As I [Peter] began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.  And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
– Acts 11:15-18
The Holy Spirit, the gift of God that was given to the apostles at Pentecost, is given to Gentiles! Peter was there, yet even he sounds shocked. The Jerusalem church is so amazed that awkward silence fills the room before they can process what has happened and properly glorify God.
See Gentiles are people who largely did not know, let alone follow, the Mosaic Law. Traditionally, they were actively opposed to God and His people. For generations, Israel has assumed that the Messiah would come and crush the Gentiles. Yet the Spirit of God falls on them; God Himself dwells in their hearts.
A few years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon with a few of my church members. I had gone as a child and had a vague recollection of it, but when I looked into the canyon, I was stunned. I realized I had no idea what “big” meant.
In our passage, the people of God are slowly beginning to realize that the good news of Jesus Christ is big. Before Jesus came, many Israelites imagined salvation was about military conquest. The Jerusalem church has a larger view, understanding that Jesus has come to grant not temporal but eternal blessing.
With the salvation of Cornelius’s household, the purpose of God extends beyond the individual or a particular ethnicity to include every tribe, nation and tongue. The salvation of God includes even former enemies of God. All peoples of the earth are to be a part of His Kingdom.
At times, salvation can be reduced to personal piety and well-being. While Jesus is certainly concerned about both, His purpose is far larger. Even as we labor in our local communities and love the people who are actually, physically present around us, we do so in light of the new heavens and new earth, the final defeat of sin and death, and the in gathering of worshipers from every era and every nation that is coming soon.