While Simon Peter was pondering the vision of the many unclean animals lowered for him to kill and eat, the men sent by the Roman centurion Cornelius arrived at the house of Simon the tanner asking for Peter. The Lord then instructed Peter through the Holy Spirit to go with these men without hesitation.
This was the beginning of the process where The Lord would commence breaking down the barriers between Jews and Gentiles. Paul spoke about this breaking down of the barriers between the jews and the Gentiles in Ephesians 2:14-19 in this way.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Peter was commencing this process at this time to break down these barriers so that every person would have the same hope of salvation in Jesus Christ regardless of race, colour, genealogy or anything else. But there was still preparation work being done and other lessons to learn which we too can learn from today.
When the Holy Spirit instructed Peter to go with the men sent from Cornelius, these were the words that were spoke to him.
19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.”
Now although in this translation (ESV) we see the words “without hesitation” it has also been translated from the Greek as “showing no distinction.”
Peter was a Jew and under the law the Jews did make distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews barely tolerated the Gentiles believing the Jews were the chosen people of God, which they were. God Himself says in many places of Israel that hey are the chosen people of God.
But Peter came to the realisation and understanding of the vision that he was to go with these men and show no distinction between them but to treat them as he would the Jews. He even says in verse 28 of this section, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”
So this was the first step of the process to bring the Gentiles into the flock of God. They were not to be treated as second class citizens but were to be treated as equals with the Jews for the Gentiles too now were to receive the manifold promises of God in Christ Jesus. There is no longer any distinction.
And this is a,lesson for us today as well. No person is any better or any worse than any other. In the sight of God we are all equal. If we are believers and followers of Jesus then we are equal brothers and sisters of The Lord. And if a person is an unbeliever they are a potential brother or sister and should be treated as such knowing that The Lord God treats all mankind the same. Jesus gave us the example of the fulness of the love of God and we must learn to follow in His footsteps.
I Am Just A Man
In this regard there is also a good lesson that Peter gave us in this section about where we all stand.
Imagine Cornelius seeing the vision of the angels of The Lord telling him to go and get Peter to come and speak to Cornelius and his people. What must have gone through his mind? And especially what was he expecting Peter to be like?
We get a glimpse when Peter first comes to the home of Cornelius as Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet to worship him. Clearly he must have though that Peter was some kind of great prophet and teacher of The Lord, which he was, but Peter very quickly established the correct order of things. Look at verses 25-26 which discuss this first meeting between Peter and Cornelius.
25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
Peter was told to,go to these Gentile people and make no distinction between them and the Jews. This when he came and Cornelius made distinction by treating Peter as if he were The Lord Himself, Peter quickly said, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
Peter was saying in effect, “Don’t worship me. I am just a man. Worship God.” He was saying that both himself and Cornelius were equals. There was no distinction between them in the sight of God and that was how,it should be. By this time Peter recognised what was going on and he now understood the meaning of the vision of the unclean animals. He now knew that God had pronounced the Gentiles clean and they should not be treated any differently to the rest of the people. And likewise the Gentiles needed to learn this same lesson too.
And that’s how Peter commenced teaching the people in the house of Cornelius. When he came into the house and met the large group assembled there he began by telling them that The Lord was no longer showing any distinction between Jews and Gentiles. His words are seen in verses 28-29
28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
In response to Peter’s question asking why they sent for him, Cornelius replied giving the back story of the visitation of the angel of The Lord telling him to send for Peter and then he said these words in verse 33.
So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
Teach us. That is what they wanted to hear. Tell us about The Lord. Speak to us the words of the kingdom. Show us the way.
All of these things were what they wanted to hear for they were hungry for the truth. Lets face it, if The Lord thought it important enough to send His angel to tell them to go and get Peter, then what he had to say must have been pretty important. And they really wanted to know what it was. But they were about to get a lot more than they realised, and even more than Peter and those who came with him from Joppa expected too. In the next few minutes,of the discussion their lives and that of the whole world were about to be changed forever as The Lord threw open the flood gates of his promises for them and for us today.
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