Old Testament: 2 Samuel 1 & 2
Poetry: Proverbs 17
New Testament: Acts 11
We pick it back up in Acts with chapters 10 and 11 that tell a story and then the retelling of the same story. These chapters play an integral part in the big picture of God’s plan. It’s the beginning of the fulfillment of the part of the New Covenant that extends God’s promises to the Gentiles. It was a turning point for the early church because it recorded the moment that Gentiles were officially accepted as children of God. Peter was given a vision that all food was clean because it was made by God. This represents the changes from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Therefore, the Jewish Christians are no longer under the same laws that was presented to the Israelites in the Old Covenant. Now, the church could include the uncircumcised and non-Mosaic law followers. Additionally, we see the Gentiles receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and the different gifts that come with God’s power. Now, God-fearing Gentiles no longer have to be excluded on the basis of not being circumcised or under the law. This message from God was aimed to unite those who followed God and believed in Jesus. This allowed the Jewish Christians and the Gentiles who feared God and professed Jesus as their Messiah to be united together under the New Covenant.
This was such an important message because the Jews prided themselves on being an exclusive group that looked down on those who were uncircumcised and not under the Mosaic law. Romans 3 addresses this issue that the Jews struggled with. Paul comes to the conclusion that both Jews and Gentiles are sinful and equally in need of a Savior. This concept should have greatly humbled the Jews because of how they perceived their status as God’s chosen people. They elevated themselves and compared their ‘righteousness’ to the wickedness of the world. What they didn’t fully comprehend was that God holds those who know more about Him to higher standards. God presented his people with the Mosaic law and a contract in Deuteronomy 28 that is full of blessings and curses that God would distribute depending on how the Israelites obeyed God. The final and worst curse was being exiled to a foreign nation. And from this side of history, we know that the Israelites were in fact sent into exile because of the faithlessness of Israel, and worse even, the unfaithfulness of Judah. The ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled in 722 B.C. by Assyria and the southern two tribes of Judah were exiled in 586 B.C. by Babylon.
Even during the exile though, God was still working for the good of Israel. His prophet Jeremiah prophesied about the future hope of a New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 says, “ ‘The days are coming’, declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them’, declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” This clearly shows that the New Covenant was intended for the Jewish people first. God desires hearts that are devoted to Him. The Jews broke the first covenant with their disobedience and worship of idols. So, God created the plan of sending Jesus to establish a New Covenant by dying on the cross. But the Jews rejected this Messiah that God sent. As a result, this New Covenant focused more on the heart of the recipient. It was based on loving God and accepting Jesus as Christ instead of following the Mosaic law. Therefore, the Gentiles who loved God and accepted Jesus as the Messiah automatically became equals to the Jewish Christians. God cares much more about the heart than he does about statuses.
The complete unification of God’s people will ultimately be fulfilled in the Kingdom when all nations, tongues, and tribes will be represented. Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.’ ”
Peter was chosen for the task of preaching to the Gentiles and convincing the Jews that God had included the Gentiles in his promises. He sums it up in chapter 10:34 by saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
The big theological lesson from these chapters is that God desires all people to be in His Kingdom, so He extends his love and grace to the Gentiles. His desire all along was that Israel would be witnesses of God to the world and would bring the nations to Him. But the Israelites found out early on that it was very difficult to bring others to God when you are not following God wholeheartedly yourselves. This did not keep them from repeating the same mistakes. This does not mean that the church or the Gentiles replaced Israel. Instead, these two chapters present the extension of the New Covenant to the Gentiles even though it is still offered to any Jew who would accept Jesus.
Through studying the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles in regard to the New Covenant, we can see that both are still offered the blessings and promises of the New Covenant. The Jews were not pushed out of the New Covenant at the inclusion of the Gentiles. Thankfully, God has enough blessings to give to all those who love and follow Him wholeheartedly and believe in His Son.
- How would this vision from God change the whole structure of the early church?
- How do these chapters help us put the rest of the Bible in perspective?