November 19 (Daily reading: Acts 9-10) We saw today two accounts of God preparing the early church for its missionary endeavors. Luke’s account of Stephen’s death ends with an introduction to a young man named Saul, who “was in hearty agreement with putting him to death” (8:1). Saul himself was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (9:1). Perhaps God had begun working in Saul’s heart as he witnessed the way that Stephen died. The next words from the Lord that Saul heard after Jesus spoke to him on the way to Damascus were spoken by Ananias: “Brother Saul” (9:17). What grace and forgiveness are in those two words! God told Ananias concerning Saul: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (9:15, NIV). He would become the greatest missionary who ever lived!
Peter had already preached many times and seen a great harvest by the time we get to Acts 10. But God still had something to teach him about missions, which He did in a vision, and later in his experiences with Cornelius. In Peter’s own words to Cornelius: “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (10:34-35). God is an international God!
In calling Saul, God overcame the barrier of sin in a man who was committed to “destroy the church” (8:3). In calling Peter, God overcame the sin of prejudice in a man who had been called to be the leader of that same church. In these two men, we see the church’s commitment to missions. Christ included every person of every race, language and culture in His command: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk. 16:15).
– Al Gary