As I prepared for a preaching series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, my mind traveled back to the inspiration of this letter. Almost eleven years before he wrote this letter, two men had visions in separate places that were intended to bring them together for an event that would change both of their lives, and the whole Church, forever. Let me explain.
The first vision happened “At Caesarea [with] a man named Cornelius…a devout man who feared God with all his household…he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, Cornelius…your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:1–4).
About the same time, Peter was in Joppa spending some time in prayer. In his vision he “saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (10:11–16). This prepared Peter for what he was about to experience as he presented the Gospel to a Gentile and his household. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (10:44).
For the next ten years, the Church which had been Jewish in culture became a Jewish/Gentile Church. The Holy Spirit affirmed that Jesus Christ “reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross…for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:16, 18). It is very important for us to consider what the Spirit was doing through Peter and Cornelius. He was pointing to the effective work of Christ in bringing together from every people group around the world those who would form the Church, “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22).
This should challenge our thinking regarding people we have never met. Do we regard them as Peter did the creatures in that sheet, or do we see them as vessels of God’s grace He wants to fill?
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