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Elpis Israel
by Dr. John Thomas

The words of the Spirit by the mouth of Peter went home to the hearts of these devout Jews.

"They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to the congregation about three thousand souls.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers".

These disciples were "a kind of firstfruits of God's creatures begotten of his own will by the word of truth," which "lives and abides for ever".

But, though the mystery of the gospel was thus made known in the name of Jesus, even Peter, to whom the keys of the mystery were given, did not yet understand "the fellowship of the mystery".

The keys were not given to him when Jesus spoke the words; nor were both of them given to him on the day of Pentecost.

The mystery was revealed to the Jews first: and several years elapsed before it was known, or supposed, that the Gentiles would be admitted to a joint-heirship with Jesus on an equality with the Jews.

During this period of about seven years, the body of Christ consisted solely of believing Israelites, sons of Abraham by flesh and faith.

At the end of this time, however, God determined to "visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name".

He graciously resolved to invite men of all the nations of the Roman territory to accept honour, glory, and immortality, in the kingdom and empire about to be established on the ruins of all others.

Hitherto He had only invited His own people Israel to this high destiny; but now He was about to extend the gospel call to the nations also.

Before this, however, could be accomplished according to the principles laid down in God's plan, it was necessary to prepare Peter for the work.

Although an apostle, he was still a Jew, and had all the prejudices of the Jew against the Gentile.

He considered it "unlawful for him to keep company, or come unto one of another nation".

The Jews had no more social dealings with the Gentiles than with the Samaritans.

And if any had suggested the propriety of his going and preaching the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus to the Gentiles, he would have positively refused.

If, however, he had been ever so willing, he could not have done it for various other reasons.

In those days, no one could preach effectually unless he were sent; and, as he had not been sent of God, his mission would have been a failure.

Then, he did not know whether God would accept the Gentiles on the same conditions as the Jews, if, indeed, He would admit them to a joint-heirship at all.

But, the law was a sufficient wall of separation to keep Jewish preachers and Gentiles apart until God's time should arrive to do it away, and to bring them together into "one body".

Peter, then, had to be prepared for the work.

The narrative of his preparation is contained in the tenth chapter of Acts.

A direct attack was made upon his prejudices.