God Brings the Gentiles In (10:1-11:18)

Bible Passage: Acts 10:1-11:18

The story of Acts follows the progress of the gospel through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (see 1:8). In this passage. we enter the final section with Cornelius (a gentile) hearing and responding to the gospel. What is particularly significant is that the Holy Spirit is poured out on Cornelius’ household just like with the Jews (Acts 2) and the Samaritans (Acts 8). This is a long passage, and so you may want to choose some parts of it to read and summarise others.

God’s Sovereign Hand: In this story, both of the primary characters receive visions from God that lead to the encounter between them. Cornelius is first. Though he is not a Christian at the point, he is a god-fearing man who prayed and gave to the poor. Cornelius had a vision of an angel telling him to send for Peter and he obeyed immediately. Peter too had a vision whilst praying, and in this vision God challenged his theology around clean and unclean meat. It is not that Peter was wrong before but that God wanted Peter to see that he was doing a new thing. This vision was what it took to remove Peter’s reluctance to visit the house of a Gentile. Throughout Acts we see God working in lives and guiding people, leading to opportunities to share the gospel and see the kingdom grow. The same is true for us, and we should be ready to respond to however God leads us and whatever opportunities he puts in our path.

The Gospel For Everyone: The significance of this story extends beyond the salvation of one household (as important as that is). It shows how the gospel crosses divides and is for everyone. Despite Jesus’ instructions to be witnesses ‘to the ends of earth,’ the early believers limiting their evangelism to a Jewish audience. Through this incident, God tore down this prejudice in Peter and showed him that the gospel was a message of salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. There are always certain people or groups who may seem farther from God than others, but passages like this highlight the universal scope of our mission. We are called to share the gospel with people of every culture, race, class and background.

The Giving of the Holy Spirit: The most impactful part of the encounter from Peter’s perspective was that God had poured out the Holy Spirit on these people. Without this it may have been possible to see Gentile believers as an ‘add-on’ (in a similar way to how god-fearing Greeks were seen as something of an add-on to Judaism). But with God sending the Holy Spirit, Peter realised that there was no difference between the Jewish believers and the Gentiles believers, and this laid the foundation for the multi-ethnic church seen as one new man in Christ.

Potential Applications:

  • There may be people present who feel like Cornelius in this story – that the gospel might be for other people but not for them. Assure such people of God’s love and invite them to respond to Jesus in faith.
  • Challenge people to think of who they see as ‘far away’ who God may be calling them to share the gospel with.
  • Think about your own church life and how well it reflects people of different nations and cultures worshipping God together. What can you do to grow in this?