Ready to Receive
Robert Wurtz II
Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:5–8 NKJV)
So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 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 10:30–33 NKJV)
It is hard to imagine it today, but there was a time when Gentiles were not part of what we know as the Church. In fact, with the possible exception of proselytes, the Church was entirely Jewish until Acts 10:44-46. There had been a few Gentiles who believed, but it was Cornelius and his house who were the first to receive the Holy Spirit as He was poured out on the day of Pentecost.
A close examination of our text reveals an important characteristic of this Roman Centurion (Cornelius). Having done well serving the Lord and trusting Him in prayer, an angel appeared to him with an announcement,“Your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.” God had taken notice of what this Gentile had been doing. However, what really sets him apart is his great desire to know what God is saying to he can be swift to obey. We read, 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.
Cornelius wanted to hear and obey all that God had to say. This is a common characteristic of those in the book of Acts who went on with God. Moreover, it is a prime characteristic of those who receive the Holy Spirit. Some are said to have “received the word” and others “received the word with gladness.” However, Cornelius went out of his way to find out what God was saying in the first place… sending out people to fetch Peter to his house so he could listen to what God had to say. This is an awesome thing to consider. He wasn’t trying to avoid God and His word; he was doing everything in his power to hear from God.
I Isaiah 66:1-3 we are told that God makes His abode in people who are of a broken and contrite spirit and that tremble at His word. These are the essential things. Cornelius trembled at God’s word before he even had a chance to hear it!
And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city. (Acts 10:7–9 NKJV)
It would be easy to assign this baptism in the Holy Spirit to God’s sovereignty; but a close examination of the context reveals that the house of Cornelius was ready to receive the Holy Spirit. The story demonstrates just how easy it is to receive the Spirit once we are ready to receive. Cornelius lived by every ray of light that God had shined upon him. He longed to know and do God’s will. In fact, his approach to God had come up as a memorial in heaven.
I’m reminded of a similar event earlier in Acts where we read, And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. (Acts 8:6–7 KJV) This is always the key thing, a willingness to give heed to what God is saying to us.
It is certain that if we get our hearts right with God in a way Cornelius, and his house had done we would receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There wouldn’t be any fuss. This means we need a desire to receive God’s word. Reading Acts 10 it’s obvious why the house of Cornelius received an Acts chapter 2 experience. They had prepared themselves to receive the Spirit by seeking out and obeying God’s word — so they could obey Him and do His will. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32 KJV) How can we obey God if we’re not willing to search out what He would say to us? Cornelius sent two men with an armed escort to make sure he heard the word of the Lord.