Acts: Cornelius and Peter – Part 2

Read: Acts 10:34-11:18

The final three scenes of this significant event started with a powerful message by Peter, an invitation for all to come to Christ.

Scene 5: Peter’s Speech – Acts 10:34-43

For the typical Christian in the US, the beginning of Peter’s speech seems pretty normal to us:

“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. Acts 10:34-35

I don’t think we appreciate the revolutionary statement that’s a key part of this announcement. In a separate study, I’ve been challenged to think about God’s Presence on Earth (Multiply). Our Jewish ancestors were set apart as the people of God. The Old Testament provides a rich history of their struggles, their ups, and downs, but through it all, they were the chosen people.

It’s like they were trying to hold onto God so tightly that they lost all perspective of His mission to redeem the world. Suddenly this mission is thrust back on track — God wants all nations to join in the fellowship with Christ.

Peter provides a series of “you know” statements:

  • You know the message God sent to the people of Israel
  • You know what has happened through the Provence of Judea
  • You know how Jesus went around doing good and healing

Followed by “we are witnesses” statements:

  • We are witnesses of everything He did
  • We witnessed the crucifixion
  • We witnessed the resurrection

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. Acts 10:41

And so, as my friend Tony Jeck would say, everyone has the opportunity to hear the message and receive forgiveness in His name. Everyone.

Scene 6: Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit – Acts 10:44-48

The Holy Spirit moved amongst His people that day, at that place, for these people.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. Acts 10:44

The Jewish Christians, those circumcised as Jews who have since received Christ, are astonished by this sermon and their reaction. This is an amazing event that looks like the Pentecost revisited. The people are speaking in tongues and praising God. Peter’s reaction: baptize these brothers and sisters!

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” Acts 10:47

No need to delay, let’s celebrate with baptism right away! The scene is full of excitement. I imagine Cornelius’s invitation to hear Peter was openly received by many people, though I don’t see a headcount. That’s not really important. Moving from Jew to Gentile is the theme Luke is presenting for us to appreciate.

Scene 7: The Jewish Christians React – Acts 11:1-18

The news spread quickly and the initial reaction to these events drew criticism, as expected.

So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Acts 11:2-3

Peter’s response reveals how the Spirit has been at work in his life. He doesn’t overreact, he doesn’t get angry or respond like he probably would have in the past. Instead, in my imagination, he pulls up a chair and sits down to explain. Carefully and methodically he tells them the story of his dream, his initial reaction, and the voice from heaven that told him what to do. In typical Jewish fashion, he concluded with a question:

So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17

More than a simple rhetorical question, Peter carefully and considerately put the ball in their court: who are you to stand in God’s way? I have to believe Peter didn’t preach it with some sort of emotional pull. He didn’t have the worship team replay the chorus a dozen times to elicit an emotional response. Not at all. He told them the facts, the beautiful way in which the Spirit moved. The brothers who were witnesses. The household of Cornelius, along with his friends and family. He didn’t have to make up words or exaggerate the events, they spoke for themselves.

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:18

They were convinced. They were moved. Now it’s time to strike up the band!

Lord, I long to witness events like this, so see people moved from questioning to praising You. May our efforts this day move in that direction. Open up the floodgates, we want to see You!

 

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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