The encounter between Cornelius and Peter demonstrates God’s grace for ALL and reveals His capacity to deliver His grace, far beyond our understanding and expectations, to other cultures and traditions.
The exclusivity of the message of Jesus is often a barrier to belief and acceptance of the message of Jesus. Someone I admire GREATLY, wrote this,
And has it ever occurred to you that Jesus Christ, who said to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and told a parable about a “Good Samaritan” (that made it clear that “thy neighbor” included everybody, not just those who think as you do), would approve of “cultural acceptance of other religions”? Do you honestly think that the God Jesus speaks of (remember, “God is love”?) would reject the majority of the world because they were born into other cultures and traditions?
The inherent assumption in this statement is that God is rejecting the majority of the world.
I believe the story of Cornelius, among many others throughout the ancient collection of writings known as the Bible, demonstrates God’s ability to transcend cultures and traditions. Scattered among the Old Testament, we find the stories of Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Naaman, and many others as a demonstration of God’s capacity and desire to impact those of other religious traditions. The story of Cornelius is described in detail in Acts 10.
Cornelius was a Roman soldier. He worked for the oppressors of Israel, i.e., the enemies of God’s people, yet he feared God. He might not have fully understood God, but he is described as “a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.”
God notices all whose hearts incline towards Him. Everyone, no matter what culture, understands inherently that we are made, created, and are drawn to know our Creator. We can reject this idea because with the concept of a Creator comes a responsibility. Many reject the concept of a Creator in an effort to be free of any moral obligation. Additionally, there is an opposition force. We are drawn towards serving ourselves. We find ourselves capable of cruelty. We don’t live up to even our own standards for ourselves, never mind the standards of a supreme deity. We have a yearning in our heart to live according to a high ideal, yet we seem prone to sabotaging ourselves.
God understands. He sent an answer. Some think His answer is narrow and confining.
Yes, the answer is narrow. God’s word makes it very clear there is only ONE access point; One route; One narrow funnel; Jesus.
But life in Jesus, is not narrow and confining. It is the true freedom we were created for.
So, how is that fair, that there is only one narrow access point to God? Paul explained to Cornelius and his entire family,
This is the message of the Good News,
It started with the people of Israel:
There is peace with God through Jesus Christ,
Who is Lord of all.
God appointed Jesus
With the Holy Spirit and with power.
Jesus went around doing good and
Healing all who were oppressed by the devil,
For God was with Him.
But, He was not accepted.
He was put to death.
But, God raised Him from the dead.
He instructed His followers,
Who ate and drank with Him after
He ROSE FROM THE DEAD
(try to imagine the reality of that for the first time).
He instructed them to “preach everywhere and to testify that
Jesus is the ONE
Appointed by God to be the judge of all –
The living and the dead.
He is the ONE all the prophets testified about
He is the ONE that everyone who believes in Him will
Have their sins forgiven through His name.
God had primed Him with a visit from an angel – a heavenly messenger.
God is not limited. He has methods – dreams, visions, obedient messengers, circumstances – all designed to awaken hearts to hear His message.
It is beyond our imagination and understanding. He is able to offer His message to every person in every culture and tradition.
The real question is, what is YOUR choice? Your choice is going to impact your eternity, and your entire family. Will you accept the message Paul explained to Cornelius?
Cornelius and His entire family experienced God’s powerful outpouring of grace. They accepted. They believed the narrow message from another religious tradition; from another culture. They praised God together.
Will you accept or reject
God’s narrow message.
His likeness, His exact image,
His messenger sent into the world
To proclaim His love
To clearly demonstrate His love
So we could be set free from the power of sin.
So we could be set free from the enemy’s delusions.
Sometimes the burden of our intellectual understanding is too heavy to bear.
Is the ONE
The prophets testified about
Saying everyone who believes in Him
Will have their sins forgiven through His name.
It is a narrow entry point, but Gods grace is expansive and
He is able to offer it to all.
The question remains, what will you do?
How will you respond to His invitation?
For those reading these words who have already
Accepted His grace and walk in it,
The question for us is,
What are we doing to advance His message,
To make it known
To reflect His love
As parts of His body
To our lost world?
These are the questions I wrestle with daily. I seek to know God, fully and completely, not on my terms, but on His. And, I seek to make Him known, albeit never adequately, I continue to try.
Author: Becky Hastings, wife, mother, grandmother, passionate follower of Jesus Christ and truth seeker, especially in the areas of health and children. Facing a world quite different from the one in which I grew up, I seek to research and understand the true route to health, freedom and joyful family living!