Acts 11/Joel 2: Pouring Out the Spirit

Joel 2:28-29: “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.”

Acts 11:15-18: “‘And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life’.”

In Acts 11, Peter tells the Jewish believers about how the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentile Cornelius and his family. The Jewish believers were surprised, and said, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). Later in the chapter, the church in Antioch was formed by persecuted believers who escaped after Stephen was killed. The Gentiles who were with them–“men of Cyprus and Cyrene”–decided to preach the Gospel to the Greeks as well–the “Hellenists” (Acts 11:20). Cyprus is a highly-populated island nation in the Middle East today, located to the south of Turkey, and Cyrene is an ancient Libyan city that was controlled by both Greeks and Romans at different times.

At a time when the Jewish apostles and believers were only spreading the Gospel to other Jews, maybe these Gentile men felt it their responsibility to include the Gentiles in that number. After all, someone converted them; shouldn’t they, too, convert others? Thanks to the work of these men, many Greeks were converted, and the believers in Jerusalem commended their faith. Antioch was also the first place where Jesus-followers were called Christians.

Through this, I see that God intended to reach the whole world. God never intended to save just one people group. After all, in Genesis 22:18, God promised Abraham that through his descendants, the whole world would be blessed. But we never knew the specifications of that blessing until now. It is through the spread of the Gospel and the faith of the Israelites–later “Jews”–that the rest of the world gained access to this blessing. God used the Jews to reach the Gentiles and everyone continued to spread the news about Jesus everywhere. And God continued to pour out the Holy Spirit on all people. That way, everyone had “the repentance that leads to life.” The favor that the Israelites were shown in the very beginning, i.e. Torah times, was for this purpose. Now God has revealed that His favor extends to all without bias–that God is not a “respecter of persons.”

I am glad that this Gospel and the Holy Spirit are available to everyone.

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