Too Late to Turn Back Now!
Every time I read the story of Cornelius in Acts 10, I am reminded of the 1970’s group The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, a family soul singing group from Dania Beach, Florida. The original members formed a trio of two brothers and their sister. Later, the trio became a quartet, adding a younger sister. The group had several hits, including “Treat Her Like a Lady” from 1971. My favorite hit the charts on May 27, 1972, as my freshman year in high school ended: “Too Late to Turn Back Now.”
Peter may have thought it was too late to turn back after the first recorded conversions of the first Gentiles, including one named Cornelius. It is a watershed moment in the history of Christianity. It occurs at the outset of the church’s mission to the world. The gospel truly is for anybody and everybody—no exceptions. Anybody can come in to The Way—the Way of Jesus—anybody at any time and anywhere without exceptions.
Here is a lesson in inflexible impartiality. Peter figured out that God shows no partiality (v. 34). God is inflexibly impartial. Acts 10:1-43 sets the stage for this turning point in Christianity when Gentiles are saved and baptized. On this stage are five scenes in the drama leading to a sixth scene in which this miracle of salvation is portrayed.
Scene One (vv. 1-8): Cornelius is introduced, and his experience with an angel of the Lord is given.
Scene Two (vv. 9-16): Peter’s experience is observed as he falls into a state of ecstasy in which he has a vision.
Scene Three (vv. 17-23a): Representatives from Cornelius arrive in Joppa and share with Peter, who invites them to spend the night.
Scene Four (vv. 23b-33): Peter and some other believers depart with the entourage from Cornelius to Caesarea, where they are welcomed and greeted by Cornelius who shares with Peter his encounter with the Lord’s angel. Cornelius also has invited members of his family and close friends to be there.
Scene Five (vv. 34-43): Peter acknowledges that God is impartial and presents the gospel to those gathered with Cornelius.
Peter’s preaching is the bulk of Scene Five, which spills (without break) into Scene Six (vv. 44-48) with the miracle of salvation as the Holy Spirit comes upon those Gentiles to the astonishment of the Jewish believers.
It’s too late to turn back now! The Holy Spirit can’t be returned! We have to go with it, and we can if we’ll understand a couple of things.
God’s Salvation Is Inflexibly Impartial
We are tempted to reach only a certain kind of people—those most like ourselves. In Acts 11, as Jewish believers spread into parts of the world far beyond Palestine, they speak the Word only to Jews. They believed there was no need to speak with Gentiles, that salvation was only for their own people group. They must not have heard about Cornelius, his brothers and sister (maybe Rose!), as well as the rest of his family!
Sometimes we think we are to target a specific kind of people. We are tempted to spy the neighborhood from which one comes, check out a social standing in community and civic involvement, or see where someone is employed to deem whether that soul is acceptable to the church as our kind. I like to believe that more often than not we don’t give into the temptation. Sometimes we do, but God’s salvation is inflexibly impartial.
Baptize Those Who Are Saved
It’s too late to turn back, so we might as well baptize these folks! Baptism marks them as the people of God who’ve experienced the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Think of the joy Cornelius and company experienced when watered in the name of Jesus Christ. If you are able to recall the joy of your baptism, you’ll know something of their joy in Caesarea.
People who receive Christ are to be baptized. No one has the authority to prevent anyone from being baptized who has experienced the miracle of salvation.
Given it’s too late to turn back now, give the gospel to anybody and everybody—and baptize them!