After Jesus’s resurrection, he spent forty days (Mark 16:19) teaching his followers, appearing to people to prove he was alive, and reminding the disciples their work was just beginning. During these precious conversations, Jesus allowed Peter to reaffirm his faith in his teacher (John 21), and he distinguished for John that the disciples would have different callings moving forward. This was important because up until now, the men had worked together. Just before his ascension, Jesus reminded his followers that they would receive a new guide. The helper (John 14:26) was someone Jesus had previously discussed with the disciples, but now that he was with them in his resurrected state, they were expecting their time of oppression under Roman rule to end.
Jesus responds by telling them that their work isn’t finished. In Acts 1, Luke records Jesus’s commissioning,
While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:4-8 CSB (emphasis mine
This statement from Jesus echos what Matthew recorded at the end of his Gospel in Matthew 28:16-20. Known as The Great Commission, Jesus informed the disciples their ministry was to continue,
The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20 CSB emphasis mine
It seems clear to me that the disciples calling was to continue the work of Jesus. At Pentecost, this calling expands beyond the disciples. This is why we can learn about our callings when we read the story of Pentecost in Acts 2. We can also learn how easy it is to veer off course of living in our purpose when we believe we are still following our callings if we aren’t willing to allow God to stretch us out of our comfort zones.
Here’s What Pentecost Teaches Us About Life Callings
Now, the arrival of the Holy Spirit was unmistakable. Luke records that tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one came from the sky along with a rushing wing. The disciples were all together along with other followers of Jesus in Jerusalem just as Jesus had commanded, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now, the English language is less precise than Greek, and it can become confusing when we read the Bible to understand exactly what is happening here. However, we need to realize that the Holy Spirit entered every follower of Jesus. They all were given the same ability to preach the gospel in different languages.
We know this because, in Act 2:14, Luke now clarifies “all” from “Peter and the eleven.” Additionally, Peter stands up and speaks to the entire crowd. He is stepping into his calling right here as the foundational rock of the church. He declares that what is happening fulfills a prophecy from Joel. Acts 2:16-18 says:
On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
And it will be in the last days, says God,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all people;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
I will even pour out my Spirit
on my servants in those days, both men and women
and they will prophesy. (CSB)
After Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit, Luke records them in Acts preaching, healing people, establishing the church, and leading the way as the choice to follow God’s law. Others begin to invade their conversations. Peter continues to preach and heal people, and then we arrive at Acts 10. And here’s where I have to laugh a little.
Peter has a dream where God directly tells him to eat the food in front of him, and he objects because by Jewish standards, it’s considered unclean. Acts 10:15-16 says,” ‘What God has made clean, do not call impure.'” This happened three times, and suddenly the object was taken up into heaven.” (CSB)
Still, this dream isn’t enough for Peter to understand what’s going on. Thankfully, Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Regiment who was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household, did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God had an encounter with an angel, and he obeyed. (Acts 10:1-3)
Cornelius Confirms Peter’s Calling to the Gentiles
Acts 10:30-36 says,
Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in dazzling clothing stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your acts of charity have been remembered in God’s sight. Therefore send someone to Joppa and invite Simon here, who is also named Peter. He is lodging in Simon the tanner’s house by the sea.’ So I immediately sent for you, and it was good of you to come. So now we are all in the presence of God to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.” Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.”
The Good News is for Everyone!
Ok, so let’s do a quick recap here. Jesus told the disciples that they were to take the good news to all the nations, as recorded by Matthew. And then Luke records Jesus tellings the disciples following him that they will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and then Peter affirms this at Pentecost by quoting Joel, and yet somehow it’s not yet sunk in with Peter that he is to share the gospel with everyone.
Do we have a gracious God or what? This timeline is a prime example of how we edit God’s communication to our preferences. We hear the parts that make sense to us or are obvious, but we ignore the parts that require us to think deeper. In Peter’s case, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Jesus meant the gospel to be for everyone, their ministry with him included the Samaritans!
When we journey with God in our callings we need to remember that clarifying our calling isn’t a one-time thing. Every day we have the choice to continue to learn more about the next step in our journey with God. We also have the choice as to whether we’ll continue to represent God well or if we’ll do things our own way.
Later in his ministry, Paul recorded a conversation with Peter where he was once again dismissive of the Gentiles. In Galatians 2 Paul noticed that when the Jewish believers were around Paul sat with them and acted one way and when he was alone with the Gentiles Peter acted differently. Just like today, the Gentiles didn’t appreciate that Peter treated them two different ways. What’s important to note about this interaction between Paul and Peter is that it was much later after Peter declared in Acts 10 “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Peter may have understood that God didn’t show favoritism, but it didn’t stop him from doing so!
And if the church’s foundation, the one who walked shoulder to shoulder with Jesus was capable of such a tremendous error SO.ARE.WE.
How Do We Avoid the Mistakes Peter Made?
There’s no way to avoid every mistake, however, we can insulate ourselves with a few disciplines:
- Read your Bible and pray every day.
- Read your Bible for clarity and further understanding, not confirmation bias.
- Find a mentor and/or accountability partner.
- Consider the “why” behind your choices. If they’re about you, you’ve headed the wrong way.
- Remember humility is vital.
Check out this short video from the Bible Project about Pentecost for a visual summary of Acts 1-7.