Posts Tagged Acts 10: 28

Holy Heathen

Acts 10: 4

Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

This is from the story of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. It is a story of faith and devotion. Cornelius garnered God’s attention, which is remarkable in that he was a Gentile. This soldier, though, is responsible for a major change in the church.

The Messiah was the promise of the Jews. There was a great debate in the first century church about Gentiles becoming members of the fold. It was a radical idea, to say the least. For all time, there was great separation between the Jews and everyone else. The Jews were set apart as God’s chosen. Most of the Old Testament is the chronicle of God’s people opposing and be opposed by the Gentile nations. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of promise clearing out the nations before them. At times, He even gave Israel explicit instructions to slay every person, even women and children. He not only condoned, but in specific situations, ordered genocide. You will understand, then, how opposed the Jews were to share the Messiah and salvation through him with Gentiles.

As if that is not enough incentive for the Jews to exclude Gentiles, consider also that the Romans were an occupying army. They were rulers over Israel, military oppressors. The Jews were under Roman rule as defeated foes and Rome exerted great control over the Jewish nation. In most meaningful ways, Israel was again captive to a foreign power. Imagine, then, when some of these Gentiles began clamoring to join the church of Jesus. Cornelius was worse than the garden variety Gentile. He was an officer of the oppressor army. He was part of the power structure which allowed the Jews Messiah to die a horrible death on a cross. Could anyone be more vile to a Jew?

None the less, God heard this Gentile officer. Cornelius’ gifts of money and his devotion to prayer ascended to the throne room of God. Cornelius moved God through his faith and devotion. God was so moved that He summoned the Apostle Peter and sent him to Cornelius.

Peter was one of those who argued for the sanctity of the Jewish elect. In this bold move, though, God gave Peter a vision that forever changed the complexion of the Christian church. Upon his arrival at the home of Cornelius, Peter broached this very subject saying, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him,” (Acts 10: 28). None the less, there he was, standing in this heathen’s home. Why? It could not have been easy for him to depart from cultural norms and laws.

Gentiles are now welcomed members of God’s holy family but it began with one man’s devotion to prayer and the giving of alms. His prayers and his giving caught the attention of heaven. God sent an angel to him and a vision to Peter. God roused the leader of the church and sent him to the home of a Gentile so that salvation could come upon Cornelius’ household.

What will God do for those who are already of the household of faith when we emulate Cornelius by dedicating ourselves to prayers and to giving alms? How would you like the report about your prayer life and gifts to God ascending to the throne room? We need to understand that from our position here on earth, we can cause a stir in heaven. Perhaps God will send an angel to you or stir a prophet to visit you. Cornelius was as unlikely a candidate for divine intervention as one could imagine and yet because he was faithful, God literally moved heaven and earth for him. What a splendid testimony!

This is a call for us all to dedicate ourselves to greater devotion. It is early in the year; still a good time to make a New Year’s resolution. What would life look like, what would the church look like if we all resolve to be known, by heaven, as people of prayer? What if we each set a personal goal to distinguish ourselves through our giving?

Post your thoughts below in the comment section or visit our site at www.iveyministries.org. What does this story tell us and how might it impact our lives as well as the church?