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Called to be Inclusive
Summer Quarter: God’s Urgent Call
Unit 3: Calls in the New Testament
Sunday school lesson for the week of August 27, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Lesson Scripture: Acts 10:19-33
Background Scripture: Acts 10
Key Verse: God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean. Acts 10:28: “He said to them, “You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders. However, God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.”
Purpose: To ponder the importance of ministering across cultural, racial, and socioeconomic boundaries.
Hearing the Word
The Adult Bible Studies
’ writer ends this final lesson of the summer series with Acts 10. The lessons in this series of the “Called Prophets” throughout the Old Testament and the Disciples throughout the New Testament have all been unique, personal, and relational with God. The writer states, “God’s kingdom has no drones; we are all called to be worker bees. We are saved from a life of sin and set aside for a life of service.”
God calls individuals from a wide range of characteristics to be His transformational agents for the mission. The writer briefly recaptures the calls/conversions of the prophets Moses, described as the son of slaves but who grew up in a wealthy household; and Amos, who was a shepherd and a trimmer of sycamore trees. While the emphasis this quarter has been on the theme of calling, these stories reveal that being called is part of the conversion process as well.
The writer continues with the conversion theme from last week’s lesson, expressing that it is more than a single event in the lives of God’s people. The scripture also reveals that the conversion and the calls are often a more complex reality. The writer says that the Scripture text is another story of conversion in the lives of Peter and Cornelius’ transformations by the Holy Spirit and parallels the conversion stories of Acts 9 and 10. The Scripture text also contrasts the conversion story of Acts 10 as “radical and life transforming” for both men. What happened to each was built on previous experiences with God.”
As with Ananias in last week's lesson, there is not much Scripture text about Cornelius, but the Scripture conveys that Cornelius exhibited Godly characteristics.
Who is Cornelius?
- Appears and disappears in the same Bible chapter (Acts 10).
- Honest seeker who had already developed a relationship with God.
- Gentile soldier, great moral character, well respected amongst Jews, obedient to the direction of the Holy Spirit, and worshipper of the Jewish God (Acts 10:22).
- Acts of compassion seen as memorial acts (Acts 10:31).
- A humble leader (Acts 10:33).
- A prayer life (Acts 10:30).
Reflection: Recall a personal experience of conversion or call that was transformational in your life? How did you encounter the experience, and how is it alive in your life today?
Who is Peter?
- Personally discipled by Jesus.
- A person of faith (Matthew 14:28).
- Sometimes acted impulsively and even tried to kill a priest (John 18:10).
- Bold, outspoken (Matthew 16:15-16).
- Denied Jesus, cursed, and swore (Matthew 26:73-74).
- Impartation of the Holy Spirit and transference to others during the Pentecost encounter (Acts 2:14-36).
- Some Scripture text of steadfast and Godly character (Galatians 2:11-13).
- A Solid Rock. (John 1:42) “You are Simon…you shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). Cephas and Peter are from the word for rock in Aramaic and Greek, respectively.
- A prayer life (Acts 3:1).
Reflection: Take time to skim through the Bible and identify those individuals and stories that portray great character strengths. Although there were those with character flaws, God's mission was carried out, and spiritual growth and conversion evolved.
What’s the story on Peter and Cornelius?
The story has an important focus of inclusiveness (Acts 10:28), as we see Peter (a Jew) and Cornelius (a Gentile) both experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit in relation to God. In this chapter, the writer says that Luke describes the great leap of the Gospel moving forward and identifies several things that were important to Luke and the early Christians:
- Luke sought to emphasize the fact that taking the gospel to the Gentiles was God’s idea.
- He wanted to show exactly how this expansion happened and reveal precisely how God demonstrated approval.
- Luke also wanted to reveal that it was Peter and not Paul who first took the gospel to the Gentiles. In addition, he wanted to show how the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles did not require an allegiance to or the practice of Judaism.
- Acts 10:1-4a: Luke gives us little information about Cornelius. However, what he does tell us is important. The man God used to reveal the divine desire to offer salvation to all people was a man of substance. He lived in the Roman capital of the province of Judea and served as an officer in the Roman army.
- Verses 4b-8. Luke makes it clear that God chose Cornelius for this crucial mission because of his piety and compassion. In addition, the fact that he immediately carried out the angel’s instructions indicates he was the right man for the job. As we have seen in previous lessons this quarter, the willingness to do whatever God asks us to do is one of the most important attributes of a Christian disciple.
Reflection: Where are areas in ministries, leadership, congregations, engagements, etc. (locally, nationally, and globally) where inclusiveness has been or can be beneficial?
As we explored these lessons, we saw God use diversity and inclusiveness of lineages, nationalities, and cultures of individuals called to oneness in relationships through the association of God. In this text, Peter, through the impartation of the Holy Spirit and discipleship maturation, comes to a profound revelation that all persons are equal, and there is none better than the other. We see this in Acts 10:28: “He said to them, ‘You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders. However, God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.’” As Christians, the Holy Spirit draws us into oneness with God and one another.
We conclude the Adult Bible Studies
Summer 2017 series with a timely call to continue this inclusive movement. We see that there are various characteristics portrayed in Peter and Cornelius that were fundamental in two very different individuals coming together in the association of God, along with the power of prayer, the Holy Spirit, faith, humility, and the steadfast love of God.
Father, let us be steadfast in moving forward to inclusiveness, love, and kindness to all near and far. Let us not be distracted or divided by those that do not share in our morals and values imparted by the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Adult Bible Studies, Summer 2017, God’s Urgent Call” is used for the content of this lesson.