But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43.1–2, 19
Last week, we heard of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. We heard that the Spirit of Jesus led Philip to him; we heard that there was no reason for a eunuch not to be baptised. In other words, there was every reason for him to be baptised!
Today, we have heard the final act of another very important story in the Book of Acts. It’s the climax of the story of the conversion of Cornelius and his household.
The Ethiopian eunuch had an important position in his country, but he was also considered an inferior. Cornelius also had an important position; he was in charge of 100 Roman soldiers. But no one considered Cornelius to be at all inferior, because he was a Roman.
Luke wrote the Book of Acts with an eye towards Rome, and so he spends a lot more time on Cornelius than he did on the Ethiopian eunuch, whose name we don’t even know. (Have you noticed that?)
Cornelius was a seeker. He was searching for truth, and that search had led him to become a ‘God fearer’. God fearers were Gentiles who found the Jewish belief in one God and the Jewish ethical code to be very attractive, but they did not take the step of actually becoming Jews, with all the demands of the Jewish law that entailed.
So Acts tells us that Cornelius
was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.
It was while he was praying one day that God told him to fetch Peter to his house. Listen to what happened to Peter the very next day: Continue reading