Tuesday, November 16, 2010

'Surely not, Lord?"

History was forever changed when Peter ate Italian food with a Gentile soldier. It was no small thing for him to do that. It took a vision of a sheet with all sorts delicious off-limits Gentile food, being lowered from heaven 3 times, with a command from Jesus 3 times, to get his attention. Peter did things in threes. He denied Jesus 3 times, was reinstated 3 times, and now refused Him 3 times. 'Surely not, Lord?" was the stubborn rhetorical question.

His Jewishness had become more important than the gospel to all nations. The leader of the church was essentially a racist, and was stubbornly resisting the command of his Lord, but Jesus wasn't having any of it. Three times he spoke, and three times Peter refused, but the breaker was the three Gentiles that interrupted the third vision with their knock at the door.

Peter was given the keys of the kingdom by Jesus as a major player in His church. This time the keys of the kingdom were nothing grandiose. They were simply for opening his front door to Gentiles, who he viewed as unclean because they ate unclean food. Peter made the connection between unclean food and 'unclean people'. "God has said that I should call no man unclean that he has made clean." So he let them inside, and later went to stay at Cornelius's home where the Gentiles had their own Pentecost. Peter had to resist getting them to clean up their act.It was a gospel of grace not of food laws.

Its a powerful call to deal with our own Gentiles. Who are they? Who are the 'surely not's' knocking at our doors? In the 70's here in California it was the Hippies in the Jesus People movement. God sovereignly moved among them. There were mass baptisms at Laguna Beach. But many in the church wanted them to clip their toe nails and cut their hair before they walked through their church doors. Thanks goodness for people like Chuck Smith who resisted the urge to get them to 'clean up their act' before they came to Christ.

Who are our Gentiles? Our Hippies? Are we ready for them or will we be repulsed? Is it the homosexual or the homeless community? Is it perhaps the Muslim community, or those involved in substance abuse? Perhaps the Millenials? Maybe all of the above? Will we try and make them clean up or will we introduce them to the gospel which forgives and cleanses. I hope the latter. I hope we are ready. Because our 'surely not's' have surely changed.


  1. Hi Alan
    Great post - love the implications. I wonder how many times we keep saying no to what God is showing us, then don't bother either when there's a knock at the door?!

    Just for academic interest, the same point you make can be extrapolated to theology - how do we respond when God sends an "unclean" revelation to our sanitized minds?! (I have been doing some sessions on justification & assurance - for some it has been enlightening, for others it has been "surely not" on the radicalness of grace!).

    Glad things are going well for you since the take-over (sorry...hand-over!) :-)


  2. Hey Colin, great thoughts on the theology response. absolutely right, bro. yeah, things going well thanks. Luther said we have to 'beat justification into people's heads every time we preach!'peace brother