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Cornelius the Italian

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(C) Copyright 2000 by Massimo Franceschini

The Story of Cornelius is very interesting for several reasons. For one, he was the first Christian who was not from the House of Israel. He was a gentile. Of course since I too am an Italian, I am very proud to say that the first Gentile to receive the Gospel was an Italian guy, just like me. But, there are other interesting things we can learn from the conversion of Cornelius.

We know that Jesus commanded the Apostles not to take the gospel to Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6). He also affirmed this principle to the woman at the well (Matthew 15:24). Then why did God tell Peter to go preach the gospel to this Gentile?

In Acts 10:1-4 we learn that Cornelius already believed in the God of the Jews and prayed to Him. Because of his great faith, "an angel of God" came to him in a vision and instructed him on how to receive salvation. One of the interesting things we learn through this event is that visions did not end with the death of Jesus as some modern Christians claim. Furthermore, it also illustrates the power that prayer has in gaining a knowledge of truth.

But the Lord had a problem. Remember, it was Jesus Himself who told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles, and Peter was extremely obedient to his Savior. So the problem God had was, how to convince Peter to do the opposite of what Jesus had commanded him earlier?

What is not only interesting, but is instructive as well, is how God did this. Through the law of Moses, the Jews had received a strict law from God concerning the use of food. Now the Lord was going to use this very law to convince Peter to do something that was unthinkable - allow the Gentiles to have the same opportunity for salvation as God's chosen people had.

In Acts 10:11-14 the Lord showed Peter in a vision a sheet that contained all manner of meat that was forbidden under the law of Moses, and commanded Peter to eat. Being a devout follow of the law of Moses, Peter refused. Three times the Lord gave him this vision. What makes this especially interesting is that a short time earlier Jesus had asked Peter three times if he loved him and three times commanded him to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). Once again we see the Lord instructing Peter by asking him the same question three times. Finally the Lord told him, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common (verse 15).

What Peter learned that day was that whatever God asks of us, we are to obey without questioning it. Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like to point to an incident in the Book of Mormon where God commanded God to kill a man named Laban (1 Nephi 4:10-11). They contend that such a story violates the law which God gave Moses that "Thou shalt not kill." Their argument is that God would not order someone to do something that violated His own law. Yet, after God had delivered this law, He later commanded Moses to utterly destroy every Midianite, including the women and the children (Numbers 31). Abraham was promised a son, yet the Lord later commanded Abraham to slay this son as a sacrifice the life of this promised son. In each instance, these great men did as God commanded them, without hesitation, without questions, and without doubting. Now Peter was being instructed to do the same. What makes Peter so great is that he was willing to accept whatever the Lord told him, regardless of his own ideas.

After his vision, two men from the house of Cornelius came asking Peter to preach the gospel to their master - a Gentile. Immediately, and without hesitation and without doubting, Peter did as the Lord had just instructed, even though it went against everything he had been previously taught.

Thus we see that, after the death of Jesus, visions were used by God to reveal truth. This is how God works. Where there are no revelations from God, whether by vision or other means, men cannot fully know or find the truth. The Jews had the law of Moses. They had the words of the prophets. For a short time, they even had God living among them. But without continuing revelations from heaven, they could not know the will of the Lord.

Today there are those who think because they have the words of God (the Bible), there cannot be any more of God's word. Therefore, they deny the need for prophets, revelation, visions, or any other heavenly manifestation of God's word. Surely the words of the prophet have come to pass which states, "Where there is no vision the people perish: (Proverbs 29:18).

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 09:51  

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