The passage can be read here.
This is one of those chapters. Of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, there are some that change everything. After Acts 10, our understanding of the Church, the world and God’s great plan of salvation is radically different. Yesterday we saw a dead woman raised to life – we shall see today the beginning of something even more spectacular.
The chapter begins with a Roman centurion named Cornelius. He is described as devout and God fearing, that is, he was a believer in the one true God but was not a convert to Judaism. Three in the afternoon was the hour of prayer for Jews so the suggestion is he was praying. It was then that he had a vision and in it, an angel spoke to him.
The angel had a message for Cornelius; God had heard his prayers and seen his generosity and what is more, knew his name. Luke began his Gospel with an angelic appearance in the temple. For Jews, if an angel was going to appear anywhere, the temple would be the place, but the idea that an angel could appear to a gentile soldier in response to his prayers would be ludicrous. It’s a lesson to us, God doesn’t always choose the obvious – he calls people others have rejected. We’ve seen this before with Tax Collectors and even persecutors. Perhaps we should not limit our witness or our prayers to ‘nice’ people.
The angel gave Cornelius clear instructions; he had to send for Peter. Why didn’t the angel just tell Cornelius what he needed to know? Peter was 30 miles away in Joppa, that’s a long way when you travel on foot! God used the angel to get Peter and Cornelius together and he used Peter to share the good news about Jesus. This is something that has remained unchanged for nearly 2,000 years – God entrusts the business of sharing the Gospel to weak, frail, human beings like you and me.
Cornelius could not have understood all that God was about to do but he acted on the information that he had; he was obedient. God doesn’t expect us to know everything – he expects us to trust him. So often people think; ‘if I can know more I can become a Christian’. Actually, we don’t need to know much at all; we are all sinners, we all deserve God’s judgement, Jesus has died to pay the price for our sin, we can know God’s forgiveness through repentance and faith in what Jesus has done and our lives will only make sense when we allow Jesus to be our King. Karl Barth was probably the most brilliant theologian of the twentieth century and perhaps the most prolific. His great work; ‘Christian Dogmatics’ remains one of the largest works of systematic theology ever written. In 1962 he was asked by a reporter to summarise the essence of the millions of words he had written, he replied;
“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Lord I give you my heart,
I give you my soul,
I live for you alone.
Every breath that I take,
Every moment I’m awake,
Lord have Your way in me. (This is My Desire – Rueben Morgan)