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After two thousand years of the successful spread of Christianity among nearly every major ethnic group except the Jews, the natural question for us is, Will the Jews ever come to Christ in large numbers? In the church's earliest days the opposite question was the obvious one: Will the Gentiles ever be saved? Jewish Christians did believe that God had a saving purpose for the Gentiles, but it would be fulfilled at the very end of time (Is 2:1-4; 42:6; 49:6; Tobit 14:5-7). So deeply ingrained was the abhorrence of any contact with the ritually unclean that if it had been up to Hebraic Jewish Christians to take the first step toward Gentiles with the gospel, that initiative might never have occurred.
After a preparatory account of Peter's healing ministry in an ethnically mixed area (Acts 9:32-43), Luke uses four episodes to describe how God took the initiative to bring Gentile seeker Cornelius and Jewish Christian apostle Peter together, thus inaugurating the Jerusalem church's mission to the Gentiles (10:1--11:18). The Jerusalem church's confirmation, through Barnabas, of Hellenistic Jewish Christians' successful evangelistic initiatives among Gentiles at Antioch manifest the continuity and extension of that mission (11:19-30). God's miraculous intervention to rescue Peter from death and the subsequent divinely ordained death of the persecutor Herod strongly emphasize how important and how unstoppable the mission to the Gentiles is (12:1-25).