News got out that the Gentiles had received the word of God (V.1) which indicates a very important aspect of what true conversion is: it’s the reception of God’s word and submission to it that produces kingdom life as it is preached (Rom.10:9-10). Without the word preached there’s no salvation, but by submitting to the word one evidences genuine conversion.
This implies that the apostles’ model is to be the model we use for reaching people for Christ. Without the word, men remain dead in their trespasses and sins, they remain in darkness. In the same way Peter needed his worldview to shift, so did the Jewish community in Jerusalem who disapproved of Peter’s exchange with Cornelius:
“And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Vv.2-3)
Apparently they didn’t get the memo that Jesus had declared all foods to be clean. According to Jesus, what makes men unclean is not foods but motives and attitudes of the heart that lead to murder, adultery and gossip (Mk.7:1-23). By this declaration Jesus admitted to be divine for no prophet ever spoke on his own initiative as he does in Mark’s account.
Nevertheless, Peter explains the turn of events and points out the following which Luke emphasizes. First, what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. In the New Covenant the ceremonial laws which God instituted to make Israel stand out in the world, no longer apply (V.9). It’s because these have been already fulfilled in Christ.
Second, “the Spirit told me to go with them” (V.12). Peter and six of his companions obeyed God’s command so that Christ who came to seek and to save the lost might be glorified by rescuing this Gentile—Non Jew! There should have been much rejoicing here but it was slow coming from the Jews.
Third, God’s angel had to instruct Cornelius to specifically ask for Peter—the preacher. Why Peter? Because he, “will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” (V.14). Here again emphasized is the primacy of preaching the word in order for sinners to be saved.
Fourth, “…who was I to stand in God’s way” Peter concludes after explaining that these saved received the Holy Spirit as the disciples did when they had first spoken in tongues. If God wants to gift them as he did us, then something much bigger than we anticipated is taking place in the Name of Jesus.
Fifth, “well then God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance which leads to life” the Jews rejoiced in God only after Peter explained the meaning of the events. The early church’s theology was developing concerning the gospel of the kingdom and salvation.
In short, only after the light of God’s word is revealed, explained, understood and received can anyone be set free. The hesitation of preaching to the Gentiles unfortunately remained to be an issue of contention for many Jews (V.19), but thankfully others got the message that Gentiles, not Jews alone, need the word also (Vv.20-24). God answered prayers and converted many through the preached Gospel evidenced by many who “turned to the Lord” (V.21).
If the word of God is not central in our Gospel proclamation then many will not come into glory, but everlasting doom. It’s sobering and yet it seems that many today enjoy their stupor in church week after week, not preaching this most glorious message.