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Because of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, true life now—and eternal life forever—is yours to know and enjoy. What the Scripture reveals about Him is worth more than all knowledge, all riches, and all happiness in this world.
Up to this point in Acts we have studied the unfolding of God’s eschatological plan as it relates to the salvation of the nations. While the Old Testament promised a kingdom salvation for nations besides Israel, there wasn’t a concept for individual salvation of Gentiles, apart from becoming proselytes to Judaism, nor was there a concept of this happening in the period between the first and second comings of Christ. Of course, our Lord explains in Matthew 13 that the kingdom promised in the Old Testament—the eschatological, end-times kingdom where God will actively assert His rule and restore His creation and His people from the ravages of sin—is not limited to the Millennial Empire. Rather, the kingdom will be established in stages, progressively. It is one kingdom and one program. Between His ascension and His bodily return to restore the nation of Israel and establish his thousand-year earthly reign, His kingdom would yet be inaugurated. The King would rule from heaven in an initial way, and in the time of Israel’s national exile He would turn to Gentiles to show them mercy. Read more
After Peter settles the issue of Gentile inclusion with his Jewish detractors, Luke’s narrative picks up where it left off in 8:4. Between 8:5 and 11:19 is essentially a large parenthesis, detailing aspects of how the gospel was applicable and welcoming to Samaritans, Africans, and Roman soldiers and their families—all of them Gentiles or at least half-Jews—as well as the conversion and commissioning of Christianity’s greatest human enemy, the Apostle Paul. This is not merely good history; it is a literary device used to set up what will follow in the rest of the book of Acts. Having given the historical and theological context for the rest of the book, Luke resumes his discussion of the ministries of those scattered due to Stephen’s persecution—this time, with the great persecutor having become an irreplaceable ally. Read more
God’s people in the Old Testament were governed by a series of laws which set them apart as a nation and governed their entire theocratic life before God. With those laws in their civil and ceremonial forms being set aside with the inauguration of the church age and the new covenant, God’s church saints (who were basically entirely Jewish) struggled to know how to relate to people who never held to those ceremonial distinctives (Gentiles), and whether those people had to become Jews in order to be Christians. Read more
Acts 10 is a definitive passage in Scripture. It effectively completes the transition between God’s ordained institution as ethnically- and nationally-bounded (national Israel) with one entered by regeneration by people of every ethnicity (the church); between the laws governing His people as given by Moses to the ones given by Christ and His apostles; and between Gentiles as dirty heirs of cast-off nations under the rule of powerful demons to beloved adopted children of God and representatives of Christ, fully enabled to accomplish His perfect program for the world. Read more
For the entirety of Israelite history and a major section of God’s dispensational program, God’s people were identified by their ethnic, racial distinctiveness—Israel vs. the non-Jewish nations of the world. Living for over a thousand years under this framework meant the Jewish people eventually built up arrogant, uncharitable, and unloving attitudes toward Gentiles. As such, the idea that (1) God’s people was, for the duration of this age, no longer ethnic Israel but a spiritual entity called the church and (2) the church was made up of people from every major ethnic group (not just Jews) was extremely difficult to adjust to for many Jewish believers. That is why Acts contains the crowning narrative of the gospel’s expansion—Cornelius’s conversion, thus signifying the full inclusion of Gentiles in God’s people. It served as an object lesson that the once cast-off pagan nations were being reclaimed by Yahweh (cf. Psalm 82:8, Isa. 49:6). Read more