Acts chapter 10 is one of the most incredible chapters in the book of Acts and even in the New Testament. But it’s very easy to not appreciate it at all. We mostly have no idea of the significance of the events in this chapter, the importance to the future of the world that was there. [We recently had a live class on Acts 10 and you can hear the edited version here.]
This chapter is where God made abundantly clear that His grace and salvation were for all people and His plan included all nations, not just Israel with whom He’d been working for centuries. But it took a tremendous act of the Holy Spirit to get this message and point across.
God worked with Jesus’ top disciple, Simon Peter. And He told Peter to do something, by direct revelation, that seemed to be utterly and totally opposite to all that Peter had thought was God’s Will according to Mosaic Law and customs. If ever there was a case of “New Wine” very nearly breaking what was not probably even an “Old Bottle”, it was with God’s message to Peter here in this chapter.
In a vision on a housetop Peter was shown a sheet full of animals which were unclean for Jews to eat, according to the Mosaic Law. But Peter heard the voice of God telling him to “Rise and eat.” (Acts 10:13) Peter argued with God that he’d never do something like that. But the Lord said, “What God has cleansed, don’t call unclean” (Acts 10:15). Immediately there was a knock on the gate of the house and 3 gentiles, Romans, were there to ask if Peter would come to a nearby city to speak to a Roman centurion and his family. The centurion had been visited by an angel and told to send people to this house in another city to fetch Peter and get him to come and speak. The Lord told Peter, “Go, doubting nothing.” (Acts 10:20)
So Peter was lead and directed miraculous, more or less against his own will, to journey across country to visit the house of a Roman centurion who’d been visited by an angel of God . Peter almost reluctantly obeyed the direct voice of God to go with these uncircumcised Gentiles and to even (“perish the thought!”) enter into their house. The centurion, Cornelius, had gathered together what was probably a pretty large number of people, simply to hear what Peter would say. But Peter at first didn’t even know for what cause he’d been sent for. At length, when it was clear to him that they just wanted to hear what he had to say, then Peter explained to them about Jesus.
Peter told Cornelius and his friends about Jesus (whom they certainly had heard about already as it was a very big deal and the story of Jesus had reached practically everyone) “who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil”. (Acts 10:38) And it sounds like, while Peter was still speaking, the Spirit of God came upon this large group of non-Jews and they experienced something very similar to what had happened to Peter and the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Cornelius and his friends were suddenly and powerfully filled with the Holy Ghost.
For almost everyone reading this post, we are “Gentiles”. This is the chapter and this event is where the Lord revealed that His love and grace and even Spirit were for all peoples.
Most folks nowadays can tell you who Bill Gates is. A few could tell you who Nelson Mandela or even Mahatma Gandhi were. But how many can tell you the effect Acts chapter 10 had on the future of Christianity, even western Civilization and the overall civilizing effect on Mankind around the World?
Without Acts chapter 10, Christianity would have remained some kind of semi-orphaned offshoot and outcropping of Judaism, which might have perished altogether in 70 AD when the Roman legions of Titus destroyed Jerusalem and effectively ended the nation of Israel. Instead of this, Christianity continued to thrive and grow for the next decades and even centuries, eventually becoming the foundation and backbone of Roman society and organization by the 400’s AD.
Reading the book of Acts is a way to prepare for the future and the endtime since this was the best example of Christianity that there is. So we aren’t just looking at this as the past. We’re looking, or should be looking, to see the kind of Christianity that will be needed in the final end time, a radical discipleship Christianity.
I hope you’ll have time to listen to the live class we had on this chapter, to ponder the significance of it for yourself and also for the history of mankind. The full edited version of our class can be heard here.