Acts 10 | The Gospel and Prejudice

As a Jew, the tenth chapter of Acts has a special place in my heart. It is the account of how God opened the door to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. More importantly, it is the story of how God overcame the prejudice of his servant so that he could cooperate with what the Holy Spirit wanted to do to expand the kingdom of God.

As of yet, Peter and the Jerusalem apostles had no understanding God intended to offer the Gospel to the Gentiles, even though their Master had given previews of his intention during his earthly ministry. He had healed the servant of the Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-3) and the daughter of the Syro-Phonecian woman who was demon-possessed (Mark 7:24-30). These were brief snapshots meant to prepare his apostles that eventually God would call Gentiles to believe on the name of his Son.

But there was a problem; His servant Peter was prejudiced. He had never entered a Gentile home in his life because it was unlawful to do so (Acts 10:28). Peter, as an Orthodox Jew, had no concept of Gentiles becoming part of the people of God except through conversion to Judaism. Many Gentiles in his day, having tired of polytheism, became Jews through proselytization. That was the only way a Gentile could be accepted and become part of the people of God.

But now the Gospel had come, and with it, the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Now, God accepted Gentiles into the kingdom of God without any need to first become Jews. Now, God poured out His Spirit upon all flesh, without any distinction between Jew and Gentile (Acts 2:17). Gentiles were now called to be “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).

It is one thing to know this theologically but quite another to actually participate in the process of gathering them into the fold! It is one of the reasons this entire account found in Acts 10 is so full of the supernatural. First, God gave Cornelius a vision, and an angel speaks to him. Peter, on the rooftop at Joppa, is then given a vision of the sheet coming down from heaven filled with unclean animals unlawful for a Jew to touch, let alone eat. Nevertheless, three times he sees this vision and is told to eat. After the last time, he hears the Spirit telling him to go with the men Cornelius sent. And when Peter obeys and goes, having figured out finally that it’s not about food but about God cleansing Gentiles, the Spirit falls powerfully upon Cornelius and his household. Peter recognized God had given Gentiles the same gift of the Spirit he had given to the Jews.

The abundance of supernatural activity helped Peter to overcome his long-standing prejudice towards Gentiles. At first, this idea he should go to Gentiles and preach to them was offensive. But eventually, it became clear: “the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 10:18). Peter’s prejudice had to give way to the revelation of what God was doing to further his kingdom.

For a moment, put yourself in Peter’s shoes. Is there a group of people you are prejudiced against? Would it be difficult for you to hear God telling you to go to that group and offer them the Gospel?

It is sad that prejudice still exists among God’s people. I once approached a pastor from a Middle Eastern country at a conference where he had spoken, asking if there was any chance I could go and minister to the churches he leads. He immediately looked sad and told me that many of the brothers in the churches he served would have a hard time receiving me. I appreciated his honesty, but it only increased my desire to go and demonstrate the love of God.

Since the Spirit has been poured out on all flesh, we must be willing to reach out to anyone God sends us to, even those we are prejudiced against. Praying the prayer, “your kingdom come” can be quite dangerous. You never know to whom He might send you.

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