In a most memorable episode of God’s gracious activities among men, God rescued and redeemed a hate-filled murderer named Saul.
Saul self-righteously described himself as “circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5–6).
Under the banner of religious legalism, Saul viciously persecuted the faithful followers of Jesus, storming from town to town, abusing and imprisoning the disciples. He’d given his consent when the deacon and evangelist, Stephen, was dragged out of town and mercilessly stoned to death (Acts 7). It was while he was on a malicious rampage, destined for Damascus, that God intervened (Acts 9)! The Light from heaven overcame Saul’s darkness! Love conquered hate! God’s glorious grace changed everything!
Years after the Damascus Road revelation, the Apostle Paul described the transformation wrought by God’s grace. While he was “dead in his trespasses and … as he walked according to the ways of this world … according to the ruler of the power of the air … carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts … God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love … made Saul alive with Christ even though he was dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1–5). Hallelujah!
Now, compare Saul in Acts 9 to Cornelius in Acts 10. While Saul was busy destroying and defeating his enemy, Cornelius was compassionately providing for the needs of others. “Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God” (Acts 10:1-2). Saul was a son of Abraham, from the chosen people, the chosen nation, the Hebrews. Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, an outsider. Here’s the good news … Jesus came to rescue the outsiders too!
Just as God intervened into Saul’s life on the road to Damascus, God intervened in Cornelius’s life by sending an angelic messenger saying, “Cornelius… send men to Joppa and call for … Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea” (Acts 10:3-6).
At the same time, God was miraculously and marvelously preparing Peter with an extraordinary vision. “He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat’ ” (Acts 10:12-13). The message to Peter eventually became clear. “What God has made clean, do not call impure” (Acts 10:15). In other words, Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)… Jews and Gentiles alike! Jesus came to rescue the outsider too!
Soon, Peter was in the home of a Gentile, leading a lost family to faith and freedom in Jesus! Read the rest of Acts 10 and revel in the stunning portrait to redemption!
This milestone moment opened the floodgates for the Gospel of Jesus to be preached from Jerusalem and Judea to the uttermost parts of the globe. Without Acts 10, the Gospel would have remained Jewish. But, thanks be to God, the glorious Gospel is global, it transcends boundaries, borders, blood-lines, and backgrounds. The sacrificial and substitutionary gift of Jesus saves everyone who believes… even the Gentiles like me and you. “God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That’s good news! That’s grace…