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Peter & Cornelius

Acts 10 & the Neighborhood

Written by David Steltz on .

Notes

In chapters 8 and 9 we have spent some time with Saul/Paul, a persecutor against the church who became a proponent and propagator for the church.

‌At the end of chapter 9 we find a rather abrupt scene change over to Peter.

The story of Paul’s reversal act concludes with this, in verse 31:

Acts 9:31 (LSB)
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria was having peace, being built up. And going on in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to multiply.

‌That’s a very nice, encouraging verses, isn’t it?

‌Almost like if the whole book just ended with that, it would be kind of a nice “happily ever after” kind of ending wouldn’t it?

‌But the action doesn’t stop there! We’ll be coming back to Paul before long, but in the meantime let’s find out what has been going on with Peter.

‌Acts 9:32-43

In these next verses, Peter heals a paralyzed believer in Lydda (OT: Lod,1 Ch 8:12) named Aeneas (Uh-NAY-ahs).

‌Then, in the nearby city of Joppa, the disciples summon Peter to heal a significant member of their community named Tabitha, or Dorcas, and, sure enough, Peter arrives and resurrects her from the dead. Let’s read:

Acts 9:32–43 (LSB)
32 Now it happened that as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 And there he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Rise up and make your bed.” Immediately he rose up. 35 And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. 36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated is called Dorcas). This woman was full of good works and charity which she continually did. 37 And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. 38 Now since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, pleading with him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” 39 So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, crying and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 40 But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. And calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And it happened that he stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

‌If you had to characterize this story with one word, would would it be?

  • ‌AMAZING?
  • ‌MIRACULOUS?
  • ‌INCREDIBLE?
  • ‌POWERFUL?

‌If you had to guess how Peter was feeling after all this, what might you guess?

  • ENCOURAGED?‌
  • EXCITED?
  • ‌POWERFUL? i.e. literally FULL of the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • HOPEFUL
  • WANTED/NEEDED/IMPORTANT?
  • I honestly can’t really imagine anything more thrilling than being a part of that…just to witness it would be mind-blowing, let alone to be the primary agent of these works which, not just bring the amazing but temporary physical healing, but which result in people turning to the Lord.

‌Look at verse 35 again, the result of the first miraculous healing is that everyone around them sees Aeneas no longer as the paralyzed man he was, but as the man who Peter healed in Jesus’s name…and everyone converts!

‌Peter, of course recognizes and preaches JESUS as the true hero of the story; that is evident by the fact that people turned their attention and worship to Christ, rather than to Peter or any of the other apostles…but still…for Peter to be living out the mission…to be the hero’s hands and feet must have looked and felt pretty awesome, don’t you think?

‌Bear that context in mind as we continue into chapter ten…that so far, Peter is batting a thousand, and, while not without persecution, the church is expanding and thriving through Peter and the apostles’ ministries, just as Jesus had promised would happen in the wake of his ascension!

‌John 14:12 (LSB)
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to the Father.

‌So, the miracles themselves I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s certainly validating to Peter’s ministry, amounting to a “high point” of his ministry so far.

‌Cornelius’s Vision

‌Chapter 10 is going to continue following Peter, but first we’re introduced to a new Character, who plays a key role in the next story. Let’s read what Luke says about Cornelius:

‌Acts 10:1–8 (LSB)
1 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the people and prayed to God continually. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And looking intently on him and becoming afraid, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 “Now send some men to Joppa and summon a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6 he is lodging with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” 7 And when the angel who was speaking to him had left, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, 8 and after he explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

‌This is absolutely incredible!!!

‌God’s messenger speaks to Cornelius, a centurion and Godfearer, in a vision and instructs him to invite Peter to his home (10:1–6); Cornelius responds by sending a delegation to Joppa to find and invite Peter to his home (10:7–8).

‌We are told quite a few details about Cornelius, aren’t we?

‌Roman Centurion. This means he’s someone recognized for his leadership, placed in charge of a century, or about a hundred soldiers.

He’s part of the Italian Cohort, the Italian legion of the Roman empire.

‌He Lives in Caesarea. Caesarea Maritima was a seaport on the Mediterranean sixty-five miles (105 km) northwest of Jerusalem. It was rebuilt and improved on an ambitious scale by Herod the Great, and became the provincial capital from which Roman procurators governed Judea. In other words, this city is a hub of political power for the surrounding region.

‌Despite his origins and allegiances to Rome, we’re told that he “fears God.” In general, this paints him as Religious & Pious. But more specifically, this term indicates that Cornelius is at least partly converted to Judaism, a Gentile who worships the one true God but who is probably not circumcised as a full proselyte. Gentiles who “feared God” were drawn to Israel’s monotheistic faith and the law’s ethical norms but did not submit to Israel’s ceremonial distinctives, which included not only circumcision but also the kosher diet and Jewish festival calendar.

‌One practice he apparently did embrace though, was a very practical and impactful one: that of giving to those in need.

‌He prays faithfully to God and leads his whole household in worship.

‌I would say Luke has painted a pretty favorable picture of this centurion! And not only that, he’s told that God is rewarding him for his faithfulness!

‌The generous, God-fearing gentile centurion Cornelius has a vision in the middle of the day: at three in the afternoon, Cornelius sees in a vision God’s angel approaching him and calling him by name.

‌In verse 4, Cornelius, dazed and terrified, asks what the divine messenger wants from him. The angel responds that God has honored Cornelius’ prayers and generosity toward the poor. He also tells him exactly where to find Simon Peter, who’s still staying with Simon the Tanner.

‌So, Cornelius assembles a small group of trusted individuals: two servants and a solider, presumably for protection.

‌Peter’s Vision

‌Meanwhile, back in Joppa, Peter is going about his business, being all devout and awesome. Let’s keep reading:

Acts 10:9–16 (LSB)
9 And on the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat. And while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the sky. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise up, Peter, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything defiled and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider defiled.” 16 And this happened three times and immediately the object was taken up into heaven.

‌Alright, so he’s going up to the rooftop to pray, which is not unusual. It’s around noon that he’s up there, so it’s lunchtime! And apparently he’s up there long enough that he becomes quite hungry, which plays well into the vision he then experiences three times!

‌That’s the unusual part of this scene…not that Peter is praying on the roof, or that he’s hungry, but that he suddenly has this strange vision about unclean animals, descending from heaven, on something like a sheet, or picnic blanket.

‌Verse twelve describes the sheet as containing every category of animals…basically what we would call mammals, reptiles, and birds, being presented as food. And Peter, naturally, sees all these animals, through a levitical lens which categorizes EVERYTHING, especially animals and food, into two categories: clean and unclean.

‌It must have really seemed like an obvious “test” a “trap” kind of like the Devil tempting Jesus to eat when he was fasting in the wilderness.

‌Peter is told to kill and eat these animals, and his reply is like “Hah! nice try, but no way I’m falling for that!”

‌In the moment, to Peter, the correct response to this situation is so obvious! He proudly, boldly defies the voice telling him to eat. This is Peter, after all! He’s the rock of the church! He already went through the humiliation of denying Jesus in front of witnesses out of fear in the past…now, everything has changed, and here, he’s willing to stand up for what (he thinks) is right, no matter the consequences! Even if he has to suffer in hunger!

‌Well, that might sound good, but yet, as he will come to gradually realize, he was actually missing the point altogether. In his mind, he was staying true to his faith by his strict stance on this matter, when in reality God was beginning to unveil a deeper level of freedom and accessibility to Peter, the Jews, and the world. A tearing down of boundaries which Peter up until now had thought critical to the stability of his relationship with God.

‌Peter is hit with this stupefying vision three times to make sure there’s no mistaking it for anything but a special revelation from God. Peter is familiar now with the Holy Spirit’s power in his life, but this particular revelation was NOT on Peter’s radar, and, at first, he has no idea what to even make of it!

‌He barely even has time to begin processing it, when he’s interrupted by visitors sent from Cornelius:

‌Peter’s Visitors

‌Acts 10:17–23 (LSB)
17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; 18 and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 “But rise up, go down and accompany them without taking issue at all, for I have sent them Myself.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and hear a message from you.” 23 So he invited them in and gave them lodging. And on the next day he rose up and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him.

‌So, while Peter is still utterly baffled…confounded by his vision, the Spirit diverts Peter’s attention to the three men from Cornelius who are searching for him, and says, basically “go ahead and go with them, don’t hesitate, don’t worry everything’s fine.” If I were Peter I’d be pretty wary of their intentions, which I guess is why God assured him it was ok to go with them.

‌I do love how when Peter asks them what they want, they tell him about Cornelius, how he’s a centurion who worships Yahweh, and has a great reputation among the Jews…like they’re selling it to Peter, trying to convince him themselves that it’s OK to go with them…and they tell him about this “holy angel” a miraculous vision from God that directed Cornelius to send them there.

‌And Peter’s just like “OH, ok your guy just had a crazy vision, I just had a crazy vision, I have no idea what it all means, but come on inside and stay with me, I’ll go with you in the morning.”

‌Which he does! Let’s keep reading and see what happens when Peter arrives at Cornelius’s home.

‌Peter Meets Cornelius

‌Acts 10:24–33 (LSB)
24 And on the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 And when Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. 28 And 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 defiled or unclean. 29 “That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was summoned. So I ask for what reason you have summoned me.” 30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 ‘Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is lodging at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 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 ordered by the Lord.”

‌Can you picture this scene? Cornelius, a man of relative significance, has gathered his friends and family in anticipation of Peter’s arrival, and they’re all waiting for him, with baited breath, and when Peter gets there, the head of the house falls at Peter’s feet to worship him! Though slightly misguided, what a powerful message of faith and humility that sends!

‌Peter, of course, resists this and explains that it’s not necessary or appropriate for Cornelius to worship Peter. Peter helps him back to his feet and says “Hey I’m just a another dude too…I’m just a human, I’m not God! I just work for him!”

‌They go inside together, and Peter opens by basically saying “You guys know I’m not supposed to be here, right?”

‌“You know it’s not lawful for me to eat with you, right?”

‌“AND YET God has taught me something which must apply here…that I must not call unclean what God has made clean.”

‌He shares with them the reason he agreed to come to them, and then asks to hear from Cornelius directly, who then recounts his experience to Peter.

‌Peter, in the meantime, has put all the pieces together and he’s ready to explain to everyone the meaning of these things.

‌Peter Preaches in Cornelius’s House

‌So, let’s read and listen to what Peter says:

‌Acts 10:34–43 (LSB)
34 And opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most truly comprehend now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the one who fears Him and does righteousness is welcome to Him. 36 “As for the word which He sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 you yourselves know the thing which happened 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. 39 “And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree. 40 “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He appear, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and solemnly to bear witness that this is the One who has been designated by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

‌God is not one to show partiality. Peter sees and knows this for certain now, that God does not favor one person over another for any reason other than their faithfulness to him. That God welcomes anyone from anywhere who chooses him.

‌That everyone who worships God and does justice is pleasing to God. That is, righteous to God.

That God has, through Christ, through the Jews, actually demonstrated his love and passion to restore all nations to a peaceful and right relationship with him and each other.

Peter gives them a SUPER quick fly-by summary of Jesus’s ministry, but he hits a lot of key points, beginning with John the baptist, then the miraculous ministry of Jesus, and testifying to his execution, burial, and resurrection. He elaborates on how clearly and tangibly alive Jesus was after his resurrection, and Peter identifies himself as among the witnesses chosen to spread the word of this good news.

Then, in verse 43, I think this is clever, Peter expands the “cloud of witnesses,” as it were, not just to the apostles, but to all the prophets who testified about the messiah, that Jesus is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets, he says, bear witness, and anyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness for their sins.

This speech Peter gives to Cornelius and company is essentially the same message Paul is giving to the Galatians. Just in case Peter’s explanation wasn’t clear enough, Paul is talking about the same concept in Galatians chapter three, which came up last week too, because it’s key in understanding the radical inclusivity of God’s actual kingdom, as contrasted with the exclusivity and alienation of the law.

‌Galatians 3:22–29 (LSB)
22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were held in custody under the Law, being shut up for the coming faith to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor unto Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

‌The law levels the playing field, for we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But the gift of God, which nobody has earned, and yet has been offered to all, is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we become royal heirs to God’s everlasting kingdom promises.

‌The Result

‌Alright, let’s keep going in Acts chapter ten…the next few verses now describe the results of everything leading up to this point…the real fruit of the faithfulness demonstrated by everyone present.

‌Acts 10:44–48 (LSB)
44 While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the word. 45 And all the circumcised believers who came with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and magnifying God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone refuse water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for a few days.

‌So, as Peter is saying that anyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit is poured out on Cornelius and all the other gentiles in his home.

‌Verse 45 describes the response of the “fully Jewish” circumcised believers who are with Peter. They are amazed! And this perhaps foreshadows the conflict that arises in the next chapter.

‌Peter must sense that this series of events may be challenged by the other Jewish Christians, and even basically invites them to challenge the baptism of Cornelius and Co. But it seems rather like a rhetorical challenge, as he sees there is no grounds to refuse them baptism and inclusion in the church.

‌What a beautiful, pivotal moment in the foundation of Christianity as the legitimate pathway to life for any human on earth.

‌The Reaction

‌Of course, not everyone sees it that way at the time, do they?

‌News of this spreads, and when Peter returns to Jerusalem he’s met with some hostility…some indignation that Peter would defile himself by eating with such people.

‌Let’s read how Peter defends the gentiles’ baptism in chapter 11:​

Acts 11:1–18 (LSB)
1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from heaven, and it came right down to me, 6 and when looking closely at it, I was observing it and saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the sky. 7 “And I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise up, Peter; slaughter and eat.’ 8 “But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing defiled or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider defiled.’ 10 “And this happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into heaven. 11 “And behold, immediately three men appeared at the house in which we were, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 “And the Spirit told me to go with them without taking issue at all. These six brothers also went with me and we entered the man’s house. 13 “And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is also called Peter; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could prevent God’s way?” 18 And when they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

‌So, basically all Peter had to do in order to “defend” himself and the gentiles is to simply recount everything that had happened, methodically and logically, but from his own perspective. He tells them everything, from his own vision in Joppa, to the three men looking for him, to his speech in Caesarea, and the undeniable giving of the Spirit to them just as Peter and the others had experienced previously.

‌Peter recalls how Jesus spoke of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, how they had all experienced it for themselves, and, basically his argument is “who are we to stand in God’s way?”

‌Just a few days ago, Peter would have probably been in full agreement with them! And this concept, the tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians is something Peter apparently wrestled with for quite some time, but here he’s testifying very clearly as to God’s unstoppable mission to the ends of the earth being played out in ways they never could have imagined, and yet are nonetheless witnessing before their very eyes.

‌Peter’s critics simply have nothing to say to this, so, can you believe it, they accept it and praise God for the life God has given to the gentiles through their repentance. How cool is that? They start out indignant, hear what God has done, and respond by praising him for it.

‌Beyond simply appreciating the significance of this story in its context in the foundation of the church and who we are today, there are quite a few practical application points you can take away from these passages.

‌Inclusivity

‌First and foremost is the inclusivity of God’s kingdom, a message which we can all apply in our own lives. Just as Peter learned not to call any person unqualified for God’s grace, we ought to be intentionally working to break down any barriers and prejudices we may have towards others, whether it's based on someone’s race, gender, status, background, or any other factor.

‌We ought to be actively welcoming newcomers and anyone we might perceive as “outsiders” into our faith community, rather than barricading ourselves in with the people most similar to us, or who make us most comfortable, or who most effectively reinforce our convictions. I truly believe one of the most effective ways of knowing Jesus better is to find the person, or even group of people who is least like me, or better yet least likable to me, and learning to understand and love them even as myself.

‌In honor of the holiday in his memory, I’d like to read a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. This is from a sermon that he preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957, entitled “Loving your Enemies.” After explaining the Greek words eros and philia for love, Dr. King says this:

‌The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen. 7

‌And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Love your enemy." This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.

‌In other words, as Christians, we ought to be the ones willing to break the viscous cycles of hatred between us. The church ought to be a community where people from all backgrounds feel valued and accepted. Every person is made in God’s image and is deeply, passionately loved by God, and he wants to use US to demonstrate and explain his love to them. Which brings me to my next point:

‌Witness Through Actions

‌Sharing the Gospel is a way of life. Of bearing witness to Christ, not just by saying stuff, but through our actions. In this case, Peter's miracles and preaching led to conversions, but even seemingly mundane interactions can have just as profound impacts on people’s lives. Consider moment by moment how your words and behavior can be a testimony to the love and power of Jesus. If we actively seek opportunities to help people, especially those we don’t like or maybe just don’t understand, showing love in practical ways may result in bringing people, including ourselves, closer to God.

Prayer and Obedience

‌This story also showcases the importance and value of what I’ll call spiritual discipline. Specifically, of prayer and obedience to God’s direction. Peter was in prayer when he had his vision. Cornelius’s whole experience is described as correlating to the faithfulness with which he served and worshipped God even before receiving the Holy Spirit.

‌We ought to be cultivating a habit of prayer and continually seeking God's guidance, through the truth of his Word and the discernment of His Spirit. Learn what it means to be obedient to God's leading, even and especially when it challenges your preconceptions or comfort zones.

Repentance to Life

I think one of my favorite phrases from these passages is repentance unto life. In other words, repentance that results in life. This is a recurring theme in Acts, and will continue to be, that repentance is key to salvation.

Initially, repentance is the turning away from a life of sin and rebellion against God, acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior, and receiving forgiveness and salvation. In this sense, repentance to life can refer to a one-time event that marks the beginning of a person's journey of faith.

‌But there is also a need for ongoing repentance. That is, the practice of self-examination, acknowledging sins, seeking forgiveness, and striving to live in alignment with God's will. It's a daily process of sanctification and growing in holiness.

The initial repentance leading to salvation is not just a one-time action followed by a life of sin, but rather the beginning of a transformed life in Christ. While our salvation is secure in Him, daily repentance reflects our desire to continue in a close relationship with God and to grow in holiness. It's not about earning or maintaining salvation through works but about living out the faith that initially saved us.

‌Life-giving repentance encompasses both the initial repentance leading to salvation and the ongoing daily repentance that characterizes the Christian walk. It's a beautiful balance of God's grace and our response to His love and forgiveness.

Let us be inclusive in our outreach, be open to the transformative power of repentance, be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and be eager to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with others.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of repentance unto life.

As we go from this place today, may we carry with us the conviction that God's grace knows no bounds, and His love is for all. Let us be agents of His inclusive love, sharing the message of repentance and life with a world in need.


Peter & Cornelius