What’s the Difference Between Jews and Gentiles?
How did the gospel go from only Jewish believers to the rest of the world? We’ll see that transition happen now as Peter takes the gospel, reluctantly, to a Gentile.
His name was Cornelius, and he was the first Gentile to hear the gospel from Peter. That sounds easy enough, but it was a huge paradigm shift for Peter—the first of major changes.
Cornelius, a Roman centurion, lived in Caesarea. He wasn’t yet a Christian, because he had never heard the gospel. Some might call him “a seeker.” He needed more light—and wanted it.
Wherever there is a man who seeks after God as Cornelius did, that man is going to hear the gospel of the grace of God. Now while Cornelius is praying in Caesarea, an angel of God appears to him in a vision and tells him to find Peter in Joppa, staying with Simon, the tanner by the seaside. Immediately, Cornelius sends two servants and a soldier to fetch Peter.
While Cornelius’ men are on their way south, God prepares Peter. As Peter prayed, he fell into a trance. God opened the heavens to him and showed him a sheet coming down, filled with all kinds of animals. Then God said, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (10:13).
But Peter, a good Jew, said, “No, Lord, I’ve never so much as tasted food that wasn’t clean (as in, kosher).”
Then the voice says, “You can eat anything because God has said so.”
The Spirit in the vision also said that God sent three men looking for him and it was OK to go with them. After the vision disappeared, Peter heard a knock on the door. Three men stood there, inviting Peter to come with them to Cornelius’ house.
Previously, it would have been wrong for a Jew to enter a Gentile’s home, but God told Peter He had changed the rules. So by faith, Peter stepped into the gentile house. What a step that was!
Cornelius tells him, “I don’t know why I sent for you, except God told me to do it. Do you have a message for me?”
Then Peter explodes with the good news of Jesus Christ. Peter presents the very heart of the gospel. Jesus Christ died, He has risen, and whoever believes in Him will be forgiven of their sins.
When Cornelius and his household heard the gospel, they believed it and the Holy Spirit came upon them. This incident has been called the Gentile Pentecost. Peter and the other Jews were astonished that Gentiles should receive the Holy Spirit. This outpouring proves Gentiles are saved, just like the Jews, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Back in Jerusalem, when the Jews hear that Gentiles have believed the Word of God, it didn’t bring them any joy. If we would have talked with Peter a month before this event, he would have agreed with them. In fact, even now, Peter says he didn’t want to do this, but God’s Spirit led him the whole way. He then told them the whole story, including that when he baptized them, the Holy Spirit came upon them. This is irrefutable evidence that Gentiles are now in the body of believers.
When the Jewish followers of Jesus heard how God moved, they accepted this as from God and praised and glorified Him. This was a great day—the door had been opened to the Gentiles!
Next, how difficult times helped to spread the gospel to the ends of the world.