Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to "Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation" (Mark 28:15). They soon began preaching the good news to their fellow Jews, but they seemed to be reluctant to reach out to Gentiles. God's good news is for everyone, so He arranged for them to the message also. Here is the story of Cornelius, the first Gentile to be saved.

Acts 10:1-8

1 Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, who gave gifts for the needy generously to the people, and always prayed to God. 3 At about the ninth hour of the day, he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God coming to him, and saying to him, "Cornelius!"

4 He, fastening his eyes on him, and being frightened, said, "What is it, Lord?"

He said to him, "Your prayers and your gifts to the needy have gone up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and get Simon, who is also called Peter. 6 He lodges with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside."

7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier of those who waited on him continually. 8 Having explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

What kind of a man is Cornelius? He is called devout and God-fearing. He has a sincere faith in God, and a reverence toward Him. He prays to God regularly. He gives generously to those who are in need. And he is genuine. How do I know that? Because it says that his family is also devout and God-fearing. We can fool casual acquaintances about who we are, but family members can see the truth. They saw that Cornelius was real in his devotion to God and to other men, and they wanted to be like him. He was truly a good man. But was that enough?

God also saw the kind of man that Cornelius was, and God appreciated what he did. He says through the angel, "Your prayers and your gifts to the needy have gone up for a memorial before God." In other words, "I have heard you, and seen your good works, and I remember them." But they weren't enough. There was a message that Cornelius needed to hear. So he is told to send to Joppa and ask for a man named Simon Peter, who can tell him what else it is that he needs to know so that he can be right with God.

Meanwhile, God has a message for the apostle Simon Peter as well.

Acts 10:9-16

9 Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. 10 He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, 12 in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. 13 A voice came to him, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat!"

14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."

15 A voice came to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean." 16 This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven.

We get our meat from the freezer section in the supermarket. It wasn't like that back then. The only way to get fresh meat was to slaughter it the same day. They were all used to killing for meat, so that didn't bother Peter. What did bother him was the kinds of animals he was asked to kill and eat. It was all kinds of animals, including reptiles and birds. This was a shock to Peter, because he wasn't allowed to eat all kinds of animals. He was a Jew, and he strictly adhered to the dietary laws given to the Jews in the Old Testament. They weren't allowed to eat livestock or game that did not have a split hoof or did not chew the cud (Deut 14:6), and most of the reptiles and many birds were also unclean. So in the vision Peter basically says "I can't do that".

But God tells him, "Yes, you can. God has cleansed these things, and you should not consider them unclean anymore."

What does the vision mean? For one thing, it means that we aren't responsible for following the dietary laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Both Mark 7:19 and Romans 14:20 say all foods are clean. In fact, we don't have to follow any of the civil and ceremonial laws given to the Jews in the Old Testament. They were given to govern the nation of Israel, and to keep them set apart as God's covenant people. You may remember that they made a covenant with God at Mount Sinai, and they said "All that YAHWEH has spoken we will do" (Ex 19:8). But they weren't able to do everything that God asked of them. They were sinners, just like me and you. When Christ came, He released everyone from the bondage of the Law. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believeth (Rom 10:4, KJV). We don't have to observe feasts or offer animal sacrifices. God still expects us to do right instead of wrong, of course, but I don't think He cares what we eat or whether we mow the lawn on Sunday. And no pious looking behavior can make us right with God. Man looks at the outward appearance, but YAHWEH looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).

Acts 10:17-43

17 Now while Peter was very perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate, 18 and called and asked whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was lodging there. 19 While Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men seek you. 20 But arise, get down, and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them."

21 Peter went down to the men, and said, "Behold, I am he whom you seek. Why have you come?"

22 They said, "Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man and one who fears God, and well spoken of by all the nation of the Jews, was directed by a holy angel to invite you to his house, and to listen to what you say." 23 So he called them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter arose and went out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 On the next day they entered into Caesarea. Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his relatives and his near friends. 25 When it happened that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet, and worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up! I myself am also a man." 27 As he talked with him, he went in and found many gathered together. 28 He said to them, "You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I shouldn't call any man unholy or unclean. 29 Therefore also I came without complaint when I was sent for. I ask therefore, why did you send for me?"

30 Cornelius said, "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, 31 and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer is heard, and your gifts to the needy are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa, and summon Simon, who is also called Peter. He lodges in the house of Simon a tanner, by the seaside. When he comes, he will speak to you.' 33 Therefore I sent to you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God to hear all things that have been commanded you by God."

34 Peter opened his mouth and said, "Truly I perceive that God doesn't show favoritism; 35 but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. 36 The word which he sent to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ - he is Lord of all - 37 you yourselves know what happened, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38 even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of everything he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they also killed, hanging him on a tree. 40 God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that this is he who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive remission of sins."

Peter's message was powerful, and it is just as true today as it was then. God does not show favoritism. It doesn't matter whether you are Jew or Gentile, an American or a foreigner, rich or poor. The message is for you. And the message is that God will accept you if you fear God and desire to do what is right. The good news of salvation and peace with God is offered to all through Jesus Christ our Lord. He walked on this earth, doing good, healing those who were sick and under the power of the devil. Peter knew all of this first hand. He was an eyewitness.

The leaders of the people were jealous of Jesus, and arranged to have Him crucified, but that was not the end. God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and He appeared to many, including Peter. He has ascended to heaven not long afterward, but He is still relevant today, because God appointed Him as judge of the living and the dead. We will have to give account to Jesus for everything we do and say. Mat 12:36 says that we will give account for every idle word we may speak in the day of judgment. Now I don't know about you, but I've said some idle words. I've said and done many things that I would be ashamed to say or do in front of the Lord Jesus. I think you have too. All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

So what will the judgment be? Rom 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. It is eternal destruction in hell, away from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might (2 Th 1:9). That would be the righteous judgment against us. But, God graciously offers us forgiveness. Verse 43 says everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus receives remission of sins through his name. He died for our sins. He paid for the crimes we have committed. Salvation is available to us through His name. And all of this is in agreement with what the prophets had foretold. For example, Isaiah says All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way; and YAHWEH has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Cornelius was a good man, but he had been missing something. He did not know Jesus. He needed to hear about Him. He needed to know that Jesus paid the penalty for his sins. Then he needed to believe in Him to receive forgiveness of sins through his name. And all of us need the same thing. We need to put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

When Cornelius and those with him heard the message, they did believe.

Acts 10:44-48

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. 45 They of the circumcision who believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God.

Then Peter answered, 47 "Can any man forbid the water, that these who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we should not be baptized?" 48 He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay some days.

Cornelius and those with him heard the word, believed, and were saved. At that moment, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is still given to all those who believe. He dwells in true believers (Rom 8:9), guides us into all truth (John 16:13), and testifies inwardly to us that we are children of God (Rom 8:16). In this case, He also enabled them to speak in other toungues, which was an outward testimony to Peter and the other Jews that these gentiles had truly been saved. Salvation isn't normally accompanied by such a supernatural sign, but there should be a noticable change. They started praising God, and were obedient to Him by being baptized in in the name of Jesus Christ. If we truly know Christ, we will also give Him glory and honor and be obedient to Him. Does your life show that you belong to Christ?