Thursday, January 8, 2015

No Partiality

The Baptism of the Lord

This Sunday, the second reading will be from Acts 10:34-38. I strongly recommend also reading the whole chapter for context.

If you’re a little confused by the Baptism of the Lord, you’re in good company (or at least plenty of company). Several heresies throughout the ages have denied the dual nature of Christ. The consequence of some of these heresies is the error that Jesus was “just a guy” until John baptized him, when God came upon him, and then left him at the crucifixion.

The Lord’s baptism is recorded in all four gospels, so we can be pretty sure that the first generation of apostles thought it was important. The reason why is harder. The Summa Theologica contains a question on The Baptizing of Christ. I am still working on reading it myself, and have found it enlightening so far. Dive in at your own risk, though - the Summa is not easy reading!

If you read the couple of chapters before this Sunday’s epistle, you’ll note that the Cornelius who is mentioned, is a well-respected Roman centurion, and that he has summoned Peter at the instruction of a vision and, “see what he had to say.”

My bible has a note in it that by the inclusion of the phrase “you know” in verse 36, we can infer that Luke intended the inclusion of this speech to be for the benefit of already baptized Christians. We can make this inference because Peter is speaking to the household of Cornelius (and some of his family & friends), who probably don’t know about the history of the Israelites or John the Baptist.

Cornelius was not a Christian when these words were spoken to his household, but he was a God-fearing man who acted uprightly, gave alms generously, and prayed to God. And God rewarded his good efforts by allowing them to serve for a memorial offering before God and with a call to be in his church.

This call came before Cornelius was a member of the chosen people of God. God didn't require him to become a Jew first - God chose him out of the world.

Christians need to always be recalling God’s impartiality, and that our faith is nothing to brag about. Like Cornelius, our coming to God is not a consequence of some higher level of intellect that we have, as if we are somehow smarter than those who have not come to faith, it is a free gift - and one without which we would be without hope of salvation.

Let us pray, thanking God for the gift of faith that he has planted in our hearts. Let us ask that he always deepen and strengthen that faith, and help us always to turn to him in confidence whenever we are in trouble. Let us also ask that God bless with the gift of faith someone who we know that does not yet have it, or renew in faith someone who has allowed their faith to be neglected.

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