This morning I am not feeling completely well – so as I sit here in my special corner, the Lord says “Just come and sit with Me and draw from My presence”. After a time my mind fills with a picture of the night sky – billions upon billions of stars – “Yes Ian, be filled with wonder at My creation, but know that in the midst of this vastness and magnificence – I know you – I know you intimately – like a shepherd his sheep, like a mother her child – draw close and feel My heartbeat, like a foetus feels its mother’s heartbeat and feels loved, accepted, secure – I am Jehovah Rapha – in Me is wholeness, so you are programmed to heal – but I stand by you in this process – just be still, relax, be patient and let go into My arms”.
My reading today is Acts 11:1-18, which is a continuation and a repetition of what Luke described in ch 10. Just like with Paul’s conversion, Luke uses repetition of the story to underline its importance. Its probably quite difficult for us in the twenty first century to appreciate the importance and significance of these two events, which describes what had been promised several times during Jesus’ ministry and also in Acts by Luke, that the Gentiles were also going to be included in His huge plan of salvation. The Jewish nation had “owned” Jehovah and regarded themselves as totally separate to the other surrounding nations because of Him and his choosing them. One of the main external characteristics of the true Jew were his strict food laws. To have that distinction simply swept away must have been a huge shock cf 11:2. Although the “circumcised believers” accept what Peter has done by baptising them in the Name of Jesus, we know that that was just the beginning of a long process of integration to bring them all into the same church together and finding unity. (Just see ch 2 of Ephesians)
Circumcision was one of the rites which God had laid down to demonstrate the Jewish acceptance of His covenant. Of course we know from Paul’s writing that God was more interested in “circumcision of the heart” than physical circumcision. It was going to take a long time for the Jewish believers to see that physical circumcision had been done away with. Even today there are huge parts of the church which seek to add something to the simple gospel to make themselves feel more acceptable. Baptism, both infant and adult have loomed large as a substitute for circumcision, causing huge divisions in the church, even separating denominations. Even Peter fell into the trap, in Galatians he is described as wanting to fellowship only with the believers who wanted circumcision to continue as a Christian rite, bringing about Paul’s recrimination that they were preaching a false gospel which is no gospel at all, cf Galatians 1:6,7.
As I ponder these things, I think how prone we are to add on to the simple gospel message and how many people, who can be classed as ‘believers’, are held captive by superstitious rites. Or are trusting their whole salvation on something other than Jesus and His death on the cross on our behalf.
I read an article recently in the “Kerkbode” by a lecturer from the “Kweekskool” in Stellenbosch. It was entitled something like “Trust your baptism”. She was saying when you have doubts and feel insecure in your Christianity, merely look back at your baptism and that will assure you that you are ‘saved’. Of course she was speaking of infant baptism in the NG church and taking Luther’s comment completely out of context.
So I feel Jesus is reminding me again of the huge battle we are engaged in, in keeping His beautiful gospel message pure. So many people are trying to live the gospel plus and falling back into bondage, losing the real joy of their salvation. Yes I am as prone as anyone and need to be reminded regularly, not only for myself but for those who I teach.
What have you added to your understanding of the gospel, dear reader? Return to the pure gospel of Jesus, regularly reminding yourself to trust only in Jesus and His death on he cross.
- God’s Kingdom, not Talk but Power.
- Precious Welcome into the Kingdom.
- Wisdom expressed in Perseverance and Hope.
- From the Stump, the Messiah.
- Fruit from a Giving God.
- Be at Rest My Soul.
- Streams in the Desert
- Humility and Harmony.
- Suffering - an Important Perspective.
- Listening To Jesus, Through Isaiah.