church did not go readily into the Gentile world. It didn’t make sense
to them. Even if God would accept the Gentiles, he surely did not mean for Jew
and Gentile to worship together. In his effort to nudge the church along, God
chose to open the door to the Gentiles through Peter. This makes sense because
Peter was clearly the leader of the apostles.
text before us is Peter’s explanation of his actions to the mother church
in Jerusalem. By nudging Peter, God was nudging the church.
The First Nudge: A Perplexing Vision (vv. 1-10)
strange vision happened while he was waiting for lunch. While praying on the
roof of a house he saw a vision. The vision was of animals – all kinds of
animals. The Lord bid Peter to kill and eat, but he would not because the animals
were not kosher. This vision happened three times.
did not take Peter long to conclude that the vision was about more than just
dietary laws. The Lord said, “Do not call anything impure that God has
made clean.” (Acts 11: 9b, NIV) If that was true for animals, was it not
also true for people?
The Second Nudge: A Troubling Command (vv. 11, 12)
the very moment Peter was thinking about all this, three men, representing a
soldier named Cornelius, asked for Paul at the house. The Lord told Peter to
go and meet this Gentile. That must have troubled Peter, who would have grown
up with an aversion to Gentiles. At one time he would have seen it as his obligation
to avoid such people. Now he sees it as his obligation to meet such people.
Peter takes three witnesses and along with the three travelers they made their
way to the house of Cornelius.
The Third Nudge: A Winsome Subject (vv. 12-14)
better man can we imagine to be the one who would open the way for Gentiles?
We know from earlier information in Acts that Cornelius was a Godfearer, one
of those who worshipped the God of the Bible, but had not converted to Judaism.
We know he was well liked and that he had done many acts of charity.
not that his works saved him. Otherwise there would be no need for Peter to
come. But, God did appreciate the sincere faith and obedience of this Italian
soldier. He was a poster child for the Gentile believers.
The Fourth Nudge: An Unmistakable Sign (vv. 15-18)
Peter began to preach, something wonderful happened. The Holy Spirit manifested
itself as Peter had witnessed it at Pentecost. Bible scholars have debated the
full meaning of what this manifestation consisted of. They differ on their interpretations
of exactly what work of the Holy Spirit the household of Cornelius received.
There is one thing that is certain. God’s purpose was to prove to Peter,
and the church, that He was accepting Gentiles into the church. When Peter saw
this baptism of the Holy Spirit, he was amazed and immediately commanded that
water baptism be observed.
as Peter overcame his aversion to food he once thought unclean, he also overcame
his aversion to people he once thought unclean. Who are we to exclude those
whom the Lord had decided to include!
man once had a beautiful dream. In his dream he saw a bright and magnificent
portrait of Jesus Christ. In that same dream he approached the portrait and
got closer and closer until he could see that the portrait was really a mosaic.
The mosaic was made up of individual pictures of people. There were all kinds
of people – people from every tribe, color and nation. They were so different,
yet they all were a part of the image of Christ.
This is the way it should be with the body of Christ. The church should be made
up of all kinds of people. This is the unity Jesus prayed for and we must work
brief provided by: J. Michael Shannon, Professor of Preaching,
Cincinnati Bible College, Cincinnati, OH