Monday, May 19, 2014


Acts 10:22, “And they said, ‘Cornelius…was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house.’”

Approximately seven years had passed since Jesus’ commission to the Apostles to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  It took a “great persecution” to scatter believers to the “regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).  Even then there was no apparent attempt 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 efforts; Cf. Acts 8:40).

The problem was that there were longstanding religious traditions and prejudices that stood in the way.  It was unlawful for a Jew “to associate with or visit anyone of another nation” (Acts 10:28) or eat with them (Cf. 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 or even converse with them.  A Jewish woman was not permitted to help a Gentile woman, even in child birth.  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 unattended, lest every article of food and drink be henceforth regarded as unclean.  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 and were commonly looked on with suspicion.

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.”  He “broke down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), but the benefits of His work had not yet borne fruit in this sense.  Religious traditions and prejudice kept the gospel from reaching the Gentiles.  God worked though Peter and Cornelius to set it free.

Cornelius was Spirit-prepared to hear the message.  He was living up the degree of revelation he had received when an angel of God appeared to him.  The angel instructed him to “send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who Is called Peter” (Acts 10:5).  And so Cornelius sent the men.  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” (Acts 10:13).  Peter refused recognizing the creatures to be “unclean.”  A voice came to him, “What God has made clean, do not call common,” it said (Acts 10:15).  While Peter was perplexed by the meaning of it all, the men sent by Cornelius arrived and spoke to Peter.  He went away with them to Caesarea.  Peter and Cornelius then met and explained to each other how God had worked to bring them together.

Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43).  “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44).  The seed of the gospel message fell on the fruitful soil of well-prepared hearts!  What a wonderful day!  The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were “amazed” (Acts 10:45).  In an instant God worked to tear down centuries-old and firmly-established 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 for them to accept.  They heard Peter’s explanation and declared; “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

The good news of the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (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 the “unsavable” Gentiles.  It has spread from that day to faraway places.  One day a great multitude, people from “every tribe and language and people and nation,” will be gathered in heaven to praise Jesus (Revelation 5:9).  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 others who need to hear.

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