Traditions Versus Ministry

Presently the Lord Jesus is walking me through the book of Acts. He is not having me teach word by word, but rather he is pointing out to me the things he wants me to focus on which can be applied to our lives today. And the story of Cornelius and Peter is a great story from which to teach some critical biblical truths. So I am reading now in Acts, chapter 10. But due to the length of the passage, I will summarize a lot of it.

Cornelius was a Gentile, but he was a devout man who feared God with all his household. And he prayed continually to God. And so God visited him in a vision whereby an angel of the Lord spoke to Cornelius. The Lord let him know that he was listening to Cornelius’ prayers and that he honored them and him. And so he instructed him to send some men to Joppa to get the apostle Peter. And so he did as the Lord said.

Now, while the men were on their way to get Peter the Lord also visited Peter in a vision. I just love how the Lord works, don’t you? He coordinates things together so beautifully! In Peter’s vision a voice spoke to him and told him to kill and eat food which was formerly forbidden for a Jew to eat. So Peter refused. But the voice spoke a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” And this happened three times.

Peter was uncertain of the meaning of the vision, though, and then the men who were sent by Cornelius arrived. And the Spirit told Peter to go down and accompany the men without hesitation, for the Lord had sent them. So the next day Peter went with them. Cornelius was expecting them, so he called together his relatives and close friends. Peter asked Cornelius why he sent for him, and Cornelius told him about his vision from the Lord. Cornelius then invited Peter to speak to him and to his relatives and friends.

Acts 10:34-35 ESV

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Under the Old Covenant there was a separation between Jew and Gentile, and Gentiles were not only non-Jews, but they were regarded as spiritually unclean. So Jews didn’t normally associate with Gentiles or with Samaritans who were a mixed race of Jew and Gentile. But Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changed all of that and now all who believe in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile by physical birth are one people, no longer two.

But this was something Peter was just now in the process of learning, and it took him a while to fully put it into practice, too. For this was a big but necessary transition. He had to get over his prejudice against Gentiles like he had to get over the fact that food that was once ceremonially unclean was now sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ, and it was okay for him to eat, which was the purpose of his vision.

Does personal prejudice against anything or anyone keep you from obeying the Lord? I think many professing Christians get stuck on religious tradition and they let those traditions hinder their walks of faith and their obedience to the Lord. Do you see it? They also let those religious traditions keep them from loving the family of God as they ought to love them, and so they end up rejecting those who do not follow their religious traditions.

Then, back to Peter here, he gave out the message of the gospel to those who were listening to him. And he told them that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name. And while Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the gospel message. And the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. Amen! And then Peter commanded that the new believers be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. So, they believed, they received the Holy Spirit, and then they were baptized, in that order.

And yes, they also spoke in tongues. But not everyone who believed in Jesus and who received the Holy Spirit within them, as recorded in the Scriptures, spoke in tongues. So, we must guard against making that part of this a doctrinal teaching, for other Scriptures teach that not everyone speaks in tongues, that it is one of the lesser gifts, and it is much better to prophesy. And sometimes “tongues” meant/means they were speaking in actual known languages, like at the day of Pentecost.

Religious Prejudice

But that just leads me back to where I was talking about this subject of religious prejudice based on religious man-made traditions and/or misinterpretations of the Scriptures. For there are people who disregard the gift of tongues altogether, and there are people who greatly abuse and misuse the gift of tongues, and then there are people who are prejudice against anyone who doesn’t speak in tongues, and all those are wrong.

And then there are people who, because of their religious traditions, think that everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ needs to be seated in a church building, which is falsely called “church,” on a Sunday morning or a Saturday evening, and that they need to go through a religious ritual of singing songs, listening to announcements, the taking of the offering, and then listening to people called “pastor” preach a sermon which may or may not be biblical at all. And if they don’t, they think they are backslidden.

But they are missing the whole context of what they wrongly quote. For Hebrews 10:25 doesn’t just say that we are not to neglect meeting together with other believers in Jesus. In context it is instructing us that we are to draw near to our Lord with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, which is not physical water, but the Spirit of God, I believe.

And we are to hold fast to our biblical faith (of God) in Jesus Christ without wavering, i.e. we are to be putting the word of God into practice in our daily lives. And then we are to stir up (provoke) one another to love (preferring what God prefers) and good works (the works God prepared that we should walk in them), not neglecting meeting together, but encouraging (exhorting, urging, provoking, supporting, helping) one another to walk in holiness and in righteousness and no longer in sin.

But if all we do is show up for a Sunday service and sit through a traditional church service, that is not fulfilling Hebrews 10:25. The purpose of our gatherings is not to go through the motions of formalized and traditional church services. But it is so that we, as the body of Christ, are using the gifts of the Spirit given us by God to encourage and exhort and provoke one another to forsake our sins and to obey our Lord and to walk in righteousness and in holiness, and in the power and wisdom of God.

[Matt 5:13-16; Matt 28:18-20; Jn 4:31-38; Jn 13:13-17; Jn 14:12; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:14-18; Acts 26:18; Rom 10:14-15; Rom 12:1-8; Rom 15:14; 1 Co 12:1-31; 1 Co 14:1-5; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-27; Php 2:1-8; Col 3:16; Heb 3:13; Heb 10:23-25; 1 Pet 2:9,21; 1 Jn 2:6]

For Our Nation

An Original Work / September 11, 2012

Bombs are bursting. Night is falling.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Trust Him with your life today.
Make Him your Lord and your Savior.
Turn from your sin. Follow Jesus.
He will forgive you of your sin;
Cleanse your heart, made new within.

Men betraying: Our trust fraying.
On our knees to God we’re praying,
Seeking God to give us answers
That are only found in Him.
God is sovereign over all things.
Nothing from His mind escaping.
He has all things under His command,
And will work all for good.

Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.

Men deceiving: We’re believing
In our Lord, and interceding
For our nation and its people
To obey their God today.
He is our hope for our future.
For our wounds He offers suture.
He is all we need for this life.
Trust Him with your life today.
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