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To the Gentiles


While Saul traveled toward Caesarea, Peter was on the move, preaching the gospel and performing miracles at Lydda and Joppa (modern Jaffa). While there, a “devout and God-fearing” man from Caesarea named Cornelius, a Gentile and a Roman officer, had a vision of an angel urging him to send for Peter (10:2–6). “God-fearer” was a label given to Gentiles who followed some of the customs of the law but were not full converts to the Jewish faith.

Peter also had a vision in which a voice from heaven ordered him to eat foods that the Mosaic law had forbidden. Its meaning wasn’t really about food, but people. Peter summarized it this way: “I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (10:28). The vision and the arrival of the three servants of Cornelius showed Peter that God was willing to include Gentiles in the promises of the gospel. God confirmed this for Peter by the same kind of signs in the house of Cornelius that the church had experienced on the day of Pentecost. These signs weren’t just for Peter’s benefit but would later be cited as proof of God’s acceptance of the Gentiles when he returned to Jerusalem.

You may wonder, Shouldn’t Peter have already known that the gospel would include the Gentiles? After all, Jesus had commanded His followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). But like Christ’s teaching about the resurrection, it took time for the church to grasp the full significance of what Jesus had commanded. Peter would eventually discover that he needed to have this important lesson reinforced by a blunt reminder from the apostle Paul (Gal. 2:1–16).

>> Let’s be honest. Is there someone you think would never become a believer? Our study in Acts should remind you that we mustn’t be so sure! We can be too quick to write off people whom God is calling, simply because they are different from us.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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