What does it say?
Acts 9 tells the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, a key player in persecuting the church and headed to Damascus to continue the same. Jesus miraculously appears to Saul and he quickly is baptized, strengthened and understands the scriptures clearly; Saul’s impact in Damascus is so great that the Jewish leaders plot to kill him. Escaping to Jerusalem, believers there are hesitant to believe his story until Barnabas reaches out to him. Meanwhile, in Joppa, Peter prays and God restores life to a woman named Tabitha.
A non-Jewish, Roman army officer named Cornelius comes to the faith in Acts 10, as God appears to him in a vision and instructs him to send for Peter. In Joppa, God gives Peter the same vision three times before convincing him to enter a Gentile home. To this point it is unthinkable that one could follow Jesus without becoming a Jew. As Peter preaches, God’s Spirit tangibly comes upon Cornelius and his household and they profess their faith in baptism.
What does it mean?
Along with the Ethiopian official in Acts 8, we see three key conversions and see that God’s Spirit empowers believers to carry on with his mission just as Jesus had promised before ascending to heaven. And, God makes it clear that the Gospel is for all peoples, not just Jews.
Prejudice between Jews and non-Jews is great. We all struggle to see beyond our own culture and personal religious background, but God uses any and all legitimate methods to accomplish his mission. Jesus appears to Saul (later called Paul) to show that there is still place in his mission for Jewish Pharisees. In the next chapter we learn that one can come to faith in Jesus Christ without having to become Jewish.
To think that someone like Saul or a Roman centurion to become followers of Jesus is inconceivable, yet in both cases God prepares hearts through visions, both those that preach the Gospel and those that receive. Not that long ago many considered it impossible for significant numbers of Muslims to come to faith in Christ, yet today thousands are coming to the faith, often having their hearts prepared through dreams and visions.
How will I respond?
Does my grip on the way we’ve always thought and done things prevent me from seeing how God is carrying out his mission? God will never contradict his word, but sometimes I allow my prejudice to prevent from seeing all his truth. What practical step can I take from what I see in these two chapters?