Evil really can be overcome

In Acts 10:38 Peter explains to Cornelius the Roman soldier “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” and “how Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” 

So the reason for Jesus being given the Holy Spirit and power, and for God being with him, was to enable him to heal people who’d been “beaten down by the devil” (The Message). 

Wherever Jesus went, then, he was visibly demonstrating what God had sent him for. And it was soon obvious what that was: Jesus had come to heal people, which he made very noticeable through amazing physical healings, like restoring eyesight and shrivelled limbs. But even more remarkable than that was Jesus’ power to confront spirit evil and free people from that too. 

So in our terms today Jesus was into “cancel culture,” cancelling out the physical and spiritual effects of evil in his culture. And he made it visible too, because it needed to be visible, to show the despairing people of his day, who were filled with hopelessness because of all the horrible things going on in their lives and in the world around them, that there was another much greater power in operation that could confront evil head on and put it to flight. 

And ironically Peter is telling all this to a Roman soldier, the most evil of men in Jewish eyes, a man whose Roman upbringing and soldier training should have made him despise all Jews. But instead of being a rabid racist, Cornelius was “respected by all the Jewish people” (verse 22) for his generosity to them and his devotion to God (verse 3). 

Wow, you mean this could happen to such a man as that? Yes, as evidence that this was what the Holy Spirit was doing as witness to Jesus’ ministry of healing still being real – and expanding that ministry to Gentiles too. Cornelius was just the first, but the first of millions more Gentiles in the future who would be healed of despising people of other races or condemning people for their weird ideas about gender and sexual preference. Instead, we Gentiles would experience a total healing of our attitudes to such people, and find ourselves loving them, as evidence that such a miracle can happen. 

And that really is “counter culture,” but it’s exactly what our world needs to see right now; it needs to see that systemic hatred can be overcome. It shocked Peter that such a thing could happen to a man like Cornelius, but he realized it was the Holy Spirit’s doing (verse 47), and this was now the direction the Spirit was taking them. It resulted in the most incredible miracle, the healing of the unsolvable racial hatred between Jews and Gentiles. And how visible it was in the church too, as Jews and Gentiles happily accepted each other as brothers and sisters in the same family. It was wonderful evidence of the greater power of the Spirit filling people’s hearts with love, and putting systemic evil to flight. 

And now it’s our turn. This is what we’ve been given the Holy Spirit and power for as well, to be witnesses to Jesus – who “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” – continuing that same ministry today. We are witnesses to that, just as Cornelius was, to give people today reason for hope too, that the evils that divide us and cause so much hatred really can be overcome. 

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