So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35, ESV)
This week, we have explored some of the key events in the Book of Acts and watched as the young church expanded beyond the confines of Jerusalem and Judea. Acts 10 tells the story of Peter’s unusual rooftop vision that God used to prepare him for reaching the first Gentiles with the gospel. Until then, only Jews and Samaritans had experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit, but God’s plan was for the gospel to reach the ends of the earth.
Cornelius was a Gentile and a Roman, neither of which was popular with the Jews. Although an officer in the army of occupation, Cornelius had gained the respect of the Jewish people. He was a very God-fearing, prayerful, and generous man. Still, going into the home of a Gentile, even one as outstanding as Cornelius, was against Jewish law. Despite those restrictions, God had shown Peter through his rooftop vision that he was not to call any man common or unclean.
One afternoon, an angel appeared to Cornelius in a vision. The angel instructed him to send men to Joppa to find Simon Peter, who would tell him what to do. By the time Cornelius’s men accompanied Peter back to Caesarea, he had gathered family and friends to hear what Peter had to say. Peter preached Jesus! While he was still speaking, the Spirit fell upon this group of Gentiles—just as it had on the Jewish believers. It astounded those who had accompanied Peter as they realized this was exactly the same experience they had received.
And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:45-47 ESV)
Cornelius was a devout, praying man. He was charitable and had earned the respect of others. Yet, just being a God-fearing, honorable person was not enough to save him. He still needed to be filled with God’s Spirit and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Cornelius wasn’t sure what he needed to do, but God honored his sincere heart by sending someone with the salvation message. Although one was a Jew and the other a Gentile, the blood of Jesus Christ brought them together. God has no favorites. He died for us all.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13, ESV).
The church I attend is an amazing blending of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and languages. We worship together because we are joined by one Spirit. Our skin tones, language differences, and diverse traditions are immaterial because we are all redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
God intends for His church to include those “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9, ESV). The church is not an exclusive club for only a select few. Our God does not show partiality. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9).