While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. (Acts 10:44-45 ESV)
What is the answer to ethnic and cultural division?
For centuries, sinners in this world have struggled to find peace with one another. Human beings have killed one another, conquered one another, enslaved one another, ostracized one another, and discriminated against one another. The world recognizes this problem, but as always, stops short of coming up with a solution.
Our time in Acts has offered glimmers of a time in which all nations would dwell together in harmony. We can’t help, as we read, to think about the end of the story, in which a choir consisting of members of every tribe and tongue and nation sing together in united adoration of Christ. But, almost 10 chapters in, we’ve only seen a few drops. In Acts chapter 10, however, it will begin to pour.
Up to this point, the preaching of the gospel had been limited to Jews. The exceptions were proselytes – those who were ethnically Gentile but converted to Judaism. Even in the Old Testament, when we see Gentiles like Rahab or Ruth engrafted into the lineage of God’s people, such folks became Jewish through marriage. But – what about Gentiles who remained Gentile? What about those who didn’t first convert to Judaism? Was the Gospel for them?
Of course, in 2022, we know the answer. But for the original audience, this question was a scandal. Jews and Gentiles were not allowed to have a welcoming, hospitable, social relationship. They had different dietary laws and religious observances. They were distinct. The Jews saw the Gentiles as unclean.
Yet, this new community – the church of Jesus Christ – was to preach its message to the ends of the earth. Does that mean Gentiles, too? Yes!
Acts 10 is a remarkable story of God’s sovereignty, as he gives visions to Peter, the Jewish follower of Jesus and to Cornelius, the Gentile God-fearer, bringing them together, and breaking down the wall between them. After the Gentiles hear the gospel from Peter and believe, they are given the same Holy Spirit, proving that they, too, are included in the promise of salvation!
What is the answer to ethinc division? What is the answer to any division at all? Ultimately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation for unity! In the gospel, we find we are of the same humanity, created by the same God, in need of the same hope, and saved by the same Savior!