Who Is Creating the Situation?
23The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.
24And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.
26But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered.
28And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.
29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
30And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing
31and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.
32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’
33So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,
35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),
37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed:
38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,
40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear,
41not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
43To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,
47“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
This is a Christian’s dream come true; a room full of people who actually want to hear the Gospel. As I think back over this story all I can see is God’s hand at work setting up this situation. He is the one who comes to Cornelius and directs him toward Peter. God is the one who comes to Peter and instructs him on the all-inclusive nature of God’s plan. And the Holy Spirit is the one who comes to the people hearing Peter’s story and brings them to faith. It’s the perfect scenario.
I’ll probably get push back about this but I’m going to head in a direction that probably isn’t popular in modern evangelistic circles. What I see happening in these stories in Acts is God doing all the work. He is responsible for creating the situations that make new believers. His disciples simply speak when given the opportunity. They don’t go out and create the situations. They don’t go out and beat down doors. There are people out there who would agree with me on this but it has not been the norm over the last few decades of evangelistic effort.
Last week I had a stranger knock on my door at home. I cringe to say that 99% of the time, I don’t answer the door if I don’t know you. But I must have been feeling magnanimous because I actually answered this time. There was a man holding a Bible who wanted to share the Gospel with me. He introduced himself as a member of a local church and asked if he could ask me a few questions. I told him that my husband was the pastor of the church I attended so I didn’t think we were going to be attending his church any time soon. He smiled but forged on. He wanted to ask me some questions. At this point I figured that he wanted to ask me what have come to be known as “The Kennedy Questions” developed by James Kennedy way back in the early 60’s. The questions are meant to be conversation starters and for that purpose they work pretty well. Here are the questions:
- Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you can say you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?
- Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and he were to say to you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" what would you say?
My response to this visiting evangelist was, “Well, I’ll answer your question if you’ll answer mine.” Then I asked him these two questions and shared with him my response. Before he left my porch, I asked him for his answer as well. It was a friendly exchange and I hope he wasn’t offended by my challenge. What I really wanted to ask him was how many significant faith discussions knocking on strangers’ doors had netted him that morning. I’m a cynic and I know it. But I doubt if it was very many because I think that “cold calling” for Jesus is us trying to do the work of the God. Only God can mastermind situations and circumstances so that the Kingdom grows.
Peter wasn’t just in the right place at the right time. He was obediently following God’s call to share the Gospel. It didn’t require any extra manipulations on Peter’s part. He was handed an opportunity and he took it. When we work with God in that way, amazing things will happen.