Today we read of the perplexity of the Apostle Peter when he has a vision, while sleeping, of a great sheet lowered from heaven which contained a lot of animals that were unclean under the Law of Moses and therefore should not be killed for food. He is told to “kill and eat” and he refuses, but a voice says, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:13,15).
This happened three times and Peter is perplexed as the sheet is removed, but at that moment messengers arrive from the Roman Centurion Cornelius and ask Peter to come with them. He now perceives the meaning of the vision, he is to go and preach the message about Jesus to non-Jews. When he arrives he says to Cornelius, who has also gathered relatives and friends, that he now realises it is God’s will that “in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ …” (verses 35,36).
Only the message of Jesus Christ is the message of peace; it alone offers peace of mind in a world of turmoil. Peace of mind because it creates a relationship with God as Paul told the Philippians, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7).
Peter went on to say to his unexpected audience that Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (verse 42). The time when he returns to judge by raising the dead who have accepted his name, or had faith in God as illustrated in the Old Testament, or heard him preaching, like the Pharisees did: this time cannot be too far in the future in this world of hopeless disarray – which significantly includes the unsolvable frictions among the nations surrounding and in the Holy Land about which there are many prophecies.
At that time, not only will there be peace of mind in the hearts of true believers, but peace will spread throughout all the earth. Our chapter concludes with Peter commanding “them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ” (verse 48). This command applies just as much today.
Most people have heard and read of the dramatic conversion of the Apostle Paul. Acts chapter 8 starts by telling us that Paul “approved of” the “execution” of Stephen and how he then “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (verses 1,3).
Chapter 9 starts by telling us that Saul (as he was then called) “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus” (verses 1,2). The account of what happened just before he arrived at Damascus is well known, even to those who do not read their Bibles regularly: “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’” (verses 3-5).
We must make sure we see the significance of how Jesus phrased his question, he did not say why are you persecuting those who believe in me, but “why are you persecuting ME?”. True believers are “in Christ” and he is in them! realise what that means! Paul told the Corinthians, “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price … your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). True believers represent Christ, just as Christ represented God (John 14:9-11).
Later this week we will read how Paul told the people of Athens “they should seek God … he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (17:27,28). In writing to the Hebrews, the point is made that “he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’” (13:5).
Christ was ‘in’ those Paul had been persecuting. Are we seeking God, have we established an intimate relationship with him? Paul in writing to the Romans challenged them as to what their lives should be like “if Christ is in you …” (8:10). Have we done what Paul did after he received back his sight? “Something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus …” (verses 18,19).