How many times have you heard in church that people who do … or if people do not do … will not go the heaven? This is not a new Phenomenon for the church. It has been happening since the beginning of the church.
In the 10th chapter of Acts, we read about how Peter (a devote Jew) has a vision about God sending a sheet filled with animals that were considered unclean food and tells Peter to kill and eat. But Peter responds that he has never let any unclean thing enter his body. God had to tell him two more times before God took the sheet of food away.
About the same time, Cornelius (a believing Gentile) has as vision about going to find Peter.
As Peter was thinking about the meaning of his vision, Cornelius comes to the house and asks for Peter. So Peter goes to the house of Cornelius.
Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. Acts 10:33-48(NIV)
Did this end the debate between the Christian Gentiles and the Jews? No. Later, the Jews were telling the Christian Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised to become a believer because this is what was required in the covenant God made with the children of Israel.
The church today has problems trying to pre-screen Christians. It may not be circumcision or eating certain foods, but we have several others: Type of worship, translation of the Bible, baptism, place of worship, instruments used in worship, pastor’s salary, church membership, etc.
We need to give the same message that Peter gave in Acts 10. Peter told them that God was not show favoritism. He also told them what God had done for him. He told them about the Holy Spirit that was given to the believers and that Jesus died on the cross for everyone. God loves everyone. Christ died to redeem people from their sins, not to condemn them.
Rather than separating ourselves from the nonbeliever, we need to witnesses to them about what God had done in our lives. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we will speak only what the Holy Spirit tells us to speak.
God did not plan for the church to ‘pre-screen’ people for heaven. God wants us to tell unbelievers about the love of God and what He did for them on the cross. The assignment to the church is to make disciples, not judges and critics.
NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com