Lessons From Peter and Cornelius, Part Two
- 2003 21 Oct
In last week’s “Lessons From Peter and Cornelius” we looked at the powerful story of these two men—opposites in every way but one—and two of the four important lessons we can learn from them. Namely:
- Don’t think too highly of yourself. (And remember whom you serve.)
- Prayer plows the field and opens the road.
This week we will finish with the final two lessons:
- When you witness, talk about what you know.
- Allow for the work of the Holy Spirit
Talk About What You Know
"I would witness to those around me," a woman said to me once. "Co-workers, friends, neighbors...but I just don't know what to say."
"That's easy enough," I answered. "Just tell what you know."
"But, I'm not a preacher," she argued.
Again I answered, "Just tell what you know."
We writers often hear the same thing: write about what you know...and if you don't know anything about what you write: research! It's pretty much the same formula when it comes to witnessing. When you read the story of Peter and Cornelius, you'll see that Peter's words to Cornelius and his household are pretty basic.
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached-- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:36-43)
While none of us were literally there with Jesus, Peter, and the remaining Twelve, we have the Word of God and all of history pointing to this epic event. Even our calendar is based on the life of Jesus. BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini-in the year of our Lord). We do not mark time according to Buddha, Mohammed, or Confucius. History agrees that a man named Jesus came to earth. An empty tomb marks His departure. Over five hundred witnesses claimed to have seen Him after His crucifixion. He fulfilled literally every single one of over seven hundred promises concerning the Messiah.
Now, then. WHAT has He does for you? It's not necessary to tell Peter's story or Paul's or even Cornelius's. What is YOUR story? How has Jesus impacted YOUR life?
Tell what you know.
If you want to know more, study the Word.
And remember to live your life in such a way as to reflect what you believe. You may be the only Bible some people will ever read.
Allow For the Work of the Holy Spirit
What happened next...well, this part of the story excites me every time I read it.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. (Acts 10:44-48)
Peter would take grief and criticism from other Jewish believers when he returned to Jerusalem, but this was beyond Peter's control. The Holy Spirit came! Now, Peter could have said, "No way! These people can't receive the Holy Spirit!" and then stomped out of the house. I'm sure when the people began praising God, he was praising the Almighty right along with them.
Peter then asked if there was any reason why these men should not be baptized...just as Jesus had been by John and all those who trusted and believed in the new covenant had been. Gentile believers now experienced an outward symbol of an inward change and the road for Paul-his ministry to the Gentiles-would now be wide opened.
A Final Lesson
There's a final point to make here. The strife and prejudices between the Jews and Gentiles in Peter and Cornelius's day were just as strong as those prejudices we experience today, whether due to the color of skin or religious practices. Sometimes, we Christians can be the worst at opening our hearts and minds. We hold back when it comes to reaching others with the love of Christ. We embrace our brothers and sisters and think: go no further!
Now think what you can do when you 1) don't think so highly of yourself and remember Who you represent, 2) pray, 3) share Jesus' love with others, and 4) allow for the work of the Holy Spirit.
Questions for Personal or Group Study
1. What is your status in life? Does it cause you to feel pride?
2. List five people with whom you associate that you haven't shared the Gospel of Christ with. Next to their names, list why you have not.
3. What creative ways can you be of greater witness?
4. Describe your prayer life. Describe your prayer life when it comes to the people you associate with, but with whom you do not share Christ.
5. How can you obtain greater knowledge when it comes to your faith?
6. What might the Holy Spirit ask you to do that would cause you to have to move out of your comfort zone?
Read Part One of Lessons From Peter and Cornelius.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and the recently released and highly anticipated Shadows of Light. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com