I’ve always been fascinated by the turning points of history. Sometimes you know it when you are witnessing a turning point. They are usually events that grab your attention immediately, and you never forget where you were when you first heard the news. The assassination of JFK and 9/11 are two examples that come to mind. Other events are much more subtle, yet prove to be equally significant. Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in 1996-97 or the barely mentioned break in at the Watergate hotel in 1972.
Just as we witness significant turning points during our life time, so the Bible records turning points within the story of God and His interaction with His people. For example, the call of Abraham is a significant turning point, or the anointing of David as king, or the destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In the New Testament, we see a turning point in Matthew 12 when the Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah/King, and, of course, the greatest turning point in all of history, the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.
In the story of the church in Acts, we have reached a significant turning, or perhaps you could even say a tipping point–the salvation and Spirit baptism of the first Gentile, an Italian officer known as Cornelius. Quite honestly, if you removed these few verses from Acts 10, we would probably be worshipping pagan gods from Greek and Roman mythology just as our ancestors did.
Yet, God, in His magnificent plan, grafted in the Gentile nations into the nation of Israel through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
From this point forward, the gospel will spread throughout the known world within a generation. From Spain to Rome to the outer parts of Asia and into Africa, the great gospel ship will sail through uncharted waters and many times turbulent seas.
There are several lessons I think we can learn from Peter’s experience in Acts 10 as well as Cornelius’ conversion:
- It answers the question, “What about those who never hear the gospel, are they still lost and condemned to hell? As this example proves to us, God goes to extraordinary means to reach those who don’t know him. As Luke 19:10 reminds us, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” I do not believe there will ever be a person who will stand before God and say, “I sincerely sought you, desired to know you and to serve You, but You hid Yourself from me.” God is not the one hiding! We hide ourselves from the truth of the gospel.
- We see a clear example in Acts 10 of how God supernaturally orchestrates events to accomplish His purpose. You see, what we often associate with “luck” or “chance,” is really God’s hand moving and working to accomplish His will in our lives.
- Acts 10 reminds us of the importance of prayer. Both Peter and Cornelius were seeking the Lord and in prayer when God spoke to them. Has it been a while since God spoke to you? How often do you enter into His presence in prayer? Coincidence?
- Cornelius sets the example for us of where evangelism starts. It’s not out on the street or in a foreign land, it’s in our own home, with our own family and friends. Too often we see “missionaries” seeking support to go to some foreign land to share the gospel when in truth they have no passion or record of evangelism within their own community! Do you really think it is easier to share the gospel cross-culturally than it is with your own flesh and blood? Think again.
- We see that when sharing the gospel, we do not need a three point sermon with a lengthy introduction and tear-jerking invitation. Peter shared the gospel in its simplest form (Acts 10:36-43), and while he was speaking, The Holy Spirit interrupted and saved all who heard!
- Finally, we see a great example in Simon Peter–true believers obey the leading of the Lord. Peter didn’t ask for days, weeks, or months to confirm the Lord’s leading. It was clear what the Lord demanded of him, and once Peter knew, he obeyed. How about you, is there an area of obedience where you are resisting the Lord? Has He made His will crystal clear to you, but you are hesitating out of fear, cautiousness, or outright disobedience? Confess your sin today, and follow the Lord’s leading.
Be encouraged by the testimony of both Peter and Cornelius. Pray for your lost friends and family. Share the gospel. Be obedient to the Lord.–Chris Eller