As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence.
But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” (Acts 10:25-26)
Although Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, he was not the first apostle to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter was. The reason God arranged for Peter to be the first person to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles was that Peter was the leader of the church at that time. Not only did Jerusalem and the churches at that time obey his leadership, but so did the apostles. Because of Peter's identity at the time, God caused him first to receive the revelation of evangelizing the Gentiles. It was more authoritative for the church. For example, when they debated whether the Gentiles should obey being circumcised, Peter argued that the Gentiles could believe in the Lord without circumcision.
When Peter came to Cornelius' home, Cornelius not only greeted him but even showed respect to Peter by bowing and kneeling at Peter's feet. However, Peter rejected this. From the perspective of the social background at that time, Peter ’s refusal was correct because Cornelius was a Roman centurion and also a Roman citizen. In society at that time, Peter’ status was not comparable to that of Cornelius’.
Peter refused Cornelius's respect and prostration. The reason was not that Peter was a Jew or a civilian, but that he was also just a human being. The implication is that he was not a god. His purpose was to lead Cornelius to God, telling him that only God deserves such respect. Peter's refusal also kept himself from becoming proud and arrogant.
Some pastors in the church today are respected by their brothers and sisters due to their devotion to and willingness to serve the Lord. They gradually forget about being humble and start to enjoy the respect of others. Slowly, they develop an inflated sense of self, speak arrogantly, making official speeches, nose up, looking down at people. They are not gentle or humble like Jesus Christ. The most terrible thing is that these people often end up in the situation of taking God’s glory instead of giving it to God, who deserves it . They always attribute the effectiveness of their service and the revival of the church to themselves, regarding themselves as the lord of the church, the church as their own property, and they themselves holding the authority of the church.
Such arrogant people cannot please God, and will eventually fail because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (1 Pet. 5: 5b). No matter who they are, what kind of identity they have, or how much they have devoted to God, as long as they are proud, God will oppose him or her because the proud person not only seeks glory for themselves but also takes the glory of God. Therefore, no matter who they are, they must not be proud of their identity, their service to God, or respect from others, otherwise, God will oppose them.
We must also remember that the respect for the pastor by the brothers and sisters is because of God, because of God’s teaching, and because of one’s service to God. Therefore, as a pastor, you should be humble before God and not take His glory. As a pastor, you should also learn from Peter. No matter how much others respect you, you must do your duty to lead people to God, and give glory to him, so as to avoid being proud and arrogant.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian.)
-Translated by Abigail Wu