For the Love of God, Volume 1/July 23
From Gospel Translations
Judges 6; Acts 10; Jeremiah 19; Mark 5
THE ACCOUNT OF THE CONVERSION of Cornelius occupies much space in the book of Acts. As the Gospel moves outward from its Jewish confines, each step is carefully charted. First it was the Samaritans, a mixed race with a peculiar view of Scripture. (They accepted only Torah, what we call the Pentateuch.) Then it was the Ethiopian eunuch, who could not be a full proselyte—but (it might be argued) perhaps he would have been one if he had not been mutilated. Then comes the conversion of the man who will be the apostle to the Gentiles (see 9:15). Here in Acts 10 is the conversion of a God-fearer, a Gentile much attached to the Scriptures and to the Jewish synagogue who had chosen not to become circumcised and thus an unqualified proselyte—a convert—to Judaism.
The apostle whom God prepares to go to Caesarea and preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his household is Peter. Peter’s repeated vision concerns ritually unclean food. Three times he is told to kill and eat unclean creatures; three times he declines, viewing himself as under the Law’s food prohibitions. Many have asked how Peter could be so dense, considering the fact that, according to Mark 7:19, Jesus had already uttered a saying declaring all foods clean. But it is far from clear that his disciples understood the ramifications of Jesus’ utterance at the time. Mark is writing later, about A.D. 60, long after the Cornelius episode; and, reflecting on what Jesus said, Mark perceives the implications in Jesus’ words that were not grasped at the time. Even the commission to take the Gospel everywhere, or Jesus’ insistence that people would come from all over the world and join the patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11), had not brought the pieces together for the apostles. Small wonder, then, that Peter is at this stage still sorting things out.
So he wakes up and ponders what the vision means. Providential timing makes that point clear. Kosher Jews were always nervous in a Gentile home—but here God sends Peter not only to spend time in a nonkosher Gentile home, but to preach the Gospel there. Initially, no one is more surprised than Peter (10:28- 29, 34), but it is not long before he swings into a full-orbed presentation of the Gospel to these Gentiles. Even while Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends on this Gentile household as he had descended on the Jews at Pentecost, and no one is more surprised than Peter and the Jews traveling with him (10:45-47).
The initial impetus to cross lines of race and heritage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ arose not from a committee planning world evangelization, but from God himself.