The Gentiles and the Spirit

Acts 10: 44 – 45

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Peter, once brash and impetuous, matured into a grand spiritual leader. In this passage we see the perfect model of a New Testament preacher. The best message one can deliver is the one which invites and gives space to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us the Spirit would teach us, guide us and be our constant helper. Jesus’ departure ushered in the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit is on the scene, miracles happen, people are healed and the blessings of the Lord touch the hearts of believers. The presence of the Spirit of God is what is needful because he is the power of God.

How do we know, however, when the Spirit is present? In today’s passage the circumcised believers (Messianic Jews) were amazed because they witnessed the pouring out of the Spirit upon the Gentiles. How did they know God poured out the Spirit on these Gentiles? Verse 46 reads, “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.” The manifestation of speaking with tongues comes with the Holy Spirit. These people began speaking with tongues and exalting God and the Jewish believers recognized the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon them. Apparently, as they listened to Peter’s message about Jesus, the Spirit fell upon all who listened and the Spirit’s presence was obvious to those who accompanied Peter.

It must have been quite an occasion for celebration in Cornelius’ home that day. His family was saved, adopted into the family of God and they received the out pouring of the Holy Spirit. I would say Peter did his job.

It is not important that we say lofty, eloquent prayers or deliver sophisticated sermons. Jesus said only one thing was needful. That needful thing is the Divine Trinity. Where they are allowed freedom and communion, they charge the atmosphere with power and the glory of God. We just need God in all three persons. In this generation, we have given ourselves to the lordship of Christ. Through him we have met the Father face to face. Now we need to actively pursue the same sort of relationship with God’s Spirit. That relationship takes the same thoughtful and purposeful seeking which we each employed in coming to know the Father and the Son. If we do not pursue Him, then we will never know him or the power of his might. We will not have all Jesus died to give us. We can spend our entire lives never knowing him. Our Christianity will likely remain intact but will we be two-thirds Christian? How can we be fully united with God if we do not know one-third of the Triune Divinity?

I think these are troubling questions, theologically. The fix, however, is perfectly simple. It is our responsibility to seek the Spirit and come to know him as we do the Father and the Son. Second, as we wander through this world, engaging with others, our relationship with the Spirit brings him into association with those we encounter. We are the vessels which carry the Holy Spirit into all the world. It sounds trite but it is, none the less, God’s plan. Let us devote ourselves, therefore, to knowing the Spirit or, indeed, coming to know him better. Let us pursue him relentlessly. He is the teacher Jesus spoke of so importune him to teach you about himself and about all the things of God.

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 What does this story tell us and how might it impact our lives as well as the church?

Ready, Willing and Able

Matthew 14: 28 – 31

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (emphasis added).

I want you to notice that Jesus did not hesitate but rather when Peter needed him, He moved immediately. Many of us have the idea that God waits until the eleventh hour to move on situations. I have been guilty of that myself. Now that I have seen this verse I must reevaluate my thoughts. Jesus did not wait to see if Peter could work it out for himself. He did not let him sink a bit in order to let Peter exercise his faith or grow. As soon as Peter cried out, Jesus saved him. Jesus did teach Peter that it was his lack of faith, his doubt, that caused him to begin to sink but He took hold of his hand first. Jesus works that same way with us today. He wants to teach us and he wants us to walk in faith but He always provides for our safety first. He will not throw you out in water over your head and expect you to walk on the water all by yourself. He will always have you by the hand. Not only that but also He will teach you all you need to know in order to succeed in your endeavors.

Inherited Blessing

1 Peter 3: 9

… not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Well, if you read yesterday’s Word of the Day you might have thought the Apostle Peter was going through a period of insanity when he wrote verse 8. Look at today’s verse, though. Now, I am convinced that Peter was suffering under some sort of mental illness. Of course we respond with insult when insulted and of course we fight when assaulted. What is Peter thinking? He wants us to give a blessing when we are assailed by evil or insulted? What? This guy has been listening to Jesus too much!

Well, of course, there is no such thing as listening to Jesus too much. There is only too little. When the Roman cohort went to the garden to arrest Jesus, one of Jesus’ followers drew his sword and removed the ear of the servant of the high priest (Matthew 26: 51). Guess who that sword wielding follower was. If you guessed Peter, you would be right. He was not a man who, by his own nature, returned a blessing for a threat. None the less, in his letter that is exactly what he implores us to do. What changed?

Peter was a man of great passion. He was not given to pensiveness, subtlety or passivity and yet his lesson to us is to refrain from acts of vengeance and agression. What was it that he learned that caused such a drastic change in him? While true, it is perhaps a bit simplistic to simply answer that he learned Jesus.

I believe that which marked Peter as a changed man is that he learned the Kingdom of God and that he came to have a deep understanding and revelation of the Parable of the Seed. This parable is, in fact, the model of the Kingdom of God. As you sow, so shall you reap. Sometimes I think the crop is even larger and more tasty when the seed sown is in response to adversity. Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5: 46 – 47).

Do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. I say to you, love your enemies , and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5: 39, 44). This teaching did not sink into Peter’s spirit the first time he heard it. Perhaps it didn’t become a revelation even the twelfth time he heard it. However, by the time he wrote his first letter to the church, he had come to appreciate the power and truth in Jesus’ words. Peter experienced living in grace and learned to extend grace. He came to know the authority that resides in Jesus’ commands. We can live through Peter’s experience and follow his advice or we can continue to wade through life until by some miracle we experience the same epiphany. It seems it would be much easier for us to simply take Jesus and Peter at their word. Each of them point us in the direction of life and blessing. They want what is best for us. Peter summed it up well, this advice is given to us so that we “might inherit a blessing.”

Sage Advice?

1 Peter 3: 8

To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.

Are you ever surprised by some of the verses in the Bible? Take today’s verse for example. I don’t really picture Peter instructing us in this way. This is the guy that actually walked on the water afterall. Shouldn’t he be teaching us about faith? Instead, he teaches us to be sympathetic. Really? That surprises me. Then he wrote that we should be humble in spirit. What does that mean? He, of all the disciples, was full of bravado and fervor. I mean, which of us would jump out of the boat just because we saw Jesus?

I am almost flabbergasted that this zealous disciple would write such a “soft” directive to us. Do you think, perhaps, that the fanatical Peter got a revelation as he matured in the things of Christ? He had his choice of what to write and yet he did not write instructions on how to walk on water, or did he? Could it be that he learned that the harmonious life of compassion and humility in spirit is the spring board to the supernatural? In a way that makes perfect sense to me because for many of us to live harmoniously, sympathetically, brotherly, kindheartedly and humble is anything but “natural”. Just living that way would be SUPERnatural. And maybe, just maybe, that lifestyle is the pathway to walking on water.

Meditate on this verse this week and note what comes up in your spirit as you do. Peter has sage advice for us, advice which will undoubtedly set us apart. Could it also contain the secret to victorious living in Christ? I will let you decide.