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Monday, November 5, 2012

Cornelius, Peter, and the Holy Spirit, Scene 3

Okay, let’s get caught up with our story. On Day One Cornelius, a military leader and Gentile, was praying and the Lord sent an angel to tell him to send for Peter, who was in Simon’s house in Joppa. Day Two the delegation arrives at Simon’s house to ask Peter to come with them. Peter, in fact, has just been experiencing a strange vision as he prayed and the Holy Spirit told Peter to go with the three men who had just asked for him downstairs. Peter invited them in for the night as the journey was a fourteen and a half hour trek. Day Three Peter and six brothers from Joppa, as well as the delegation from Cornelius travel the road to Caesarea all day, spending the night along the way. And, now we’re at Day Four.

On Day Four the men arrive at the home of Cornelius around three in the afternoon. There were no text messages to let Cornelius know their ETA but Cornelius had responded to the angel the Lord sent to him on Day One. His house was full of family and beloved friends, just waiting for what Peter had to tell them.

Cornelius is pretty overwhelmed at the whole scene. He had never before been instructed by an angel to send for a Jewish man. Besides, this special man had a message from God that would save him and his entire household. Okay, well, the house was full and now Peter was there. Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet in amazement. He just didn’t know what else to do but follow his emotions, I reckon.

Picking up the story at Acts Chapter Ten, verses 24-27: The following day he (Peter) arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.

Peter must have really wondered what in the world was going on there in Cornelius’ house. God had instructed him to come with Cornelius’ men and actually enter that Gentile house, which was against all Jewish rules. Peter was perplexed about what would happen but there was no question he would obey God. Peter reminded the Gentile gathering of the Jewish law he was breaking by being in the Gentile house and asked why Cornelius had sent for him.

Verses 28-29: He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

Cornelius did not hesitate before the assembly of people to give the whole story.

Verses 30-33: Cornelius answered: “Three 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 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 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.’ 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.”

Okay, well, it certainly seemed to Peter and all hearing the story that God had agreed that the Gentile family who worshipped him faithfully should know the scoop. Such a thing had never before been considered by either the Jews or the Gentiles but God saw their hearts were ready to hear the truth of the Gospel. Peter began speaking with a firm declaration that God was no respecter of persons. Yes, the Jews were His Chosen People but that didn’t give them a foot up on the Gentiles if they, truly, wanted to worship Yahweh. God would only look at the heart and not the birthright when it came to salvation. Even the Gentiles could be saved!

Verses 34-43: Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of 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 cross, 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.”

Certainly, the opportunity to give witness to the truth of the events all folks in the region had heard about was something Peter had not planned. What had this to do with the Gentiles, after all? However, just as Peter was filling the gathered listeners in on things, the Holy Spirit fell on each of them who heard Peter’s message. Peter and the Jewish Believers who had accompanied him from Joppa, watched in awe as the Gentiles began to respond to the Holy Spirit.

Verses 44-46: While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

What a sight that was for the Jewish men! They had no idea God would look upon the Gentiles as he had the Jews; yet, here was the proof, the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles! How could it be? Now, what to do? The Jewish Believers in Jesus had always seen a prayer of repentance, surrendering to Jesus, followed by water baptism before the baptism with the Holy Spirit was given by the Lord. These Gentile folks may not be able to tell anyone what had happened to them, but God had seen their hearts and gave them exactly what they needed at just the right moment. So, why wouldn’t God also expect that Peter would offer them the water baptism, too? It was the baptism for the forgiveness of sins. If God had seen fit to give them the Holy Spirit, well, most certainly, God would also allow them to be baptized with water. Such strange and marvelous happenings there in Caesarea!

Verses 46b-48: Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

And Peter stayed… in the home of a Gentile family, eating what was put before him. A more exciting time in the lives of all in Cornelius’ house had never been witnessed! Peter could hardly wait to tell the Apostles and Believers in Jerusalem. Certainly, everyone in Jerusalem would be ecstatic to hear the news of what God has begun to do in the Gentile world.

Uh, things don’t always work that way, though. There was another issue the Jewish Believers in Jerusalem had with Peter before getting all excited over the addition to the new fellowship of Believers. First things first, Peter.

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****Cornelius, Peter, and the Holy Spirit, Conclusion… Next Post

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