Two Conversations: the Unthinkable Reach of the Gospel Part Two

These notes are from a talk by Steve Casey at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Steve intended. Part one is here.

2. Peter Converted: Who the Gospel Is For

Why did God go to all the trouble of getting Peter to come to Cornelius when he had an angel on site?

See verses 9-16. The privileges of the Jews – that they did not earn – had become a source of pride and prejudice (14, 28). It is not just food that is unclean, but people have become unclean in the eyes of the Jews

But what did Peter expect? Peter knew the gospel would go to the nations (Luke 24:45-47), but it seems Peter expected the Gentiles would have to become like Jews.

‘The gospel is for people like us. You have to come on our terms.’ It is all too easy to assume that people have to flex to my cultural preferences and take up my cultural baggage.

Peter’s heart was: ‘People need to come to us and be like us.’ The heart of God was: ‘Go to them.’

Although Cornelius is part of the majority culture in his context, he remained excluded from access to the gospel. God has to arrange the meeting because Peter would not have crossed the cultural barriers.

Implication: the Missionary Heart of God’s People

1. You cannot divide people up
You cannot divide people into respectable and unrespectable, good people and selfish people, self-made people and lay-abouts. Before you get the gospel you instinctively divide people up in these kinds of terms. But when you get the gospel you realise you are more wicked then you ever realised and more loved than you ever dreamed.

The only difference between you and a corrupt businessman or a drug dealer or a spiteful policeman is that the seeds of sin in your heart have not been watered. You can never say, ‘Well, I might do this, but I’d never do that.’

Peter’s prejudices were laid out on the sheet that was lowered from heaven. What is on your sheet?

2. You need to beware against the slip to worldly evaluations of people
The Romans despised the early Christians because of their social background. But the early Christian apologist, Marcus Minucius Felix, said: ‘That many of us are called poor is not our disgrace, but our glory.’

We need to be careful not to move towards the Establishment and to seek respectability. We have a tendency to want to make the gospel look strong. But the gospel is at its strongest when it is weak.

Us Converted? How We Live out the Gospel

Who was the most difficult to convert? Who said three times, ‘Not me’? Was it the outsider or was it the majority Christian culture?
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