BIBLE INSIGHTS in 500 words
BIBLE INSIGHTS: God Really Does Loves Everyone
Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.
Have you ever been troubled by “the wrong kind of people” attending your church. You are not alone. Peter struggled with prejudice. He believed that God was prejudice, accepting “the right people,” and excluding others. Peter was wrong and God changed his heart.
Put yourself in the sandals of Peter. All his life he had been trained that Gentiles were less than human, and Rome was the archenemy of Israel. Now, he stands in the home of Cornelius who is both a Roman/Gentile. His mind is reeling from 1) God’s vision God on the housetop in Joppa (10:1-16), 2) the Gentiles sent to his doorstep (10:17-23), and 3) the Roman/Gentile, Cornelius, introduced into his life (10:23-33).
God changed Peter’s heart. He grasped the meaning of Jesus Christ as a world-embracing event. Now, with a vision of God’s acceptance and before a house of Roman/Gentiles, Peter took a deep breath and began:
“It has become clear to me,” he said, “that God really does show no favoritism. No: in every race, people who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him” (10:24-25, NT Wright paraphrase).
In this moment, Peter is a living example of Paul’s description of a transformed mind, “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Peter is proof that a transformed person is “be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Peter has discovered God’s will – love, acceptance, and forgiveness for all.
It falls upon Peter to provide evidence that the God of Israel embraces the whole world. Where will he find proof? He does not lean on a logical syllogism. He does not call on rational argument. To prove the compassion of God, Peter tells a story – the story of Jesus (Acts 10:36-43).
Why was the story about the mission of Jesus to Israel meaningful to a group of Roman/Gentiles?
First, the message itself is powerful. It is important to note that when the New Testament speaks of “the gospel” it doesn’t primarily mean, “the way you get saved.” The gospel is “Jesus, the crucified and risen one, is the Lord of the whole world and you are included.” Think of the implications of changing your understanding of salvation from a “personal and private experience” to a “world and history changing event.”
Second, the message stands as a personal invitation for Cornelius and his family. Peter’s message, here, is directed to someone who has been on the outside of Judaism. Peter is saying in effect, “Cornelius, you have been standing at the doorway, admiring Israel’s traditions: now, see how God has fulfilled Israel’s dream in sending Jesus. You are fully accepted.”
(I am indebted to the work of NT Wright for his work in Acts for Everyone, 2004)