In Acts we are continuing to look at the growth of the followers of Jesus and soon we will come to the completely split between them and their Jewish links to the authority of the temple priests. This next story of Peter visiting Cornelius creates a new direction for the group. When Paul was converted he was told he would take the news of Jesus to the gentiles, but before he did he went off to sort himself out.
It was Peter who first had to realise Gentiles were to be included as followers of Jesus and is taught a practical exercise in this change of direction. A Roman family were chosen by God to start the process. A Centurion who lived to God’s ways would be baptised and given the Holy Spirit
As for a date this occurred well it has to be a guess and I put it about 41AD, this was when Claudius was emperor and Christians were seen as being somewhat odd Jews. Because the Temple leaders were persecuting the followers Peter was having to visit the towns and villages where they had fled to. However at this time his base was still in Jerusalem with some of the other disciples and it’s interesting the Temple priests were not prepared as yet to arrest them again.
I suppose looking at mankind’s nature we have to expect that from the very beginning of the Christian movement, the followers of Jesus have argue endlessly amongst themselves about what is the truth and it continues today in every bible study and every book written. Sadly there has never been an uncontested Christian theology for when studying the bible we find people don’t believe exactly the same things. We are challenged by Jesus’ teaching to become part of his family and he simplify God’s commands to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, heart and strength then to love your neighbour as yourself. This is what Cornelius was doing and ignoring all Jewish theology Jesus wanted him and others like him as his followers that is you and I.
When considering any disagreements about Jesus’ teaching send an arrow prayer, asking The Holy Spirit to guide our thought and give us the wisdom and discernment to understand what is being said whether to accept or question it.
Acts session 8 Cornelius 10 – 11:18
Cornelius Calls for Peter
10 Cornelius, a centurion from the Italian Regiment at Caesarea, gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day he had a vision of an angel from God, telling him, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor are seen as an offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring Peter who is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is by the sea.” So Cornelius sent 3 men to Joppa.
God shows his love for someone who is simply living the way he wants all people to. I expect we know many such people who not Christians still living ‘good lives’. Cornelius would have been brought up to have different Gods each for a different need, yet he recognised the fundamentals of God’s ways in how to treat others, taking care of those who have less or are less capable, there will always be a need for someone’s help and love,
In the Bible we read God chooses the people he wants working for him, and this faces us with an important issue, who does God love and who gets into heaven? We have already seen in Acts that Saul a persecutor of Christians, a eunuch which would be a person of dubious sexual orientation and now a Roman solider brought up to worship a multitude of idols and deities are all loved and chosen by God; all are to be converted to be follows of Jesus, blessed with the Holy Spirit because they were living in a way that was right by God.
10:9 Peter was praying on the roof of a house when the men were approaching the city, he was hungry and while the meal was being prepared, he had a vision, seeing heaven opened and a platform descend containing all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice said, “Peter get up, Kill and eat.”
“Not I Lord!” Peter answered. “For I’ve never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice replied, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
This happened three times, then the platform returned to heaven.
Just then the men Cornelius sent arrived and asked to see Peter. Still thinking about the vision, the Spirit told Peter, not to hesitate in going with the three men. The men, said an angel had spoken to Cornelius, telling him to bring Peter into his home so he could hear what Peter had to say.” Peter invited the men to be his guests and the next day Peter, along with some of the believers from Joppa, went with them.
Peter as a Jew was brought up to believe that Gentiles were unclean, he was to have nothing to do with them, certainly not to go into their homes, nor eat with them as they may eat the wrong food or prepare it in the wrong way. To a Jew then Gentiles were not loved by God and therefore could not be loved by them, worst of all were the Romans & Greeks who stopped them running their own country and expected them to worship their gods.
Let’s deal with Peter’s mind set in dealing with Gentiles who wanted to becomes Jews. In Jewish law there are two styles of proselyte they would be either a “righteous proselyte” who is circumcised, and they are bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish economy, these are then considered to be a full member of the Jewish people and once baptised they become a full Jew and can eat the Passover sacrifice.
The other style is a Gate proselyte who wants to follow the Jewish customs, they have to agree to be bound by the seven Laws of Noah; do not worship idols, do not blaspheme God’s name, do not murder, do not fornicate, do not steal, do not tear the limb from a living animal and do not break the law. The Pharisees believed by keeping these seven laws Gate proselytes and Gentiles are able to get into heaven.
So who is it that passes the tests and ends up in heaven? Well Jesus tells us that he is the Way the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father but by him. So those who have made Jesus their Lord will automatically be accepted. We go on since we are told God knows our hearts, why we really do things and that Jesus’ Heavenly Father gave him the task of deciding who has eternal life. Therefore everyone else is judged by Jesus and he will choose if they are in or out
To finish this off, if we as Christians are challenged who gets to heaven we can say, hand on heart we know those who truly love Jesus will be there but as for anyone else only Jesus knows, for he will decide; be they people who have never ever heard of Jesus, atheist, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, or any belief, but if they are like Cornelius then they must have a chance.
Peter at Cornelius’s House
When Peter entered the centurion’s home Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. Peter made him stand up saying, “I am only a man myself.”
Going inside he found a large gathering of people, relatives and close friends of Cornelius’. He said to them: “You know it’s against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, yet God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean, so why you sent for me?”
Peter was led by God’s Spirit, for he had learnt to accept the direction he was given against the instinct of his upbringing he trusted Jesus and did things God’s way. He went with the Gentiles, enter a Gentile house, stayed there and ate with them. Realising God must love them then he too must love them and therefore we likewise also have learn to love those that God loves whoever they may be.
This kind of challenge is what we sometimes have to apply to our own understanding. As a child in Sunday school I was taught things which I still find hard to challenge, but in going back to the teaching of Jesus, something we always have to do. It is then we find that some church teachings are taught and accepted blindly but are not of Jesus. Just as Peter accepted what he was taught about his relationship with Gentiles had to be changed so Jesus had to re-teach God’s Word to the Jews, challenging the Scribes, the Pharisees and the Temple’s Chief Priests.
Cornelius told Peter, ‘we’re here to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us’. Then Peter said, “I now realize that God doesn’t show favouritism, he accepts those who revere him and do what’s right. God sent Jesus our Messiah to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace. God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power, he only did what was good and healed those under the power of the devil. Yet he was murdered by crucifixion, and on the third day God raised him from the dead, He shared meals with us, commanding us to tell people God appointed him as judge of the living and the dead, everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.”
Then the Holy Spirit came on all who were there, they started speaking in tongues and praising God. The Jewish believers were astonished the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles. Peter declared, “As they have received the Holy Spirit no-one can object their being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Afterwards they asked Peter to stay for a few days.
When people ask about God we can use the example of what Peter said, God loves all people and sent Jesus to bring peace and so we can come to know him. Jesus proved he is God’s Son by the way he lived and the healing he did and after he was put to death on a cross God brought him back to life. Jesus then met again with his followers, eating with them, teaching them that he is the Judge of all people who have lived and died. Those who have made him Lord of their lives will be forgiven their sins. We like Peter need to tell people about Jesus, about the Word of God and when they come to know Jesus then they can be baptise and be shown how to use God’s Spirit.
There are many types of people that will come before Jesus to be judged; those who have made a commitment to God but not to him, those who want to make that commitment but have not yet done so, those who want to know more before making any decision, those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus, those who are not interested in hearing about Jesus and those who have heard God’s Word and rejected it.
Here are three simple prayers the first is for a follower of Jesus, the second is one who has decide to become a follower and the third is in the process of making up their mind but hasn’t yet. When Peter spoke to Cornelius he chose the second but which one will you say Amen to?
Heavenly Father I love you and have committed my life to you
Thanks you for giving me your gifts so I can witness to your love
Strengthen my faith so I might grow ever closer to you, Amen
Jesus, Son of God I have come to understand you are God’s Son
I offer you my life, Thank you for loving me and forgiving me my sins
Come Holy Spirit, guide me, so I will grow and nurture my faith Amen.
Holy Spirit of God come into my being so I might come to know you
And have that certainty of faith, so I can truly commit my life to Jesus
Making him my Lord and saviour Amen.
If you said amen to the first then look to see how best you can serve God. You are already in the Kingdom, within the family of God, with brothers and sisters who also love Jesus.
If to the second then make sure you tell someone as soon as you can for you are now reborn and as a child of God you need to be nurtured and loved.
If the third then ask your questions and open yourself to the answers so not letting the opportunity of knowing God and having his gifts drift away. His gifts of faith, forgiveness, eternal life, and his very own Spirit.
Be assured any Amen said and the right path is there before each of us we just need to hear the knock on our hearts and open it up.
Peter states God does not show favouritism for no longer are the Jew a special people now everyone is viewed by God as acceptable, Jew and Gentile alike providing they live the way that pleases Him, just as the early church did. If we do the same things then we can also expect to show the Spirit working in us by using the gifts, doing the healing, working the miracles with the result of witnessing church growth. Cornelius receives God’s gifts simply because he open his heart and The Holy Spirit came to him and enable him to use the gifts, we can do the same
Peter Explains His Actions
When Peter returned to Jerusalem the followers criticized him for entering the house of an uncircumcised man and eating with Gentiles even though they knew God’s message had been given. Peter shared what occurred telling them it was God who sent him, so all in the household would be saved. He revealed that as he began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as happened at Pentecost. Then he remembered the Lord had told them, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So as God gave them the same gift as those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was he to stand in God’s way?”
Hearing his words, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted to Gentiles repentance that leads to life.”
So often those who know God still want things done their way putting their thoughts before God’s and not wanting things to change from their ways and ignoring others views. Accepting change is often unpopular, but people shouldn’t be threaten by it. People are all different and need different things. When we know a person is led by God’s Spirit and is able to display the Gifts then this can lead to people not wanting to see change. However we still need to see God’s hand in what is being done and change has to be part of our growth. This needed to be handled by Peter, the rock on which Jesus was to build his church otherwise the calling of Paul and the work he was about to do would be undermined and we shall see that from that moment on the growth of the church exploded with gentiles joining the church.
In the following chapters of Acts we will see the expansion of Christianity how the Good News of Jesus and his teaching was taught, accepted and blossomed. How it went across the world to every nation and tribe and is still working in this country with events like Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, Momentum and many more all so another generation will come to know Jesus and will carry on the work in an ever changing society.
People like John Newton a slaver, who described himself as a wretch who found Jesus was lost but then found, was blind but then could see. We, like John can feel unworthy but God felt different God know we are worthy and if God thinks we are worthy and has chosen us then we must be worthy and capable of doing anything that God leads us to do.