Ephesians 3:1 "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:"To read more about "the mystery of Christ" refer to my blog topic: The Mystery of Christ.
Salvation was always by grace in all ages, grace is the same then as it was in the apostolic age and salvation was always for all mankind! Furthermore, salvation was always through Christ Jesus who was the promised Messiah. The faith of Abraham in Jesus is what saved Abraham. He enjoyed heaven before Jesus made the sacrifice because his faith in what would happened saved him!
Acts 3:26 says that the Jews were given first chance. Some did accept Jesus, but most rejected. It then became the gentiles who were more accepting.
Matthew 28:18 "And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Jesus was in on "the plan". He revealed the mystery before Paul had his revelation. For alert people there was no mystery of Christ for Christ revealed it! Abraham knew the mystery. Moses did too! The promise of the seed of Abraham included everyone! Abraham, after all, had other sons! Ishmael was a son. His seed was never considered part of the Jews! It was Jacob's line which became Israel.
Ishmael was part of the Abrahamic Covenant and he too was circumcised to seal the deal.
God's Plan A was that those not of the line of Jacob (Israelites) were to be part of the promise.
The Abrahamic Covenant was symbolic of salvation by grace. It was sealed by circumcision. Circumcision in like manner was symbolic of baptism. Both are signatures to the deal. As circumcision gave up "the flesh" (foreskin) for God, baptism gives up the whole flesh (the person) for Jesus!
In Acts prior to Chapter 10 salvation had been all about the Jews! Now look what happened next:
Acts 10:42 "And he (Jesus) commanded us to preach unto the people (Matthew 28:18), and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost."Cornelius was a Roman. As such he was non-Jewish and was a gentile. To the Jews they were unclean because they ate non-kosher food. In Jew-dom they would be second class people from a nation which was considered top class. The bridge between Messianic Christianity (the Jews) and Universal Christianity (all) was Cornelius and his cohorts. Gentiles and grace were the mystery. Cornelius was the key to the mystery because God put Cornelius and Peter in unison! The gentiles were no longer considered to be unclean by what they eat because the blood of Jesus cleaned all that!
It would appear that Cornelius must have heard Jesus teach and possibly saw his miracles. It may be that his regiment "the Italian band" had been there when Jesus was crucified! However it was done, Cornelius was a believer! Cornelius was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.(Acts 10:2) In other words, Cornelius was a believer, had faith in, trusted and obeyed Jesus. He was "saved", but had yet to be filled with the Holy Ghost nor baptized.
As it was revealed to Peter that salvation was for all (through a vision), Peter spoke to both Jews and gentiles. He revealed the mystery of Christ to both. The Jews were astonished and the gentiles received the Holy Ghost! (Acts 10:45). The astonishment of the Jews was that they believed, since they were God's chosen people, that salvation was for the Jews only. They failed to realize that the Abramic Covenant was for everybody! Because Cornelius was already a Christian, he, along with other gentiles, received the Holy Ghost.
After that we read:
Acts 10:47 "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?There is an order, it appears, in grace: 1) salvation, 2) receiving the Holy Ghost and 3) baptism. Does God always do the same thing for everybody in the same order at different times? All I can say is "take God out of the box in which you endeavor to contain him!" God does what he wants with whomever he wants! However, if one refers to Acts Chapter 8 the Jews had the same sequence of grace. On the other hand, in Acts Chapter 9, Paul was "a chosen vessel". He was a special case. It appears that he was miraculously saved by irresistible grace, was filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized all at the same time. (God out of his box!).
The Word promised that Abraham's seed would be his heirs (Israelites and Ismaelites; Jew and gentile), Jesus commanded that the gospel be preached to ALL nations, the door to salvation for all was opened by Peter and finally, Paul brought the gospel to all peoples. The mystery of Christ was slowly revealed to the Jews who failed to understand, and the gospel given to the gentiles who had previously not understood! Jesus said to make it happen. The apostles made it happen and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Jesus, was there to run the show!
The Holy Ghost was with King David, he was there with the prophets, he remained silent for 400 years, he was there with Jesus, and after Jesus bodily ascended his "ghost" remained. Jesus is with us today because the Holy Ghost resides in Christians. We are God's temple. Jesus lives within us. The Holy Ghost is Jesus with us. You must understand that Jesus never left us! Matthew 28:20 says "behold, I am with you always"!
A great plan God had. His plan is my hope... and can be yours!