As followers of the Lord Jesus, it is our privilege and responsibility to respond to those who want to know about our faith, lifestyle and why we follow Jesus. It does not matter why they ask, we ought to respond positively:
1Pe 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Peter was like this:
Ac 10:29 “So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.”
1) Asking a vital question. May I ask why you sent for me?” Without asking the right question you will not be able to provide the correct information. A question like … “How may I help you?” sounds good but it is vague whilst Peter’s question … May I ask why you sent for me?” is specific. In all of life, but especially in dealing with Gospel matters we need to ask questions that lead people to provide us with exactly what’s on their hearts because if we get it wrong it might affect their eternity. Peter’s question is an example helping us find good questions to ask.
2) Cornelius provides information that will help Peter explain the Gospel to him and his invited guests.
Ac 10:30 Cornelius answered: “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.”
(1) There is no such thing as coincidence with God. Look at the timing of Cornelius’ experience with the angel from God … Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon … this was the exact time Peter was praying on the roof top. Both these men were praying. The one to the Lord he knew, the other to the Lord he was soon to know personally. God tends to work in one person’s heart at the same time he works in another person’s heart.
One Saturday afternoon we were having a zoom session with our children who lived in Chicagoland. It was their morning. I asked Roy, our son-in-law whether I ought to put my writings and sermons onto a website for people to access should they want to. It was something on my heart that morning and I shared it with them as a family. Once I had completed my story / question, Roy said something like … “Yes Dad, I think it’s a good idea. I actually started a website for you last night.” With the eight hours difference, the time he created the website and the time I thought about creating a website was the same time. My point is that God works in marvelous ways. He works in your heart and he works in my heart, generating the same thoughts. There are no coincident happenings. He works all things together for good.
(2) The angel’s appearance. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me. Cornelius had a vision, Peter was in a trance. However we understand these two experiences were both messages from God. Peter’s was that God removed all human restrictions so that Peter and other believers might evangelize Gentiles. In other words, God’s Kingdom is open to all people on the planet not just Jews. For Peter, it was the way God worked to bring someone He chose before the creation of the world into His salvation.
(3) Cornelius explains what the angel had to say.
Ac 10:31 “and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.’”
We have covered this before so as a reminder … God knows everything about us all the time. On the one hand this is fearful and scary. It’s something that ought to keep us as followers of Jesus on our toes. If we are going to give an account for all we do and if God sees everything and knows everything … this ought to remind us that He has chosen us to be holy in His sight. Therefore we need to monitor what we do and make certain our deeds and morals are shaped according to His requirements in His word. As His people we ought never to forget:
Heb 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Just in case there is a misunderstanding, the angel gives Peter’s name before salvation so that Cornelius’ delegation does not bring back Simon the tanner in the place of Simon Peter.
Ac 10:32 “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.”
(4) Why did God not allow the angel to explain the Gospel to Cornelius?
(a) God uses people to speak the Gospel to people. That is His chosen method. It does not mean to say He will not use other methods but this is His primary method of evangelism. In both passage where Jesus commissions His disciples, Matthew 28 and Acts 1, he wants His people to speak His Gospel to lost souls because as Paul writes under inspiration
Ro 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
(b) Peter needed to break away from the baggage and bondage of the rules and laws of the “elders”. He needed to understand that Gentiles were to be part of God’s people. It was easy for him to grasp … you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem … yet far more difficult to get … and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. To us this might seem trivial but for Peter this was mind blowing. Beloved, as a reminder, let us never play God and chose who shall enter His Kingdom. He has already chosen and already purchased by the Blood of Jesus who shall be His! Hold dearly that heaven will contain a true “Rainbow Nation”:
Rev 5:9 and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
3) Cornelius was quick to act on God’s message through the angel.
Ac 10:33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come.
He wasted no time. Once the Spirit of God works in your heart, especially if you are an inquirer, your response ought to be immediate or you might lose the desire and through this lose out on the blessing of salvation.
4) Speak the Gospel.
Ac 10:33 “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Cornelius knew God was present and knew God wanted Peter to bring His message to them. There was urgency … and when a soul is desperate to hear the Gospel there needs to be urgency in telling the way of salvation. Irrespective of the time or the environment, don’t waste time to tell about Jesus. There may never be another time!
Lord Jesus, give us Gospel urgency and passion. Amen.