by Dave Wright
“You know, our church is filled more of the Holy Spirit than the church down the street.”
“I don’t know how they can be considered a place of worship…they only have communion every quarter.”
“How do they consider themselves to be Children of God when they…?”
Wow, it seems like every time I am asked to write one of these blogs I start by things I have overheard. So…how many times have you heard these words…or even said them yourself?
Acts 10:1 through 11:18 tells the story of Cornelius, a Roman guard who lived in Caesarea. One afternoon Cornelius was visited by an angel who told him to send his men to Joppa and find Peter and bring him back to see him. While the men were coming to get Peter, he was in Joppa on a rooftop when he fell into a trance and saw a vision of Heaven open and unfurl a large sheet of all kinds of four-footed animals. The voice of the Lord said to Peter, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!” Peter replied to the Lord saying, “Surely not. I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” But the Lord replied, “Do not call anything impure the Lord has made clean.”
Now, Peter was trying to figure out what he just saw when the men Cornelius had sent arrived. They told him they were to bring him to Caesarea and meet with their boss, the Roman guard. So Peter went along. While Peter was traveling back, Cornelius started to ask his friends and family to stop by. As they gathered at the house, Peter approached. But I also think he had to hesitate before walking in. This was a room full of Jews! Was this a trick? Cornelius met him at the door. The passage tells it much better than I ever could from here:
7Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
30Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
This was a “aha” moment in Peter’s life. The vision now made sense. The “Good News” is for everyone. God does not show favoritism and accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right. The passage goes on to say that as Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit came upon everyone present and Peter stayed to baptize them. A few days later, the word had spread about what had happened. Peter was grilled, being asked “How can you go into a house of uncircumcised men and eat wth them?” Peter told them of his vision and replied, “So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” What a great response to an obviously silly question. Who was Peter to think that he could oppose God and not spread the good news?
The Good News is for everybody. It is not just for the church that has the most “Holy Spirit Quotient,” or for the church with quarterly communion service. I repeat, the Good News is for everybody. God gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for everybody’s sins. Is there any better news anywhere?