“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)

Peter’s ministry to the Roman Centurion Cornelius and his Gentile household as related in Acts 10 shows clearly that the Lord was extending His kingdom to include Gentiles, not just Jews. This new direction that the Lord was leading the church was hard to accept at first because the infant church was composed solely of Jews. They considered Gentiles unclean. Hence some in the church called Peter to account for his actions.  Despite their preconceived ideas, the members of that church at Jerusalem accepted what Peter had to say and what God was doing for it was blatantly obvious that the Holy Spirit had authorized this new direction, not Peter.

One thing we learn as believers is that God desires all to come to faith in Jesus and so receive eternal life. This would include all those people we may deem to be unclean because they speak a different language, are not educated, come from other cultures, hold different politic views or who we think are beneath contempt due to the heinous nature of their sins. All sinners are equally unclean until cleansed by the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. But it is up to us in the church to tell them this Good News.

We also learn from this first Church Council, that any new direction or ministry any church or group of churches proposes to undertake should be discussed and examined by the members before being approved. This reduces the likelihood of deception by Satan. It also minimizes the possibility that any one person or group of members would sinfully dominate the whole church. Too often we in the church are blinded by cultural, national or ethnic world views or worldly templates that wrongly affect the way we think God and the church should be operating. The example of Peter and Cornelius shows us that God’s ways are not our ways, not the ways the world values. We the church should be more attune to the works of the Holy Spirit who will often overturn and supersede our imperfect thinking to accomplish His will.