Cornelius, a Gentile commander of the Roman army who is “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always”, receives a vision from the Lord, telling him to send men to Joppa where Peter is staying.
The next day, Peter also receives a vision from the Lord. In his vision are all sorts of animals which the Lord instructs Peter to kill and eat. Peter responds, “Not so Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” But God responds, “‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ This was done three times.”
According to the ESV Study Bible, “God was overturning the old clean/unclean distinctions and dietary laws in general, along with all other ‘ceremonial’ laws in the Mosaic covenant (including laws about sacrifices, festivals and special days, and circumcision). Nothing like this was to get in the way of fellowship with Gentiles, as Galatians 2 also shows.”
Therefore, when Cornelius’ men arrive and ask Peter to come to the home of a Gentile, Peter goes. When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls to his feet to worship him. Peter responds, “‘Stand up; I myself am also a man.’ And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.’”
Peter goes on to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. ”While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also… And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”
“Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!’” Peter explains to his brethren what happened and concludes saying, “‘If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?’ When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.’”
The church in Jerusalem receives news of the great number of people, both Jews and Gentiles, who were coming to faith in Antioch. So they send Barnabas to Antioch where he encourages “them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”
“Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
However, many hate the Christians and Herod knows this. So for his own personal and political gain he kills “James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also.”
Although Herod is killing Christians, and is trying to stop the growth of the church and the spread of the word of God for self-serving political purposes, nothing can stop the plans of the Lord. Tomorrow we will see the Lord’s plans prevail. Keep reading.