We have been looking at God’s transforming power to change Peter’s heart and prejudice against Gentiles in the last few blogs. We have seen that it was no small step for Peter to follow God’s Spirit in obedience into the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. We left Peter last week in the presence of a large gathering of Gentiles, who were friends and family of Cornelius. Cornelius explains to Peter how he was led by God to call for Peter and that it was truly from God that Peter received the invitation to be in the home of Cornelius. Peter responds in Acts 10, “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name,” (Acts 10:34 – 43 NIV).
When Peter states, “I now realize”, he is sharing how God was sweeping away centuries of racial prejudice in the hearts and minds of his people and in Peter’s heart and mind as well. This day is a day of great light and enlightenment happening as Peter realizes that the gospel is for all people, not just Jewish people from all these different places. Peter is lifted to new heights of understanding and his horizons are greatly expanded about whom God wants to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ. His testimony before Cornelius and his friends and family is not only a transformative experience for all his listeners, but also for Peter and the brethren who are with him. Peter at this moment realizes that the gospel is not about any particular people group and that God is no respecter of persons. Jesus embraces us equally as we accept Him as the basis of our standing before God. The gospel is offered to all people who are willing to receive it and recognize their need for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not until Peter crossed the threshold of the house of Cornelius, did he realize the grand truth that God had entrusted to him. Even though the concepts of redemption for humanity had been taught repeatedly in the Old Testament (beginning in Genesis 3) it never crossed Peter’s mind that the gospel was for everyone. Nothing new or great is ever accomplished until we have grasped the pattern and possibilities of things not yet realized in the gospel truth. The writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, (29:18). Today as believers we take the universality of the divine redemption for granted, but in the first century, the idea of Jew and Gentile being saved in the same manner was an entirely new concept. But remember all of us, red or yellow, black or white, purple or green, stand at the foot of the same cross as desperate needy sinners, in need of a Savior. Here in the midst of a completely new and strange setting, the apostle Peter was coming to a deeper and fuller understanding of the meaning of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s message is to all people that they can be brought into a reconciled and peaceful relationship with the God of the universe through the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter’s message contains the full gospel, Jesus died for our sins, He rose again so that we can be forgiven and when we believe in Him, we have eternal life.
One of the key phrases in Peter’s message was that “God was with him”, that is the Lord Jesus Christ. It was God who guided and directed the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was anointed and clothed with supernatural power and Peter and other eyewitnesses authenticated the gospel record of the life of Christ. God’s highest revelation was confirmed by the miracles that Jesus performed and by His rising from the dead. But now it can also be said that it is God’s Holy Spirit that is in work within us to direct us and to guide us to overcome the destructiveness and hatred that we see all around us in our world today. Just as Peter’s view of his former state of prejudice and racial hatred was transformed by his obedience so you and I must walk with the Lord and allow Him to convict us and speak into our hearts and lives if we are to be all that He would have us to be. The enlightenment of Peter does not end with Peter, it also is fulfilled when we realize that we are brothers and sisters with people from all over the world. All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are our brothers and sisters and we will spend eternity together with them. Let us be working on loving one another and allowing that love to overcome the hatred, prejudice, and division we see in our world today.
Reconciled to God,
Pastor Rich Sivo