The following story tells that the vision of Peter was not about food and killing every animal that you can eat but that Jew and Gentiles are alike and not unclean, God has accepted the Gentiles and told Peter to teach them the good news about Jesus.
The Door to the Gentiles is Open
The time had come for an entirely new phase of work to be entered upon by the church of Christ. The door that many of the Jewish converts had closed against the Gentiles was now to be thrown open. And the Gentiles who accepted the gospel were to be regarded as on an equality with the Jewish disciples, without the necessity of observing the rite of circumcision.
The Prejudice has been Fixed
How carefully the Lord worked to overcome the prejudice against the Gentiles that had been so firmly fixed in Peter’s mind by his Jewish training! By the vision of the sheet and its contents, He sought to divest the apostle’s mind of this prejudice and to teach the important truth that in heaven there is no respect of persons; that Jew and Gentile are alike precious in God’s sight; that through Christ the heathen may be made partakers of the blessings and privileges of the gospel.
Peters Vision in Joppa
While Peter was in Joppa meditating on the meaning of the vision, the men sent from Cornelius arrived in Joppa and stood before the gate of his lodging-house. Then the Spirit said to him,
“Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.”
Peter obeys the command
To Peter, this was a trying command, and it was with reluctance at every step that he undertook the duty laid upon him; but he dared not disobey. He went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said,
“Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye have come?”
They told him of their singular errand, saying,
“Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by a holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.”
Peter set out for Caesarea
In obedience to the directions just received from God, the apostle promised to go with them. On the following morning, he set out for Caesarea, accompanied by six of his brethren. These were to be witnesses of all that he should say or do while visiting the Gentiles, for Peter knew that he would be called to account for so direct a violation of the Jewish teachings.
As Peter entered the house of the Gentile, Cornelius did not salute him as an ordinary visitor, but as one honoured of Heaven and sent to him by God. It is an Eastern custom to bow before a prince or other high dignitary and for children to bow before their parents; but Cornelius overwhelmed with reverence for the one sent by God to teach him, fell at the apostle’s feet and worshipped him. Peter was horror-stricken, and he lifted the centurion up, saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.”
While the messengers of Cornelius had been gone upon their errand, the centurion had called together his kinsmen and near friends, that they as well as he might hear the preaching of the gospel. When Peter arrived, he found a large company eagerly waiting to listen to his words.
Do not Call any Man Unclean
To those assembled, Peter spoke first of the custom of the Jews, saying that it was looked upon as unlawful for Jews to mingle socially with the Gentiles, that to do this involved ceremonial defilement.
“how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or come unto one of another nation, but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?”
Cornelius then related his experience and the words of the angel, saying in conclusion,
“Immediately, therefore, I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now, therefore, are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”
“Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.”
Peter Speaks the Good News
Then to that company of attentive hearers, the apostle preached Christ—His life, His miracles, His betrayal and crucifixion, His resurrection and ascension, and His work in heaven as man’s representative and advocate. As Peter pointed those present to Jesus as the sinner’s only hope, he himself understood more fully the meaning of the vision he had seen, and his heart glowed with the spirit of the truth that he was presenting.
The Holy Spirit Interrupts
Suddenly the discourse was interrupted by the descent of the Holy Spirit. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
“Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”
Thus, was the gospel brought to those who had been strangers and foreigners, making them fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God. The conversion of Cornelius and his household was but the first fruits of a harvest to be gathered in. From this household, a wide-spread work of grace was carried on in that heathen city.
Today God is seeking for souls among the high as well as the lowly. There are many like Cornelius, men whom the Lord desires to connect with His work in the world. Their sympathies are with the Lord’s people, but the ties that bind them to the world hold them firmly.
It requires moral courage for them to take their position for Christ. Special efforts should be made for these souls, who are in so great danger, because of their responsibilities and associations.
The Gospel is for All
God calls for earnest, humble workers, who will carry the gospel to the higher class. There are miracles to be wrought in genuine conversions,—miracles that are not now discerned. The greatest men of this earth are not beyond the power of a wonder-working God. If those who are workers together with Him will be men of opportunity, doing their duty bravely and faithfully, God will convert men who occupy responsible positions, men of intellect and influence.
Communicate the Light
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, many will accept the divine principles. Converted to the truth, they will become agencies in the hand of God to communicate the light. They will have a special burden for other souls of this neglected class. Time and money will be consecrated to the work of the Lord, and new efficiency and power will be added to the church.
Messenger from Heaven
Because Cornelius was living in obedience to all the instruction he had received, God so ordered events that he was given more truth. A messenger from the courts of heaven was sent to the Roman officer and Peter so that Cornelius might be brought into touch with one who could lead him into greater light.
There are in our world many who are nearer the kingdom of God than we suppose. In this dark world of sin, the Lord has many precious jewels, to whom He will guide His messengers. Everywhere some will take their stand for Christ. Many will prize the wisdom of God above any earthly advantage and will become faithful light-bearers. Constrained by the love of Christ, they will constrain others to come to Him.
The Brethren in Judea
When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had gone to the house of a Gentile and preached to those assembled, they were surprised and offended. They feared that such a course, which looked to them presumptuous, would have the effect of counteracting his own teaching. When they next saw Peter they met him with severe censure, saying, “Thou wentest into men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.”
The Vision of Peter Explained
The vision of Peter writes that Peter laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience regarding the vision and pleaded that it admonished him to observe no longer the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision, nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean.
He told them of the command given him to go to the Gentiles, of the coming of the messengers, of his journey to Caesarea, and the meeting with Cornelius. He recounted the substance of his interview with the centurion, in which the latter had told him of the vision by which he had been directed to send for Peter.
As I began to speak, he said, in relating his experience,
“the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?”
On hearing this account, the brethren were silenced. Convinced that Peter’s course was in direct fulfilment of the plan of God and that their prejudices and exclusiveness were utterly contrary to the spirit of the gospel, they glorified God, saying, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
Thus, without controversy, prejudice was broken down, the exclusiveness established by the custom of ages was abandoned, and the way was opened for the gospel to be proclaimed to the Gentiles.
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