Today, I am reading and commenting on Acts 9-10.
Here we see two examples of Luke changing the name he uses for people. As I said the other day, I believe that Luke changes the names he uses as part of his attention to detail. The two people mentioned are Saul and Barnabas. Earlier, Luke referred to Barnabas by his given name, Joseph, but told us that he was also known as Barnabas. Further on in this book, Luke switches to referring to Saul as Paul (and explains at that point that Saul was also called Paul). If Luke were making this up, it would make an easier story to tell if he just used the same name throughout. The only reason I can imagine for using the different names is so that his readers could more easily corroborate what he was writing. At the point in time being described in today’s passage, everyone knew Saul as “Saul”, at the time of events described later people know him as “Paul”.
Luke’s description of Peter’s vision and his visit with Cornelius are absolutely critical for us to read and learn the lesson they contain. Luke is not at all bashful in making sure we understand the lesson here. The only thing Luke could have added to make his point even more clear was a reference to Genesis 1:26. Peter as a good and conscientious Jew would have considered Gentiles to be unclean and that associating with them would make him unclean. Peter got the Holy Spirit’s message, no one created in God’s image should be considered unclean. Martin Luther King, Jr got it right, we should judge people by the content of their character not by their ancestry. Actually, we should judge people by their reaction to the Holy Spirit. When Peter saw the Holy Spirit fill Cornelius and his household he recognized that they should be baptized. I want to emphasize that anyone who judges people based on anything other than their actions is not following the clear direction of God…and when judging people based on their actions we need to be prepared to forgive them…even if they sin repeatedly.