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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Acts 10:9-16 - listening to God

We saw yesterday that one consequence of living with a tanner was that Peter had time to pray regularly. A second outcome was that Peter now had a place where God would have time to speak to him. On the occasion described in the chapter, the time God chose to speak to him was between his prayer time and his breakfast. The important detail is that God knew there was a period of time in which he could explain important information to Peter.
How did God go about it? The first detail that Luke mentions is that Peter became hungry and therefore had to wait while his breakfast was made. From one point of view, this is so normal that we would not even notice it usually. But Peter must have recalled it afterwards because he told Luke about it. What would have happened if Peter had not been hungry? He might have gone and done something else and if he had the whole story in this chapter would have changed. So we should observe that the Lord’s providence includes the small, everyday things of life.
Then we can see that God spoke to him in a supernatural way by means of a trance in which he saw a vision. A common response to this experience is to wonder whether or not God speaks in visions today. There are five things I would say about such a response. First, I think it is a pointless question because if he has not done it for you then you don’t know what is being described and if he has done it then you will know. Second, God knows how to speak to you and if he decides not to use such methods with you, why would you want it? Third, what is important is what God says, not how he says it. The method of visions is of little significance, but the message of the vision is of great importance. Fourth, if God does send a vision the content will always be according to God’s Word and never contrary to it. Fifth, the particular detail that was conveyed to Peter is now found in God’s Word and we don’t need a vision to tell us about it.
Clearly the vision was designed to cause Peter to make spiritual progress, and this is always why God speaks to us in any way. That is why we read the Bible on a regular basis. Peter had taken some steps in the right direction when he went to live with Simon the tanner because it showed that some of his scruples about the Jewish ceremonial law were diminishing. But the vision tells us that they had not all been dealt with because that is what the vision is about. The vision dealt with an imminent issue with Cornelius the Gentile, but we know that the issue of the ceremonial law was a big one for Peter because later he had to be rebuked by Paul in Antioch for succumbing to those who demanded that it be implemented (Gal. 2:11).
The point is that we have to make time to listen to God as well as to speak to God.

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