Huge social barriers barred the way for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to go forth unto the nations. The largest of these was the wall between Jew and Gentile.
If the Gospel was going to spread to the world, the Gentile populated, bustling, port city of Caesarea would be the most natural way for the message of salvation to be disseminated. Yet this city was considered unclean with all of its idolatry. There is no scriptural record of Jesus even setting foot in Caesarea. The offense to His own people may have been too great. How would the Gospel break free from its Jewish moorings and set sail to the rest of the world?
God, Himself, appeared to a Roman soldier living in Caesarea, a Gentile, named Cornelius and instructed him to send for the apostle Peter (Acts 10). At the same time, God gave Peter a vision of eating “unclean” meat.
On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate (Acts 10:9–17).
When Peter was contemplating the divine vision, Cornelius’ men came to him. Peter then made connected the dots between the men, the vision, and God’s mission. Peter was to go to the “unclean” city of Caesarea and the “unclean” Gentiles—for the very first Gospel conversion among these “unclean” people.
Peter explained to Cornelius, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
Peter proceeded to share the Gospel and Cornelius became the first Gentile convert.
While the Gospel first broke the Gentile barrier at Caesarea, it also set sail to the world from this strategic city.
The apostle Paul had always desired to take the Gospel to Rome, the capital of the world, in order to spread the message to the ends of the earth (Rom 1:8–16). But he never got the chance until he became a prisoner.
Persecuted for his proclamation of the Gospel and fallaciously charged with attempting to desecrate the Jewish temple, Paul was put in prison by his fellow Jews. It was at Caesarea where Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal the false charges to Caesar (Acts 25).
God surprisingly used the prisoner Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the most powerful earthly officials in the world every time he would give his defense. His Gospel defense reached the household of Caesar (Phil 1:12–13). The Gospel had landed at the capital of the civilized world.
And from the center of the known world, Rome, the Gospel took hold and spread to you and me here in western civilization.