The Gentile Pentecost
In Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 10, we observe part of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy/command from Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.” This commission to “go” has been the mission of Spirit-filled Christians for over two thousand years. It will be the mission of the church until the last day.
For Jesus’ disciples, who became apostles with His sending them, the task would eventually reach the “goyim,” the Gentiles. There was some very strong resistance to this calling early on. Christianity was initially considered by the Gentiles as a sect of Judaism. It would take some time for the distinction to be established and recognized. The significant catalyst of delineation would be the Gentile inclusion.
Whereas Judaism required Gentiles to become Jews, ceremonially, Christianity presented Jewish culture, tradition, and history as typology. Christians study types and shadows in the Hebrew scriptures, for the purpose of learning the anti-type, Jesus the Messiah. By studying the Old Testament, Christians are illuminated to the salvation by Yahweh of His elect people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9)
The Gospel witness went forth from Jerusalem after the Jewish Pentecost (Acts 2). The first inclusion of the Gentiles was very early. One account is recorded in splendid detail. The called-out preacher is the Apostle Peter, and the Gentile audience is a Roman centurion of the Italian Cohort, named, “Cornelius,” who was stationed at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea (Acts 10:1).
Luke, the author of Acts, pens intimate detail of God’s supernatural providence for both Peter and Cornelius, in order to bring them together. An angel of the Lord directed Cornelius, through a vision, to summon Peter, who was a complete stranger to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:3–8). Peter was also given a vision where he was, north along the coast at Joppa (Acts 10:9–12).
While Cornelius’ messengers were arriving, Peter received instruction to take in what was “unclean (Acts 10:13–16).” The vision, the voice, and now the Holy Spirit were preparing Peter to go from Joppa down to Caesarea (Acts 10:19–23). Cornelius’ crew were accompanied by Peter and some people from Joppa. Upon arrival, Cornelius called a gathering for his family and for some close friends to hear this divinely sent messenger (Acts 10:24–25).
Luke’s account of the meeting has some awkward twists. Cornelius recognized the relevance of what was happening in providence. He worshiped Peter (Acts 10:25). This type of unwarranted veneration happened to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:12), and even the Apostle John fell down at the feet of angels (Rev 22:8–9). Close encounters with the divine leave the faithful a bit faint.
Peter and Cornelius swapped stories of their supernatural encounters (Acts 10:26–29; 30–33). Clearly, God had ordained for Peter to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the assembly gathered at Cornelius’ house. So, the Apostle Peter preached to the Gentiles, which was not permitted under Judaism (Acts 10:28). The wall of separation between clean and unclean, that is, between Jew and Gentile had been removed by Jesus Christ. This Gospel is for all people to hear.
The mission of the Spirit of Christ is to bring the Gospel to the whole world (Mt 24:14), all creation (Mk 16:15). Preachers, with beautiful feet, are sent wherever God wills them to go in His service (Rom 10:15). Luke records the sermon preached that day, and it serves us well to review its contents and learn some essential points for Gospel preaching. God is gathering His elect people from every nation and this is how He brings about a Gentile Pentecost, reminiscent of the Jerusalem Pentecost Peter preached at in Acts 2.
First, we learn that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). This means that His elect, redeemed people are both Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, for all of His own are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). Those who worship Him are from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9). As a Jew, Peter had to learn that Yahweh was not just the God of the Jews (Rom 3:29).
Second, those who fear God are welcome (Acts 10:35). Jesus issued the command, “Come to Me…(Mt 11:28),” and those who belong to Him (1 Cor 3:23), hear His voice and obey Him (Jn 10:27), by following their Good Shepherd (Jn 10). These have Christ’s right standing (righteousness) imputed to them. This entitles them to come boldly before the throne of grace, to make their petitions known to God (Eph 6:18), who they call, “Abba, Father (Rom 8:15; c/f 1 Jn 3:1).
Third, God’s message to be preached is the Gospel of peace (Acts 10:36). All of Adam’s posterity is at enmity with God. No one seeks after God because all are unrighteous, and none are good (Rom 3:10–12). Adam and Eve’s aversion to God is practiced by their progeny, all of whom have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
There is only one way to peace with God, who is ready to judge all people in righteousness. Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all is that one way (Jn 14:6). No one comes to the Father except through Him.
Fourth, Christianity is not a secret society (Acts 10:37). The good words and works of Jesus were public events known to all. The righteous operate in the daytime, in the light, so that their works are manifest as being from God.
The people at Cornelius’ house, listening to Peter, knew of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, whose title was greatly elevated in Peter’s preaching.
Fifth, God did many good works through the ministry of Jesus (Acts 10:38). In the baptism by John, at the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus (Mt 3:13–17). This was the commencement point of Jesus’ ministry in Judea, Galilee, and a few points beyond.
Jesus always did good. His works always helped people. Even the teachers of Israel knew He was a rabbi sent from God, for God was with Him (Jn 3:2). Jesus also taught them that He was God (Jn 8:58; 10:30), and for this reason they put Him to death. They thought He was blaspheming, when in truth, He was revealing His identity as the only begotten Son of God sent from His Father in heaven (Jn 3:16; 5:23).
We also learn of Jesus’ many encounters with people oppressed by the devil through demonic influence, oppression, and possession. Jesus healed those who were plagued in the realm of the spirit. No doubt this included mental illness and physical maladies.
Sixth, the Gospel message must speak of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (Acts 10:39). God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and as ambassadors for Christ, His witnesses carry on this work, today (2 Cor 5:18–20). We plead with people on behalf of Christ, to come to the cross for the benefits of His death, including redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and propitiation.
Seventh, Gospel preaching tells of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 10:40). Jesus is the first fruits of this kind of bodily resurrection, which gives every believer the hope of the resurrection to come on the last day (Jn 5:28–29). The resurrection to life is a union of one’s soul with his body now glorified, even as Jesus post-resurrection (1 Cor 15).
Eighth, the revelation of Jesus Christ has a limited scope, regarding those who receive Him (Acts 10:41). People receive Jesus according to the will of God (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:16). Only those chosen beforehand by God for salvation can see Jesus, for who He is in truth (Jn 3:3; 2 Thess 2:13). Jesus chose the twelve disciples to follow Him (Jn 6:70; 15:16). They came to Him, drawn by the Father (Jn 6:44), to learn of Him (Jn 6:452 Cor 4:6; Eph 1:17; 4:13), who is the true mystery of God (Col 2:2), the knowledge of the truth (Tit 1:1).
Ninth, to preach the Gospel is not an option; it is an order (Acts 10:42). The world must know that it is under God’s judgment (Ps 96:13; 98:9). The wrath of God is already revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18) and the judgment day is coming on the calendar, even as Jesus Christ is coming as the Judge of the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5; Rev 19:11–21; 20:11). Everyone from throughout history will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). His judgment will be perfectly just, as all things will be revealed.
Tenth, He who was prophesied to come has brought forgiveness of sins with Him, for those who believe in Him by His grace (Acts 10:43). Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross for the redemption of His chosen people (1 Pet 1:18–19; 2:9), according to the riches of His grace (Eph 1:7).
Faith in Christ is a work of God (Jn 6:29). It is by His doing that we are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). Faith is granted by God to believers (Gal 3:22; Phil 1:29), in the allotted portion of His choosing (Rom 12:3).
Eleventh, while the Spirit is working through the preacher, He is also working in the hearers of the sermon (Acts 10:44). Not everyone who hears the Gospel preached will believe and be saved. Faith does come by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17), but those who do not believe, do not belong to Christ (Jn 8:47; 10:26).
The Holy Spirit falls upon the elect listeners and opens their hearts to respond to the Gospel proclamation (Acts 16:14). With the baptism of the Spirit (Mt 3:11; Acts 1:5; 2:38) the Gospel call is made effectual. Christ’s sheep do hear His voice; they do believe the Word spoken to them; and they do follow Him who has called them (Rom 8:30).
Twelfth, salvation is the gift of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon those appointed to life (Acts 13:48), both Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:45). The Spirit takes up permanent residence in those He causes to be born again of God (Jn 14:17; 1 Pet 1:3).
God pours out His love in our hearts (Rom 5:5), shining the light of truth in us, so that through us His light would shine before all people (Mt 5:14–16).
Thirteenth, the born again redeemed of the Lord speak a heavenly language (Acts 10:46). With converted hearts and renewed minds, the praise of our exalted God is on our lips (Ps 21:13; 148:13). We proclaim Him (Col 1:28). We declare His excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). We bear witness of the riches of His grace, wherever we go (Acts 1:8).
Finally, the result of a Gospel preaching ministry, where the baptism of the Holy Spirit has occurred, is water baptism (Acts 10:47). Water baptism is a symbolic act, signifying the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27). It is the New Testament sacrament aligned with the Old Testament mark of initiation into God’s covenant people, Israel. Baptism, like circumcision, points to the reality that is Christ (Col 2:11–12). Christians are baptized into His body, the church (1 Cor 12:13).
Acts 10 has provided us an informative view into God’s providential work of bringing a preacher and an assembly of hearers, together. The faithful preacher is called, sent, and preaches Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2), as the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Rom 1:16–17). We have also learned that those who believe, do so having received the Spirit of Christ.
We have learned these things from the Gentile Pentecost, which continues, today, and until the last day, when the last of God’s elect has entered His church, the Israel of God, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, at the preaching of God’s Word, which is all to the glory of God, for the riches of His glorious grace.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 6, 2021