a gospel for every people … and more

“Pentecost”, István Dorffmaister
1782, Oil on canvas, 55 x 33 cm
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

For Sunday, May 13, 2012
Sixth Sunday of Easter

Once again this week I’ve decided to offer some commentary on each of this week’s readings. There is such great refreshment and encouragement to be found in each of these passages, each of which point to the resurrected Jesus of this Season of Easter.

Acts 10:44-48: A Gospel for Every People
In this passage the Holy Spirit falls upon those hearing Peter’s words. The “circumcised believers” (a.k.a. Jewish Christians) who had come with Peter were astounded that the Holy Spirit was being poured out not only on Jews but on Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples) as well. The reason they knew this was happening was that they heard these Gentiles “speaking in tongues” (v. 46). The NIV contains an important footnote indicating that speaking “in tongues” can also be translated as speaking “in other languages”. The Greek word used here, ‘glossa’, means literally “tongue” but with reference to a known language that has not been naturally acquired. Given the context of Jewish Christians being surprised that the Holy Spirit was being poured out on non-Jews as well, it seems reasonable to conclude that what these Gentiles were speaking was not glossolalia (unintelligible sounds) but rather other (known) languages.

The larger point of the passage is that the gospel was not intended to elevate the Jewish people above all others, but rather to bless all peoples of the earth beginning with the Jews. In a world torn apart by ethnic strife this can be good news indeed: the gospel is for everyone and is the means by which every nation on the earth can be blessed and in fact will be blessed.

Psalm 98: A New Song
This passage encourages us to sing a “new song” to the Lord because he has done “marvelous things” (v. 1). What are these marvelous things? Several are listed but the one I would like to focus on is that God has “remember(ed) his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.”
The Hebrew word used here for “steadfast love” is ‘hesed’. This is one of the beautiful words of the Hebrew Scriptures that ties them together. Hesed is the same word used throughout the book of Ruth to communicate how the love of Boaz and the love of God repeatedly saved her from disaster.
God has shown us his ‘hesed’, his steadfast love, his unwavering affection, in providing a way for us to return to Him through the death and resurrection of His one and only Son Jesus.

1 John 5:1-6: The Connection Between Grace and Obedience
What is the gospel really all about, grace or obedience? This passage shows this to be a false dichotomy. We become Christians by “believing that Jesus is the Christ (in other words, the one “sent by God to save us from our sins”). Yet those who believe this invariably demonstrate this by loving God and his children. This love is expressed through their obedience to the way of Christ. Obedience does not bring us into grace but it is the inevitable expression of grace.

We can’t get away with saying we love God without obeying him. Nor can we get away with loving God while refusing to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Listen carefully to the Spirit on this: is there a brother or sister in Christ from whom you have withheld love? What does the grace of God compel you to do about it?

John 15:9-17: The Secret to a Fruitful Life
Would you like to live a joyful, peaceful, and fruitful life? Here’s the secret: abide in the love of God. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (v. 9). What does it mean practically to “abide” in God’s love? The Greek word used here, ‘meno’, means “to dwell, endure in, or be present in”. How has God wired you to be present in his love? For me, writing this blog is part of it, which is ultimately what I enjoy so much about it. What most helps you to be present in the Lord’s love. Go to that thing, and continue in it. If you will do this, then no matter the trials and discouragements that come your way, you can rest in the assurance that you will be fruitful beyond your wildest imagination, for the Father will give you whatever you ask in the name of his Son, Jesus (v. 16).

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