So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how 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. And 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, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not 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.
And 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. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And 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. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
This passage is a pivotal one in the book of Acts, as the gospel continues to spread out from Jerusalem to reach the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Peter delivers to Cornelius and his household one of the most straightforward gospel proclamations, declaring God's redemptive purposes for all men through the person and work of Jesus Christ. And what happens? As Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on the Gentiles, just as The Spirit did the Jews. Utter amazement fills all the believers with Peter. God saves even the Gentiles. Even them!? The power of God was at work on the frontier in unexpected and unimaginable ways.
We would do well as a church to dwell on God's power on the frontier. The church needs the frontier, and the frontier needs the church. As one who is genuinely passionate about God's glory and work in the nations, but also simultaneously apathetic and distracted, I'd like to offer a few points of application:
First, let us be honest before God about our reaction to His global mission. Let us in a spirit of humility acknowledge where our priorities are different from our Father's, and let us repent when we seek our personal kingdom's priorities more vigorously than His eternal and everlasting one. He is a God of grace.
Second, let us ask Him to give us a love for that which He loves. This is so much broader than His saving work in the nations, but no smaller! He is faithful to fill us with greater joy and fruitfulness as He conforms us to His character.
Third, let us ask Him to give us a vision for His kingdom that stirs our imagination to worship and pulls our heart toward action. For me, I love to hear stories of God's work around the world, through friends I know, but also videos. This is one of my favorites.
Fourth, let us consider how He may be calling us to go to the unreached, give financially to God's global gospel work, and/or pray for gospel doors to be opened so that every tribe and tongue may confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Fifth, what are the "frontiers" that God may be calling us to cross in our city? Consider what are the ethnic, racial, and socio-economic boundaries that God may be calling us to cross for our good and the sake of the gospel? (To do so may require addressing a prejudice, even a subtle one, or de-emphasizing a recreational activity to create time in our calendars to serve and be served by someone different than us).
Lastly, how is our prayer life shaped by a concern for His power in the frontiers of our neighborhood, families, workplace, city, country, and truly to the ends of the earth? Who are the people that we would be surprised to see God save - even them?!
Yes, let's pray for even them.
God has always been about the work of reaching the lost and unlikely from all parts of the globe. Remember: we were once an "even them". He redeems us to join with Him in His rescuing work for all people, everywhere. Let His gospel of grace move us today to joyful, radical, worshipful service for His glory!