There is good news. I hear it directly from Peter. It is the truth. Jesus came for all of us, not just the Jews of His day. It took a stunning series of events to get this through to Peter. I am so very thankful that God so loved “the world”.
This is stunning in that we like to believe we are part of the select few. I can see myself as one the elite. It is tough to deal with that. I am not. Jesus and His redemptive work is for everyone. God isn’t playing favorites. No way.
Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from — if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel — that through Jesus the Messiah everything is being put together again — well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone. | Acts 10:34-36 (The Message Bible)
Cornelius was a Roman centurion and the first gentile follower of Jesus mentioned in the Book of Acts.
The story of Cornelius’ conversion through the preaching of the apostle Peter is recorded in Acts 10:1–11:18. Before his conversion Cornelius was well known to the Jews as a person who feared God, prayed continually, and gave alms.
At first the disciples were composed only of Jews, who were reluctant to preach the good news to Gentiles because law-abiding Jews never had fellowship with “pagans.” Peter, a law-abiding Jew, had scruples about entering a Gentile’s house and eating “unclean” food. Through a vision, however, God led Peter to Cornelius’ house to proclaim the good news to him and his family and close friends.
Before Peter had finished speaking, and before baptism or the laying on of hands could be administered, God dramatically demonstrated his acceptance of Gentiles into the fellowship of the church by giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter remained several days in Cornelius’ house, no doubt rejoicing in the centurion’s conversion and instructing him in his newfound faith.
Cornelius’ conversion represented a significant step in the separation of the early church from Judaism. Cornelius did not have to submit to any of the Jewish practices, such as circumcision or eating only ritually “clean” animals. For the first time a gentile believer was accepted into the church on equal terms with Jewish disciples.
Here is a literal translation:
10:34–38: And opening [his] mouth, Peter said, “In truth I apprehend that God doesn’t play favorites [as he would if he limited evangelism to the Jews]. 35 Rather, in every nation the person who fears him and works righteousness [as Cornelius does according to 10:2, 4, 22] is welcomed by him [hence his arranging a meeting between Cornelius and Peter for the hearing of the gospel]. 36 The word [in the sense of a message] that he [God] sent to the sons of Israel by proclaiming as good news peace through Jesus Christ—this one is Lord of all. 37 You yourselves know the word [in the sense of a reported event] that took place throughout the whole of Judea [the entirety of Israel (see the comments on Luke 1:5)], beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed, 38 [the word] in regard to Jesus, the [man] from Nazareth—how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power—who [referring to Jesus] went throughout [the whole of Judea/Israel] doing good [to people] and healing all who were being dominated by the Devil, because God was with him.”
Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Cornelius. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 525–526). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 505). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson