The church is booming and Satan isn’t prevailing – Stephen’s execution had backfired, the persecution and scattering of the believers didn’t work – Christianity had spread like wildfire out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria. In 7 years an unimpressive 120 had grown to thousands. Satan’s plan was simple, perhaps he could limit its spread and confine it to the Jews, then he could hold onto the vast majority of the world’s population who were Gentiles. Peter the leader might be the agent! He had tried to talk Jesus out of dying. He had tried to stay on the mountain of transfiguration instead of using that encounter in the cloud for the crowd. He was holding onto the food laws as we saw in yesterday’s readings.
So what did the Lord do?
First the Lord sent an angel to the Roman centurion Cornelius – not just any old Gentile, but a centurion in the occupying army, in the pay of Pilate’s successor. Then the Lord gives Peter a vision in Joppa, in a tanner’s house. Tanning involved animal skins so it was an unclean job… we can see Peter’s heart is changing. Joppa was where Jonah tried to escape from preaching to the Gentiles in Nineveh some 8 centuries earlier and it is now in Joppa that the gospel will break out to the Gentile world.
So in today’s reading Peter is obedient to the Spirit and goes to see Cornelius. The angel could have shared the gospel with Cornelius but Peter needs to learn for himself that the gospel is for all.
Peter gets it.
Jesus was anointed of the Holy Spirit and with power to do good and to heal. He was put to death and then raised to life so everyone who believes in him can receive forgiveness of sin through his name! As Peter preaches, the Spirit falls on the Gentiles, (even the Gentiles!) evidenced by tongues and praise. Peter now can’t withhold baptism and commands it.
Peter explains what has happened to the rest of the apostles, who realise “then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” The rest, as they say, is history – and we get to make history too!
Satan can’t stop the Lord from fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 49, that the good news is for the Jews and Gentiles.
I’ll finish with a challenging quote from Phil Moore
“Satan has only one option left to prevent you from wreaking massive damage to his kingdom. He must make you short sighted and trick you into limiting the scope of your ministry for Christ. If he can restrict your gaze to Sundays, he will. If he can turn it into private religion, or even corporate church religion, he will do that too. If he can dupe you into ring fencing your faith away from work colleagues, relatives, neighbours or any of the people groups in your nation, he still hopes to carry the day.”
Ask the Spirit to fill you again and break out!