Gentiles, too

“Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:11-18)

The universe can change for us overnight. What’s old can become unexpectedly new again. When Peter saw Gentiles filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter remembered Jesus’ words. And it changed his perception of their meaning. When Jesus left, he promised that he would send the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Peter knew what the Spirit’s arrival had done to him—how it had made him the fearless preacher of the Gospel instead of the man who had denied Christ three times.

So when he witnessed the same thing happen to Gentiles that had happened to him at Pentecost, he realized Jesus words meant far more than he had imagined. Peter suddenly realized that his prejudices against Gentiles and his beliefs about the nature of God had been completely wrong. He realized that as much as Jesus’ words predicting the coming Spirit had been for him and the other disciples, Jesus’ promise was also for the entire human race. Peter suddenly reinterpreted what Jesus had said. He saw Jesus’ words in a whole new light.

Jesus’ words had not changed. What Jesus meant by his words had not changed. But what Peter had understood about them did. What we think we know of God and the Bible may on occasion turn out to be completely wrong—or just incomplete. Like Peter, we need to be ready to listen to Jesus all over again.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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