Mission in the Kingdom: 21st June
The story of Cornelius was an important one for the early church. This was a momentous occasion, the first Gentiles becoming members of the church. Luke recalls it in great detail in Acts 10, then it is summarised again in Peter’s speech Acts 15: 7-9.
Cornelius was an officer in the Roman occupying army based in barracks at Caesarea. We read that he was a God fearing Gentile, sympathetic to the Jewish teachings and believing, but had not taken the step of circumcision to become a proselyte (as fully Jewish as you could become without a Jewish mother).
Read Acts 10: 1 - 48
- We think of mission as us going out, but this story starts with an angel talking to Cornelius and his response, seeking out Peter. If we accept that God is at work with others who are outside the church now, how should we plan our outreach?
Cornelius the Gentile was seeking God, praying at 3.00 the Jewish time of prayer which coincided with the time of temple sacrifice. We often fail to recognise the importance of others’ search or God’s hand and direction of our mission. Note God’s timing as despite the time spent looking for Peter, the messengers arrive at the house just as Peter had his dream, and how in verse 20 God says that he has sent the messengers.
- Why did Peter find his dream so shocking? And how did he interpret it?
Leviticus 11: 1-31 gives us some clues as to why eating all those types of animals and reptiles would have been so repulsive to a Jew. There were big problems with Gentiles joining with Jews in the first century church. One major factor being that it was unthinkable for Jews to eat with Gentiles on account of the strict regulations on what Jews could and could not eat.
- Can you share with the group about a time when God has spoken to you – either through a dream or reading scripture or through someone else’s words, which has challenged the way you think about something?
It seems that three was a key number for Peter – he denied Christ three times, was asked three times by Jesus if he loved him and here he is invited three times to kill and eat. It seems that God wanted to make his message clear.
- Peter is accompanied on his journey by 6 members of the local church. Discuss how your group could be involved together in outreach or how you might join with others. Are you willing to join in and go with the vision given to someone else, even if it seems to go against what you would expect?
It is interesting that Peter is accompanied on his journey to Caesarea by 6 members of the local church. It was not a solo performance. Their sharing in and witness of the events are very important in authenticating and bearing witness to what happened.
- How does God indicate his acceptance of Cornelius and family as members of the Church? Can you share how you have seen indication of God’s favour and approval through particular events?
What happened in Cornelius’ house seems to be pretty much a replica of the events of Pentecost.
- Consider Peter’s speech in verses 34 and 35. Are there any people who you cannot imagine coming to faith in God?
- Take time to consider carefully whether God may be calling you to reach out to a group of people or someone who you considered beyond hope of helping or outside of God’s love. Continue to pray about it throughout the week. How can you support or be involved in ministering God’s Grace to them?
Mike Francis, 18/06/2009