The next day Peter went with them to Caesarea where Cornelius met him at the doorof his home with his family and close friends. The soldier fell down at Peter's feet and greeted him as one divine. But Peter made him rise, saying: "Get up, I am only human."
Until then, Peter had preached the Gospel only to Jews, and as a traditional Jew, avoided contact with gentiles. Now, he entered Cornelius' house to eat with him.
"You know it is against the law for a Jew to associate with a gentile, or enter his house," he said. "But God has commanded me not to call any person impure. Now I see that God shows no partiality and that every nation is acceptable to him."
After preaching to the people assembled there and seeing them filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Peter baptized them and remained there for some days.
From that time, the apostle accepted non-Jews as fellow believers in Christ, and Cornelius' conversion was seen as a sign that God was calling the gentiles to belief in Christ. Later, when the leaders of the church gathered in Jerusalem to discuss gentile converts, Peter insisted that they not be bound by Jewish observances.
"Why do you want to place on their shoulders a yoke that neither our ancestors or we have been able to bear?" he asked those who sought rigorous Jewish observance from all Christians.
Yet, despite his stand on, the Galilean fisherman was probably always more at home with other Jews who spoke his language and kept the older ways. He simply loved the traditions of his childhood too much to disown them or lay them aside
Separation from Judaism, however, was inevitable. Driven from Jerusalem by persecution, Peter lived for a time among the Jews at Antioch in Syria, where the members of the church were first called "Christians." He was revered there and elsewhere as an eyewitness who had followed Jesus from the beginning. Those hearing him for the first time, and those listening to him again and again, could never mistake his love and faith for his Master. His words carried the special conviction of one who had seen and heard what he spoke of.
But he never omitted, in telling his story, the painful account of his own denial.
In those early years, Peter guided these new churches wisely as the Rock Jesus predicted he would be. For Jewish Christians trying to reconcile old traditions with their new belief and for gentiles looking for direction in this new way of life, he was a shepherd who led them with care.
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