GENTILE FOLLOWERS OF MESSIAH
THE ROMAN CENTURION
"There was a certain man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God
continually." (Acts 10:1-2)
Cornelius had a living faith, one that manifested itself in righteous deeds.
Because of this, God sent an angel to tell Cornelius, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a certain tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea." (Acts 10:4-6)
In Joppa, Peter was praying on a housetop. "And he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and
crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. And a voice came to
him, Arise, Peter, kill and eat! But Peter said, By no means, Lord, for I
have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." (Acts 10:11-14)
Peter did not wish to break the Law of God. He knew that God had commanded Israel, "I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine." (Lev. 20:24-26)
Nonetheless, "a voice came to him [Peter] a second time, What God has
cleansed, no longer consider unholy. And this happened three times; and
immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
"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 Simons house, appeared at the gate; and calling out,
they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there.
And while Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, Behold,
three men are looking for you. But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them
without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself." (Acts 10:15-20)
When Peter and his companions arrived at Caesarea, Cornelius was waiting for them with his relatives and close friends. (Acts 10:24) Peter then addressed the assembly, "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 unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. And so I ask for what reason you have sent for me." (Acts 10:28-29)
Peter had gained some understanding from the vision. He knew that the unholy and unclean animals represented the Gentiles. He knew that God was somehow accepting and cleansing them. That is why Peter told Cornelius, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every
nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him." (Acts
Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, concluding, "And He [Yeshua] ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name every one who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:42-43)
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all
those who were listening to the message. And all the circumcised believers
who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had
been poured out upon the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking
with tongues and exalting God.
"Then Peter answered, Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he? And he
ordered them to be baptized in the name of Yeshua the Messiah." (Acts
Peter recognized that God was doing something new in the New Covenant. Those Gentiles who were cleansed by God were no longer to be considered unholy. The faithful Jewish remnant was no longer to keep itself apart from them. That was the beginning of the revelation of the astounding mystery of Messiah: that Jews and Gentiles can become one in Him. (cf. Gal. 3:28)
Next: The Ethiopian Eunuch
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