Open Your Bible
Acts 10:1-48, Galatians 3:27-29
What is the answer to inequality?
We clamor for solutions for true freedom, equality, individual rights, ethnic and racial tensions, and economic disparity. By themselves, our ideas and even our very best intentions are not enough. But really, we do know the ultimate answer to things like lasting change and reconciliation: the gospel of grace.
Cornelius’s life is a reminder of the great mystery of the gospel. In that day and age, there were distinct lines drawn between Jews and Gentiles, separating them by belief and ceremony, and many other practices, both cultural and religious. And so Cornelius’s story is a reminder that salvation belongs to our God, and the gospel is freely given to all who choose to receive it (Revelation 7:10; Matthew 10:8). From the beginning, the only answer to the tumult of human struggle, to the walls of social division, to the lines of entrenched hatred, is the gospel. God alone can do something new, transformative, and lasting, making “a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). As the first Gentile to put his trust in Jesus, Cornelius was forever changed by a visit from an angel at three o’clock in the afternoon, a vision that put him on a journey that completely reframed his entire worldview.
Peter also had a vision around that same time, and the clean and unclean animals are a reminder of this truth. This was not chiefly a social realization; it was the direct act of a gracious God who, in His own time, opened the eyes of man to see exactly what Christ’s coming truly meant: that sinners of every race, clan, tongue, and nation, could be made new and holy by faith in Jesus Christ. God sent a vision to Cornelius, even as He sent the vision to Peter. However, the chief character in this story is not Cornelius, nor is it Peter—it is God Himself. In the same way, we do not receive salvation by our own actions or merit, but because of the merit and actions of Christ Himself. In each case, it is God who calls and justifies, sanctifies and glorifies. Our salvation and reconciliation to God are not of ourselves.
A remarkable scene ensues after Peter agrees to go to the house of Cornelius. We are told that Peter stands and begins to deliver the message of the gospel to the Gentiles assembled there, and “while Peter was still speaking… the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard” (Acts 10:44), making the message very clear: the salvation of man is not of man, but wholly of God—in God’s time, in God’s way, by God’s own doing. “What God has made clean, do not call impure” (v.15).
Like Peter, we need to remember that we are all human, but that through Jesus Christ alone, we all have access to salvation (vv. 36). We can join with all the people of the world, united in our calling to be about the business of “declaring the greatness of God” to a world that desperately needs to hear it (v.46), just like you and I do.