THE story of Cornelius is very interesting and important. It occurred about seven years after the Crucifixion, and it was the big turning point in the history of the Ecclesia of Christ.
This first seven years had been devoted to preaching to the Jews: although at its end, just previous to this (as we read in chapter 8), the Truth had been extended to the Samaritans, who kept the Law of Moses, and to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was obviously a proselyte of the Law and almost certainly circumcised into that Law.
The baptism of Cornelius is the culmination of Peter's recorded labours. Immediately thereafter, the narrative of Acts turns permanently to Paul. We read of Peter's imprisonment and release in chapter 12, and he passes out of the direct record in Acts 12:17-
"He departed, and went into another place."
Up to this point, from the beginning of Jesus' ministry ten years before, Peter had been the unquestioned leader and spokesman and most prominent of the apostles. After the Crucifixion, it was always Peter who led and initiated everything, beginning with the replacement of Judas by Matthias.
But henceforth the whole record centers about Paul, while James appears as the leader and spokesman in Jerusalem. Peter only appears in the record incidentally in connection with the activities of Paul, as when Paul first visited Peter in Jerusalem or when he rebuked him at Antioch.
But Peter's epistles reveal a continued life of faithful labour, and a beautiful development of spiritual character as the apostle and guide to scattered Israel, as Paul was to the Gentiles.
But first it was Peter's work, as the holder of the keys of the Kingdom, to open the door: first to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and seven years later to the Gentiles in this very detailed account of Cornelius.*
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
Cornelius was a soldier, an officer, and a Roman; stationed at Cesarea, the Roman headquarters for Palestine. It is strange that two other Roman centurions before Cornelius stand out remarkably in the Gospel record: the one at Capernaum who "loved the Jewish nation" and had built them a synagogue and who had greater faith in Jesus than any in Israel, and the one at the cross who said-
"Truly this was the Son of God."
-believing, like the thief on the cross, in the hour of apparent defeat, when all the nation rejected him.
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
The word for devout is EUSEBEES, meaning "well-reverenced," that is, having much reverence actively directed to good ends and activities.
"... that feared God "
-mentally devoted to serving and pleasing God.
"...with all his house."
His whole household was in beautiful harmony with the powerful godliness of this remarkable Gentile. We learn further (verse 22) that he was "of good report"-highly esteemed-"among ALL the nation of the Jews": a remarkable achievement for a man who had to represent and enforce the resented domination of a hated foreign power.
Here was one of the most remarkable men of Scripture: one of the usually proud and ignorant conquering heathen race who could see in spite of Israel's corruption and wickedness and degradation-that this people's God was the One True God of all the earth.
He had apparently seen no miracles. He saw only a corrupt, hypocritical political priesthood, and an evil nation ripe for destruction, bitterly divided over the claims of Christ, and persecuting his disciples. Yet he knew-he clearly perceived-that this was the people of God: and he loved them.
He was not a proselyte to the Law. The whole significance of his admission to the Body of Christ hinges on the fact that he was not a proselyte, for this event was the great historic opening up of the door of faith to the Gentiles purely as Gentiles, with no half-way measures.
WHY was he not a proselyte? Why had he not gone as far into the service and communion of God as was provided and possible for a believing Gentile? For here was a very intense and devoted man, and his devotion was clearly not something that had just happened, for he feared God with all his house, and he was well established in the respect of the whole nation of the Jews.
The answer seems to lie in the fact of what he saw before him. He saw a nation divided over the preaching of Christ as the Son of God and end of the Law.
Peter says (verse 37) that Cornelius knew about these things-about what Christ had done, and what was being proclaimed about him. He knew Israel's God was the true God. He sought God with all his heart. But where should he turn to approach Him more closely?-to the Law or to Christ? *
He "gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always."
Here are the two essentials. Here is the secret of his great blessing as the father and forerunner of the Gentile faithful. Here is the great practical lesson of the chapter-
"Seek, and ye shall find: Give, and ye shall be given."
He did not just give alms and pray to God. There are millions that do that, and they just come and go. He gave MUCH alms, and prayed ALWAYS. There is the key. This was his whole way of life-CONSTANTLY doing good to others, and ever seeking God in prayer.
Without this, he would have been nothing. Without this, no one is anything. "Giving alms" does not necessarily mean giving material things. So many excuse themselves from this divine obligation by the claim they have nothing to spare (which may be true, though it is usually rooted in greed and fear and selfishness and faithlessness, rather than true fact). But giving is of one's self, and time, and labour, and love, and interest, and concern.
"FREELY have ye received: FREELY give."
The day is soon coming when many professed believers will be found clutching their pitiful hoarded bag of unfaithful stewardship, and will be exposed in their naked, shivering, faithless greed for all the assembled ages to see. *
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the 9th hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
He saw an angel. It was the 9th hour-the typical hour of prayer, and he was in the act of praying when the angel appeared, as he says in v. 30-
"Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold a man stood before me in bright clothing."
The revelation will ALWAYS be in the "hour of prayer." It can come no other way-
"Seek, and ye shall find."
He saw an angel. Angels are very real, and very present. We are never alone. We should endeavor to be much more aware and much more conscious of this than we are. This is the difference between fear and faith, wherever we are and whatever may come. *
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
Cornelius was not a Gentile pure and simple. He was a Roman centurion who had discarded the Pagan mythology of Rome for the God of Israel, among whose people he was stationed, as shown by his prayer to Him; and who had identified himself closely with the Jews, as indicated in his "much alms" to them.
For such, there was provision under the law:
"When a stranger shall sojourn with thee and will keep the passover of the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it, and he shall be as one that is born in the land" (Ex. 12:48, 49; Num. 9:14; 15:15, 16).
This class of appreciative stranger to which Cornelius belonged, is thus addressed in Isaiah 56:3-7;
"Neither let the son of the stranger that hath joined himself to the Lord speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people . . I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer."
Devout Gentiles, who cast away the gods of the heathen and "joined themselves to the Lord," were known as "proselytes" (Acts 2:10), and were allowed to worship at Jerusalem, as in the case of the eunuch to whom Philip preached the word (Acts 8:27).
A court in the temple was provided for them, and known as "the court of the Gentiles." The "proselytes of the gate," as they were called, were recognised worshippers. They approached God in the only way open to the Gentiles at that time. God never has shut His ear against those who have come to Him in the way appointed.
But a wider gate was opened when Peter was commissioned to announce, in connection with the case of Cornelius, the abolition of "the middle wall of partition;' and the free admission of the Gentiles, upon the terms then disclosed, as
"fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Eph. 3:6).
All Gentiles are at liberty to partake of "the promise in Christ by the gospel, " but in no other way. Such as are inclined to take "heart of grace" from the case of Cornelius must remember that Cornelius was in the right way, so far as it was possible for a Gentile to be. Therefore, his prayers were heard and the way of life opened to him by an angel.
The Christadelphian, July 1898
Here was an unbaptized, unjustified Gentile whose prayers were accepted by God. But his prayers and his alms did not save him. He was seeking God-seeking knowledge-seeking salvation. Such God hears and guides into the Way of Salvation.
The angel said (verse 6) that Peter would tell him what he "ought to do." In verse 22 we are told he was "warned" from God to seek the instruction from Peter. And Acts 11:14 tells us even more fully and explicitly that the angel told him Peter would instruct him how he could and should be saved.
His prayers and alms and good intentions and love for God, while highly well-pleasing, were not enough. There must still be knowledge and obedience to the one appointed Way of Salvation, into and through Christ by baptism. Even after he had received the gift of the Holy Spirit (verse 44) he STILL must be baptized into Christ to lay hold on salvation; and so Peter commanded him (verse 48). *
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
- It was from Joppa that Jonah fled to avoid preaching to the Gentiles in Nineveh - and now, from the same place the call went to Simon, "son of Jonah," the very description used by the Lord Jesus in Mat. 16:17, when he conferred the "keys of the kingdom" (the knowledge of saving Truth) to Peter, with the commission to take them to both Jew and Gentile.
Peter therefore resumed the work of Jonah, and typifies the continuing work of the ecclesia thereafter.
The Christadelphian Expositor - Acts
This would be about 40 miles down the Mediterranean coast, to the present Tel Aviv-Jaffa. He was not told to go himself to Peter, but to send for Peter to come to him. There were several reasons for this.
Not only Cornelius himself (which might just appear to be a special exception), but his Gentile household and kinsmen were to be instructed and received into the Faith. This godly and energetic man had not kept his faith to himself, but by the power of his zeal and example had drawn and influenced many associated with him, and had thereby providentially prepared a little community of Gentiles to receive Christ.
The more we consider this man and what is recorded of him, the more we shall be impressed by him. Though a man of authority and responsibility and dignity, he had no scruples or hesitancy about falling down publicly at the feet of Peter in thankfulness to God and respect to God's messenger.
It was important, too, to establish the new open door more clearly, that Peter GO TO HIM-in his Gentile surroundings-outside the Law-and associate with him there. *
6 He [Peter] lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
We are reminded of Christ's birth in a stable. A tannery was a despised and unclean place, both ceremoniously and actually. Because of the odor and defilement, tanneries were required to be outside the city limits, as in this case. It was a lowly, looked-down-upon trade. That Peter should be lodged here indicated the lowliness of the positions of the believers in Joppa. *
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
Here was another, a subordinate, who under Cornelius' guidance had devoted himself to the worship of the one true God.*
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
He made no secret of it, and stood on no ceremony, but told his servants all about his experience. Clearly there was no false pride of position, but a remarkable and simple openness and natural humility.
Though it would be by now getting on into the late afternoon, for he had seen the vision about 3:00, and these men had to prepare for the journey, he still sent them right off that same day, and they arrived at Peter's lodging a little after noon the next day. *
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
CORNELIUS, a devout Gentile and of good reputation in all Israel, has been specially prepared by an angel for this great historic event in the development of the Truth-the first meeting together in worship and fellowship (and undoubtedly of breaking the bread), of Jew and Gentile, without any intermediate steps of proselytism in the Law of Moses.
In the meantime, as these messengers approach (verse 9), Peter is likewise being specially and divinely prepared.
The way in which it is done is beautiful and interesting and instructive and impressive. It was not just theoretically and coldly explained to him. Rather it was graphically and unforgettably and vividly manifested, yet just a step at a time, causing Peter to ponder and wonder just what he was being taught, and what he would be expected to do.
Peter had never eaten anything contrary to the restrictions of the Law of Moses. Like every sincere and pious Jew, this was fundamentally and almost indelibly engraved into his whole character and mentality from early childhood.
It would not only be mentally, but physically, nauseating to him to think of eating anything he had all his life looked upon as defiled and unclean. His "Not so, Lord!" is very emphatic: not just "No," but "Never!" "By no means!" He recoiled in horror from the idea.
Faithful Israelites for 1500 years had built their purity of conscience and peace of mind with God upon the careful obedience of His holy Law, which had been engraved upon their nation so solemnly, and which carried such dreadful warnings and penalties for disobedience.
And then suddenly, without any warning or preparations, he is told to cast this divine pattern of a lifetime aside.
Actually, there HAD been warning and preparation, but he had not perceived it. Looking back now, once he had had this great lesson, he would see much that he had not seen before-
"Go ye into ALL the world, and preach the Gospel to EVERY creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
Not 'Preach the Law,' but 'Preach the GOSPEL.' And not 'He that is circumcised,' but, 'He that believeth and is BAPTIZED.' For seven years they had labored against bitter persecution to show Israel the great Light of the glory of Christ. But now the time had come for the Gospel to break out of all its Jewish swaddling bands and restrictions, and go forth to all the world.
Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, had already been called, and was apparently at this very time in seclusion in Sinai, being prepared directly by Christ for his great work.
But Peter must be the one to first open the door. *
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.26
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [do not YOU make common or polluted!"] - Diaglott and RV.
There is a great lesson here for us. So often in our supposed zeal for God's law, we presume to dictate to that law according to our own emotions and established prejudices, instead of being careful to be always ready to learn. This command to Peter was not just given once, or even twice, but THREE TIMES-
"Arise, Peter. Kill and eat."
And three times he blindly and emotionally recoiled from it, but doubtless with increasing realization each time that a great new lesson was in process, though not knowing what that lesson might be.
As Peter is pondering this vision, the men from Cornelius arrive at the door. We see how the wisdom and providence of God is gradually working out these events.
At this point, Peter gets another direct divine communication-
"Arise, get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them."
Further instruction and assurance, but still no explanation. Here too, there is much food for thought. We would like everything explained in detail. We would like to have all the answers to every possible and hypothetical question.
But God does not always choose to give us this. He gives us all we need for guidance day by day as our limited scope and duties require IF WE WILL HAVE THE WISDOM TO USE IT, and it mostly concerns our OWN personal character and conduct. This is where our principal work and responsibility lies.
We remember how the Lord wanted Paul to preach in Europe. But He did not tell him so. He just kept turning him back when he attempted to go in other directions (Acts 16:6-8). We must be wide-awake and alert for these guiding signs that turn us back repeatedly until we find the right path.
Then, at last, when Paul reached Troas, on the coast of Asia, there came the vision of the man of Macedonia, calling for help. Still no direct instruction, but a sufficiently clear guidance for those alertly seeking and praying for guidance, for, says Luke in Acts 16:10-
"Immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel to them."
The word translated "assuredly gathering" is interesting. It literally means "putting together." They put together all the items of guidance and reached a conclusion in which they had confident assurance.
And so Peter here sets out with these men the next morning, still not knowing just what he is to do or how things will work out, but trusting that he will be guided when the time comes.
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
He was not a pagan Gentile, or a wicked sinner in danger of 'hell-fire', but a proselyte of righteousness, or an outer-court worshipper.
"He was a just and devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, gave much alms to the Jews, among whom he was of good report, and he prayed to God alway."
No better man, lay clerical, can be produced from any modern sect than Cornelius. He was a God-fearing, "pious," and generous-hearted man. He was not a perverse, hot-headed, ignorant disciple of some sect, but a man approved of heaven, whose prayers and alms ascended before God as a memorial of him.
But why dwell so on the character of this excellent man? Because a special messenger was sent from heaven to tell even this good man, this just and devout Gentile, to send for the apostle Peter, that he might come from Joppa and tell him what he ought to do. But, as though this was not explicit enough, the angel stated that
"Peter should come and tell him words whereby he and his house might be saved."
Now it is worthy of especial note by the religionists of this self complacent generation, that this just person was not in a saved state under the new order of things, that he had both to hear words, and to do something for his salvation which he had then as yet neither heard nor done. And let it be observed, furthermore, that the angel of God was not permitted to preach the gospel to Cornelius, or, in other words, to tell him what he ought to do, or "the words by which he and his house might be saved." He was only allowed to tell him to send for Peter.
According to modern notions this was quite unnecessary; for, cries popular ignorance, it would have saved both time and trouble if the angel had told Cornelius at once what it was necessary for so excellent a man to believe and do, instead of sending three men through the broiling sunshine to fetch Peter to Caesarea.
Elpis Israel 2.1.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
An unlawful thing
Truly the Law of Moses did very strongly teach holiness and separation and a very clear distinction between clean and unclean, living and dead, the people of God and the people of the world-just as the law of Christ teaches today.
But much of the ritual and regulation and restriction of the Jews was a matter of tradition and not of God, and we must be careful of the same surface and artificial tendencies today.
The separation must be of heart and purpose and manner of life. By tradition, the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, but kindness to the stranger was a very prominent feature of God's Law to them through Moses, and in the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus taught that in matters of help and kindness and human need, everyone in the world is our neighbour, and merits our concern and care.
We cannot be associated with the world's activities and interests and enterprises and amusements, but we MUST mingle freely with all with a view to helping, both materially and spiritually-especially the latter.
Such is the deceptiveness of our own hearts and flesh that we often find that it is those who make much of separation and "holiness" as regards to others, themselves spend their time in the world's silly and childish games and amusements, instead of devoting their energies to the Truth, and will join worldly associations for present material advantage. Let a man examine HIMSELF-and from the pervasive and subtle danger of hypocrisy, none of us are free.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.26
"The swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase" (Deut. 14:8).
It is a little singular that this should be the particular animal that jars on Jewish susceptibility and appeals to Gentile gastronomy. The law of God made many creatures unclean besides the pig, and condemned many things besides the eating of swine's flesh. Yet we hear little of these others, and see no concern for the will of God in a hundred other matters of which He has spoken, which is proof that it is not regard for the will of God, but zeal for a human crotchet, that is at the bottom of this pork and anti-pork controversy. Concern for the will of God would show itself in everything that God has expressed His mind about.
Still, it is dramatically interesting that a creature that symbolizes indifference to the will of God in combination with executive efficiency in matters in general should be the creature that, above all others, God's nation is known for detesting, and that the Gentiles should be distinguished for championing--not that either of them wittingly play their part with reference to the significance involved.
The Jew opposes the use of pork more than other things forbidden because the Gentile contends more for that than for other forbidden animals. But the fact remains that the one creature of all the unclean creatures that is the bone of contention between Jew and Gentile, is the one that represents the moral combination that is the most odious to God: neglect and indifference to His will in association with cleverness and efficiency in human directions. It is rather interesting and pretty that it should be so, though the nature of the situation is not discerned among the parties to the strife.
The hygienic (that is, the merely human) bearing of the controversy is the least important. It is an affair of digestive capacity merely. For those who can turn pork into flesh and blood without too great a stress on the gastric powers, pork is as good as any other form of food. But in the artificial life of modern times, few have the robustness of stomach needful to cope with its fibrous density, and to chemically quench its febrile tendencies. Therefore for most people, it is best left alone. But this is a question of individual judgment and experience, and not of divine law.
Divine law would leave no liberty whatever. A thing forbidden would be a thing unlawful to touch, even if "good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and much to be desired to make one wise". But pork is not forbidden. It was forbidden to the Jews, but the law that forbade it has been done away (2 Cor. 3:7-11, 14; Col. 2:14-17; Gal. 4:21-31; 5:1-4, Heb. 9:9-12). The rule now in vogue among the friends of Christ is the one formulated by Paul: "Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:4). He says this in contrast to those who should arise among the brethren "commanding to abstain from meats",
Law of Moses Ch 29
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Is prayer by the unbeliever not heard ?
Cornelius is such an example where the Father does hear such prayers but He does not forgive sins of those who have not entered the waters of baptism according to the One Faith and One Hope of Israel and believe and remain obedient to this high calling....this is a question we often ask of baptismal candidates - In what way will your relationship to God change after baptism?
We do not pray for the well being, personal success or long life of individuals who rule over us (because we do not know the mind of the Father regarding them) - He may determine to remove a World leader at his own behest or cut their life short to fulfil His own desires...we are told those in ignorance are like the beasts that perish and the Father simply winks at those in ignorance Acts 17:30
We are told NOT to bid God speed to those who teach another doctrine (being accursed by God Gal 1:8)
see 2 John 1:10-11
What we pray for is to live under the government of those who rule over us in 'harmony and peace' in order to worship the Lord without impediment.
The Lord prayed for his brethren (the beloved people of God) with the hope they would be healed of their spiritual blindness...as he said "they know not what they do".....in part this prayer was answered and the Gospel message was taken to the people by Peter and others and some were saved from the destruction of AD 70.....and embraced Christ and were baptised...many may find a place in the Kingdom of God !! We pray that the blindness of the Jews will be removed and they will accept their Messiah.....it is also appropriate to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem !!
Likewise we pray for those today who are blinded by the false religions and who sadly live under a great delusion that they can worship the Lord in any way they see fit 2 Thes 2:11
Those who propagate this absurdity have kept the people in blindness - whereas we have opportunity to open their eyes to the light of the true Gospel - and we pray that our preaching efforts will bring success !
We pray they forsake Christianity and all its blasphemies of infant baptisms, triune God heads, eternal hell torments, Holy Spirit possession, immortal arch rivals roaming the underworld frustrating Gods purpose, and Evolutionary tales demeaning His masterpiece MAN who was made after his own image..... etc .
Prayer is for worship as well - BUT we are told clearly those who Worship the Lord must worship him in spirit and in Truth John 4:23-24 - only these please the Lord. Examples such as the account of Cain and Abel demonstrates this.. False worship is a detestable thing to God and why the incense to be offered was to be precisely arranged according to His guidelines and why this is a strong lesson about Prayer for us to heed - why? Rev 5:8 provides the answer.
Bro Trevor A Snow
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
This was nothing new. God does not change. This was truth from the beginning. The Jews were not selected as something exclusive, but as God's medium of manifestation and door of hope to the world. And even in their wickedness and blindness they served this divine purpose, for consider the many devout Gentiles that Paul found in all the synagogues of the Roman world that he visited, and which became the chief fruits of his labours.
And here too, it was the Jewish nation that had revealed God to Cornelius and led him to worship and obedience.
Then Peter, still not knowing just what course he was to follow in relation to bringing these Gentiles into the Body of Christ, preached unto them (verses 36-43) the substance of the Gospel and the Truth concerning Jesus as the promised Messiah and Deliverer and appointed Judge of the quick and the dead.
The Truth concerning Jesus would be the principal point Cornelius would need, for he was already a fervent believer in Israel's God and Israel's promises.
Then at last, at just the proper time, when Peter had done his part as directed, and gone as far as he could without further guidance, God once again directly steps in (verse 44)-
"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the Word."
This, together with his own previous vision and admonition about calling unclean what God had cleansed, was conclusive evidence to Peter and to the brethren with him of these Gentiles' readiness and acceptability for baptism (verse 47)-
"Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?"
Recounting it later, he says of this moment (11:16)-
"Then remembered I the words of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
He had gone ahead with the work in faith and obedience, and at the proper time God guided him to the decision and left no doubts in his mind. So He will with us, IF we do our part faithfully, and walk according to what light we have.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.26
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
John therefore baptised with water into the baptism of repentance, the basis of which was that, as the result of the doctrine which John preached, men were brought to change their minds.
As the result of that doctrine which John preached, announcing that the Kingdom of God or the Messiah was about to appear, it separated his hearers from the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, created in them an expectation of the coming of Christ, not knowing what person it was that would make his appearance and put in his claim; and as the result of their belief of John's doctrine, it revived in their hearts a disposition similar to that disposition which obtained in the hearts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-the disposition of the fathers-the mode of thinking that was developed in those ancient worthies, when God made promise to them of things which were the most improbable and impossible ever to be accomplished, judging by things then existing in the world.
In Rom. 4:1, Paul says,
"What should we then say that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God."
On the supposition that it was by works Abraham was justified, the apostle says, "He hath whereof to glory." But what says Moses in Genesis? Why, this is what he says,
"Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness."
What was the basis of Abraham's justification? When he was living in Chaldea he was an idolater, and worshipped a plurality of gods, as his fathers did. God sent a message to him, preaching the gospel to him, and ordered him out of the country, separated him from his family and friends; and Abraham obeyed God, and then promises were furthermore communicated to him; and Abraham was not staggered at all at the promises but he believed on God-he believed God.
To believe on God is not merely to believe that God exists, that is simply sufficient to save a man from being set down as a fool, for "the fool hath said in his heart there is no God." But there are multitudes who believe there is a God, but who do not believe God, i.e., what God says.
Abraham came to believe not only in God's existence, but in what He promised And that is called by Paul believing God, and believing on God, and the same exposition of believing on God, by substituting the word Christ for God, explains what it is to believe on Christ; not simply that there was such a person existing in the world 1,800 years since as Jesus Christ.
To believe on Jesus Christ is to believe what he says, what he preached-not only to recognise his claim to be the Christ, but to believe what that Christ preached. Abraham believed God, and that was made the basis of his justification. It was nothing that he had done as a work of righteousness that his justification was based on, but his believing God, and that is the greatest honour that a man can confer upon himself, viz., to honour God, for the Scriptures tell us that God has magnified His word above all His name.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1888
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
'...with the holy spirit and with power'...
A man might be anointed with the Spirit and not with power, as in the case of David, upon whom, on the day of his anointing by Samuel, "the Spirit of the Lord came from that day forward" (1 Sam. xvi. 13), and who was yet not endowed with power to work wonders, like Elijah and Elisha.
It is not strictly accurate to say that the Spirit is the power of God. Power results from the action of the Spirit, but is separable from the Spirit itself, which can be quiescent. The Spirit is the primary and eternal element.
The character of its manifestations are according to the will of God, as Paul declares in 1 Cor. xii. 2.
It may take the form of power to cure disease, or to speak with tongues, or to prophesy; or it may take the form of power to discern and utter wisdom merely. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit in measureless bounty, and with power to work all manner of "miracles, wonders and signs" which God did by him, as Peter declared on the day of Pentecost.
The Christadelphian, June 1894. p233
The object of the works of cure wrought by Christ was not exclusively philanthropic. In fact, it was so only in secondary degree. The main purpose was to show the power of God in Christ, as the foundation and proof of his claim upon the obedience of men as the Lord's anointed.
There were multitudes of diseased people whom He could have cured with a word as easily as the nobleman's son at 20 or 30 miles distance, and yet who remained unbenefited.
Had his object merely been "doing good" in the sense understood by modern philanthropy, he would have swept the land by his healing power, and left not a soul attaint with evil.
Instead of that, his power was put forth only in connection with cases brought under his immediate notice. It is important to have this limitation, and its meaning in view.
He worked for God first, man next when subject to God, which explains a good deal in connection with his work that might otherwise be hard to understand; such as his austere bearing toward the multitude on many occasions, his disparagement of human claims and affinities, his discouragement of popular applause, his depreciation of the desire on the part of the people to see signs and wonders, &c.
Sometimes his power was put forth with private benefit though serving the purpose of his miracles. Thus we find him curing Peter's mother-in-law, whom, on entering Peter's house at Capernaum, he found "taken with a great fever." Those around her, seeing the miracles of healing Jesus was performing among the multitudes on the street, had besought him on her behalf.
"He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she arose and ministered unto them" (Luke iv. 39).
From an invalid requiring to be waited on, she became the hale and hearty housekeeper waiting on all.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 16
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The circumcision contingent became a distinct faction within the ecclesia. They "were astonished" that the Gentile believers "cleansed" were now equal with the Jewish believers in the sight of Yahweh. Most of the ecclesia were Jewish, the men being circumcised. For the moment the circumcision contingent held their peace as the majority were satisfied with Peter's revelation v9-15.
The circumcision though initially satisfied back tracked in the coming years, objected to the uncircumcised, and agitated Jewish traditions arguing a return to some aspects of the law pertaining to separation from the "unclean". The apostle Paul condemned this as another gospel, an "accursed" gospel.
there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ - Gal 1: 7
47 Can any man forbid water, that these [Gentiles] should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?
He [Peter] doubtless paused a reasonable time, that objections might be urged if any could possibly exist. But all Jewish prejudices were abolished by "the demonstration of the Spirit," and they held their peace. Things being brought to this crisis, it only remained for the Spirit of God to pronounce the word. Therefore Peter opened his mouth, and
"COMMANDED them to be BAPTISED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD."
After this manner Peter used the keys of the kingdom of heaven given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. When be had accomplished this work, he no longer retained the power of the keys. They were transferred to the multitude of the believing Jews and Gentiles. The Spirit had revealed the mystery of the kingdom, and the fellowship of the mystery, by the mouth of Peter on Pentecost, and at Caesarea; so that the keys became the common property of all believers. The Lord,
"who hath the key of David, hath opened, and no man can shut (Rev. 3:7)
Elpis Israel 2.1.
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
For a sinner, then, affectionately believing the truth, to be "immersed for the name," is for him to be added to the name of Deity; that, when that Divine Name is complete, he with Jesus may be manifested in power and great glory. "The righteousness of God through Jesus Christ's faith is for all and upon all the believing" (Rom. iii. 22).
This manifestation is the ultimate purpose of his addition to this name; but there is also a present reason and advantage resulting therefrom. "Be every one of you," said Peter, "immersed upon the Name of Jesus Anointed INTO remission of sins." When added to the name, the immersed believer is "IN the name" (Acts x. 48) as a man is in a robe when he has put it on.
The name is regarded as a covering by which his "sin is covered" (Psal. xxxii. 1,2). Now, immersion is the divinely appointed action by which a true believer is, and a true believer only can be, united, added, or married to the name; and in order to this, that he may be "in the name," it is appointed for him to be immersed "eis INTO, or for, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" -- a formula which is equivalent to the phrase, "the Name of Jesus Anointed;" for Jesus Anointed is the Father manifested in the Son, Jesus, by Holy Spirit; in other words, DEITY MANIFESTED IN FLESH.
The believing and rejoicing sinner, then, who has followed the example of the Samaritans in faith and practice (Acts viii. 12) is immersed in water "upon," "for" and "into" the name, which is the same as being immersed into remission of sins.
Eureka - 'The Name'.
Then prayed they him to tarry certain days
And unquestionably he did, and this would be the first united assembly of Jew and Gentile in the Body of Christ, and undoubtedly they would break bread together in joy and fellowship before he left them at the end of those "certain days."
We hear no more at all of Cornelius, and very little of Peter, but a great and permanent foundation stone had been established, and in the wisdom of God and for the ultimate peace and welfare of the Body, it was best that Peter, the leading apostle from the beginning, be the one to establish it.
This was the culmination of Peter's work in the center of the apostolic stage. Till now he had been the leader and key figure from the beginning, but now it was time for Paul's work to begin, and build a holy edifice for the glory of God, upon this foundation of an open door for the Gentiles.
Peter had much more work to do, and a final testimony for Christ in the laying down of his life, but his public record of activity fittingly closes with this event.
It was not the end of controversy on the matter. There is never any end to controversy, but the foundation is there for those with wisdom to find it. Even Peter himself wavered on this same point on a later occasion, out of a well-intentioned but misguided desire to pacify agitators, and Paul had to correct him.
Truly we must do all we can to avoid offense, and every thing possible must be given up for the sake of peace if necessary, but the foundation cannot be yielded.
The very last words we have from Peter, at the end of his second epistle in which he spoke of his own soon-expected death, was high praise for his "beloved brother Paul," and commendation of Paul's epistles as "Scripture" given by the wisdom of God (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Then he concludes his final message, 2 Peter 3:17-
"Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.
"But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen."