The Bible passage can be read online here.
For much of the second half of the twentieth century the South African government pursued a policy known as Apartheid. It was a policy that actively discriminated on the basis of race. Only white people were allowed to vote, there were areas like beaches and parks reserved for white people and many other privileges were denied to those regarded as ‘non-white’. I’m ashamed to say there were some Christians who supported Apartheid and I remember hearing one church leader who had previously been a supporter, being interviewed on the radio. He was asked ‘what brought about his change of heart?’ He said it was hearing the testimonies of black Christians. As they spoke of how they had come to faith in Christ, he realised that their experiences were identical to his own. Once he knew that God did not discriminate on the basis of race, Apartheid was finished for him and he began to actively campaign to have the policy abolished. His experience must have been similar to that of Peter and those with him. The passage is all about acceptance.
First, the gentiles accepted the message. Luke says; ‘While Peter was still speaking these words’. What words?
“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (10:43)
Hallelujah! Forgiveness is available through Jesus. As these people heard the message, they trusted Christ and became Christians there and then. They didn’t go to the front or repeat a prayer of repentance. They hadn’t attended any sort of course. They didn’t receive any sort of pack for new believers. All these things can be helpful but being a Christian is really about responding appropriately to the Gospel and that is exactly what they did right where they were.
Secondly, God accepted the gentiles. God was so gracious here for everyone present – he made it obvious that these gentiles were accepted by giving them the gift of tongues. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit had come upon believers and this was evident by the fact that they began to speak in other languages. Here the gentiles received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages and praising God. Paul would write later;
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
The old hierarchies were swept away. It was revolutionary and radical. It must have been scary but it was clearly God at work through his Spirit.
Finally the Jewish Christians present accepted the gentiles. I love verse 45;
“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.”
Yes, even the gentiles! The Jewish believers had assumed there were limits to the Gospel but in truth God had always planned to bless all nations (Genesis 12:3, Matthew 28:19, Acts 3:25). The astonished Jewish Christians could not deny what was happening before their eyes.
“Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water?” (10:47)
These early believers show us that if God accepts people, so should we.
Oh Lord, I hunger for more of You
Rise up within me let me know Your truth
Oh Holy Spirit, saturate my soul
And let the life of God, fill me now
Let Your healing power
Breathe life and make me whole
And let the peace of God, let it reign (Let the Peace of God Reign – Darlene Zschech)