Salvation for All: Jews and Non-Jews Alike
This bible study focuses on the interaction between Peter and Cornelius, based on Acts 10 and 11. Their meeting marked the first time of taking the gospel to non-Jews (i.e., Gentiles). God prepared Cornelius for the meeting by sending an angel in human form through a vision to advise him to send for Peter. He prepared Peter also.
First, he told Peter through a vision that he should not reject any person that God has accepted. Second, the Holy Spirit told Peter to accept Cornelius’s invitation. During the meeting, witnessed by several friends and relatives of Cornelius and a few Jewish believers that accompanied Peter, the Holy Spirit came on all that heard Peter’s message, just like on the apostles at Pentecost.
Peter later returned to Jerusalem and faced criticism for interacting with uncircumcised men. He justified his actions in detail and explained that Jewish believers could not reject non-Jews that God accepted, because God had shown through his meeting with Cornelius that salvation through Christ is for all people—Jews and non-Jews alike. His explanations were satisfactory as the believers praised God for granting salvation to non-Jews.
We draw the following principles based on Peter’s interactions with Cornelius and with Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
Salvation for All: Jews and non-Jews Alike
God used Peter’s interactions with Cornelius to show that the message of the gospel is for everybody, Jews and non-Jews alike. He accepts whoever worships him and does what he created us to do. He accepts all who fear him and please him, irrespective of nationality or ethnicity, skin color, gender, or any human classification. Universal availability of salvation is fundamental to Christianity and fulfills God’s promise to Abraham that “… all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3], reiterated to Jacob at Bethel: “… All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” [Genesis 28:14].
Communicating with God
God chooses how to communicate with any person. He can send a message through another human being, a vision, an angel in human form, the person’s thinking, the Holy Spirit with or without physical manifestation, or any other form of communication. For example, he sent an angel in human form in a vision to Cornelius and communicated with Peter through a vision and through the Holy Spirit.
Chosen, Prepared, and Introduced By God
God may commission a person that knows him to guide another person that is learning to know him and will prepare the two people to communicate. For example, he prepared Cornelius by advising him to send for Peter and prepared Peter by showing him a vision and speaking to him through the Holy Spirit.
In another example, he prepared Saul and Ananias to meet by speaking to each of them in a vision [Act 9:11–16]. Saul had been converted to Christ in an encounter on his way to Damascus to persecute the disciples. God sent Ananias (a disciple) to lay hand on Saul to heal his blindness and give him the Holy Spirit.
On Guard against Discriminatory Criteria
Only God sets and administers criteria for admission to Christianity. Therefore, any criteria for participating in a Christian function should be non-discriminatory in both practice and outcome. This principle could be applied, for example, to evaluate membership obligations to ensure they do not have the effect of keeping out one group or another.
Prepared to Justify
This principle relates to team work. Peter’s visit with Cornelius was initially criticized by members of his team in Jerusalem. He explained to them that God told him to accept the invitation, six believers joined him as witnesses, Cornelius and his people received the Holy Spirit as he spoke to them, and they (Jewish believers) could not disapprove what God has approved. His explanations persuaded his team to join him in praising God for opening a new frontier for the Gospel. This principle applies to every kind of team work. As we discussed in a previous bible study HERE, always be prepared to explain your actions to your team.