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"There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done on the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened. You could hear a pin drop.
"James broke the silence. ‘Friends, Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets:
"After this I'm coming back;
I'll rebuild David's ruined house;
I'll put all the pieces together again;
I'll make it look like new
So outsiders who seek will find,
So they'll have a place to come to,
All the pagan peoples
Included in what I'm doing."
"' God said it and now He's doing it. It's no afterthought; He's always known He would do this.'" Acts 15:12-18 (The Message).
Jesus left His disciples with one commission: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation..." and one promise: "...And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will lay their hands on sick people and they will get well." Mark 16:15, 17-18 (NIV).
So what was the big deal with these people? Were their tradition and their prejudice so strong that they had forgotten the Lord's commission? What would it take to get it into their thick skulls that Jesus had sent them into the world, not to take the good news to the Jews only, especially since they were their fiercest antagonists, but to share the good news with all people, even those they had previously hated and avoided?
Those who obeyed Jesus' instruction were amazed to see that He meant exactly what He said. Peter had watched while Gentiles received what the disciples had received on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit falling on them the moment they believed. Paul had seen Gentile people transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not one of them had been forced to embrace Judaism first.
And the miracles Jesus had done through them were abundant evidence that He was actively confirming His word just as He had said.
All their arguing and rationalising fell way in the face of the overwhelming evidence of the prophetic word and their experience of its fulfilment. That had to convince them that the Gentiles were welcomed into God's kingdom through faith in the finished work of Jesus, plus nothing, and that race and culture were obliterated by the new order God had established in His Son.
David's dynasty failed to follow in their father's footsteps, but God had promised that one of his descendants would reign on his throne in righteousness and truth forever. Jesus, the Son of David, fulfilled that promise and reigns over a kingdom that has no end and that welcomes all who repent of their rebellious independence and willingly come under the authority of God's rightful king.
Over the centuries, man in his "wisdom" has reconstructed the superstructure of works that Jesus demolished at the cross, cancelling the grace by which we are saved. Where does that leave those who have mindlessly swallowed the lie and fallen into the trap of the devil? Right back under God's judgment because any attempt to satisfy God's perfectly righteous and holy standards by offering their own efforts, fails miserably.
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf and like wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:7 (NIV).
As the old hymn puts it:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
(Edward Mote, 1797 -1874)
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