Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Peter was speaking prophetically, and really didn’t understand the breadth of the truth he was proclaiming, as is evident from what is recorded in Acts 10. At this point, Peter probably thought he was just talking about Jews! It’s important to realize here that just before Peter said this, the Holy Spirit had spoken through him to bring conviction to his hearers. It doesn’t do much good to call people to salvation if they haven’t recognized they need it. Ray Comfort has a very effective, and very confrontational, ministry in the US, but I doubt his approach would bear much fruit in Japan because the people simply have no foundation for understanding the message. However far it has strayed from it, America indeed has a “Judeo-Christian Heritage.” Likewise, the crowd in Jerusalem at Pentecost was there precisely because they believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so were primed to receive what Peter had to say. In terms of methodology, Paul is far more applicable to Japan because he ministered to Gentiles who didn’t have that foundation. Even so, he always started with the Jews wherever he went so that he could get a core group on which to grow. The point is that the promise is indeed for “all who are far off,” but the method of communicating it needs to be tailored to each specific situation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This is of course what I have struggled with in my 30 years of ministry in Omura, and I certainly can’t say I’ve come up with any pat answers! I find obstacles to each of the core elements in what Peter said: repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Spirit. It is thus not surprising that I also have had difficulty in communicating a vision for the salvation of “all who are far off.” It is abundantly clear that this isn’t something I can do by my own wisdom and strength! I’ve got to stay actively dependent on the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to show me how much to say to whom, and when, because only He can bring true conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment, bringing the repentance that leads to salvation. (John 16:8) In that, I am not to be hesitant, but be bold to speak the truth in love as He directs, so that as many as possible may be brought to salvation.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the beautiful day yesterday, and for all You did in it. I pray that each of the believers would indeed seek to bear the fruit of Christ’s character in every way. They are much closer in experience to those around them than I am, and so can see the specific barriers that need to be overcome. Help them believe that You can indeed overcome every barrier, and so be bold witnesses to all they encounter, and especially to their families, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!