Today we come closer to how God is dealing with Peter’s understanding of “All Nations (Mat 28) and the Ends of the Earth (Acts 1). That is, that the Gospel Message of the Lord Jesus Christ is for all people on the face of the earth, for all times until Jesus returns.
Rev 5:9-10 “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
1) Peter refers to the Old Covenant that was up to now part of his belief. He enters Cornelius’ home to find many people present waiting to hear him speak. He says
Ac 10:28 “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him.
Peter up to the time of the vision had still believed the Messiah was for the Jews only even though Jesus spoke of all nations and the ends of the earth. At times we can be equally slow to grasp certain fundamental Biblical doctrines … what they include and what they exclude. Things like … must boys be circumcised? Does baptism or church membership save? Can I work my way into heaven? May I mix with people who are not Christian? May I marry an unbeliever or someone who follows another god? Now look at what God impressed upon Peter:
Ac 10:28 But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.
The exercise of the vision with the sheet and all sorts of animals was to teach Peter that Judaism saw Gentiles as unclean … people who need to be avoided … whereas Christianity draws people from every nation in the world. Gentiles are as much human as Jews are. All are created in the image of God although marred by sin.
Right here lies the evil of apartheid and its affects that tend to remain with us and are practiced by many groups of people in different parts of the world. It is right here that a huge divide exists between people whatever their ethnicity might be.
It’s all about whether one believes in Creation versus Evolution. The evolutionary persuasion believes that different “races” (better to say ethnicities) evolved and multiplied spreading throughout the earth. Those from the Biblical and Creation persuasion believe God created one Adam and one Eve and through them, all people from whichever ethnicity come.
Some in the evolutionary persuasion, from one ethnic group (whatever group this is) might look down on one or more ethnic groups as inferior to them. The Biblical persuasion declares that all humans, irrespective of ethnicity, come from the same parents (Adam through Noah through his sons). We are therefore equally human in every aspect in the eyes of God and ought to be so in each other’s eyes as well.
What Peter was learning is that God does not favour one people over another. He favours those in Christ, whoever they are and wherever they come from. When we see people we need to see souls … lost souls and saved souls. We must never see colour, language or culture … otherwise our evangelism will not be Biblical. There is one heaven for saved souls … not different heavens for different ethnicities!
2) Peter starts making progress in his personal understanding. He saw the vision, now agrees all people are “clean” (equal)
Ac 10:29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
He was obedient without question but does not understand why he is at Cornelius’ home. He needs to know the purpose for being sent for. There are times when we as Christians are called by non-Christians who have serious questions about eternity. We need to avail ourselves to them … even asking relevant questions to get them to open up so that we can tell them about Jesus.
3) Peter receives the answer to his question. It is worthwhile reading Cornelius’ full response
Ac 10:30 “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Now I want to introduce what some might feel controversial. It is the topic of election. We have already seen that Cornelius was a proselyte to Judaism. He was godly and God fearing. He was religious yet also spiritual. He worshipped the God of the Jews who is the true God. He spent many hours in prayer. He shared his financial resources with the poor. In looking at the man we can see that from his conversion to Judaism, God was working in his heart, mind and conscience. Now that the Messiah had come, it was time for this man who was genuinely eager and serious about God to hear the Gospel. Who would tell him as the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah? But then, to this point Peter was of the persuasion that Gentiles were unclean and could not come into the true family of God. We cannot out think or out maneuver God! Here we see God “kills two birds with one stone”. He uses Cornelius, his family and close friends to be the mechanism of teaching equality amongst people whoever they are and He uses Peter to preach the Gospel to these Gentiles which leads to their salvation! In the mix, what God elected (chose) before creation comes to the fore. Gentiles elected will be saved through the Gospel that saves Jews and Peter understands that election spreads across Jews and Gentiles without discrimination. I hope you are able to see that what happened with Paul’s vision and the angel speaking to Cornelius was God at work. Though this riveting account is far from over, it is necessary to see that before an “elect” person can be saved, they need first to hear the true Gospel and believe it. It is true that God can save anyone in anyway, yet He has chosen to save through the Gospel being proclaimed as is demonstrated in the passage before us. One other matter is that until a person hears the Gospel, understands the Gospel and responds favorably to the Gospel … a person will never know whether they are elect or not … yet at the same time, if they are elect, they will believe and respond favorably. However the Gospel is for all to come and be saved. Have you come to Jesus already?
O God, thank You for the way You work in election and salvation through the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus. Please save souls. Amen