In Jesus’ earthly days He anointed His disciples to minister only to the Jews, and “the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. But at the end of Matthews’ gospel the Lord commissioned His apostles to travel the then-known world and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Matt.10:5-6, 28:19-20) Paul then showed the necessity of taking the Gospel “to the Jew first” for reasons that were clear enough. But the Gospel based on the precious blood of Christ was to know no boundaries, and this truth was gradually imparted and recognized during the Acts period.
The N.T. is dramatically insistent on this truth concerning the universality of the cleansing power of Christ’s blood. Peter, given the keys of the Kingdom, was first to open the door to Gentiles as a result of the triple vision of the sheet. (Acts 10-11) But he found it difficult to accept at first. Many Jews refused to entertain this expansion, and created opposition to the Apostles’ preaching, with much persecution.
Leaving Ephesus for the last time, Paul had this to say. “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:27-28
Writing to the Ephesian Church at a later date he said of the Gentiles, “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Eph.2:12-13
John, in his visions at Patmos, records two occasions when the Universal Gospel was the subject of great joy in heaven.
“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”” Rev 5:9
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”” Rev.7:13-14
All this is accepted evangelical teaching today, and rightly so. But what did the Lord say to Peter when the sheet was let down? “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” Acts 10:15. What had God “made clean”? Some think erroneously that God was abolishing the Levitical regulation concerning unclean foods. But Peter, after initially misunderstanding it himself, went on to say to Cornelius, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean.” Acts 10:28. He realised the animals on the sheet were parabolic, and the Holy Spirit helped him understand that God had cleansed all mankind, and that in due course this would become a living reality, first by the Elect Church, and then in stages to the rest of mankind, as eventually “every knee will bow to Jesus.” Phil.2:10.
This is not universally understood or accepted, in fact it is hotly denied in some quarters, but it is God’s word, and it has been effected by the shedding of Christ’s blood. The absolute greatness of His sacrifice should therefore be the source of universal thanksgiving.