Monday, June 26, 2017

Baptism Must Open the Door to Genuine Fellowship

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

The early Christians were greatly encouraged by Luke’s account of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I joined those two disciples on their journey and shared a meal with them on the Sunday of My resurrection. The two disciples recognized Me when I blessed and “broke bread” with them (Luke 24:13-35). The early disciples believed My promise to them:

For when two or three gather together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

(Matthew 18:20)

For My early disciples, eating together was very important. Withholding table fellowship from someone signified a very serious loss of fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

When Samaritans and Gentiles began to become My followers, however, there were significant problems. Most non-Jewish people did not “keep kosher.” That meant that non-Jews ate food and used eating and cooking utensils that were considered unclean by Jews. As a result, Jews avoided non-Jews, especially eating with them, to remain clean according to the Jewish food laws (John 4:9). This “law-keeping” generally remained true among My early Jewish disciples despite the fact that I had essentially declared all foods clean in My earthly ministry (Mark 7:19).

I would later have to send My apostle Peter a vision, an angel, and the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit to help prepare him to have table fellowship with Gentiles and baptize them (Acts 8:25; Acts 10:1-29, 48). Even with Peter’s great influence, many of My Jewish disciples were upset. The real problem was NOT that Philip baptized Samaritans or that Peter baptized Gentiles. The real problem was that they entered into full fellowship with them, stayed in their homes, and ate at their tables (Acts 11:1-3). Did baptism mean full fellowship or did Gentiles have to practice Jewish food laws and be clean by Jewish standards to be received into fellowship? That was a huge and enduring question for these early believers. Unfortunately, in almost every age, fellowship across lines of suspicion, fear, prejudice, and language and cultural differences has been difficult at first. But I died for all people! I gave My life to break down every barrier that would separate people from one another. Baptism must open the door to genuine fellowship!

I want you to hear two truths from today’s note:

  1. True, authentic fellowship between people of diverse cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, races, and languages is hard. Misunderstandings happen easily. Prejudices go away slowly. Fear of others makes friendship hard and genuine fellowship harder.
  2. For you to be My disciple, you must find a way to have this authentic fellowship. You must love, respect, and eat with each other. You cannot allow worldly prejudices and bigotry to keep you divided. You are either all one family in Me, or you are not part of Me!

Baptism must open the door of fellowship for all people of all races and all cultures to sit at the same table with each other. As Paul told the Corinthians:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV)

Verses to Live

The Holy Spirit I sent you as a gift will always be at work to break down the barriers that separate you from other people. The Spirit will work to draw you together with love.

As you read the book of Acts, you will see that My promise (Acts 1:8) to give you power through the Holy Spirit to become one family made up of people from all nations can come true. I want you to see how this unity happened through Philip, Peter, John, and the Samaritans. I also want you to see the plain words the Spirit said through Paul to stress that you are all one in Me. I paid a huge price to bring down the barriers that separate people so that I could make you one new humanity in Me.

Meanwhile [after many Samaritans responded to the preaching of Philip and were baptized,] word had reached the Lord’s emissaries [the apostles] in Jerusalem that the message of God was welcomed in Samaria — a land of half-breeds and heretics in the minds of many Judeans. They sent Peter and John to pray for the Samaritans. They were especially eager to see if the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit because until this point they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but had not experienced the Holy Spirit. When Peter and John laid hands on the people, the Holy Spirit did indeed come upon them all.

Peter and John preached to and talked with the Samaritans about the message of the Lord; and then they returned to Jerusalem, stopping in many other Samaritan villages along the way to proclaim the good news.

(Acts 8:14-17, 25)

It is your faith in the Anointed Jesus that makes all of you children of God because all of you who have been initiated into the Anointed One through … baptism have put Him on. It makes no difference whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a freeman, a man or a woman, because in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, you are all one. Since you belong to Him and are now subject to His power, you are the descendant of Abraham and the heir of God’s glory according to the promise.

(Galatians 3:26-29)

He [Jesus Christ] is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us [Jews and non-Jews] so that we can be one. He offered His body on the sacrificial altar to bring an end to the law’s ordinances and dictations that separated Jews from the outside nations. His desire was to create in His body one new humanity from the two opposing groups, thus creating peace. Effectively the cross becomes God’s means to kill off the hostility once and for all so that He is able to reconcile them both to God in this one new body.

(Ephesians 2:14-16)

Response in Prayer

O Father, Creator of all people, forgive us — forgive me. I am heartbroken at the racism, classism, ethnocentrism, and every other “ism” that we have created to divide us. Use me, O God, as an instrument of Your grace, mercy, peace, and unity. May I be used to tear down barriers that keep people from You and from each other. I ask for wisdom and determination as I do this, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to help me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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From: “A Year with Jesus”
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Category: Passion for Praise

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