God creates every person as channel for his interactions with others. He can interact with a person directly but often chooses to channel his interaction through other people. We discuss Peter-Cornelius meeting to draw examples of direct interaction with God and the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an illustration of God directing human assistance through another person to a person in need. He creates every person with opportunities and capabilities to function as his representative among other people, will call a person to represent him at a point of need, and another person if a call recipient declines.
God can interact directly with a person: through a vision, through the Holy Spirit, or through other manifestations of his presence. Also, he can and often interacts with a person indirectly through other people. He chooses any person as channel for his interactions with others. He often offers the opportunity to a person by placing a need in his/her path. If the person declines, like the priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, God offers the opportunity to another person he chooses. We discuss examples from Peter-Cornelius interactions where God shows he has several options to interact directly with a person. Furthermore, we discuss the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an illustration of God choosing a person to care for another person on his behalf.
Through his covenant with Abraham and elaboration of the covenant in the gospel according to John, God establishes a uniform criterion for the status of every person before him, irrespective of race. He explained the criterion further in interactions between Peter and Cornelius, where he poured out the Holy Spirit without regard to racial, national, cultural, or other differences among the people. He mandates every person to accept and interact with others the same way he would: without regard to race, nationality, geographical extraction, physical features, gender, or any other categorization. Therefore, racism or racial discrimination is a human failure and has no place among people that believe in God.
We digress somewhat from our scheduled study in order to participate in the on-going discussion of race relations occasioned by events in the United States of America. We focus our contribution on understanding God’s purpose for multiracial interactions and relationships based on accounts in the bible. God creates people into categories based on race, nationality, geographical location, physical features, gender, and others. However, none of these categorizations has any effect on a person’s status before God. Instead, his covenant with Abraham and explanation of the covenant in the gospel according to John establish the equality of all people under God, irrespective of race or any other categorization.
Furthermore, interactions between Peter and Cornelius clearly explain God’s purpose for race relations. During Peter-Cornelius meeting in Caesarea, God poured out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his relations and friends the same way that he did on Jewish followers of Jesus at Pentecost. Racial, national, cultural, or other differences between Jews and Gentiles did not matter to God and should not matter among his people.
Also, as we discuss in Following God Schedule by Living in His Image, God creates every person to represent him in interactions among people: to convey his presence and impact as if he was there physically in human form. Therefore, he mandates every person to accept and interact with others the same way he would, without regard to race, nationality, geographical extraction, physical features, gender, or any other categorization. Racism or racial discrimination is a human failure before God. Any person that rejects, demeans, or in any way discriminates against another person on the basis of race has failed in God’s purpose of Let Us make man in Our image… [Genesis 1:26].
God terminated Saul as king of Israel because he departed from God’s command in executing judgment against Amalek. Instead of destroying all as he was commanded, he spared “everything that was good” for special treatment while selecting the “despised and worthless” for total destruction. Based on the swift termination of Saul’s kingship following the incident, we learn that God will not condone discriminatory application of the law. The principle of equality under the law is part of God’s mandate and means the law of a people must apply equally to all, irrespective of race, status in the society, or any other categorization.
First, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham and elaboration of the covenant in the gospel according to John to understand the status of a person before God is determined based on a uniform criterion and choice available to every person. Second, we discuss Peter-Cornelius interactions to understand God accepts every person that believes in him and wants us to do the same without regard to race or any other categorization. Third, we discuss the termination of Saul as king of Israel following his interaction with Amalekites to understand equality under the law as God’s mandate.
God’s schedule often consists of a sequence of tasks, revealed incrementally but not in advance. Completion of a task opens opportunities and conditions for the next task, irrespective of perceived success or failure. God provides input to accomplish a task but expects human effort to combine with his input. We discuss Christ teaching in interactions with a man born blind to understand Following God’s Schedule by working with him incrementally. Also, we discuss Peter’s escape from Herod to illustrate working diligently toward receiving and utilizing God’s intervention.
In continuing with our study series on Following God’s Schedule, we note that God often will provide his schedule as a sequence of tasks, revealed in increments but not in advance. As we discuss in a previous study under Human Relationship with God Regarding Work, completion of a task opens opportunities and conditions for the next task. Irrespective of perceived success or failure, the outcome of a task always leads to opportunities for a new task. Recognize and commit to the new task to advance in following God’s schedule. We discuss Christ teaching in interactions with a man born blind to illustrate God’s schedule revealed in sequential task increments.
Furthermore, each task includes a direct contribution from God and a contribution to be accomplished by human effort. God’s contribution could be closely tied with, and at times indistinguishable from, human effort and could occur before, during, or after the human contribution. We discuss Peter’s escape from Herod to illustrate God combining divine contributions with human effort to accomplish a goal.
Also, the end of a task at times indicates several options for a new task. Some of the options represent an attempt by the enemy to divert a person from following God’s schedule, whereas the other options provide opportunities to continue on God’s path. David faced a similar situation following his departure from Saul. He needed to protect himself from Saul but at the same time continue to build his reputation as a potential future leader of Israel. He identified his immediate and long-term needs and made choices based on satisfying the needs. We discuss events following David’s departure from Saul to understand his choices and staying on God’s schedule toward becoming king of Israel.
David’s choices during the period illustrate Searching for Next Step in Following God’s Schedule. The current study focuses on Christ teaching through interactions with a man born blind and the example based on Peter’s escape from Herod, to understand God’s schedule as a sequence of tasks to be accomplished incrementally through combined divine intervention and human effort. The next study will focus on understanding David’s choices following his departure from Saul, which illustrate Searching for Next Step to remain on the sequence of tasks representing God’s path or schedule to fulfillment of his promise.
Responding to Adversity—
Base Burnt, Flocks and Families in Captivity
We discuss a biblical event to illustrate that God could use adversity to guide a person to greater purpose. The adversity of follower families taken captive from his base led David to an opportunity to enunciate principles of basic civil rights and responsibilities. To respond to the adversity, he sought and received direction from God, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a battle, and recovered everything and people taken from his base. Also, as he worked toward the rescue, he evaluated and disposed of issues as they arose; such as letting two hundred of his men that were exhausted return to base while four hundred continued in the pursuit. By so doing, he set the stage for resolving a dispute on sharing battle proceeds, which led to his ruling on civil rights and responsibilities.
An adversity could present opportunities for greater accomplishment. We discuss an example in David’s rescue of follower families captured from his base by a raiding party. The rescue led him to define basis for civil rights and responsibilities while settling a dispute on sharing battle proceeds among his people.
David and his men had left their base in Philistine territory to present themselves to fight alongside their Philistine host. However, the Philistines refused their offer and asked them to return to their base. On their return, they found their base raided, burnt, and plundered and their families taken captive by the raiders. David sought and received God’s direction, pursued and caught up with the raiders, defeated them in a fierce battle, recovered all that was taken from his base including family members, and took additional plunder. Subsequently, the plunder opened an opportunity for David. To settle a dispute among his people on sharing the plunder, he made a ruling that became a lasting foundation for the interpretation of basic civil rights and responsibilities.
The study provides opportunity for increased understanding that God may use an adversity to guide a person toward greater purpose. Therefore, seek his direction in every adversity. He establishes a way to communicate with every person and will respond to guide you if you seek his direction. Recognizing potential opportunities in an adversity will motivate a person to respond positively by seeking direction from God to defeat the adversity and any temptation that it might represent.
God provides input to solving our various problems but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Furthermore, the human effort could be closely tied with and necessary to accepting and utilizing God’s input. Because the strategy and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to place ourselves in position to receive his intervention. That is, we work diligently because we have faith that he will intervene and we want to be ready to accept and utilize his intervention.
Peter’s miraculous escape from Herod’s prison [Acts 12] helps illustrate this aspect of our relationship with God. King Herod started a new wave of persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. After he killed James, John’s brother, and noticed Jews appeared pleased with the killing, he arrested Peter, intending to kill him also. To avoid having to kill someone during the Feast of Unleavened bread, he held Peter in prison under maximum security, intending to try him publicly and kill him after the festival. Members of the church prayed ceaselessly for Peter. They gathered at the house of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, and prayed earnestly day and night for Peter. An angel appeared to Peter in prison on the night before his scheduled public trial. The angel freed him, guided him to about one street length out from the prison, and left him. Peter first visited with the church family at Mary’s house where they were praying for him. He told them how God brought him out of the prison. Then he left and went away so Herod and his men could not find him when they looked for him in the morning. We learn several lessons based on Peter’s experience.
This bible study focuses on the interaction between Peter and Cornelius, based on Acts 10 and 11. Their meeting marked the first time of taking the gospel to non-Jews (i.e., Gentiles). God prepared Cornelius for the meeting by sending an angel in human form through a vision to advise him to send for Peter. He prepared Peter also.
First, he told Peter through a vision that he should not reject any person that God has accepted. Second, the Holy Spirit told Peter to accept Cornelius’s invitation. During the meeting, witnessed by several friends and relatives of Cornelius and a few Jewish believers that accompanied Peter, the Holy Spirit came on all that heard Peter’s message, just like on the apostles at Pentecost.
Peter later returned to Jerusalem and faced criticism for interacting with uncircumcised men. He justified his actions in detail and explained that Jewish believers could not reject non-Jews that God accepted, because God had shown through his meeting with Cornelius that salvation through Christ is for all people—Jews and non-Jews alike. His explanations were satisfactory as the believers praised God for granting salvation to non-Jews.
This bible study examines Peter and John interactions with the crippled beggar and other observers, Peter’s explanation of the miracle, and their trial before the full assembly of Isreali elders. The interactions illustrate four principles applicable to present-day relationships.
We begin a bible study series on The Apostles, focused on searching the activities of the apostles for principles and clues to enrich our understanding of the Christian basis for human interactions and relationships. Our study will be based on Acts but will call on any part of the bible that helps explain the apostles’ activities.
Fellowship of Believers
This bible study examines the beginnings of the early church, based in Jerusalem and referred to as Fellowship of the Believers. After the eleven apostles saw Christ ascend to heaven, they returned to Jerusalem and were joined by several others, bringing their total number to 120. They met daily at the temple courts, where the apostles taught the word of God and performed miracles and the people prayed and shared food and fellowship. We learn two principles based on their experience.