THE FIRST EVER NON JEWISH CHRISTIAN CHURCH
There is an unique person in the New Testament of the Bible named Simon Peter whose character can only be described as ‘impetuous’. That is to say, ‘impulsive’, hasty, or spontaneous,’
Under the Jewish Law, a Jew could not enter into the home of a Gentile, or even come into contact with such a person else the Jew became ‘unclean’. In fact, the Jewish midwives would not help a Gentile woman in childbirth as this would be adding to the total population of those considered ‘unclean’.
Peter was on a missionary journey to Lydda and on his course went down to Joppa. Joppa is about thirty miles north west of Jerusalem and the present site of Tel Aviv. Strangely enough, there Peter stayed with a tanner of leather who also was named Simon.
Even more strange is that any one who handled a dead body, or even a dead animal, was counted ‘unclean’ and could not take part in the prescribed Jewish festivals or even enter his own house until undergoing a process of cleansing. Even the shadow of a tree under which a pagan worship was held was counted ‘unclean’ and the wood thereof was an abomination and could not be used as it would contaminate the food cooked upon it.
While Peter abode with Simon, there was a centurion by the name of Cornelius who was garrisoned at Caesarea. Cornelius was a proselyte to the Jewish faith and a man who donated wholeheartedly to the Jewish cause. One day as Cornelius was praying at the afternoon prayer, an angel appeared to him and said, “Cornelius! Your prayers and acts of charity have gone up to heaven to speak for you before God. Now send to Joppa for a man named Simon, also called Peter: he is lodging with another Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
Acting upon these orders Cornelius dispatched two of his servants along with a military aide to Joppa to seek out Peter.
As they approached the home of Simon the tanner, Peter was upon the flat rooftop praying. While there he fell into a trance where he saw a vision of a great sail-cloth being lowered to earth. It contained animals of every sort, those that both walk or crawl or fly, some clean and some unclean. A voice from heaven called out, “Up Peter. Kill and eat.”
Peter replied, “No Lord, I have never eaten anything profane, clean or unclean.” The voice came again and said the same thing twice more while receiving the same reply from Peter.
Afterwards Peter sat on the roof in a daze trying to puzzle out what this could mean. There was nothing in the Law or the Prophets that foretold of a vision this strange.
While Peter sat pondering how to un-kink this vision, the emissaries sent by Cornelius arrived and knocked on the door. Knowing this was a Jewish household they did not enter but asked to see a man named Simon Peter.
After hearing their strange story of Cornelius’ visit by the angel, Peter prevailed on them in to spend the night. On the morning after, they all, as well as some members of the Christian congregation from Joppa set, out for Caesarea to visit Cornelius.
Upon arriving they found that Cornelius had arranged for a gathering of his family and friends.
Wasting no time Peter launched into the story of Jesus and how he was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power. He also told how Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, but on the third day God raised him from the dead and he was seen by those whom God elected as he both eat and drank with them.
Peter added to this witness, “To him, all the prophets testify–that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins in his name.”
In the midst of this sermon the Holy Spirit fell on the gentiles and they began speaking with unknown tongues and praising God in ecstasy.
Peter asked the crowd of Christian believers who came with him, “Can anyone stop those who have received the Holy Spirit, as we too received him, from being baptized?”
From this we learn that those six men who went with Peter to Caesarea were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. And, from the visit to Cornelius’ house in Caesarea the very first-ever non Jewish Christian church was founded.
Thus; When Peter saw the clean and unclean animals in the sail-cloth, he was instructed not to judge who is clean (a child of God) and who is unclean (our concept of the unsaved). Who are we to determine the hearts and minds of those about us? We should treat all people indiscriminately.
This is not to say we should give up on converting the non-believers to become followers of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but not to treat them as outcasts of humanity.
Our first Christian obligation is to worship Jesus as Lord and through Him God the Father. Our second is to reach out to the lost and dying.
Notice also that in this passage (Acts 10:40-41) that Peter states: “Him God raised up the third day and showed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chose before of old, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.”
The point here is that not ‘all’ will become saints of God!
I don’t know why, I cannot explain it. But it is found over and over in the Bible even from the Book of Isaiah to 2nd John. A half-handful of these verses are: Matt. 22:24, Matt. 24:22 Mark 13:20, Romans 11:5, Colossians 3:12, 2nd Timothy 2:10 and 1st Peter 2:6.
Thirdly, The power that God wrought through the resurrection of Jesus overcame the natural, as well as the spiritual death, of humankind.
The true Christian is a witness of the resurrection. To the Christian, Jesus is not someone we read about in a book or are told about by another.
HE IS A PERSON WE HAVE MET!
Jesus has become our ‘parakletos’, our helper, our strengthener, our ‘go to man’ in both strife and in victory.
Pray for more workers; ‘THE FIELDS ARE WHITE FOR HARVEST‘.