These passages look at how the salvation of Jesus Christ is for everyone… even those who might have rejected Jesus in the past have the opportunity to be transformed and begin a relationship with him.
* Acts 10:1-11:18
In this passage we read about a remarkable event: God declares that the gospel is for everyone! For us today, we may not understand the significance of this as we feel like we are constantly offering it to others, and (maybe) they are rejecting it. But this passage marks a turning point in the story of God’s people. For centuries, it had been all about God’s ‘chosen’ people, and their successes and failures. However, through a vision God reveals to Peter his plan to extend the gospel to all people, thus inviting all to have a relationship with him. The relationship between Jews and Gentiles is given lots of coverage in Acts, mainly because of the previous issues between them. The way in which Peter is challenged for his actions at the beginning of chapter 11 marks how radical this decision was: the Jews had always been separate from the Gentiles. To make salvation available to them was a major change.
However, God wanted to change things, and this passage also highlight his ability to intervene when necessary. Some people might think that after making the world, God just took a step back and let us get on with it. That’s not true at all. God gives us freedom of choice, but he does guide events according to his plan. I hope we can all look back on events in our lives and know that God was orchestrating them in some way.
The significance of Peter and Cornelius coming together is a fundamental one: the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ (which the disciples were preaching, and we do today) is for everyone, not just an elite group. One of the greatest things about Christianity today is how diverse it is, and how so many people are joined together by their belief in Jesus.
– Are there people in your life who seem outside of the gospel? What could you do to build a bridge between them and the Good news?
– Think back over the times in your life where you know that God had a plan… thank him for that.
* Acts 9:1-31
This passage tells the ultimate transformation story. It’s incredible to read how Saul’s life is completely changed by God after a special encounter with him, which is especially remarkable when we consider the way he was before (he was very against the disciples!). God completely transforms his life, and he began declaring the truth of Jesus rather than trying to kill those who believed in him.
Why? Because God said, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (9:15). God has a special encounter with Saul, because he has a special mission for him. When we read the scriptures we can wonder how God could use someone like Saul. But even Saul was not out of God’s reach, and he was going to use him in the most amazing way. You never know, he might have an extraordinary plan for you too.
Saul could have carried on persecuting Christians, but because he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and Jesus spoke to him, his life was completely turned around. He found out that Jesus really existed… and from then on, everything changed! It’s the same for us; when we meet with Jesus and understand who he is and what he has done for us, the way we live will be transformed. For Saul this meant a name change, to Paul, and a priority switch: he dedicated the rest of his building the church.
Others also played their part in Saul’s transformed life. Ananias had the courage to obey God and accept Saul, whilst Barnabas showed wisdom in the way he helped Saul grow in his faith. As Christians we must love those who are new to faith. They aren’t going to get it instantly, and sometimes it is our judgemental attitudes which means that they fall away from faith. Imagine if we restricted someone who was going to go on to have a ministry like Paul’s?!
– Saul’s response to Jesus is “Lord, what do You desire me to do?”. Have you asked that recently?
– How has meeting with Jesus changed your life?