After recent events we all want a conclusion. We hope to have all the answers with all the facts so we can make a final decision and be done. We want justice. We want to close the book and be finished with the story.
But we can’t. The story continues.
The media wanted to create George Zimmerman as a monster. Others wanted to create Trayvon Martin as a thug and a troublemaker. Both were/are woefully wrong.
The truth is none of us knows the entire story. The truth is there is only one Judge and court that will ultimately matter, and it does not reside in Florida or any other state or country.
What can we do? Should we just move on without addressing the topic?
Again, we cannot. The issue of race cannot go away because it is how God made us.
Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth”
Revelation 5:9 “for you [Jesus] were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”
For us today and in these passages, among multiple others, the focus is not on color (race) but on the Creator and the cross of Jesus Christ. In other words, God as Creator is not color blind but colorful. He made us from every different tribe, language, people and nation. Further, He redeemed us with His very own blood for the purpose of reconciling us to each other and ultimately to Himself.
Ephesians 2:14-16 “For he himself is our peace, who has made us [different races of Jew & Gentile] both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility”
Our identity should not be in our race but in our relationship with Jesus Christ. The gospel gives us a new identity where we see the beauty of each other’s diversity. And yet, the gospel reminds us we have a common identity – sinners in need of grace.
You see, none of us are experts at justice. None of us are experts at mercy. Yet, we can grow to be experts at grace – not because we are good at granting it but because we are good at needing it. We are desperate for grace and therefore must grow to be experts at understanding the source of grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ to both receive it and reflect it with others.
This is God’s Body: broken sinners who have found healing from a broken Savior. The scars of the Savior have brought salvation to the sinner.
Today’s message will further explore the nature God’s Body changing to reflect the diversity of God’s love.
EXAMINE God’s Body is for all Acts 10
The books of Acts shows the growth of Christianity. Individuals are encountering the gospel and the word of God is increasing. That phrase concerning the “word of God” is repeated 13x to indicate the spread of the gospel.
We are to be reminded that God’s word is alive, active and able to penetrate every heart (Hebrews 4:12). This is the reason why we teach, preach, study and discuss it every Sunday. And we invite others to encounter God through the revelation of His word. That is the prayer for you in this message.
The gospel is for the religious (Acts 10:1-8)
In this passage we are introduced to a man named Cornelius. Cornelius was a Roman (Gentile) Centurion. The Roman army had a large presence in Caesarea, as the capital city of the Roman province of Judah. The Roman army legion would have consisted at full strength 6K men, and divided into ten cohorts of 600 men each. A centurion commanded 100 of these men. Therefore, each legion would have had 60 centurions, considered the cream of the crop of the soldiers and the backbone of the army itself.
Further, Cornelius was a devout (good worshiper – religious) man who feared God and gave generously to the poor and prayed continually. His actions were sincere as a religious person.
Some question, “Was Cornelius a Christian?” The answer is clearly no. Cornelius was religious, and perhaps people today would call him a “seeker”. Cornelius was seeking the Lord but did not find Him, nor was he a Christian believer.
Romans 3:10-12 We are all under sin, as it is written, “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God”
In other words, we do not find God, God finds us (knowing God vs being known by God; cf. 1Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9). The Bible is not a record of God loving the lovable but rather God loving the outrageously unlovable – of which we all are. God does not meet us half way and expect us to travel the other half; He has accomplished all the work necessary and we simply receive it as a gift. Jesus meets our guilt with His grace, our rebellion with His redemption, our sin with His salvation.
The point of the story of Cornelius is to show the process by which God brings Cornelius to exchange his religion for a relationship with Jesus Christ.
It starts with Cornelius seeing a vision of an angel telling him to request Simon Peter to come. Two interesting items to note at this point:
1. Cornelius is terrified of the angel. God’s angels are not cute & cuddly but more mighty messengers.
2. Cornelius needed to hear the gospel from Peter. Do you understand the implications of this point? If Peter never goes, perhaps God sends someone else but also perhaps Cornelius never hears and never receives salvation.
Romans 10:14-15 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
“The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Carl F.H. Henry
Reminder that religion does not save.
Matthew 23:25-28 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Pope offers time off purgatory (indulgences) to followers of his social media followers who sincerely follow his messages. Selling of indulgences were commonly said “A coin in the coffer rings, so a soul from purgatory springs”. The Reformers rightly viewed this as a mockery to the gospel of Jesus Christ, where salvation is only found by grace through faith alone.
The gospel transcends race (Acts 10:9-43).
Cornelius sent men on a 30mile journey to Joppa to get Peter. While the men were traveling, Peter was praying. Peter has a vision of a great sheet holding all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds coming down to earth with a voice saying: “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” Peter rebukes the Lord’s voice (how did that work out for him last time in Matthew 16:22?) saying he has never eaten anything unclean.
Eating an unclean animal went against Jewish religious dietary laws. Jews set themselves apart by food restrictions (Lev 11), covenant laws (Lev 12-22, 26-27), religious festivals (Lev 23-25), circumcision (Gen 17), and of course the Hebrew language. Further, strict Jews would not associate with or visit Gentile homes (Acts 10:28). Jews would have to ritually purify any food, cooking utensils or any other objects before they could use it. Even dirt from a Gentile land was considered unclean and Jews would shake off their sandals before entering Israel (cf. Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5; Acts 13:51).
The voice reiterates to eat and not call common what God has declared clean. And the vision happens 3x. Likewise, while Peter ponders the vision, 3 men approach Peter seeking him to teach them about God. This is no accident; God is communicating to Peter that the Gentiles are not unclean but those whom God has created for His salvation.
The OT ceremonial laws have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God’s people do not need to be separate or distinct through ceremonial laws but only through their faith and following of Jesus. Our purity/cleanliness does not come through our actions but those of Jesus. He is the full and final action & atoning sacrifice for sin. Our faith is reflected from the inside-out rather than external deeds.
Peter hosts the Gentile visitors (10:22). This was the first act of obedience on Peter’s part.
Hospitality is a scarce but significant step of evangelism, for those who are different from you in appearance, thought, and behavior. Opening your home to build relationships and dialogue are beginning points of contact in communicating the gospel. As Jesus “dwelt among us”, so Christians must do the same today.
Peter returns with the men to see Cornelius. Other Jewish believers accompany them. This seems significant as God is about to extend His Body beyond the Jews to Gentiles through the power of the gospel. After they meet, Peter “opens his mouth” to proclaim the gospel (10:34).
Hospitality and relational evangelism is only effective if it is combined with verbal communication of the gospel. The gospel is demonstrated by our lives but must also be declared with our lips. Salvation is communicated by words – in fact, the Word.
The gospel is for every race, tribe, tongue, people and nation.
• Yet, in today’s culture Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. Why?
• The church will not have influence in its community unless it has this truth being lived out.
o 4 Key investments
1) SPBC communication. Guard against racism whether intentional or unintentional.
2) SPBC staff.
3) SPBC partnerships: Nicaragua, LCC, Baltimore.
4) SPBC evangelism & church planting
• No one is unfit for our services in ministry or our sending in missions.
Regardless of race or appearance
10:28 “God has shown me that I should not call any person unclean”
10:34 “God shows no partiality”
10:34 “every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him”
10:43 “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through His name”
May we be the good Samaritan to an ethnic outcast; may we be a loving voice speaking of living water to the immoral culture drawing water from polluted wells; may we serve as Christ to the disabled child or untouchable leper; may we be Peter to those unreached Cornelius’ waiting to hear the gospel.
The gospel must be received (Acts 10:44-48)
Peter communicated the gospel message to Cornelius.
Peter’s message was pointed:
10:36 Jesus is Lord
10:37-38 Jesus of Nazareth (became man) was baptized and filled with Holy Spirit power to do miracles
10:39 Jesus died on a cross
10:40 God raised Jesus on the third day
10:40-42 Jesus appeared to his followers and commissioned them to preach
10:43 The prophets and Scriptures bear witness to Jesus
Peter’s message was personal:
10:34 The message is available to you; God shows no partiality
10:37 you yourselves know what happened (having heard) of Jesus of Nazareth
10:39-41 we were witnesses of Jesus, we ate and drank with Jesus
While Peter was preaching “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (10:44). The Jews recognized the saving work among the Gentiles. Immediately, Peter sought to baptize these new believers and so they were, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Further, Cornelius with his family & friends asked Peter to stay for some days (10:48). In other words, these new believers desired fellowship and continued teaching about the gospel and His body.
Observations & Applications:
Faith comes by hearing of the word (v.44; Romans 10:17). The only way we can know God is through His word. God uses the Scripture to convict and cleanse of sin.
How do you expose others to the word… change their car radio station when not looking? <>< clothing? leave tracts? – – > YES & NO. Yes, these and dozens of other ways. No, in that people are not changed by cheesiness. We must confront people with the sincerity of God’s truth & love in relevant ways they can understand.
• At SPBC I often say, INVEST INVITE INCARNATE. Invest in relationships, invite them into your lives and church family and incarnate the gospel through words & deeds. This type of witness is life-changing and powerful.
God’s Word never fails; we can have confidence when we share the truth of God’s words that we are planting seeds and with patience, perseverance and most of all prayer, the seeds will grow.
Isaiah 55:11 “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
What is your life identity? Build your life not on religion or race but in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Are you allowing the gospel to transcend race by your attitudes & actions? Are you snubbing or short-changing anyone because of the way they look or talk or making them feel inferior?
• Remind yourself that we all have a common DNA sinners in need of grace
Are you allowing God’s Word to work in your heart in various areas of faith & obedience? Is there anything that God’s Word has told you to act in and you are avoiding? What is the Spirit prompting in your heart & mind at this moment?