An Open Offer of Salvation
by Matt Smith
There is a lot of discussion that goes on in Christian theological circles relating to some distinctions that go by terms such as “dispensationalism” or “covenant theology”. While I would in no way pretend to understand all that goes on in those discussions, I do know the basis these discussions (or arguments as the case may be) deal with how God dealt with certain groups of people in different periods of human history. In our reading today we see a wonderful shift, particularly for those of us who are Gentiles, of how God opened up his offer of salvation from the Jews to the entire world.
In Matthew 10 we read about Jesus commissioning and sending out his disciples to preach that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand”. We see specifically that Jesus wanted these 12 men to target only the Jewish people and to “not go into the way of the Gentiles” (vs 5). While we do see exceptions throughout the gospels, generally speaking Jesus’s earthly ministry, as well as the ministry of his disciples, was centered on the children of Israel.
However, as we skip ahead to Acts chapter 10, we are introduced to a Gentile man named Cornelius. We see that this man, though lost at the time, was described as “devout” or one who followed God to the best of his understanding. As we read through this chapter, we see that God visited the Apostle Peter, one of those sent out in Matthew 10, and challenged his thinking of the Jewish dietary laws by offering him animals to eat that Peter had always considered to be unclean. God then supernaturally directs Peter to the house of Cornelius where he preaches the Gospel to him and those in his house. Peter starts his “message” by indicating that God had changed his thinking. Indeed, the message of salvation was not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. You can almost imagine how surprised Peter must have been when he confessed he had come to understand that “God shows no partiality” (vs 34) and that He accepts people from any nation who fear Him (vs 35). For a devout Jew like Peter, what a dramatic shift in his way of thinking! And we rejoice to see Cornelius and others believe the gospel as Peter preached.
So while most of us would agree that the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people, in today’s reading we are able to see the shift of the spreading of the gospel to include all peoples of the world. May we be thankful thankful that the “whosoevers” of the Bible truly does include Gentiles as well as Jews.