Summary: 8th Sermon in our Action in Acts series, we look at how God pushes us out of our natural divisions and understandings, and when we are willing to follow him there, he can do huge things through us.
Action – God crossing the line
(Show a coloring page) Who recognizes this? It’s a coloring page, which most of us can remember from when we were children or from when we had children...
And for most of our lives, we have learned that this is what we are to do with it (show a well coloured version), different colors kept in by the lines. But I think that God is more interested in this (show “badly coloured” version, with lots of colors mixed with no regard for the lines)
Intro line: God is not interested in staying inside the lines
Intro idea – Maccabean history
A couple thousand years ago, after the Israelites made it back into the land following the Exile; there was a series of conquerors and powers that overshadowed Israel. One of the worst times was just one hundred and fifty years before the time of Christ. There was a systemic persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, where those who kept to purity laws involving what to eat, as well as to the Sabbath and other outward signs of Judaism such as circumcision, were often killed or driven out of their homes. There was a decision that had to be made, was showing your faith, keeping to what was true...was it worth dying for.
Because these Purity laws were there for a reason.
The purpose of the barrier – protect Israel from falling into idolatry and sin.
• The dietary laws were an analogy meant to teach them about holiness – they were meant to teach God's people about their own stubborn wicked hearts.
• These barriers were meant to protect them from going back!
The practice of disassociation was a precaution – for no pious Jew desired to become ceremonially unclean and such associations would do just that. And for the time of the early church that we are reading about today, the ancestors of the Jewish Christians had died to stay true to God and his call on their lives, died because they kept to the circumcision, to the purity laws, to maintaining that separation and that requirement
Over time, even before the time of the persecution, but certainly much more pronounced afterwards, this call to be different did not just help them or teach them, but it also did something that God was not so interested in, as people developed this us/them mentality, with a thought that “we” are better than “them”...which as we all know, has never been a problem within the church...oh wait.
• But these laws morphed into this idea that the Jewish race was “better” than others.
• Even in the OT God addressed this attitude in his people: The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. (Dt. 7:7)
• There was nothing special about Israel – for Abraham was called out of a people group that worshiped false gods.
So this is the background of this whole purity laws part of the life of Jewish people in the time of Christ and why some people were very upset at some of the things that Jesus did, because if your grandfather died because he stayed strong and showed that he took his faith seriously, then how dare he do those things. (Eating with tax collectors and sinners, working on Sabbath, to non-Jewish people...). But God was doing something outside the lines and the Jesus program is taking it up a step or two.
The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’