Lesson 24: The First Gentile Converts (Cornelius' Household)
again! Welcome back, I trust your faith is building and your knowledge of the book of Acts is growing. This is Acts lesson #24. I have tried to anticipate as many questions as I can. I'm sure, if you keep your eye on the text, and follow the discussion closely, you will have questions that are not answered here. Don't forget to turn off the tape player, long enough to get those questions down on paper, to re-read a scripture, or to research any subject you don't understand. Give your questions to the person who encouraged you to do this study or any teacher in the Church of Christ. So, follow the example of the eunuch, Saul and Cornelius; send or ask for information'; if you need it. You have shown a genuine interest to continue your study down through 24 lessons. That is 8 hours of lecture, and I'm sure many other hours on your own. A good knowledge of the book of Acts can give you confidence, encouragement and a perspective of the N.T. that you have never known before. When you have completed this study, you will find those other books in the N.T., much easier, AND more thrilling to read. Some of the most exciting events in the book of Acts are yet to come. Our last lesson ended with Peter at the household of Cornelius. This outstanding Gentile man, his family and his friends were gathered together. SO, we ARE as they were, ready to listen to Peter's sermon. That was the first sermon ever preached to Gentile people. This lesson has particular significance to those of us who are Gentile by race and not Jews. Imagine you are Cornelius' guest! Here'sthe entire speech. V.34-43, let'sread: "ThenPeter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is not respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of god, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Now, back to v.34. The first point Peter makes is his most recent revelation, "God is no respecter of persons." God had dealt with a select people, the Jews, for nearly 2000 years. Now, Jews and Gentiles alike are acceptable to God, IF, they fear God and do righteousness. "To do righteousness." is a very general and inclusive statement. It simply means to DO RIGHT what God requires. This Peter continues to explain. You must realize also, Peter is teaching, by the H.S. That which he had known himself, for less than 72 hours. It is amazing, when they learned new or better information they accepted it and acted on it. They did not say, well now I'll have to think this over a few days or a few weeks, because it's new. They taught ONLY truth, but when they arrived at that truth (the reality of God) they didn't hesitate a minute. This is an example that all honest, God fearing people should follow. Peter could have said, NO I won't teach that! My grandfather was a good man. What was good enough for HIM, is good enough for me. I want to stick to my OLD TIME religion. Paul said: "Brethren, one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before." (Phil. 3:13). Peter's message to Cornelius might be summarized this way! God sent his word by Jesus. Notice the parenthesis in v.36 "...he is Lord of all.," In v.37 Peter calls their attention to the fact they have likely heard reference to this before. The call of the Gentiles, starting with the house of Cornelius must have been 5 and 10 years after Jesus died on the cross. It is not likely that the death of Stephen and all the riots and persecutions that had taken place in recent years could have escaped the ear of a man like Cornelius. He had been stationed in Judea, Samaria and Galilee, for the very purpose of keeping peace. Thus, Cornelius got a much deeper insight into many of the things he has seen and heard among the Jews. Peter associates his message with the personal knowledge of Cornelius. He proceeds to outline what had happened. Jesus was from God. He was Lord of all. It had been publicized through all Judea. It began with John the Baptist who preached and baptized in Galilee. Jesus had been anointed with power by God and the Holy Spirit. Jesus went about doing Good! Peter was a witness of these things. Analyze the message there closely. What Peter described there was the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. That message IS the gospel according to I Cor. 15:1-4. We have looked at that definition before. Peter was teaching the gospel, the good news of Christ to Cornelius and his household. Peter assured Cornelius and those with him, he was a witness of these things. He was commanded to preach the gospel (that's the great commission) AND that this Jesus will be the Judge of the living and the dead. That's a rephrasing of John 5:22. Peter further points out that all the prophets of old had foretold this AND all agreed in every detail; that through faith in that name, remission of sins could be had. Now, as of yet, Peter has NOT made mention of baptism being required of the Gentiles for the remission of sins, as he did to the Jews on Pentecost. So, what about that? We said before in Acts 6:7 baptism must have been included in the phrase, "obedient to the faith." Now, Peter told these Gentiles, "whosoever believeth in hun shall receive remission of sins." We learned before, faith and belief are the same thing. Did Peter intend to teach the Gentiles the same steps of salvation he taught the Jews? I.e. Hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized? Well, it could be included in that wording -OR_ was Peter here teaching faith only? O.K. you analyze this with your own mind. If God is no respecter of persons, it would seem it must be included to be consistent. But, we must go further to ascertain that point. So hang in there, we'll find the answer. Now, it's interesting, when Peter got to this point hi his sermon he was interrupted. Let's read v.44 "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Now, what does that mean? Did they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells in all baptized believers or was this a miraculous measure as the apostles received on Pentecost? Good question! Let's latch on to a couple more verses. V.45-46 let's read: "and they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God." O.K. there's the answer. It was a miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit. Those of Cornelius' household spoke in tongues, i.e. foreign languages. Just like the apostles had done on Pentecost. Remember? We are not told which language they spoke. Cornelius, being an Italian, probably learned Latin and Greek as his native language. Hebrew to him, could have been a miraculous tongue. Did you notice this astonished the Jews, those six disciples that came with Peter from Joppa, who are referred to here as the circumcision. Well now! After all, this may not be too unreasonable, because this is a kind of 2nd Pentecost, remember? The first was Jews only. This second occasion is to the Gentiles. So, for God to be no respecter of persons and the Gentiles to be equal with the Jews; it would not be unreasonable for God to verify or confirm his word in the same miraculous way. We have said before, the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit was to establish the kingdom and confirm the word. Thus, we must conclude, the kingdom now included the Gentiles and that word WAS confirmed. Let's finish the chapter. V.46, starting with the second sentence, let's read. "Then answered Peter, can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days." O.K. the answer is there. In spite of the fact the Gentiles received a miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit to confirm the word; Peter, "commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lords." Verse 47 makes it clear this was water baptism. So, we are forced to conclude the Gentiles obey the gospel and have their sins remitted in exactly the same way Jews do. Peter said it again in Acts 15:9 referring back to this incident. God is no respecter of persons. Every person, in the Christian age, who has become a child of God has done exactly the same steps and obeyed in exactly the same way. They heard, believed, repented, confessed and were baptized for the remission of their sins, no exceptions. And even though it does not HERE specifically say, these Gentiles obeyed and carried through with Peter's command, it is obvious they did.O.K. Focus in the perspective. It has been said before. This is another example of conversion. And, since every Christian obeys the same gospel AND the gospel applies to everyone (Jews and Gentiles alike) then the case of Cornelius serves as a commentary upon every other case. AND, every other case serves as a commentary on the Cornelius case. Thus, it is the sum total of all such cases of conversion (in their proper contest) that make up the arrangement or design; that we some times refer to as the plan of salvation, -OK- God's scheme of redemption. These steps were outlined early in our study, in an attempt to alert you to search and investigate every case of conversion in an effort to fix in your mind God's plan, as exemplified in the book of Acts. And, (as has been said before) every case of conversion in the N.T. age, is found in this book. Therefore, if one wants to know how to become a N.T. Christian, i.e. a child of God, scripturally; (and there isn't any other kind) then, he must find the answer here at the pure fountain, the official source of God's instruction to men. Don't rely upon "hear-say." Or somebody's theory, or somebody's opinion. This old world is lousy with sectarian opinions and theories and claims. The doctrines and commandments of mere men. Wolves in sheep's clothing. So, don't be snared by their gimmicks. BEWARE! Warning after warning is given in God's word. BEWARE! Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets." In 10:17 of that same book, Jesus told his apostles: "beware of men." In Mark 12:38 He said: "Beware of the scribes." In Philippians 3:2 Paul said: "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of concision." Colossians 2:8, "Beware lest any man spoil yo through philosophy and vain deceit." Beware! The warning is there. Read for yourself. Oh! It takes a little more effort, but it is the safe way. You can be sure! Now please notice, the word "water" does not occur any place in Acts 2. So, here's a question for you. How can you be sure the baptism of Pentecost, i.e. Acts 2:38, 41, have reference to water baptism? What's your answer? Well? Of course you know that the same preacher, with the same message, the same plane of salvation, for the very same purpose; said at the household of Cornelius: "Can ANY MAN forbid water, that these should NOT be baptized...?" V.47). If the Cornelius case is a commentary upon the Pentecost case, and both cases followed the same plan; then you can be sure it was WATER BAPTISM in Acts 2. On Pentecost Peter said: "Repent and be baptized everyone of you IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST." At the household of Cornelius (v.48) "he commanded them TO BE BAPTIZED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD." Same thing! Same name! Same baptism! Philip and the Eunuch is another commentary, another place, another time, with another person;' But the same plan of salvation. There's water in the plan. Just in case the though should run through your mind; Did Peter have this complete straight? Did he understand the vision on Simon's roof in Joppa? Did this man Peter meant to say there is a connection between baptism, water baptism and salvation? I know! This thought offends some people. So, you research it to your satisfaction. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Rom. 14:5). What did Peter mean? Some twenty-five or thirty years later, Peter (this same preacher), the same man who preached on Pentecost, the same man who preached to Cornelius, this same Peter said: (I Pet. 3:20) after discussing Noah, that O.T. character who built the ark. Peter said: "While the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." Did you get that? Eight souls WERE SAVED BY WATER! That was Noah, Mrs. Noah, three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth, and the three daughter in laws. Eight souls saved by water. "YES!" But, Bro. Horsley, what does that have to do with baptism? Well, I'm not finished yet! Peter is not finished yet! Well, now how did that water of the flood save the Noah family? You say: well the ark, this big boat, buoyed them up. It floated. They stayed above the water and were not drowned like the whole world at that time(was drowned). They were protected in the ark by the lift or force of the water. Thus, Peter says: they were saved by water. So, what's the point now Bro. Peter? His point is in the next verse (I Pet. 3:21). It says: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth ALSO NOW save us." That floating boat was NOT baptism. But that floating boat had a characteristic in common with baptisem, i.e. both of them save. The boat saved Noah. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth ALSO now save us." You mean Bro., Peter there's a connection between water-baptism and salvation? Well, you figure it out. That's what the man said! NOW, someone will say: I never heard of such thing! Well, that's O.K. Just don't blame me for your ignorance. I'm sorry, 1 had to learn it too. AND, that water doesn't have anything magic in it. Bro. Peter explained that right there in the same verse (I Pet. 3:21, see the parenthesis?) It's by the resurrection of Jesus. Peter told Cornelius it was "through his name", i.e. Jesus's name. (V.43). It's by Jesus' authority. It's by Jesus's power. It's Jesus' instruction that gives water baptisem it's saving power. Read on my friend! Peter may not have said it all in one place, but Peter said it all. There's water in the plan. Now, what about repentance? Repentance is not mentioned here in Acts 10. Does that mean Peter didn't include it? What about Cornelius? Did he repent? Was he required to repent? Peter emphazied repentance in Acts 2:38 and again in Acts 3:19. And those are commentaries on Acts 10, we have said. Peter was teaching Cornelius and his Gentile friends how to have their sins remitted. That's what he said in Acts 10:43. Why, did Peter teach the people to "Repent and be baptized" on Pentecost? Do you remember? For the remission of sins, right? So, it's evident Peter taught exactly the same thing to Cornelius. That included repentance, even though the word "repentance" is not used in "Acts 10. Examples of conversion! Study them closely. Most of us learn by example faster than by theory. You don't have to understand the chemistry of combustion to strike a match. But, demonstrate it to a 3 year old, just one time, you won't believe how fast they catch on. Examples are powerful! So study the examples of conversion. They all contain a piece of the conversion puzzle. And only when a puzzle is pieced together does the picture become distinctly clear. That last sentence in v.48 means they desired Peter to visit with them for a time. We are not told whether Peter obliged them or not. We don't know how long he stayed. O.K. that completes chapter 10.