peter to open up the doors of the Christian Church to the Gentiles (Non-Jewish) and the Samaritans (half breed Jews). The Jews and Samaritans, who were racially related, over the years, had formed quite a rift between themselves. And of course, the Gentiles had never been accepted by the Jews in any way, form, or fashion, and, were in fact, thought to be altogether “unclean”.
GOD, through a vision that was thrice shown to Peter, convinced him to reach out to the unsaved Gentiles with the message of Salvation (Acts 10:10-20). Actually, Acts chapters 10 & 11 mark a dramatic turning point in Church history, as we see, for the first time, Gentiles hearing and responding positively and corporately to the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST.
We also see in Acts 10, verses 44-48, Gentiles receiving the HOLY SPIRIT, and then being baptized in the name of JESUS for the very first time. Here too in this chapter of Acts, Luke introduces us to Cornelius, a devout man of GOD, and a Centurion in the Roman army. Cornelius, who was a Gentile, first and foremost, feared and prayed to the GOD of Israel. Luke also tells us that Cornelius gave regularly and generously to those who were in need. He was a Gentile who already had a relationship with GOD. In verses 3-6, he tells us that Cornelius also experienced a vision from GOD. It was a vision that, in essence, foretold of the upcoming acceptance of Gentiles into the Church of CHRIST, starting with him and his family, there in Caesarea.
And so, the stage was now set for barriers to come down, and, to bridge the gap, first, between man and himself, and then ultimately, between man and GOD. Also, we see finally, our Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST coming into focus as the personification of that bridge.
GOD had already placed Peter in a real-life situation where he was closely associating with a person who would be deemed by the Jews to be “unclean”. According to Jewish law, and based on Numbers 19, a person who touches the carcass of the dead shall be deemed unclean for a designated period of time, even beyond their cleansing process.
Here in Acts chapter 10, verses 5 & 6, Luke tells us that Peter was in the town of Joppa, an ancient seaport on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. He was living with a man named Simon, who was a leatherworker, a person whose very livelihood depended on him having to deal with dead animal carcasses. The very nature of Simon’s job caused him to be, according to Jewish law, continuously in an “unclean state”.
Most Jews, at that time, would never have accepted hospitality from a person such as Simon. Nevertheless, Simon was a Christian, and no doubt, by now, Peter had already begun to see that Christianity is intended by GOD, to be a revolution against social and racial prejudices, as well as, against pride, and economic disparities.
In Peter’s vision, GOD presented to him, all manner of animals that were traditionally deemed unclean to eat by Jewish, and perhaps, biblical standards. In that vision, the voice commands Peter to kill and eat these animals. Peter, however, protests against this command saying that, “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). Then the voice of GOD tells Peter, “What GOD hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (v. 15) (KJV).
This same vision was repeated three times, and then, the collection of animals ascended back into Heaven. Until that moment, Peter had always thought the Gentiles to be unclean to associate with in any way, but now, GOD was preparing him for the coming of, first, the Gentile Cornelius and his family, and then later, those of the entire Gentile existence, who wished to come into the body of CHRIST and worship and serve HIM.
The purpose of JESUS’ vicarious sacrifice on the cross was so that all men could have the opportunity to receive GOD’s offering of Salvation. Through HIS sacrifice, we were restored back into a relationship of friendship with GOD. JESUS, from that day forward, became the only bridge that could ever reconnect man with GOD.
GOD includes all of us in HIS offer of Salvation, but we must, and can only, volunteer to partake in this free “limited time” offer. No one can ever exclude anyone else from this glorious offer. It is something that we ourselves must choose to do. To put it plainly, GOD does not send anyone to Heaven, or to Hell, we, through our life’s choices, can only choose to go.
In verses 34-35, Peter testifies of his new and enlightened understanding of GOD’s holy plans for the new Christian Church. There he states, “I see very clearly that GOD doesn’t show partiality. In every nation HE accepts those who fear HIM and do what is right” (NLT). He went on to preach the Good News to the Gentiles who were present (Vs. 34-43), and as a result, all of them received the HOLY SPIRIT and were baptized. And the Jewish believers who were present marveled at what they had seen, and how the power of the HOLY SPIRIT was acting upon the Gentiles in the same way that HE had acted upon them at Pentecost. And they abided there with Cornelius for several more days (Vs. 44-48)
(1). Reflect on some of the things, or barriers, that now keep you from, or, can keep
you from, witnessing about CHRIST to certain people. For some it may be racial
differences, or, for others the differences may be social, or economic in nature. But
whatever your differences may be, make a commitment to yourself and to GOD,
that you will strive very diligently to remove those barriers from your heart, and
with GOD’s help, you will be able to succeed.
Pray and ask GOD to come into your life, and, into your heart, and remove anything that may be contrary to HIS will, so that you may no longer grieve the HOLY SPIRIT, through your prejudices against your fellowman, so that HE may work in a greater power within your life, for the exaltation of CHRIST, and, for the blessings of your soul, and the souls of those, whom GOD wishes to save, through your witness.
KEY VERSE: Acts 10:15
DEVOTIONAL PASSAGES: Mark 7:24-30, John 4:3-29, Matthew 8:5-13