TODAY’S READING: Acts 10–11
It is well established that no Christian can in good conscience say, “No, Lord” (Acts 10:14), for this is an oxymoronic reaction when the King of all the earth gives an order to one of His own. What is less remembered is that this whole incident revolved around taking the gospel to the nations. Almost twenty years passed since the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, and Peter, lead vocalist for the revival on that day, still did not fully grasp the scope of God’s heart for all peoples. Peter was fine with Jews from every nation under heaven receiving the Spirit, but evidently, he was still clouded about God including all the Gentiles at His heavenly banquet. Peter still had to work through his prejudice and legalistic (nationalistic) tendencies and to confess that “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (v. 28).
The point is simple. When we talk about saying “yes, Lord,” we tell of the oxymoronic response of Peter who told the King “no” and we must be true to context of God commanding Peter to abandon his nationalistic hubris and to engage all peoples of the earth with the gospel. If you are not fully leveraging your time and resources for the gospel to go to all the peoples of earth, you are still saying “no, Lord!” It makes no matter how holy, religious, spiritual, or church-immersed you are. Peter was being asked to leave the tribe and culture he was most comfortable with in order to preach Jesus to the nations. To that command of the Lord, we must all say “yes,” for Jesus has “commanded us to preach to the people…[for] through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins…because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (10:42–43, 45).
Luke is intentional to record for us that the first church outside Jerusalem was not only the result of preaching Jesus in persecution but also was planted by men from Cyprus and Libya! The Antioch church was multi-cultural from the beginning, in contrast to the homogeneous mother ship in Jerusalem. This inclusive church must be a credit in part to Barnabas who went to Turkey to bring back Paul and integrate him into the body. It’s important to note that Barnabas and Paul were first sent to Jerusalem to carry relief for the Christians who were starving during the famine of 46–47 A.D., and this simple precedent establishes three critical missions points regarding social action: (1) We are people who compassionately care; (2) compassionate care is directed to the body of Christ abroad; and (3) compassionate care is not the priority. Paul and Barnabas are apostles of note in the Bible because they preached the gospel where it had not yet been embraced or embedded. This was their priority and it must remain ours, even as we periodically help our global brothers and sisters in times of distress.
When we focus on social action over the saving of souls and making disciples, when we do not intentionally make the effort to include all races and peoples in our churches, when we do not focus our energies and resources on the gospel crossing cultural boundaries despite our personal discomfort, we essentially say, “No, Lord!” Jesus, help us say, “Yes!”