Last week, we discussed Peter preaching the gospel to a nice, prestigious Gentile named Cornelius. In that post, we went over the implications of this: that salvation became available to everyone and God’s kingdom was able to expand immeasurably. This week, we see just how true that is.
Cornelius was the best of us. He had status, was respectable, prayed a lot, gave generously. Some of us don’t check off any of those boxes; most of us can’t check them all. Peter was instructed by the Lord not to call anyone common or unclean, yet we often reach for those exact words to describe each other because of our jobs or living situations or perspectives. If we’re being honest, as far as Gentiles go, Cornelius wasn’t exactly a terrible prospect.
Peter was initially criticized by other Church leaders when he returned to Jerusalem, but after telling them what happened, they rejoiced that the Gentiles could also receive salvation (Acts 11:1-18).
“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord” (vs. 19-21, NRSV).
A great number became believers. Not just good people. Not just those with high-paying jobs and benefits. Not just the household names or the educated or the ones without baggage. All kinds of people from all walks of life came to know God. Thank God for Some Men of Cyprus and Cyrene because through their actions, we see that God’s love runs just as deep and pure for normal people as it does for those we think are important.
If we read the Bible, this shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it really does feel like it every time we see and hear it. God loves the humble and the hurt. He tells us that none are righteous (Romans 3:10), yet Christ died for us when we were at our worst (Romans 5:8). We are so used to society making us feel worthless and insignificant unless we are successful or wealthy or famous that to have the most powerful and most important being say that none of that matters, that we’re valued all the same, seems unreal to us.
If you’re like me, hearing that God loves you and values you regardless of anything about you is always welcome. That is made abundantly clear in Acts 11. Some unnamed men – not biblical rockstars – preached the gospel to normal Gentiles and lives were changed. Barriers were broken and everyone could receive forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. Acts 11 is a shining example of God’s heart.
By Carrie Prevette