News travels quickly. The news of the Holy Spirit’s coming on the Gentiles reaches Jerusalem before Peter does. The church there is horrified by reports of Peter mixing with Gentiles (v. 3). Peter vividly describes what happened at Cornelius’s house, noting that he had six witnesses with him when he went there (v. 12).
Earlier in Acts, Peter asks the Sanhedrin to judge if it is right to obey them or to obey God (4:19). Here, as he tells his Christian brothers in Jerusalem about the events at Cornelius’s house, he applies the same principle. Peter wasn’t about to oppose God by denying water baptism to those whom God had baptized in the Spirit (v. 17).
All objections are dropped (v. 18) and the Jerusalem church praises God that He has given the gift of repentance to non-Jews.
This is an important turning point in the church’s life. Luke indicates its importance by reporting it three times (see Acts 10; 11; 15:1–11). Luke again shows us people “warts and all.” Tanning was considered an unclean activity, and although Luke tells us Peter was staying at Simon the tanner’s house, Peter makes no mention of this in his report to his Jewish brothers (v. 11:5). We see that Peter is human after all. He was happy to accept hospitality from an unclean Jew, but to do so from an unclean Gentile was unthinkable. It required a vision from God to arrest his prejudice. This is a stark reminder that the best of men are men, at best.
How does the description of the Gentile experience in 11:18 help us in our evangelistic efforts? Are there people who we have categorized as “off-limits” to the gospel? If so, how must our attitudes change in light of Acts 10–11?