And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”
Acts 10:22 ESV
The conversion of Cornelius is one of my favorite stories from the book of Acts. Its one of my favorites because the Lord uses the most headstrong of the apostles to be the first to bring the Gospel to the gentiles. It took three visions, and the prompting of the Spirit in order for Peter to respond to the gentiles. Peter needed convincing to go and share the good news with those he had always been taught to avoid.
Peter responds, when Cornelius’ men come to him. He invites these gentiles to be his guest for the night in a house where he himself was a guest. A man that had been raised to have nothing to do with gentiles now invites them into someone else’s house and then travels with them the next day. The Lord can use even the most headstrong among us to reach out to God-fearing people.
Because of Peter’s willingness to accept those that he formerly abhorred, souls were saved. Because he took the time to speak with a God-fearing man, and teach him the good news, lives were changed. Peter now knew that God’s love, sacrifice, and salvation was intended for all people.
Cornelius didn’t have all his religious ducks in a row, but he was trying as best as he knew how to honor God. God responded to this God-fearing man by sending Peter. Peter took the time to go to this man, to share the gospel and to stay longer and teach him and his household more about the ways of God.
I believe we can take a lesson from this story. There are many God-fearing people in the world today. They are doing their best to serve and honor God as best as they know how. We could stand back and say, because they don’t believe exactly as we do they are heretics, and false teachers or we could honor the fact that they believe in God and his word and just may need someone to come along side them and teach them the word a little more clearly.
I think we can look at the interaction between Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos in Acts chapter 18. Apollos was a God-fearing man “He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord.”, yet he still lacked some understanding. Priscilla and Aquila could have labeled him a heretic, and a false teacher because he didn’t teach the correct baptism, but they didn’t. Rather than attack him publicly, they took the time later to pull him aside and teach him more fully the ways of God. After their loving correction he went on preaching the word more accurately.
Patience with those that aren’t quite where they need to be in their understanding of the Bible is very important. God can work in peoples lives if we give him a chance. But, if we go on the attack when we don’t see eye to eye to with someone we don’t give God, and his word the chance to work on that person. Sometimes our attitude can be the obstacle to someone learning the ways of God.
May we never be the obstacle to, but be the conduit to the ways of God. Gentleness, patience, and respect go a long way in helping someone to see the ways of God more clearly. Trying to force someone to understand it the way we do, just pushes them away.
© 2015 Leo J. Woodman