When I was in college, I decided to go to Ecuador to get a year of Spanish taken care of in six weeks. I had a friend at school who was from Quito and would be returning home for the summer, so there was a chance we would connect while I was down there. While I was there, the other students hung out together but I truly wanted to be immersed in the culture, so I hung out with locals. I was struggling but learning. Then late that first week, Xavier showed up. Suddenly I had a friend, an ally in a strange land. He introduced me to other friends of his and I spent most of the next five weeks with his friends. Now I was not oppressed in Quito but I was a foreigner, and having Xavier on my side helped.
Imagine the first century Jews in the Roman empire. There was a delicate balance of power and respect but there was no doubt in the Jews minds that the Romans were in charge. The centurions were the enforcers and often feared. But we hear of a story about a centurion who was high up in the ranks, “a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort” (Acts 10:1) who was actually respected rather than feared. “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation.” (v 22a)
Cornelius was a Roman and a Gentile, not a Jew, but he had come to a Jewish faith, loving and fearing the Jewish God. Imagine being a Jew at that time, being oppressed by the Roman government and having these centurions living among you. The lack of trust would have been immense. Yet God saw fit to call one of these men to Himself and would eventually use this man to demonstrate to Peter, that the Gospel message was for the Gentiles too.
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'” (v 34-35) After sharing the Gospel message, he witnessed the Holy Spirit upon these Gentiles. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.”
God always sees the big picture. He doesn’t need us to complete His plan but He chooses to use us in ways we could never imagine. This story is an amazing example of how God used people outside the faith, to help grow the faith within one of His very apostles. As a result, Peter now knew God’s message was for everyone, not just the Jews.
Are there people in your life whom you question if they could ever receive the Gospel message? This message is for them too. Keep your eyes and your heart opened as Peter’s was this day. Be willing to be used and be open to witness His great miracles in the most unsuspecting places.
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