Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Overcoming Prejudice

Meditation for the week of July 3, 2011

Acts 10:33  So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.
Acts 11:13-14   And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’

I know that the angels in heaven rejoice when a person comes to Christ and trusts Him as their own personal savior.  I also know that it brings great joy to those of us who preach the Gospel when we see the power of the word of God working in the hearts and lives of those to whom we preach.  I was at a camp of young people recently on my birthday.  I told the young people to whom I was preaching that the Lord had allowed me to do the one thing that I wanted to do most on my birthday.  He had allowed me to preach the Gospel to young people whose hearts were being touched by the message.

It is always nice to be preaching to those who want to hear.  That was the case when Peter was sent to preach to Cornelius, a Roman soldier in charge of one hundred men. I often ask those who want to be saved if they need to be saved.  I want a clear answer before proceeding because if they don’t see their need, they won’t appreciate the solution.  I also ask them if they want to be saved.  I want a clear affirmative response because some people know that they need to be saved but they don’t want to be saved.  They are afraid that they will lose friends or wealth or prestige.  However, God has never “forced” his salvation on any one.  Finally, I ask them if they want to be saved now.  If I don’t get a clear immediate affirmative response, I try to figure out what the hindrance is before proceeding.  In Cornelius’ case, it appears that he had cleared these hurdles and was ready to hear whatever message the Lord had for him.

Some think Cornelius was already saved before Peter was sent to him because the Lord had respect for his good works.  But when the Jews criticized Peter for befriending a Gentile, Peter told them that the angel Cornelius had seen said that Peter would tell him words by which he and his household would be saved. Cornelius was likely a convert of some sort to Judaism and he was religious, but he still needed to be saved.

I notice Peter’s message didn’t include a criticism of the Roman government nor did it include a list of the social evils of their day which were as many as the evils of our day.  And yet the message brought Cornelius forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43).  What the message did contain was the Gospel that Paul preached later.  Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  He came to save and though He was crucified, the world is not done with Him.  He will be judge of the living and of the dead.

What do we learn from this passage?  Don’t we learn that the Gospel in not a political message or a social message but rather it is a message about personal sin and personal salvation through the resurrected Lord?  Don’t we learn that even very good people need to be saved?  We also learn that good people don’t have to do bad in order to be bad enough to be saved.  Don’t we learn that the message isn’t just for our friends and those that we think God should want to save but it is for the people that we are prejudiced against?  It just might be a message for our Muslim neighbor or for our homosexual acquaintances.  It might be a message for the girl who has gotten an abortion, or the fellow who drinks too much or the person who is hooked on drugs.  It might also be a message for one of those people who are tagged liberals.  Of course it might also be a message for those who are tagged conservative.  After all, sin enslaves us all, and just because we detest certain sins doesn’t make that person unworthy of the love of God.  In addition, it might be a message for those in our churches who we think are all right and about whom we are not concerned.  They may have “decided for Christ” or they may have “invited the Lord into their hearts.” They may have “gone forward” or “prayed the sinners prayer” but perhaps they have never repented and believed.   

Peter overcame his prejudices against non-jews.  As a result he was used of God to see Cornelius and those who listened to the Gospel message that night saved.  He was criticized by His Jewish friends for doing what the Lord told him to do.  However, when he was obedient to his calling and when he got beyond his prejudices, the Lord blessed.

Bruce Collins

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