This fragment of the life of the apostle Peter in which he is exposed to a situation not triggered by his own agenda, nor aimed at having apostolic results to extend the Kingdom, illustrates that the proclamation of salvation and eternal life goes beyond the content that is shared with others.
The angel knew what he was saying when he said to Cornelius: –He will speak to you words by which you will be saved, and all your house; nevertheless, would Peter have preached to Cornelius without God having previously intervened, knowing that he was a Gentile, a Roman?
How can you give words of salvation to someone you do not want to be saved!
The words that produce Salvation and Eternal Life do not consist in the message per se, but in the truthfulness of the attitudes we develop towards those who transmit them and in the commitment before God that we are sent in His representation to transmit Salvation to our interlocutors.
If we read carefully the account of the apostle’s encounter with Cornelius, we will realize that the apostle’s “preaching” did not go beyond being a historical account of what had happened in Jerusalem, it was not really the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah as we find it in other accounts; however, his words provoked salvation among the assembled Gentiles.
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. (11:15)
In the reading of the account of the encounter with Cornelius and his house, chapter ten of the book of Acts of the Apostles, it is verified that the content of the message of the apostle was not profound, without scriptural references, as in other cases of similar preaching.
Just before Cornelius sent for Peter, as the angel had instructed him, the apostle discovered that no one who does not walk in integrity can impart other words of salvation.
God led Peter to confront his lack of integrity
The apostle was confronted by God for his discriminatory conception towards the Gentiles. He himself confessed it:
Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation (10:28a)
In the story, it is discovered that the confrontation of God served to provoke in the apostle changes aimed at the restructuring of an adequate apostolic integrity. He needed it in order to impart life through his words.
But God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean (10:28b).
On the way to building his integrity, the apostle discovered that integrity is based on the principle of not being respectful of persons.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: (10:34)
Then, the apostle recognized that others can receive the same or greater content of revelation and spiritual experiences than they received:
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. (10:45)
And, finally, the humility to recognize and accept the teaching that comes through others:
Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? (11:16, 17)
How could the apostle have spoken words of salvation to Cornelius and his household having within him discriminatory attitudes toward them? What spiritual authority would his words have had?
Confronting his lack of integrity was the constant struggle that the apostle waged throughout his ministerial life. In Antioch, Syria, we see him again suffering from the lack of truthfulness caused by his discriminatory concepts towards the Gentiles:
11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. Galatians 2:11-13
A message lacking in integrity on the part of the messenger will only serve to sow deceit and death, and the result will be a work devoid of salvific value.
Salvation and Eternal Life is not achieved with the content of a message, it is imparted by words that are faithful to the integrity of the conduct of the one who imparts them. A person who is not righteous only establishes lies and death.
We speak life only when we have cultivated integrity, when our actions respond to convictions and not interests; when we seek benefit for others rather than personal promotion; when we are willing to learn and understand that another may have the revelation of what is happening, and we sit down to learn.
How can we speak words of salvation if our behaviors are often perverse? Lying is not only false information, but it is also a perverse intention to prevail over others; lying consists of the perverse attitude of showing others an imaginary appearance so that they can live from fantasy.
We do not need to be preachers to impart words of life. We can all impart life every day, in offices, in workshops, in shops, in schools, in universities, in the street… anywhere. All we need is integrity, the content of the message can be just, Peace… and it will be enough.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
Pastor Pedro Montoya