Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Sirach 21 – “Flee from sin as from a snake, if you approach it, it will bit you; its teeth are lion’s teeth, they deprive men of their lives. All law-breaking is like a two-edged sword, the wounds it inflicts are beyond cure” (21:1-3).
“To build your house on other people’s money is like collecting stones for your own tomb” (21:8).
“To the senseless fellow instruction is like fetters on his feet, like manacles on his right hand. . . . The foot of a fool goes straight into a house, but a man of much experience is respectful in his approach; . . .” (21:19-22).
“The lips of gossips repeat the words of others, the words of wise men are carefully weighed” (21:25).
Sirach 22 – About idlers, degenerate children, wisdom, friendship and vigilance: “Shed tears for the dead man, since he has left the light behind; shed tears for the fool, since he has left his wits behind; Shed quieter tears for the dead, since he is at rest, for the fool, life is sadder than death. Mourning for the dead lasts seven days, for the foolish and ungodly all the days of their lives” (11-12).
“A tie-beam bonded into a building will not be dislodged by an earthquake; so too, a heart resolved after due reflection will not flinch at the critical moment” (16).
On friendship: “If you have opened your mouth against your friend, do not worry; there is hope for reconciliation; but insult, arrogance, betrayal of secrets, and the stab in the back—in these cases any friend will run away” (22-23).
Acts 10:1-23 – In Caesarea, a man named Cornelius, a centurion, has a vision of an angel—“a man in dazzling clothes” (10:30), who addresses him and tells him that his prayers have ascended to God and that he is to send men to Joppa to get this man Peter. He sends two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks.
The next day, while these men are en route, Peter, up on the roof of Simon the tanner's house, also has a vision. It is of a large sheet being lowered. It is full of all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds. A voice tells Peter to get up and eat but he says he has never eaten unclean foods. “The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane’” (10:15).
The men finally appear and call for Peter. “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them’” (10:20). Peter does and hears about Cornelius.
Acts 10:24-48 - The next day, he and some other believers go to Joppa. Cornelius greets Peter by dropping to his knees but Peter tells him to get up, that he is only a mortal. Inside, many are assembled to listen to what Peter has to say. His message is as follows: “God show no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:35). Just as there are no unclean and unacceptable creatures, so there are no unclean and unacceptable people. The gospel is meant to go out to all and it is not a message of cultic legalism. Gentiles will receive the Holy Spirit just as the earliest disciples of Jesus were blessed with it.
Peter preaches that Jesus’ message of peace began with John’s baptism in Galilee, where God “anointed Jesus . . .with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (10:38). They put him to death on a tree, “but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses . . .”(10:41). While Peter speaks, the Holy Spirit comes down on the whole assembly. The Hebrew Christians with Peter are amazed “that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (10:45). Peter says, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (10:47) - the whole household of people are baptized, and Peter is asked to stay several days.