13 January 2015

Acts 10:34-43

“God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (v. 34-35)

Psalm: Psalm 76


Today's passage forms a pivotal point not only in the Acts of the Apostles, but of the mission of the Church. It takes places at the home of Cornelius, a centurion based in Caesarea, the base for the Roman administration of Judea. He'd had a dream in which he was encouraged to send for Peter who was in Joppa. Whilst Cornelius' men were on their way to ask Peter to come to Caesarea, Peter himself had a strange dream which made him realise that the gospel message he had been given was meant not only for the Jews but for all people in the world. This was a profoundly important new development and the first manifestation of it would be that Peter accepted the invitation to visit the Roman centurion, a Gentile (a non Jew), "without objection" (Acts 10:29).

As Peter speaks to the assembled household he makes clear his revolutionary new idea, that the God of Israel is also the God for anyone and everyone in every nation (verse 35). This means that Jesus Christ is "Lord of all" (v. 36). It is therefore important that all people hear the story of Jesus and have a chance to respond. Peter summarises this in a few simple sentences, starting with Jesus' Baptism and empowerment through the Holy Spirit and ending with his resurrection and command that his disciples should "preach to the people" (v. 42). His summary is effectively a compressed version of Luke's Gospel, which is not surprising as the same author is thought to have also written Acts of the Apostles.

Peter's theology appears to be different to Paul's, in that Peter suggests that God will accept people if they do what is right and acceptable. This contrasts with Paul's view that it is through faith that people are brought in to a relationship with God (Romans 11:20). This, however, may be a sign of the developing thinking of the early Church.

To Ponder

  • Read this passage again as if you'd never heard the story of Jesus before. What would your reaction be on hearing this message for the first time?
  • Peter took a big step outside his comfort zone in preaching to Cornelius' household. Are there steps you could take to do things you might currently be anxious about? What might they be?
  • Pray for all those who respond to God's call to share the gospel message with people who have never heard it before.


Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.