The energy displayed in the opening pages of its history in the book of Acts is to say the least, phenomenal .
Hot on the heels of the empowering, transforming and courage-stirring outpouring of the very Spirit of God, was another event that brings challenge, comfort and encouragement.
It is easy to look at the narrative of Acts 2 and wonder if this was an event that was tied to the people of Israel, despite the promise that it was “for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” i, especially as everyone gathered and huddled together in the tightly packed Upper Room is of Jewish descent.
The extravagant, inclusive work of the Grace of God that takes a people who were not a people and makes them His own, that embraces slaves and makes them sons, welcomes servants and transforms them into friends also is at work in a mysterious way at Pentecost.
Shortly after the amazing days of the emergence of the Church in Jerusalem, persecution is experienced – the church scatters and begins to grow and expand. The divine triplets of signs, wonders and miracles are seen and evidenced everywhere as common people in the church begin to tell the gospel to everyone who will listen. And it is here that our encouragement is sealed in promise and encouragement for our day, and in our cities.
The story progresses ambitiously; an Italian Centurion has a heart and passion for God, he knows all about God, loves Him, fears Him and obeys Him – but he doesn’t know Jesus. Then one day, whilst he is praying an angel appears to him in a vision ii. Cornelius looks on, terrified. He is told to seek out Simon Peter who equally, is having his own astonishing vision that would bring a massive paradigm shift to the Church, and listen to him.
It’s a long story, and worth reading – but the final outcome is that as Peter tells Cornelius all about the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifests His Presence yet again.
The Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and all his family and friends, just as on the day of Pentecost. Later will Peter report this event to the brothers in Jerusalem, acknowledging that what happened to them, the exact same thing happened to the gentiles.
God had poured out His Spirit on both Jew and Gentile.
We’re not told if there was what appeared to be tongues of fire above Cornelius and his friends – but we do know, and Peter insists on it, that the very same work of the Spirit was in evidence at Cornelius’ home.
The work of the Spirit did not finish in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, when Peter said that it was also for us who are afar off, he had no idea until his encounter with Cornelius how inspired his words were.
And you don’t get any further ‘afar off’ than us in this troubled day.