Readings for Sunday, May 9th, 2021
The 1st reading is from Acts 10:44-48. Today's reading immediately follows Peter’s address to Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, and his friends. This meeting was an important step in opening the good news of Jesus Christ to the entire world. The coming of the Holy Spirit to all who were listening to Peter has been called the “Gentile Pentecost”. The timing was unusual in that the gentiles had not yet been baptized. Although the phrase, “Gentile Pentecost”, did not come from Peter, the very last words in Peter’s sermon before the Spirit descended on the gentiles “are everyone who believes in him”. Last week we read about Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, but this was the first time for Peter to welcome gentiles into the church of Jesus Christ and it was instructive to members of the conservative Jerusalem Christian church who were traveling with Peter. The question still remained however: did Gentile acceptance in the Christian community require males to be circumcised? This question was later resolved through the actions of Paul with the conclusion that circumcision was not required of Gentiles. Peter’s directive to others to baptize Cornelius and his friends set the principal that it was the act of baptism that was important and not who conducted the baptism. Peter’s acceptance of the invitation by Cornelius to stay a few days inevitably involved the question of table fellowship which was against all Jewish tradition. Peter accepted this change in tradition but later backslid on the question of table fellowship in Antioch until Paul rebuked him.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
The 2nd reading is from 1 John 5:1-6. Our reading summarizes our core believes. Jesus was born with water as are all humans. Jesus was and is the Messiah; Jesus was, is and always will be the son of God. Everyone who loves God loves Jesus. We demonstrate our love of God by obeying his commandments. The commandments of God are not burdensome. One commentator, Plummer, said that our reading and especially verse 5:6 was “the most perplexing passage in the Epistle and one of the most perplexing in the New Testament.” Part of the problem was that the author of 1 John was refuting false teachings that were important in his day but are no longer being taught today. False teaching 1 was that Jesus was human until his baptism when the divine essence entered his human body and false teaching 2 that the divine essence left the human body at the last supper or on the cross before the death of the human body. The words “water and blood” in verse 5:6 were believed by many, to the time of the reformation, to support these false teachings. But neither Luther nor Calvin held this view. Both Luther and Calvin refuted these false teachings and stated our firm belief today that Jesus was both divine and human from incarnation until death on the cross. The author of 1 John used the word belief many times in his writings, but he only used the word faith once and that is in verse 4 of today's reading. Belief is personal but faith is belief with a connotation of confession. If we confess our belief in Jesus we can bring our belief in Jesus to others and such faith can conquer the world. The writer of 1 John is saying that Jesus was born with “water” as we all are and thus was a human at birth and with the blood of death on the cross, predestined from birth for the atonement of our sins and thus was God from before and at his birth, at his human death and God thereafter.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ, not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.