Acts 10: Workaround

Application

Acts 10 is a significant moment in the history of the Church. Up until this point, the gospel had been taken primarily to Jews. In fact, even those who were not Jews generally had some Jewish tie. For instance, the Samaritans shared a common lineage, and the Ethiopian eunuch was a Jewish convert. With the introduction here of the Roman centurion Cornelius, who was a member of the ultra-nationalist Italian Regiment and a definite non-Jew, the transformation of the gospel from Jewish-only to all-inclusive was nearly complete. You see, while Cornelius is noted for his friendliness to Jewish causes and his sensitivity to God, he still represented the vast majority of the things which Jews despised about Gentiles: his bloodline was anything but Jewish, and he actually represented the Roman oppressors that the whole Jewish nation wanted desperately to overthrow. To be frank, Cornelius didn’t look like a Jew. He didn’t talk like a Jew. He didn’t think, fight, or even smell like a Jew. He was 100% Gentile.

And yet, at the start of Acts 10, it is to Cornelius that the angel appears. It is Cornelius who responds in faith to send servants and a devout soldier to bring Peter back from Joppa, a two-day journey by foot. It is Cornelius who gathers his entire family and whole household in anticipation of Peter’s arrival and the message he would bring. And it is on Cornelius and co. that the Holy Spirit is poured out by the end.

As I consider the account of Cornelius’ conversion, I have to ask myself a number of questions.

How would I respond if an angel of the Lord met me and commanded me to retrieve some stranger from another town? I would like to say that I would jump right to it, but I must confess that I suspect I would be tempted to ponder it for a time and then write it all off as some bit of potato or undigested meat in the pit of my stomach, as did Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

How would I react if some strangers showed up at my door (with a soldier in tow) and bid me to come with them, even if they told me there was someone waiting to hear the gospel message? I think I would be scared out of my mind.

What would I say if put on the spot like Peter was when he entered Cornelius’ house? I can’t imagine myself being as eloquent as Peter was!

And would I be willing to witness boldly to these people who were so clearly different from me? I’d like to hope so, but I know from experience that I tend to at least hesitate.

I think it’s this last one that bothers me today. Indeed, there are a lot of members of our community who are different than me. Some are older, others younger. Most have “big city” stamped on their forehead, while I often feel like a small-town hick. There are different races. Different languages. Different sexual orientations. Richer. Poorer. More prestigious. Less. In fact, if you really get right down to it, everyone is different from me! And if I’m not willing to witness boldly to people who are different, won’t I be, ultimately, completely incapacitated as a witness to the gospel message?

Yes, it will be challenging. Yes, it will be downright difficult. But I must be willing and prepared. After all, the great commission was to go and make disciples of all ethnos. That word, rendered from the original Greek as “nations,” is the same word which forms the root of modern terms like “ethnic.” Jesus wasn’t calling His disciples to minister to people in different political entities; He was calling us to make disciples of different people, wherever they may be, including my back yard.

In other words, I have to be ready to get past age, culture, color, language, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, prestige, education, and on and on and on and on. I have to be ready to work around differences, whatever they are, to make an impact for the kingdom of God.

So what will you do to minister to someone different from you today?

Notes

  • (6) The specificity of this is interesting. While it is doubtful that Cornelius himself could have known Simon, the tanner from Joppa, God did.
  • (7) It is impressive how quickly Cornelius responded. As strange as it all seemed, this battle-hardened centurion did not hesitate at all.
  • (8) More than just sending soldiers to get Peter, though, Cornelius explained all that he had seen and heard from the angel. He didn’t worry about looking weird or sounding foolish. If a mighty centurion can get over those fears, why can’t I?
  • (24) Cornelius’ faith that Simon would arrive prompted him to assemble his entire family and household. Faith = belief which leads to action.
  • (33) Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone was this excited to hear God’s message?
  • (44-46) They were astonished that God would pour out His Spirit “even on the Gentiles.” How often would we be astonished to see the Spirit poured out on people of different races, socioeconomic classes, backgrounds, etc.?
  • (47-48) Peter’s command that Cornelius and his family be baptized indicated that the very Jewish apostle recognized that the gospel was not for just Jews, or even the half-Jew Samaritans. God had been working on Peter, drawing him to this realization for some time.
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