- If you had to choose… You can’t go wrong.
- Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or Michael Jordan
- Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Emmit Smith, or Derrick Henry
- Honus Wagner, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, or Derek Jeter
- Disney World, Disney Land, or a Disney Cruise
- Beach, Mountains, or Both
- Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving, or Christmas
- Reese PB Cups, Reese Pieces, or Reese Fast Break
All of these would be great choices and there is no need to decide favorites.
In ACTS, there is a comparison of the life and ministry of two great giants: Peter and Paul. We’ve studied Acts 1-8 and seen a bit of Peter. Many of us relate to him because, if God can use a person who makes multiple mistakes, then there’s hope for us. Then, last week in Acts 9 was our introduction to Saul/Paul. We like Paul because of the dramatic life change from religious pride to humble missionary. There is no need to contrast – both are servants of the Lord.
Today, we return to Peter in Acts 10-12, and have one more message in our Acts series before we hit a couple weeks with Easter, and then an extended series – In The Ring and Worth The Fight / Messages To Cultivate Champion Families. We’ll return to Acts heading into the Fall. All of this, Lord willing.
EXAMINE Acts 10-12 Spirit Filled Vision
The book of Acts shows the growth of Christianity. Acts 1:8 is the key verse of Jesus commissioning witnesses from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. From 120 disciples in Galilee to 3K in Jerusalem, to 5-10K in Judea, and now in Acts 10 the corners of Samaria. Today in Acts 10-12 and next week in Acts 13-14 we see the culmination of the gospel moving outward to Gentile areas and being sent to regions beyond.
Acts 10 1 At Caesarea there was a man
Caesarea was the seat of the Roman government in Judea. 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.
named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.
While Cornelius was a Gentile, he was a devout man who feared God and gave generously to the poor. His actions were as a sincere religious person. Perhaps today we would recognize him as a “church attender,” but not a committed Christian.
Christianity is not a set of activities you perform but a relationship that permeates your entire life. Religious performance and good works do not save because they do not have the power to change our heart. Christianity starts with the heart, which is dead, and needs resurrected by Jesus and revived by the Holy Spirit.
So, while Cornelius has a general knowledge about God, he still needs a specific trust in Jesus Christ. Therefore, God surprises Cornelius and sends an angel to give him a vision of a person who will deliver him the message of salvation.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.
Have you ever been surprised?
- Cost of dining tables & chairs / tires / anything!
- Healthy never think they’ll be w/o
- Employed never think they’ll be w/o an income
- Married never think about becoming a widow
- Children never think about parents not being present
- 2020 Pandemic uncertainty – question everything!
- While circumstances may be uncertain, God is constant. Yet, when God surprises us, it is because He has something more amazing, beautiful, and beneficial.
It is also surprising that God does not give the message of salvation through an angel.
- Acts 8 angel sent Philip to preach gospel to Ethiopian.
- Acts 9 angel of Lord sends Saul to Ananias to receive Spirit.
- Acts 10 angel of Lord sends Peter to Cornelius.
Acts reflects the pattern that God uses ordinary people to share the gospel and spread the word (cf. Ac 4:20, 31; 5:42; 6:7; 8:4; 9:31; 11:19-21; 12:24).
- Rom 10:17 “faith comes from hearing the word of Christ”
- “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Carl F.H. Henry
Further, this passage marks a turning point in Acts with Peter’s faith. Previously, Philip, the evangelist, was said to have settled in Caesarea preaching the gospel (Ac 8:40, 21:8-9). Philip could have just as easily been divinely appointed to reach Cornelius. However, God wanted Peter’s involvement to grow his faith and vision for the church.
5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. 9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
Cornelius’ vision of needing a servant of the Lord was simultaneous with Peter’s vision. Peter’s vision is much more unique: a large blanket descending from the sky with animal meat to eat – heaven’s version of pigs in a blanket. He’s told to rise, kill, and eat.”
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. Mt 10:14; Mk 6:11; Lk 9:5; Ac 13:51). So…
14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
Peter tells Jesus “No.” In Acts, Peter is bold and on fire for Jesus. But this verse is the familiar Peter from the Gospels; the Peter who is frequently putting his foot in his mouth. The last time Peter told Jesus “no,” was when he attempted to instruct Jesus not to die on the cross and fulfill God’s mission (Mt 16:22). Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him he was acting like Satan. Ironically, Peter’s vision of the Lord instructing him to eat unclean animals comes three times, and each time Peter resists. Peter might have commitment issues but at least he’s consistent (Ha!). He denies Jesus 3x and fails to make the connection God is calling him to deeper discipleship (cf. Mt 26:69-75; Jn 21:15-19).
FYI: Proverbs 29:1 “whoever is often reproved, yet stiffens their neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” If you repeatedly tell the Lord “No,” or resist the Holy Spirit in your life, be ready for frustrations and problems. We are free to make choices but not the consequences of those choices. Instead of telling God, “No,” we should say, “No problem!”
If you repeatedly tell the Lord “No,” or resist the Holy Spirit in your life, be ready for frustrations and problems. We are free to make choices but not the consequences of those choices. Instead of telling God, “No,” we should say, “No problem!”Tweet
- Is there anywhere you are saying no to God?
17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”So he invited them in to be his guests.
Peter is perplexed but God is creating a surprise that is beautiful and beneficial to the whole world. God is communicating to Peter that the Gentiles are not unclean but those whom God has created for His salvation.
The OT ceremonial laws (dietary & ritual) 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 religious deeds but the deeds and death of Jesus. He is the full and final atoning sacrifice for righteousness. Our faith is reflected from the inside-out rather than external deeds.
NT teaches, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival… or a Sabbath.” These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substances belongs to Christ.” (Col 2:16-17)
“whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
23 The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.” 30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” 34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.
- Note Peter’s preaching hints of the Trinity.
He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.
- In other words: when a person rises from the dead and claims to be Lord, they get to make the rules.
- We can live by default values or designed vision from the Lord. But one day we will be judged by God based on His standards.
43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Peter travels to Caesarea to fellowship with Gentiles. Like Jesus, Peter begins to follow the pattern of being a friend of sinners and spending time with those are spiritually hungry. He clearly communicates the gospel of Jesus, and they respond with faith, reception of the Holy Spirit, and follow in baptism. Then, they asked Peter to stay to fellowship and teach them more about how to follow Jesus and heed the Holy Spirit.
- It amazes me how people who call themselves Christians are never baptized or spending fellowship with the church. This was the clear pattern in the NT, hundreds of years, and strangely we feel we can choose differently and not be in disobedience or give an account to the Lord Jesus.
APPLY/THINK Some takeaways:
- When life surprises you, avoid being self-centered.
Both Cornelius and Peter had a vision, and both were tempted to let their dream be all about themselves. But God gave them a dream not to promote their story but to progress HIStory. When we place ourselves at the center of every conversation and the summary of every story, then we are not only self-centered but short-sighted and short-circuiting the will of God. God wants to do far more abundantly in and through our life than we could ask or think (Eph 3:20). But, we have to remember life is not about “me” but “we.” Cornelius needed Peter and Peter needed to preach the gospel to Cornelius with his family and friends.
God was using this moment to penetrate the Roman empire with His gospel. If Peter had remained selfish and not sought the Lord’s will, then, not only would he have missed out on good bbq (Ha!), but on seeing the God’s kingdom advance in surprising and significant ways.
- What surprises are happening in your life? How can you use your surprises to spread the gospel and serve others?
- If you’re a “Cornelius” wondering if your life matters – it does!
- The world wants to divide but God wants to multiply.
There was tension and hostility between Jews and Gentiles. They didn’t get along and viewed each other with suspicion and snobbery. Partiality, prejudice, bias, discrimination, and division were prevalent among the peoples. BUT GOD shows Peter “that I should not call any person common or unclean… that God shows not partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:28, 34).
The gospel of Jesus Christ transcends tribalism, and the kingdom of God will one day include people from every nation and language.
The gospel of Jesus Christ transcends tribalism, and the kingdom of God will one day include people from every nation and language.Tweet
We note that beyond the gospel, one of the first keys to breaking down barriers was hospitality. Peter invited the servants of Cornelius into his home (Ac 10:23) and Cornelius later reciprocated (Ac 10:38, 48). Hospitality is a scarce but significant step of evangelism. Opening your yard and home to exchange dialogue and build relationships are the beginning seeds of the gospel. As Jesus “dwelt among us,” so Christians must incarnate different neighborhoods and diverse networks to be salt and light.
Christians, let us not snub or short-change anyone because they are different. Instead, let us become 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.
- Faith in Jesus & Bible reading should lead to growing godly generations.
If we are not intentionally helping others follow Jesus, then there is something wrong in the way we are following Jesus.
- When is the last time you shared your faith?
- Over 1 week, begin again.
- Over 1 month, repent.
- When is the last time your influence resulted in someone’s conversion to faith?
Your witness conversation may not be the key that starts the engine of someone’s spiritual life, but you can still: attach battery cables, tighten spark plugs, top off fluids, fill the gas tank (costly these days!). In other words, your faith witness is part of a community and culture that seeks to make an impact among individuals and generations.
- As Peter proclaimed the Jesus to the entire household of Cornelius, so is our aim to reach hosts of individuals and households with the gospel.
 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 251.