Jesus told his followers that the Holy Spirit would empower them to be his witnesses in their city, their country, neighbouring countries “and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Philip was the first to take the good news to non-Jews. Many Samaritans had accepted Jesus as Messiah when he passed through there (John 4:39-42); now they had the opportunity to be baptised and to receive the Holy Spirit through Peter and John laying hands on them.
The Jews had synagogues in most of the cities of the countries they lived in. People of other nations who wanted to worship the true God attended synagogues and were known as God-fearers. They even worshipped at the Jerusalem temple in the court of the gentiles. Cornelius was one such man. He was in the Roman army in the city of Caesarea. It took supernatural intervention to get Peter to enter the house of Cornelius, despite Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
The meeting in Cornelius’s house can be regarded as the start of the church as we know it. He had called together his relatives and close friends. Peter told them about Jesus’ death and resurrection and that
“everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
When they heard this powerful message, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44). The Jews who came with Peter were astonished to hear them speak in tongues.
Back in Jerusalem, Peter had to explain to the Jewish church why he had socialised with non-Jews. His defence was that “God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ”. It was very hard for those Jewish believers to accept that God wished the focus of his people’s worship to shift from the temple, sacrifices and feasts to a man, Jesus Christ.
Written by Piet van Staden