Acts #36 (chapter 10:21-33)
The Book of Acts
The Salvation of the Gentiles, Part 2
Last week, we began a study of Acts 10 that shows when someone gets saved, there is a lot going on behind the scenes to prepare the heart of the one who will be saved as well as the one who will share the gospel.
With Cornelius and Peter, that preparation was done through visions that God sent to each of those men. With Cornelius, he was told to send two servants to find Peter and bring him back to the home of Cornelius. With Peter, it was a vision of all kinds of animals that were let down from heaven in a sheet, then taken back up to God. Peter is told to eat what's in the sheet.
Now that sheet was actually of the church with the unclean animals representing the Gentile world and the clean animals the Jewish world and what God was telling Peter was that he was going to be part of seeing all people brought together in an entity known as the church.
And as Peter was sitting there pondering what he had witnessed in that vision, these two men sent by Cornelius show up and are knocking on Peter's door.
we pick up the story in
Now just to keep things simple and because it is easier for me to keep up with my thoughts when I outline things, let's call those first twenty verses
1. The Call
There is always a call involved in salvation. It was actually a two-fold call. God not only called Cornelius to be saved, he called Peter to be the messenger of salvation.
The second point in the outline, let's call
2. The Will
God called both of these men. One to salvation, the other who was already saved, to service. And then, having been called, they both enacted their will and responded to the command that God gave them.
That's always the way it works. God calls. In fact, He is calling all the time. His call goes out through every sermon and Sunday School lesson. It goes out in our private times of praying and reading the Bible. It comes through a request for help from a friend. God is always calling people both to salvation and service.
But those who are called have to respond. And God's call requires obedience. When God calls, He expects us to answer and there are consequences for ignoring that call. That is true in salvation, but it's also true for the rest of your life as a Christian. Some people think they can just answer the initial call to salvation and that's all there is to it.
But the Bible reminds us that not only are we saved by faith, we are to walk by faith and live by faith. God expects a faith kind of obedience continuously. In John 8:30, we are told that in response to the teaching of Jesus, "Many believed on His name."
That sounds real good, doesn't it? But listen tot he very next statement Jesus made:
In other words, believing is only valid if it is followed by obedience. Those who are really saved will not only answer the call to salvation, they will continue to obey the call of God.
Notice how that works here in the text.
Cornelius is told what to do and he does it.
Peter has this vision in which he is told what to do.
Peter is told what to do and he is obedient also.
Now keep in mind what's going on here. Peter has just had this vision about clean and unclean animals no longer being an issue, with the greater spiritual application being that Jew and Gentile are one. And about that time, this little group arrives and now Peter is faced with this three Gentiles standing at the door.
Now up until this time, that would have been a real issue for Peter. In fact, it would have been very traumatic and would have presented some real problems. He would have to do everything he could to keep them out of the house. Instead, notice what happens.
I find it interesting that God didn't tell Peter to let them in the house and sit and visit and share a meal and lodging with them. He just said, "Go down and greet them and travel with them to see Cornelius."
But Peter doesn't stop there. He takes it upon himself to invite them in and put them up for the night. No self-respecting Jew would have done this. Not only was it not done with Gentiles, but least of all was it done with despised occupying Roman soldiers.
But he invited them in the house, and "lodged" them. He entertained them as guests. It's the same word used by the writer of Hebrews when he warned his listeners about "entertaining angels". He rolled out the red carpet! He didn't use paper plates and Styrofoam cups! He used the good china and fine stemware! And God didn't even have to tell him to do it!
It makes one wonder if what Jesus taught about not stopping after the first mile, but going the second came to his mind. The truth is, Jesus had already taught Peter about how to treat people. And finally, those lessons are being put into action. The walls are coming down in Peter's life.
He's not only living in Simon, the tanner's house, he's inviting Gentiles in to eat and spend the night.
Then notice what happens in
"some brethren from Joppa accompanied him"
It's the little things in Scripture that excite me. It's so easy to read past little phrases like that, but very often they are some of God's most choice teachings. What we have here is an amazing detail.
It's amazing, first of all, that these Jews went with these Gentiles. But beyond that, they become major players in the story. Now Again, as far as we know, Peter was given no instruction about taking anybody with him. God just said, "Peter, you go." So Peter took these guys along without any direct command from God, yet their presence in the house of Cornelius becomes a tremendous key to everything that happened.
Let me show you what I mean. We will find out in chapter 11 that it was six orthodox Jews that accompanied him to the house of Cornelius. And these six men come to play a vital role in the unification of the Jews and Gentiles as eyewitnesses to the church of God saving Gentiles.
So what's the point? Well, keep in mind we're talking about our response to the call of God. What this tells us is that God not only led Peter through the direct message of the vision, but He allowed Peter to follow his own desires and ideas.
God didn't say, "Peter, take along six guys." Either Peter came up with the idea or they decided on their own, but ultimately God was involved in the prompting of whomever for these guys to go.
And I mention that because I want us to know that God still works that way. It is even more critical now than it was then because we don't hear voices and see visions anymore. Instead, God leads through our desires and the inner promptings of His Spirit.
He works in our hearts by His Holy Spirit to tell us what He wants to do.
It was important that these Jewish Christians go, but there wasn't any command. Did God just leave it to chance? No, God depended on faithful, obedient followers who were sensitive to what needed to be done. And that's how God works in us today.
This is Philippians 2:13 at work: "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Don't you like that? God is working in me to will and to do of His good pleasure.
How many times have we decided we're going to do something that seems to have no significance and yet it turned into a divine appointment with eternal results? And through what appears to be a chance encounter eternity is impacted!
That is happening all the time! All those little things that irritate us so much! The car breaks down or the phone rings at the most inopportune time. Someone comes to the door and it delays our plans. Listen: God is at work in those details and in the minutia of life if only we would be sensitive to it!
When we are sensitive to the Spirit of God, He will not only direct us to do something, He will arrange the circumstances to get it done. He leads the available Christian, not by vision, but by desire and the active will, as He moves on our will and we respond. That's how He works. And that's what happens with Peter and Cornelius as God arranges all the details when they are obedient to His call.
Next we see
3. The Meeting
I like the eagerness of Cornelius! Can you imagine what those four days must have been like for him as he waited for their arrival? And when they get there, he falls to his knees and starts worshipping Peter. Is that not amazing? A Gentile Roman centurion is on his knees worshipping a Jewish fisherman! Did Peter say, "Yes, my son, you may kiss my foot"? Did he extend his hand so he could kiss his ring? No!
Don't you wish someone would read that verse to the pope? Catholics believe that Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first pope, the head of the church. Paul might argue that point since he said Jesus was the head of the church.
In fact, they (Catholics) teach that if you do not embrace that Peter as the head of the church, then you are accursed.
But Peter said, "Cornelius, get up! I don't deserve to be worshipped because I'm a man just like you."
But Peter wants no worship. He deserves no worship. He desires no worship. He is a man just like every other man. And we ought to say to our Catholic friends and family who are enamored with the pope, get up and quit kissing those stinking, dirty toes!
Peter didn't want the worship of anybody.
Cornelius has gathered up a crowd, and again, we see this same principle at work that we saw with Peter. God didn't say, "Cornelius, make sure you have the whole gang there." He was simply at work in the heart of Cornelius and at some point, Cornelius thinks, "Man, I should gather up my friends and family when Peter gets here."
Why was that important? It was important because it was not just one Gentile that got saved. Can you imagine going back to the council in Jerusalem, saying, "Hey, a Gentile got saved." Everybody would have said, "Big deal!"
Instead, a whole gob of 'em got saved. And jsut as it was important to have plenty of witnesses on the Jewish side of things, it was important that a significant number of Gentiles be saved. So God prompts the heart of Cornelius and he gathers up a crowd.
Obviously, God is up to something! This is not how Jews and Gentiles typically act toward one another. But God has been at work in Peter's heart.
Notice Peter says, "I immediately obeyed." That reminds us there is an urgency when it comes to obeying God. He doesn't even know what the assignment is. He just knows God told him to come and he obeyed immediately.
And he's about to discover what the urgency is all about.
Don't you know that was music to the ears of Peter? At the same time God was speaking to him, He was also speaking to Cornelius! And now here stands this man whose heart has been prepared for the gospel saying to Peter, "We're going to listen and you're going to talk. Tell us what we need to hear!"
We need to always remember that a person's salvation is no accident. It is the most important think in all the world and God leaves nothing to chance or accident. He prepares and calls and gives men the opportunity to be obedient.
In both these men, we see the right way to respond: Cornelius immediately called for Peter. Peter came without objection. Both were willing and eager to do what God told them to do, and in a beautiful way, they come together in the miracle of salvation. We'll see how it happens next time we meet.