Good News for Former Enemies

KEY VERSE: “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” —Acts 11:18


IN ORDER to properly understand the Lord’s dealings with Cornelius who was a Gentile, we must first understand his dealings and relationship with the nation of Israel. After inaugurating the Law Covenant with Israel he said, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exod. 19:5,6) While the Jews were under the Law Covenant this was their heritage. The Apostle Paul in his day said of the Jews, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”—Acts 13:46

In Daniel 9:25-27 is a prophecy concerning the first advent of Messiah (or Jesus). The prophecy pinpoints the time of the first advent and states that the covenant (that is, the Sarah feature of the Abrahamic Covenant) would be confirmed with the Jews for one week (one week of years or seven years), but that Messiah would be cut off in the midst of the week (or after three-and-one-half years). This prophecy was accurately fulfilled in the life of Jesus and, to fulfill the balance of it, Jesus instructed his followers not to go to the Gentiles but to go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt. 10:5,6) So after Jesus was crucified it was necessary that the Gospel be preached exclusively to the Jewish nation for another three and-one-half years, fulfilling the specified seven years.

We believe that it was only after the seven years had been fulfilled that the Gospel was permitted to go to the Gentiles and that Cornelius was the first to be so recognized by God. The account in the tenth chapter of Acts gives us some interesting information about Cornelius. He was a military man, an officer of the Roman army of about the rank of a captain. He was not a Jewish proselyte, but yet he knew and worshiped only the true God. The account states that he was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” (Acts 10:2) At the proper time an angel appeared to him in a vision and said, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” (vs. 4) Then the angel proceeded to give instructions to Cornelius as to how he should contact the Apostle Peter.

Peter, as did all of the Jews, considered the Gentiles to be heathen, and according to a strict interpretation of the Law they were to be avoided and any contact with them for any cause was considered a transgression. The marvelous manner of the Lord’s overruling providence is evident when we consider that the angel of the Lord appeared in a vision to Cornelius to make him ready to receive instruction from Peter, and about the same time at another place, while Peter prayed, he received a vision that prepared and disposed him to give that instruction to Cornelius.

The vision that Peter received was in symbol. It pictured a large net full of clean and unclean animals being lowered from heaven, and the Lord instructed Peter to kill and eat. But Peter objected, saying that it was unlawful to eat anything that was unclean. But the Lord said, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” (Acts 10:15) Through the power of the Holy Spirit he came to understand the meaning of the vision, and when the emissaries from Cornelius arrived he went with them.

When Peter entered the home of Cornelius he declared the Gospel to the entire household, and saw the evidence of the Holy Spirit manifested as he and the other apostles had experienced it at Pentecost. He was convinced the Lord was doing a new work, and that from this point forward there was to be no difference between Jew and Gentile, that all were to receive the good news of the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:11-13 summarizes the matter thus: “Ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands. … But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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