God is the great evangelist, who often sets up seemingly coincidental meetings such as that between Philip and the Ethiopian on the Gaza Road. Now He is about to bring Peter and Cornelius together in a ground breaking, evangelistic encounter.
Peter, the opportunistic evangelist of earlier chapters seems quite blind to the opportunity he has of preaching to Cornelius and his friends. Here he is a reluctant evangelist (vv. 28–29). He still hasn’t realised that God’s saving purposes could include non-Jews.
When Cornelius tells Peter about God’s dealings with him, the penny finally drops (vv. 34–35). Peter preaches a three-point sermon that closely follows the overall structure of Mark’s gospel (Peter was the primary source of Mark’s gospel):
- The exemplary life of Jesus (vv. 37–38).
- The death and resurrection of Jesus, which Peter witnessed (vv. 39–41).
- The coming judgment by Jesus and that forgiveness of sin is through Him (vv. 42–43).
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes.
Before the preaching (Acts 2:1–4), and in Acts 8, after the preaching (Acts 8:15–17). Here in Acts 10, He comes during the preaching; before Peter reaches the call to repent (Acts 10:44). God takes control of this evangelistic encounter. In verse 45, the witnesses to this event are called “circumcised believers”. The critical point is that the Holy Spirit has fallen on the uncircumcised, without them meeting the prerequisite of baptism or circumcision.
The distinction between clean and unclean people has been removed. Peter stays on with the new Gentile believers for a few days (v. 48). No doubt they ate together. We are not told what was on the menu, but in God’s eyes it was all clean, just as all those present were clean, because of the peace that comes through Jesus Christ (v. 36).
God is directing Peter to “press beyond the fringe”, crossing racial, cultural, and religious boundaries in his evangelistic concerns. In what ways does this section encourage you to reach out?
What does this episode tell you about God’s desires or plans for all men (see 1 Timothy 2:3–4)?