Read or Listen to Acts Chapter 10
Let’s start with an apparent contradiction.
His name is Cornelius and he lives in Caesarea. He is a commander of a Roman Regiment yet is known for his worship of God and his generosity. That’s far from the norm for a Roman officer. The empire required Caesar to be first among all gods. Generosity was not prohibited; it was just not a common trait among the Romans.
Then we see something way out of the norm. An angel speaks to someone who is not a Jew. An angel of the Lord has a message for someone outside of the Hebrew family. That’s not the way things were normally done.
And the angel tells this Roman commander to have some of his men collect Peter from where he is staying in Joppa and bring him to his home. Cornelius complies.
Then Peter has an experience out of the norm. Remember this is Peter who walked on water for a few steps, saw his Master resurrected, and has a few miraculous deeds to his own credit. What could catch him off guard?
How about a vision from God that said, “Go ahead and eat these things that have previously been withheld from you.”
To which Peter replies, “Ain’t no way. I’m not going to eat some nasty ole BLT.”
God replies, “If I made these things clean for you then that’s just the way it is. Quit your whining and enjoy.”
So Peter is pondering these things when the men show up to bring Peter to Caesarea. The Spirit tells Peter that he is to go with these men. The men overnight at Simon the Tanner’s place and all head to Cornelius’s estate in the morning.
Now we come to the third rather contradictory set of circumstances. Peter enters the house of a Gentile. Peter was staying with Simon the tanner. It was considered an unclean profession, but Simon was surely a Jew.
Remember when the Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus to Pilate? They did not go into Caesar’s residence. To do so would have made them unclean and they would not have enough time before the Passover to ritually purify themselves. So they just didn’t go in.
Peter is still a Jew. He has crossed other social boundaries within Jewish communities, but now he is breaking new ground with the gentiles.
Cornelius wants to worship Peter, but Peter explains that both are merely men. Peter realizes that God’s love and redemption are for all.
Peter proclaims the good news of life in Christ. The Holy Spirit is poured out on all gathered in the home of Cornelius. Peter and the believing Jews who came with him were in shock.
Peter asks a rhetorical question. How can we not baptize these people?
God sends a messenger and a message to a gentile.
Peter sees the restrictions placed on God’s people by the Law (Leviticus 11) on what to eat lifted. It is as if God put things back just as they were after the great flood (Genesis 9).
Peter enters the home of a Gentile and witnesses God’s own Spirit being poured out.
Peter baptizes these Gentiles with water in the name of Jesus.
Who knows what the biggest lie of the new millennium is?
That’s right. It’s I have read and agree to the terms of service.
We have certain conventions that we just go along with. Yeah, check the box and join Facebook, get the app, download the music—you know the drill. We just go along with it.
Peter lived in a world of conventions.
You didn’t eat pork.
You don’t socialize with people of unclean livelihoods.
You didn’t enter the home of a Gentile.
C’mon, it’s not like God’s going to talk to them anyway.
And in a very short time, God set aside all of this business as usual for the law of love.
Love for all, including the social outcasts and even the Gentiles.
Good news for all, including the social outcasts and the entire world—a world that did not know God.
God set aside Peter’s boundaries so that he could be God’s love and spread the good news of life in Christ.
What boundaries do we have that keep us from fulfilling our commission?
Read this chapter in The Message.