One key passage of Scripture at that time was the account in the book of Acts of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentile household.
It is obviously important as Luke, the author of Acts, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, devotes three long chapters to the event.
Acts 10 is a record of Cornelius and his encounter with Peter leading to the outpouring of the Spirit. Acts 11 tells of Peter sharing all the details back in Judea with the other apostles and brothers. Acts 15 reports about the big council discussion in Jerusalem that was authoritative for the early church going forward.
In the light of these things, it is very instructive for us to see the number of words, phrases and descriptions that are related to key doctrines of Scripture and the gospel.
So, let us note them:
Acts 10:2 Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man, who always prayed and gave generously of his substance – but clearly one who did not know the gospel, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Verses 5-8 He was obedient to the words of the angel.
Verses 34 There is no partiality with God.
Verse 35 In the Old Covenant God accepts those who fear Him and work righteousness.
Verses 36-43 Jesus Christ is Lord of all, anointed with the Holy Spirit to heal, deliver the oppressed, be crucified, resurrected, and commissioned followers to preach in the light of God who is the Judge of all.
Verses 44,45 The pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 46 Speaking in tongues.
Verses 47,48 Baptism in water.
Acts 11:17 The Holy Spirit is described as God’s gift to them on believing.
Verse 18 Repentance to life.
Acts 15:8,9 Purification of their hearts by faith.
Verse 11 We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as them.
All the elements underlined here are significant to the full expression of the gospel. The account features them in a climatic, all-inclusive event that marked the work of God commencing among the Gentiles.
(It is beyond the scope of this article to enlarge upon each of these elements. Some further reading can be found in my earlier article, “God’s Gospel”).
This may represent the “highest” way that God worked in those early days, initially in an all-Jewish context, but from this time forward, in a mixed church of Jews and Gentiles. Maybe it took such a climactic event to bridge the gap between Jews and Gentiles.
This of course, is reinforced by the great personal changes that the apostle Peter experienced in the visions of the clean and unclean animals that God took him through. Such a revelation of God to him was necessary to shake him out of his deep prejudice of the Jews being the only chosen people of God, but now that claim was being made by the Gentiles too, previously only thought of as “dogs.”
It is a revelation to our hearts today of how deeply our own prejudices can be held, even after a Pentecostal experience of the kind that Peter had known.