The Story of His Church List

Cornelius

Thirty miles north of Joppa, in the city of Caesarea, lived Cornelius, a captain in the Roman army. Although a Gentile, Cornelius worshiped the true God and taught his household to do the same. Throughout the city he was known as a man who helped the poor and needy.

Every day Cornelius prayed earnestly to God.

One afternoon while he was praying an angel came and said, "Cornelius."

When the captain looked up and saw the angel, he was afraid. "What is it, Lord?" he asked.

The angel said, "God has heard your prayers and seen your good works. Now send men to Joppa to the house of Simon the tanner who lives by the seaside. Simon Peter is staying there, and he will tell you what to do."

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two. of his household servants and one of his soldiers who served the Lord. He told them what the angel had said and asked them to go to Joppa to find Simon Peter.

The next morning the three started for Joppa. They neared the city about noon. At this hour Peter was on the housetop praying. He felt very hungry, but dinner was not yet ready. While he waited, he fell into a strange sleep.

In his sleep Peter saw a great sheet let down from the sky. In it were several kinds of tame and wild animals. As the sheet was lowered, a voice from heaven said, "Get up, Peter! Kill and eat."

Peter looked at the animals in the sheet. Now the Jews ate only certain kinds of meat. Those that Moses had forbidden them to eat were called "common" and "unclean." When Peter saw such animals in the sheet, he answered, "No, Lord, I cannot, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."

The voice replied, "What God has made clean do not call common."

The sheet was lifted back to heaven and lowered a second time, and a third. Still Peter refused to touch the animals because he was a Jew. Finally the sheet disappeared and Peter awoke.

What could all this mean? Peter wondered. As he thought about it, the Spirit of God told him, "Three men are looking for you. Get up and go to meet them. Do not doubt but go with them, for I have sent them."

When Peter reached the gate he saw the three men whom Cornelius had sent. He told them, "I am the man you are looking for. What do you want?"

The three told Peter about their master, Cornelius, and how the angel had commanded him to send for Peter. Peter said, "Stay with me tonight, and I will go back to Caesarea with you in the morning." The men agreed.

Early the next morning Peter, with six believing Jews and Cornelius' three servants, started for Caesarea. When they reached Cornelius' house, it was full of people waiting to see Peter and hear his word.

Never before had Peter gone to the home of a Gentile. Strict Jews refused to be friends with Gentiles, for they knew this was how idol worship had started among their people in the past. Suddenly Peter understood his vision on the housetop. Without hesitating he entered the door to meet the Gentile family who waited so eagerly for his coming.

When Cornelius saw Peter, he fell at his feet to worship him. Peter lifted him up and said, "Stand on your feet. I am a man like you." The two talked together and Cornelius led Peter into the crowded room where the relatives and friends were waiting.

Peter told them, "You know it is against the Jewish law for a Jew to be entertained, by people of any other nation. But God has shown me I should not call any man common or unclean. For that reason I have come to you. Now I see that God accepts any people who fear him and do what is right and good, whatever their nation."

Soon Peter was telling Cornelius and his guests about Jesus who died to save people from their sins. He explained that whoever believed in the name of Jesus would be saved. As he spoke God gave the Holy Spirit to these Gentiles who listened.

The six men who came with Peter were amazed that God would give the Holy Spirit to Gentiles too. These six had always been strict Jews, even after they believed in Jesus. They thought that salvation was just for the Jews. Now they understood that God intended it for people of every nation.

Peter asked, "Can anyone forbid these Gentiles to be baptized since they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And all were baptized as Jesus had commanded.

For several days Peter stayed and taught them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

News about what had happened at Cornelius' house had already reached Jerusalem before Peter and his friends arrived. Some of the believers thought Peter had done wrong by going to a Gentile home.

When Peter came, he told them about his vision on the housetop and about Cornelius' servants coming for him. God's Spirit had commanded him to go to Cornelius. There Peter and his friends had found eager listeners who believed in the true God. Gladly they received Peter's message, and God gave them the Holy Spirit.

When the Jerusalem believers heard Peter's story, they rejoiced that God's salvation was for people of every nation.


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