Term 3 – Week 7
Big Idea – God showed Peter through Cornelius that he wants all people to be saved!
- Understand that the gospel is for all people, and radically breaks through human barriers!
- Belief – God wants to save all people to turn to him, with no exception!
- Behaviour – There are not ‘favourites’ – we should be willing to share the good news of Jesus with anyone!
Gospel ministry has now begun in earnest outside the borders of Jerusalem. We saw Philip spread the word in Samaria, confirmed by the visit of Peter and John (8:14). God orchestrated these events to clearly prevent a schism in the church along the religious divide between Jerusalem and Samaria. Now we see an even greater divide being breached through these apostles – that of the Jew and the Gentile. Before that, we have seen that the conversion of Saul and his transformation from persecutor to preacher brough a period of peace and strengthening (9:31) – once Saul had escaped the murderous threats of Jews in Damascus and Jerusalem. The murderous Pharisee was now a serious thorn in the heels of those who wanted to shut down this fledgling faith. Saul argued persuasively that Jesus is the Messiah (9:22). We leave Saul in Tarsus and join Peter again, who is still the main character in this part of Acts. Peter is travelling around the country spreading the news and encouraging the new Christians. Peter demonstrates the extraordinary miraculous power the apostles had been bestowed with as he heals Aeneas and raises Dorcas from the dead. These signs, as a conformation of Peter’s message, brings many more to believe in the Lord.
Now we head to Caesarea to meet a Gentile called Cornelius, as Luke presents to us the first Gentile conversion and the start of worldwide all-people ministry. As you read this story you cannot but help notice how all the events dovetail perfectly through God’s guiding hand and perfect timing. Cornelius the centurion was a Gentile. Yes, he was a God-fearer and he knew the God of the bible (10:2, 22), but he was still a Gentile. Cornelius had not been saved. His actions were pleasing to God, but he did not know Jesus and his sins had not been forgiven (proven by how he needed this explained to him in order to believe and be baptised!). Before that however, his Gentile status meant that in Jewish eyes he was uncircumcised and therefore unclean. Any serious Jews would not have even entered his house, due to an unbiblical extension of the Jewish purity laws; God’s people were always intended to be a light and a blessing to the nations, but the Jewish nation had confused their status ‘chosen’ with ‘exclusive favourites.’ We mustn’t minimise the extent of this divide. There was no friendship or community between these two groups. They were totally divided.
Enter Peter – A Jew who knew full well the purity laws of the Old Testament and the extra regulations in Jewish laws. The heavens open and he sees a sheet descending that contains clean and unclean animals (see Leviticus 11:13-19, 27, 29-30, 46-47) – these were used in the Bible to teach his people about the importance of purity before God and to set his people apart as holy and distinct from the nations. Peter questions the instruction to kill and eat something unclean, despite Jesus’ authoritative permission (Mark 7:19). The ‘white’ sheet (denoting purity) contains both clean and unclean animals – and is used to teach Peter that the ‘sheet’ of the gospel is to wrap around all peoples, no one is too ‘unclean’ to be saved by Jesus. Peter needs these and following divine and extraordinary pointers to be shown how God’s kingdom extends beyond the Jewish nation – as he explains in 10:28.
The timing is perfect – the men leave Cornelius (v.9) and arrive at just the right time (v.19) and the Spirit tells Peter to go with them (v.20). At first he doesn’t get it, for he asks, “Why have you sent for me?” But after the explanation from Cornelius he soon realises that the gospel is for the Gentiles too – the penny drops. God has declared that the Gentiles are clean, the gospel is to be held out to them just as Peter had done so in Jerusalem and Samaria already. Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius and those in his household, in an exemplary summary of the key events and conclusions in the gospel message (10:34-43) . They repented, trusted in Jesus, received the Holy Spirit and were baptised. No one is exempt from the kingdom of God. The story finishes with Peter explaining to the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem this truth. They too come to understand that God had granted repentance that leads to life to the Gentiles (11:18). God does not show favouritism!
43… everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name
Super Saviour (Colin Buchanan) – YouTube
Jesus is the super saviour, and he has come to rescue all people, whoever they are and wherever they come from!
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