Reflections on the Book of Acts #10: God is Not a Name

Here’s the link to Acts 10.

The word “God” is not a name; it’s a category.

I say this because if someone I don’t know tells me they believe in God, one of my first thoughts is: What God? Because who knows what they think God is or what God is like.

The word “God” is an empty vessel into which we can import all sorts of assumptions. Some assume a loving God would never send anyone to hell. Some assume that God, if he exists, is not that interested in our daily lives. Some assume that God determines our eternal destination by weighing our good deeds against our evil deeds.

One thing’s for sure: believing in God doesn’t mean you are a Christian.

Take Cornelius, for example. Look at how our passage describes him: He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

Many people today would no doubt think that Cornelius was a Christian or that the combination of his belief in God and his many charitable deeds would be enough to get him into heaven.

But if that were true, God would not have come to Peter in a vision and told him to go share the good news of Jesus with Cornelius.

Strictly speaking, Cornelius was what some call a “God-fearer,” a Gentile who worshipped the God of Israel. Yet the first disciples of Jesus preached to their fellow Jews and called upon them to put their faith in Jesus and recognize him as their log-promised Messiah. Simply retaining their Jewish beliefs wasn’t enough, nor was it enough for Cornelius.

These days many people assume that God ushers everyone into heaven because most people are basically good and deserve eternal peace. The story of Cornelius, while showing that God recognizes his deeds, reiterates the biblical conviction that only faith saves.

The word “God” is not a name; but God has a name. He has identified who he is and what he is like. He has revealed himself. So more than believing God exists is important. It is coming to know who God is–and we do this by coming to know Jesus.

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