Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all … All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (verses 34-36, 43-46)
Peter preaches a momentous sermon in the house of the Roman centurion, Cornelius. It’s a milestone event, being the first-time the gospel of Jesus Christ is offered to a Gentile audience. This is history in the making.
But the sermon itself gets cut short. As recorded in Acts 10, it takes just slightly over one minute to read aloud – hardly standard fare for a seasoned preacher like Peter had become!
He was dramatically interrupted as the Spirit was poured out on all those listening. They hadn’t heard much, but it was enough to open their hearts to Jesus. Indeed, Peter had just declared, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (verse 43). At that very moment, the Spirit fell.
We don’t get all the details, but the reality couldn’t be missed. The men who had accompanied Peter on this trip saw immediately that this gathered crowd had been baptized with the Spirit. And they heard it! These new believers spoke out in tongues, praising God, just as the original believers on the Day of Pentecost had done. If there was any further confirmation needed that God was extending salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews, this was it.
In it all, it becomes crystal clear that this is entirely God’s own work. There was no altar call, no opportunity for personal counselling, no impassioned prayer, no swelling music. Instead, there was simply a direct, demonstrable intervention of God himself.
Of course, lest we forget, any time anyone comes to faith in Christ it requires this direct, active involvement of the Lord. Jesus himself said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). This story demonstrates it plainly, not only for Gentiles, but for anyone else, too. We see it in the details: An angelic messenger visits Cornelius. A vision from heaven re-shapes Peter’s thinking. The introduction of the two is effected by the Lord’s precise timing. And when the message is delivered, it is brought straight home by the active presence of the Holy Spirit, who then fills these new believers, right then and there. God’s fingerprints are over the whole.
God chose to make it obvious as he embraced Gentiles into his kingdom. But it’s always the case. God is always involved. Praise his name.
Thank you, Lord, that when I came to faith in Jesus I could look back and see clearly inscribed over the doorway, “chosen before the foundation of the world.” I made the choice, but you were directly involved. Always.
Thank you that you have opened the door for all people from all nations. The invitation is given. The price has been paid. Everyone who believes receives forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name. Praise be.
Reflect: Consider your own journey to faith in Jesus, whether short or long, recent or long ago. What signs of God’s direct intervention do you see? Remember. Give thanks.