Lesson 75

The Apostle Peter

". . . And you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root . . ."
Romans 11:17 (New International Version)

Cornelius, a Gentile, prayed to God and respected him, but he was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He knew about Jesus and wanted to follow him and to do God’s will, but that way had not yet been opened to him or to any other Gentile.

An angel of the Lord appeared to Cornelius in a vision. He told Cornelius that God had heard his prayers and that he should find a man named Peter who would explain God’s will to him. So Cornelius sent two of his servants to the house of Simon the tanner where Peter was staying.

In the meantime, God instructed Peter about Cornelius. Up until this time God had dealt with the Jewish people only. But now, three and a half years after Jesus’ death on the cross, God’s invitation to become part of the church class was to be extended to the Gentiles. Cornelius would be the first Gentile convert.

This was a new concept to Peter and the others for they had been forbidden by the Law to have close friends among the Gentiles or to marry into their families. Had the Jews been faithful to become followers of Jesus Christ, the entire church would have been selected from among them. However, comparatively few responded to the call and so the way was opened to the Gentiles as soon as the full time of the Jewish Age was completed.

Peter learned through a vision that God’s instructions to the Gentiles were to change. Peter saw a great sheet come down from heaven which contained many different four-footed beasts, all of which had always been forbidden for Jews to eat as they were considered unclean. Now God was telling Peter to kill and eat them. This happened three times. While Peter thought about the vision and was still feeling doubtful, three men came to summon him to go to the house of Cornelius. Peter and several other men from Joppa went to Cornelius’ home immediately.

They found Cornelius and his family eagerly awaiting to hear what Peter had to say. Peter told them the true story of Jesus—his death, his resurrection, the call to the church to be his bride. They were delighted to hear the message and fully accepted the terms of discipleship.

God poured out his Holy Spirit upon them and they received the gifts of speaking in foreign tongues and of healing, etc., just as the Jewish disciples had at Pentecost. They were all baptized in the name of the Lord—and Peter learned that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). The Gospel Age had begun.

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