A Seeker for Truth
[This chapter is based on Acts 9:32 to 11:18.]
In the course of his ministry the apostle Peter visited the believers
at Lydda. Here he healed Aeneas, who for eight years had been confined
to his bed with palsy. "Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee
whole," the apostle said; "arise, and make thy bed."
"He arose immediately. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw
him, and turned to the Lord."
At Joppa, which was near Lydda, there lived a woman named Dorcas,
whose good deeds had made her greatly beloved. She was a worthy disciple
of Jesus, and her life was filled with acts of kindness. She knew who
needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely
ministered to the poor and the sorrowful. Her skilful fingers were more
active than her tongue.
"And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and
died." The church in Joppa realised their loss, and hearing that
Peter was at Lydda, the believers sent messengers to him, "desiring
him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went
with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber:
and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and
garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them." In view of
the life of service that Dorcas had lived, it is little wonder that they
mourned, that warm teardrops fell upon the inanimate day.
The apostle's heart was touched with sympathy as he beheld their
sorrow. Then, directing that the weeping friends be sent from the room,
he kneeled down and prayed fervently to God to restore Dorcas to life
and health. Turning to the body, he said, "Tabitha, arise. And she
opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up." Dorcas had
been of great service to the church, and God saw fit to bring her back
from the land of the enemy, that her skill and energy might still be a
blessing to others, and also that by this manifestation of His power the
cause of Christ might be strengthened.
It was while Peter was still at Joppa that he was called by God to
take the gospel to Cornelius, in Caesarea.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion. He was a man of wealth and noble
birth, and his position was one of trust and honour. A heathen by birth,
training, and education, through contact with the Jews he had gained a
knowledge of God, and he worshiped Him with a true heart, showing the
sincerity of his faith by compassion to the poor. He was known far and
near for his beneficence, and his righteous life made him of good repute
among both Jews and Gentiles.
His influence was a blessing to all with whom he came in contact. The
inspired record describes him as "a devout man, and one that feared
God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed
to God alway."
Believing in God as the Creator of heaven and earth, Cornelius
revered Him, acknowledged His authority, and sought His counsel in all
the affairs of life. He was faithful to Jehovah in his home life and in
his official duties. He had erected the altar of God in his home, for he
dared not attempt to carry out his plans or to bear his responsibilities
without the help of God.
Though Cornelius believed the prophecies and was looking for the
Messiah to come, he had not a knowledge of the gospel as revealed in the
life and death of Christ. He was not a member of the Jewish church and
would have been looked upon by the rabbis as a heathen and unclean. But
the same Holy Watcher who said of Abraham, "I know him," knew
Cornelius also, and sent a message direct from heaven to him.
The angel appeared to Cornelius while he was at prayer. As the
centurion heard himself addressed by name, he was afraid, yet he knew
that the messenger had come from God, and he said, "What is it,
Lord?" The angel answered, "Thy prayers and thine alms are
come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call
for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a
tanner, whose house is by the seaside."
The explicitness of these directions, in which was named even the
occupation of the man with whom Peter was staying, shows that Heaven is
acquainted with the history and business of men in every station of
life. God is familiar with the experience and work of the humble
labourer, as well as with that of the king upon his throne.
"Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon." Thus God gave
evidence of His regard for the gospel ministry and for His organised
church. The angel was not commissioned to tell Cornelius the story of
the cross. A man subject, even as the centurion himself, to human
frailties and temptations, was to be the one to tell him of the
crucified and risen Saviour.
As His representatives among men, God does not choose angels who have
never fallen, but human beings, men of like passions with those they
seek to save. Christ took humanity that He might reach humanity. A
divine-human Saviour was needed to bring salvation to the world. And to
men and women has been committed the sacred trust of making known
"the unsearchable riches of Christ." Ephesians 3:8.
In His wisdom the Lord brings those who are seeking for truth into
touch with fellow beings who know the truth. It is the plan of Heaven
that those who have received light shall impart it to those in darkness.
Humanity, drawing its efficiency from the great Source of wisdom, is
made the instrumentality, the working agency, through which the gospel
exercises its transforming power on mind and heart.
Cornelius was gladly obedient to the vision. When the angel had gone,
the centurion "called two of his household servants, and a devout
soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared
all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa."
The angel, after his interview with Cornelius, went to Peter, in
Joppa. At the time, Peter was praying upon the housetop of his lodging,
and we read that he "became very hungry, and would have eaten: but
while they made ready, he fell into a trance." It was not for
physical food alone that Peter hungered. As from the housetop he viewed
the city of Joppa and the surrounding country be hungered for the
salvation of his countrymen. He had an intense desire to point out to
them from the Scriptures the prophecies relating to the sufferings and
death of Christ.
In the vision Peter "saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel
descending unto them, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four
corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of
four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things,
and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill,
and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything
that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second
time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done
thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven."
This vision conveyed to Peter both reproof and instruction. It
revealed to him the purpose of God--that by the death of Christ the
Gentiles should be made fellow heirs with the Jews to the blessings of
salvation. As yet none of the disciples had preached the gospel to the
Gentiles. In their minds the middle wall of partition, broken down by
the death of Christ, still existed, and their labours had been confined
to the Jews, for they had looked upon the Gentiles as excluded from the
blessings of the gospel. Now the Lord was seeking to teach Peter the
world-wide extent of the divine plan.
Many of the Gentiles had been interested listeners to the preaching
of Peter and the other apostles, and many of the Greek Jews had become
believers in Christ, but the conversion of Cornelius was to be the first
of importance among the Gentiles.
The time had come for an entirely new phase of work to be entered
upon by the church of Christ. The door that many of the Jewish converts
had closed against the Gentiles was now to be thrown open. And the
Gentiles who accepted the gospel were to be regarded as on an equality
with the Jewish disciples, without the necessity of observing the rite
How carefully the Lord worked to overcome the prejudice against the
Gentiles that had been so firmly fixed in Peter's mind by his Jewish
training! By the vision of the sheet and its contents He sought to
divest the apostle's mind of this prejudice and to teach the important
truth that in heaven there is no respect of persons; that Jew and
Gentile are alike precious in God's sight; that through Christ the
heathen may be made partakers of the blessings and privileges of the
While Peter was meditating on the meaning of the vision, the men sent
from Cornelius arrived in Joppa and stood before the gate of his
lodginghouse. Then the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men seek
thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting
nothing: for I have sent them."
To Peter this was a trying command, and it was with reluctance at
every step that he undertook the duty laid upon him; but he dared not
disobey. He "went down to the men which were sent unto him from
Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause
wherefore ye are come?" They told him of their singular errand,
saying, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth
God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned
from God by a holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear
words of thee."
In obedience to the directions just received from God, the apostle
promised to go with them. On the following morning he set out for
Caesarea, accompanied by six of his brethren. These were to be witnesses
of all that he should say or do while visiting the Gentiles, for Peter
knew that he would be called to account for so direct a violation of the
As Peter entered the house of the Gentile, Cornelius did not salute
him as an ordinary visitor, but as one honoured of Heaven and sent to
him by God. It is an Eastern custom to bow before a prince or other high
dignitary and for children to bow before their parents; but Cornelius,
overwhelmed with reverence for the one sent by God to teach him, fell at
the apostle's feet and worshiped him. Peter was horror-stricken, and he
lifted the centurion up, saying, "Stand up; I myself also am a
While the messengers of Cornelius had been gone upon their errand,
the centurion "had called together his kinsmen and near
friends," that they as well as he might hear the preaching of the
gospel. When Peter arrived, he found a large company eagerly waiting to
listen to his words.
To those assembled, Peter spoke first of the custom of the Jews,
saying that it was looked upon as unlawful for Jews to mingle socially
with the Gentiles, that to do this involved ceremonial defilement.
"Ye know," he said, "how that it is an unlawful thing for
a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation;
but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for:
I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?"
Cornelius then related his experience and the words of the angel,
saying in conclusion, "Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and
thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here
present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of
Peter said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of
persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh
righteousness, is accepted with Him."
Then to that company of attentive hearers the apostle preached
Christ--His life, His miracles, His betrayal and crucifixion, His
resurrection and ascension, and His work in heaven as man's
representative and advocate. As Peter pointed those present to Jesus as
the sinner's only hope, he himself understood more fully the meaning of
the vision he had seen, and his heart glowed with the spirit of the
truth that he was presenting.
Suddenly the discourse was interrupted by the descent of the Holy
Spirit. "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on
all them which heard the world. And they of the circumcision which
believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on
the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they
heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
"Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these
should not be baptised, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as
we? And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord."
Thus was the gospel brought to those who had been strangers and
foreigners, making them fellow citizens with the saints, and members of
the household of God. The conversion of Cornelius and his household was
but the first fruits of a harvest to be gathered in. From this household
a wide-spread work of grace was carried on in that heathen city.
Today God is seeking for souls among the high as well as the lowly.
There are many like Cornelius, men whom the Lord desires to connect with
His work in the world. Their sympathies are with the Lord's people, but
the ties that bind them to the world hold them firmly. It requires moral
courage for them to take their position for Christ. Special efforts
should be made for these souls, who are in so great danger, because of
their responsibilities and associations.
God calls for earnest, humble workers, who will carry the gospel to
the higher class. There are miracles to be wrought in genuine
conversions,--miracles that are not now discerned. The greatest men of
this earth are not beyond the power of a wonder-working God. If those
who are workers together with Him will be men of opportunity, doing
their duty bravely and faithfully, God will convert men who occupy
responsible positions, men of intellect and influence. Through the power
of the Holy Spirit many will accept the divine principles. Converted to
the truth, they will become agencies in the hand of God to communicate
the light. They will have a special burden for other souls of this
neglected class. Time and money will be consecrated to the work of the
Lord, and new efficiency and power will be added to the church.
Because Cornelius was living in obedience to all the instruction he
had received, God so ordered events that he was given more truth. A
messenger from the courts of heaven was sent to the Roman officer and to
Peter in order that Cornelius might be brought into touch with one who
could lead him into greater light.
There are in our world many who are nearer the kingdom of God than we
suppose. In this dark world of sin the Lord has many precious jewels, to
whom He will guide His messengers. Everywhere there are those who will
take their stand for Christ. Many will prize the wisdom of God above any
earthly advantage, and will become faithful light bearers. Constrained
by the love of Christ, they will constrain others to come to Him.
When the brethren in Judea heard that Peter had gone to the house of
a Gentile and preached to those assembled, they were surprised and
offended. They feared that such a course, which looked to them
presumptuous, would have the effect of counteracting his own teaching.
When they next saw Peter they met him with severe censure, saying,
"Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with
Peter laid the whole matter before them. He related his experience in
regard to the vision and pleaded that it admonished him to observe no
longer the ceremonial distinction of circumcision and uncircumcision,
nor to look upon the Gentiles as unclean. He told them of the command
given him to go to the Gentiles, of the coming of the messengers, of his
journey to Caesarea, and of the meeting with Cornelius. He recounted the
substance of his interview with the centurion, in which the latter had
told him of the vision by which he had been directed to send for Peter.
"As I began to speak," he said, in relating his experience,
"the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then
remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed
baptised with water; but ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost.
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who
believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand
On hearing this account, the brethren were silenced. Convinced that
Peter's course was in direct fulfilment of the plan of God, and that
their prejudices and exclusiveness were utterly contrary to the spirit
of the gospel, they glorified God, saying, "Then hath God also to
the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
Thus, without controversy, prejudice was broken down, the
exclusiveness established by the custom of ages was abandoned, and the
way was opened for the gospel to be proclaimed to the Gentiles.