Today’s reading: Acts 9-10.
“How did the Gospel reach the Gentiles?”
God always planned for his chosen people, the Jews, to help evangelize the lost world.
(spoken to Abraham) “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3
“See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ ” Deuteronomy 4:5-6
All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. Psalm 86:9
(spoken about the Messiah) “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
Their failure to bring the Gentiles to the LORD did not thwart his plans. Their rejection of Jesus, except by a few, did not stop his intention. He worked through Saul, whom Jesus converted on the road to Damascus, and through Peter. God said that Saul was his “chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Saul had a ministry to the Jews and the Gentiles. He went into the synagogues to preach, but was almost always rejected and persecuted. He found a much more fruitful harvest among the Gentiles.
God brought Peter along by degrees. He saw Philip’s success among the Samaritans and joined him in that work, even though the Samaritans were usually despised by the Jews. Then God gave Peter the vision of the clean and unclean animals with the command to eat because God had made them clean. Immediately afterward Peter was summoned to the home of a Gentile centurion who was seeking God.
Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection… I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:27-29, 34-35
The truth of Peter’s realization was proven as the Holy Spirit came down on the Gentile men, who spoke in tongues and praised God.
Saul, who became Paul, worked among the Jews and Gentiles for thirty years. During that time he saw the church expanding among the Gentiles even as it failed to penetrate the great part of the Jews. His heart longed for his Jewish brothers to accept Christ, but he glorified God for the Gentile believers who were grafted into the kingdom because of the unbelief of the Jews. He was convinced it was all part of God’s plan to save both Jews and Gentiles. God had not rejected the Jews, Paul said. His promises to them were irrevocable.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! …I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved…For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Romans 11:11-12, 25-26, 30-32
Image, “St. Peter baptizing Cornelius” by Francesco Trevisani