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In the 2nd chapter of Acts the Spirit came upon the believers in Jerusalem to indwell them permanently. In chapter 8 we witnessed the Samaritan believers receiving the Spirit in the same way. Now, in chapter 10 there is a fascinating story about how the Gentiles, the non-Jews, received the Spirit in the same way. 1Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.
Cornelius has a vision from an angel of God. The angel said, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5"Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea."
At the same time, Peter, staying in Simon's house in Joppa, a beach house, also had a vision. 11and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" 14But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." 15Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." 16This happened three times,
Four quick observations here: FIRST-God commands Peter to violate the dietary laws within the Law of Moses.
SECOND-Peter refuses. His obedience to the Law was overriding the word of God, Himself.
THIRD-God gives Peter the ultimate explanation, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy."
FOURTH-God had to do this three times. This seems to be what Peter needs, a triple dose of a truth in order to get it.
As he finished the vision, Cornelius' men were already at the door of Simon's beach house, asking for Peter. Peter didn't have time to analyze what was happening. They were invited in for the night: And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. NOTE that Cornelius invited his relatives and his close friends to hear what Peter was going to share with them.
Now watch this: 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." 27As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. 28And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean."
Peter acknowledged how strange and even "unlawful" for a Jew to associate with a group of Gentiles, but that God overruled and sent him. 29"That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for." Cornelius explained the vision God had given him about how to find Peter and finished with: 33"So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."
34Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36"The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)-- 37you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47"Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" 48And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
I love this scene. NO MATTER YOUR BACKGROUND OR UPBRINGING OR CULTURE, YOU MAY COME TO GOD AND RECEIVE HIS SPIRIT TO INDWELL YOU. This is because God shows no partiality to anyone, but in every nation the man who fears God and does what is right is welcome to Him. All this is done through the person of Jesus.
NOTE what we know about Cornelius. 1. He as Roman soldier in a prominent position. 2. He was not a Jew (or as we might say today not a Christian); he was a Gentile and not affiliated with any synagogue (church). 3. He was a god-fearing man. 4. He was prone to charity. 5. He was a man of prayer, a man who sought out a "higher power" in his life.
Cornelius came from a Roman cultural background and was found to have a heart bent toward God. This is the first group of Gentiles brought into the fellowship. The story gives us some key insights into who and how people come into a relationship with Jesus.
WHO? Anyone whose heart is bent toward God, no matter the cultural background, may come into the fellowship of Jesus.
HOW? When a person seeks God out with all his heart, God will provide a way to bring that person, family and friends, into fellowship with Him.
So, with this in mind, it's important to remind ourselves that: FIRST-We all come from a different cultural background. SECOND-Jesus is not owned by Christianity. THIRD-No matter your background-Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, non-religious, whoever-you can come into fellowship with Jesus.
When Jesus is lifted up, all men are drawn to Him. Therefore, if Jesus is all that matters, then why do we spend so much time on other matters?