Poured Out Even on the Gentiles?
So Peter arrives in Joppa the second day after departing with a newfound understanding of the extent of the gospel, an understanding that God would soon confirm. With great anticipation Cornelius had gathered together family and friends to hear the message that God would send them through Simon “who is called Peter.” When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls down at his feet, a mistaken act of reverence which Peter immediately corrected. (Bear in mind that though this man is a “God-fearer,” he is yet pagan in his apprehensions.) With the vision still fresh in his mind, Peter announces that though everyone knows that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with someone of another nation, “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Thereupon at Peter’s request, Cornelius relates to Peter the vision God had shown him which led to his summons of the apostle. And now they were all gathered together to hear what God would say to them through him.
Now Peter’s vision is confirmed. He now understands “that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Please understand that “acceptable to [God]” here does not mean that people are saved because they fear God and do what is right apart from Christ; otherwise, why would God have Cornelius send for Peter? Surely the man was already good enough to be saved. No. “Acceptable to God” here means as a Gentile, which is the purpose of this entire passage. The apostles were to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth (1:8). In the person of Cornelius and the Ethiopian before him, Jesus’ words of Matthew 28:19-20 were now being fulfilled.
Peter’s sermon is a brief synopsis of the ministry of Jesus, his death, resurrection, the command to be his witnesses to others concerning his resurrection, his exaltation as judge over the living and the dead, and that forgiveness of sins is obtained through faith in his name. While preaching, the Holy Spirit falls upon these Gentiles. There was no altar-call, and no corporate recitation of a “sinner’s prayer.” God just did it. These Gentiles, as pious as they may have been, weren’t even expecting it; they were just as bowled over by the Holy Spirit as the Jews were on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). And as these Gentiles were given the gift of the Holy Spirit just as Peter and his Jewish traveling companions were, he commanded that they too be baptized. Indeed, they were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles—and even on us. I’m still amazed.