Sunday, February 21, 2016

This week's lesson (February 20-26): the Great Controversy and the Early Church

Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between you and me. For the generations to come, every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner -- those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenantAny uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." -- Genesis 17:9-14, NIV (emphasis supplied).
It's not easy "to make disciples of all nations."

And sometimes, it's tougher for us than it is for them.

Read the first few chapters of Acts, for instance, and you'll notice how slooooooowly the Church included those uncircumcised Gentiles.
  • The first believers, remember, were all Palestinian Jews -- Palestinian Jews whose men were all circumcised.
  • But with Pentecost came Hellenistic Jews -- and while this created all kinds of trouble about money and leadership, at least circumcision wasn't an issue.
  • Next came Samaritans -- foreign scum, to be sure, but foreign scum who were circumcised.
  • Then came an Ethiopian eunuch -- a man for whom the whole question of circumcision was . . . academic.
  • And only after all this did Peter finally baptized a God-fearing Gentile by the name of Cornelius -- and even then, it took a vision, a command from God, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a meeting with leaders in Jerusalem, and a church council (not to mention a number of letters from Paul) before the church finally decided it was okay to make disciples of people like . . . you know, people like him.
To be sure, we shouldn't be too hard on the early church. It's safer to stick with your own kind, after all -- safer, easier, and much more enjoyable.

That's why "the nations" aren't the only ones who need change.

No, if we want to change them, then first we need to change ourselves.

(This commentary is adapted from the commentary for the Sabbath School lesson of March 4, 2014.)

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