Friday, May 18, 2012


  • Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Acts 10:22, “And they said, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.”
  • Acts 11:18, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

Peter had a message to share. Cornelius had a need to hear the message. The challenge was bringing the two together. God sovereignly and miraculously did just that.

Approximately seven years had passed since Jesus’ commission to the Apostles to be His witnesses “even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). But it did not go forth from Jerusalem until persecution scattered believers “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Even then there was no apparent attempt by the Apostles to take the message to the Gentiles. The gospel outreach to the remotest part of the earth was apparently of remote concern (with the exception of Philip’s outreach to the Ethiopian eunuch and the Mediterranean coast—Acts 8:40).

The problem was that there were longstanding religious traditions and prejudice that stood in the way. It was unlawful for “a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him” (Acts 10:28). It was unlawful for a Jew to eat with Gentiles (Acts 11:3).

In NT times the Jews had little regard for the Gentiles. So strong was their animosity that a common Jewish prayer went something like this, “God thank you that I was not born a woman or a Gentile.” There were a number of Jewish laws the prohibited contact with Gentiles. The very dust of heathen countries was unclean, and it defiled by contact. It was not permissible to enter a Gentile’s home. It was not permissible to converse with Gentiles. A Jewish woman was not permitted to help a Gentile woman, even when she was about to become a new mother. A Jew was not allowed to drink milk drawn from a cow by a Gentile’s hands or eat bread prepared by a Gentile. If a Gentile was invited into a Jewish home he was not to be left alone, lest every article of food and drink be henceforth regarded as unclean. If cooking utensils were bought from them, they had to be purified by fire or by water. It was not lawful to rent a house or field to a Gentile, or to sell cattle to them. The animosity by the Jews towards the Gentiles (and vice versa) was pervasive. It impacted every aspect of life. It was possible for a Gentile to be proselytized to Judaism, but as a matter of course, it rarely happened. Gentile converts were rarely treated fairly. They were commonly looked on with suspicion. There was little desire or effort to see Gentiles converted.

The Apostles had been Jonah-like in their outreach efforts. God would have to intervene if the gospel were to be taken to the Gentiles. And of course, Christ’s sacrifice had already worked to include them. From the cross He declared “It is finished.” The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. He “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-15). But the benefits and consequence of His work had not yet borne fruit in this sense. Religious traditions and prejudice kept the gospel message bound up in Jerusalem. God worked though Peter and Cornelius to set it free.

Cornelius was Spirit-prepared to hear the message. He lived up the degree of revelation he had received. And angel of God appeared to him. He instructed him to “dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon” (Acts 10:5). And so he sent them on their way.

The next day, as they were on their way, Peter went up on the housetop to pray. Being hungry, while others were preparing food, he fell into a trance. He was given a vision (Acts 10:10-15). Three times (Peter experienced many things 3X) a sheet was let down from heaven. It was filled with creatures of various kinds. He was instructed to “kill and eat.” Peter refused recognizing the creatures to be “unclean.” A voice came to him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy,” it said (Acts 10:15). But the vision had to do with much more than just food. While Peter was perplexed and considering the meaning of it all, the men sent by Cornelius arrived. They spoke to Peter. He went away with them to Caesarea (accompanied by some others from Joppa). Peter and Cornelius then met. They explained to each other how God had sovereignly worked to bring them together.

Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43). “While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44). The seed of the gospel message fell on the fruitful soil of well-prepared hearts! What a joyous day! What a wonderful scene that must have been. Circumcised believers had accompanied Peter. They were there with him. They were “amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (Acts 10:45). They would have never expected it. They were unprepared for it. In an instant the gospel message worked to tear down century old barriers.

The news of that event spread. The apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard of it. Peter went to Jerusalem and those who were circumcised took issue with him. Peter carefully explained to them all that had transpired. He knew that the news would be both hard to believe and to accept. They heard Peter’s explanation and declared; “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). It wasn’t long afterwards that men of Cyprus and Cyrene “began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). The hand of the Lord was with them and “a large number…believed” (Acts 11:21).

The good news of the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). It had the power to save a Christian murderer like Paul. It had the power to break through strong prejudicial boundaries to bring salvation to those who were thought to be “unsavable.” It spread from that day forth to faraway places. It has been taken since to the four corners of the earth. One day a great multitude, people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” will be gathered in heaven and will sing a new song of praise to the Lamb who is worthy” (Revelation 5:9). We will praise Him. “In Christ Jesus (we) who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

Praise God, brethren, inasmuch as He has made the good news known to you. It was a wonderful day indeed when your Spirit-prepared heart heard that message! But long before that day God divinely directed a man with a message, Peter, to meet a man who needed to hear, Cornelius. The gospel has been spreading throughout the globe, by divine appointment, ever since. God has some divine appointments in store for you. He has given you a message. There are those who need to hear.

Pastor Jerry

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