One needs to understand that although Early Christianity was exciting, vibrant and filled with many wonders from the Good Hand of God … there were also many challenges, uncertainties and a desperate need to transition from Judaism as a religion to Christianity as a fully-fledged religion. Although those believers from the Old Covenant are part of the same Eternal Family as believers from the New Covenant … Christianity needed to grow and mature in its understand and applicatory practices as the New People of God. Take people like Peter. He had been groomed in Judaism and the transition to Christianity, although powerful and Holy Spirit enabled, the pace was slow, intimidating and most likely confusing. It is important to grasp two things …
(1) Peter was a staunch Jew who had followed its practices all his life. For him to change doctrine, theology and application was hard. As we have already seen, Jesus gave the Great Commission to reach all nations, yet Peter is struggling to accept non-Jews into the Kingdom even though they might be converted Gentiles.
(2) Without protecting Peter, I am certain that the majority of us would have been no different to Peter, so let’s not judge him harshly. Yesterday we observed the Peter had a vision whilst sleeping and once he was awake he thought about the vision, whist the two servants and soldier, sent by Cornelius arrived at the house where Peter was staying (9:17). By way of courtesy they did not go to the door they stood outside and called for attention asking if Peter was in the house (v18). Peter is still deep in thought about the vision when the Holy Spirit speaks to him saying
Ac 10:19 “Simon, three men are looking for you.”
And then He gives Peter instructions …
Ac 10:20 “So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
Being sensitive to the Spirit, Peter obeys, finds the men and questions what they are wanting (v21). They stated their business
Ac 10:22 “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
1) Peter understood the gift of hospitality.
Ac 10:23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
Not only was this a Middle Eastern way of treating strangers, it is a vital ministry in Christianity. Later in the life of the Church both Paul and Peter encouraged (maybe instructed) hospitality
Rom 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need.
1 Pet 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Essentially there are two type of hospitality.
The first is towards strangers who might be Christian or non-Christian. Most Christians would move about with letters of recommendation from their Church so that when entering another town, province or country they would seek out the Church and someone would automatically offer them accommodation. Like with Peter, he took these three men into the house as guests. Yes, he was directed to meet them by God’s Spirit and we also need to be careful that the Spirit leads us because of the many imposters walking around. The second is when we as brothers and sisters gather for fellowship. Although we met family in Cape Town and that was very sweet and enjoyable … I met up with our college’s principal. We were students together and filling in almost 40 years of gaps was awesome. Then we met up with folk whom we were close to in Pretoria for 30 years and folk we are especially close to for over 40 years. They were all so hospitable. In fact, they are the ones who taught us how to practice this gift. The reason we need to practice this gift is because more than anything else, we need each other’s emotional and spiritual encouragement. We need to share prayer requests and we need to pray together. This gift opens hearts in ways unexplainable because although its physical contact, it is spiritual in nature.
2) Peter understood obedience. The Spirit had given him precise instructions and he knew he needed to do as instructed because as per the Spirit’s instructions so the context was fulfilled in the three men’s arrival (v23). The journey took a day or a day and a half. Another sign was that Cornelius was waiting for Peter’ arrival (v24). When we know what God requires of us, it is foolish to disobey. He loves obedient children. 3) Cornelius, in great expectation of Peter being sent by God
Ac 10:24 Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
Here is a man whom is sent a spokesman from God and is so excited that he calls both his relatives and close friends … people he loved and was concerned about spiritually to come and hear! Would it not be a glorious day when we are excited about the preaching and teaching in our Churches that we invite our family and friends to hear the Gospel Message of Salvation through Jesus Christ? 4) Peter, Paul, Cornelius, you and me are all equal before the Lord!
Ac 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
Luke uses the word ‘reverence’ … Cornelius literally saw Peter and fell at his feet in reverence. He was so excited that God sent Peter that he might have misconstrued Peter to be some angelic or divine being. What happens in verse 26 is vital to grasp because we live in an age where in some Churches, people tend to venerate their leaders (bishop, pastor or elder). “Peter made him get up.” Because he says by way of instruction “stand up”, force was not used … but what follows is significant … “I am only a man myself.” Although he and others had the right to be acknowledged as an apostle, he (and they) knew they were the Lords servants just like all Christians are servants. As I have indicated before, we don’t call the singer, singer Jane or the usher, Usher Mpho. They have their job descriptions and need to fulfil their role as brothers and sisters who are equal to all the other people in the church. So the pastor ought not to be separated and placed on a pedestal and made to be something so special that he is seen to be different from the rest of the Body. Peter, filled with the Spirit says he is “only a man myself” … and all Christian Workers, full time and part time, including lay workers are “only a man or a woman myself”!
Father, help us to practice hospitality, obedience, gospel enthusiasm and equality in the Church, seeing each other as Your servants, all working together for the common good of the Lord Jesus. Amen.