Peter and Cornelius
Peter and Cornelius
Good morning! Turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 10. We will be continuing our study in this great historical heritage of the early church. Before we jump into Acts 10 I want to give us a little bearing on the location of some of the cities and towns mentioned in this part of Acts. Sometimes, as you read it gets all mixed together and yet I find it important for us to know where these historical events are taking place and not just the what or who. On the map behind me you will see that Peter’s ministry started in Jerusalem as we read in Acts 2 and then we see the his recent activity in Lydda with healing Aeneas and then the raising of Tabitha in Joppa where he stays until he hears about Cornelius in Caesarea. So Peter is along the coast and of course the Gospel is spreading every time he shares and miracles are performed validating his ministry as an apostle. So, while we see Peter and Cornelius as the main characters in this passage it is important to note that this text is primarily about God and His work in seeing that the gospel goes forth. Nothing can stop Him in His mission. So, let’s look at this text in three points this morning.
- God Initiates (Acts 10:1-8)
- God Instructs (Acts 10:9-23)
- God Saves (Acts 10:24-45)
- God Initiates (Acts 10:1-8)
In verses 1-2 we learn about Cornelius. He is a gentile, a Roman in fact, but also a centurion of of rank and was part of the Italian Cohort. He probably would have been leader of over 100 men a wealthy man, a man of position and influence and able to send soldiers at his bidding. While the Romans were a threatening force to the Jews and many times in a negative sense, we must remember that the Romans were simply being used by God on multiple levels. Luke takes us directly to the character of Cornelius and we learn several things about him. He is devout (vs. 2) he fears God (with all his household) so there is evidence that he leads his family and those in his service to have the same character. He is generous to the people, known as a giver, and he prays continually to God. This is significant seeing here that God has already initiated a work in his life and yet he is not saved! How do we know God had already initiated a work? He is seeking after truth. How do we know he is not saved? He has not heard of Jesus. That is where God in His grace initiates yet again. Verse 3, an angel appears to him around 3 in the afternoon in a vision. Notice that he is terrorized by this vision and yet the angel instructs him that his alms and prayers have ascended to God as a memorial. God through this angelic vision instructs him further to send for Peter in Joppa. He tells him not only where Peter is but who he is staying with. He immediately send two servants and a devout soldier to fetch Peter. It is amazing here that God initiates this relationship with Cornelius and yet the angel in the vision does not share the gospel but simply shares where Peter is who will ultimately communicate the gospel. Is this not true in our lives? God in His grace initiated a relationship with us in Christ. He provided the context and circumstances at which point we would be in ear of the gospel. Be it our parents, a friend, a traumatic situation, God uses all things to draw us to Himself. He initiates. We were dead in our trespasses and sins and God spoke life into us. He revealed His Son to us, taught us of His justifying work and filled us with His Spirit. Many will claim that they chose to follow Christ but the scriptures are clear, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1) We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) sure we respond to Him know that we are alive in Him but oh the glorious truth here of the mercy and grace of God in initiating a saving relationship with Him. If you know Him this morning praise Him for that. God desires to reveal Himself in you and through you to a world in rebellion to Him. Will He initiate a relationship with someone else through you as you yield and trust Him in the power of the Holy Spirit? God desires not just to save people like us but all kinds of people from every tribe tongue and nation. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespassesagainst them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So, we see God initiates here in verse 1-8 in Cornelius life and that of his household and now we see that God also instructs. His instruction comes first to Peter and then the instruction of the gospel to Cornelius and his household. Why would Peter need instruction? Well let’s look at this
- God Instructs (Acts 10:9-23)
While Luke presents the work of God in the book of Acts and the progress of the gospel to the ends of the earth, we also see His work in sanctifying His people. Specifically with the apostles but others as well. Here in verses 9-23 we see Peter being challenged in his understanding of how God relates to people and how the death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything. Now remember Peter was staying with Simon tanner who would have been viewed by the Jews as being unclean.
Verse 9: as they men were approaching the city of Joppa the next day, Peter around noon went up on the roof to pray. Now in those days houses were built with patios on the roof, with some sort of covering for shade from the desert heat. This provided a place for solace or visiting in most homes. But notice as Peter is praying he becomes hungry. vs. 10 Peter wanted to spend some time in prayer and is distracted by his stomach. Has that ever happened to you? I do not know what is going on physiologically sometimes but I tell you what, prayer, let alone church services make you hungry. Lol that is comforting to know that we will be having a fellowship after service today….
It is mid day here and it would be normal to get hungry about midday and yet while he was waiting for it to be prepared he fell into a trance. I have seen that happen with my kids before….. It happens right about 5pm. Complete meltdown…..kidding….. Not really though because I’m usually right there with them squirming crying out in an obnoxious voice “honey when is dinner going to be ready? We are starving in here!”
Seriously though, Peter sees this vision not because he is hungry and is having some weird experience but because God wanted him to learn something. So what is it that Peter saw? Verse 11 says that he saw something like a great sheet descending being let down by its four corners. (picnic anyone?) In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. Now I can imagine eating birds but reptiles anyone? How about an iguana taco?….Now these animals were unclean according to Leviticus 11. But clearly the death and resurrection of Jesus changed the need for the ceremonial law. There are many today who claim we are bound by such laws but God Himself speaks to this. This is a huge reminder to hear God rather than man, for many people add to the Gospel let alone the Words of God. Probably to Peter’s surprise the voice asks him to arise kill and eat. Peter refuses (vs. 14) saying never have I eaten anything common or unclean. The voice answered “what God has called clean do not call common.” (vs. 15) so what is God’s purpose in telling Peter this? Notice Peter refuses to obey God, but rather sticks to his own standard of what is right to do as far as the law spoke. Peter has done this before and was rebuked by Jesus. For instance when Christ announces that he must go to the cross Peter says not so Lord! It was his misunderstanding that the Christ must die. So here, this is a misunderstanding of Christ’s desire to save Jews and Gentiles. Remember here that this vision really has nothing to do with food, but about accepting people as God accepts them. He can and will save all kinds of people! Are there people you don’t associate with for whatever reason? Did you know that Christ desires to redeem many out of that group? Notice here that this vision happened 3 times and then was taken to heaven. Now, we might get the message of what is going on, but why 3 times? Confirmation. Is this not true in our lives? When facing perplexing times I. Life and ministry God confirms through either his Word, circumstances or people and really all three! Do you find it interesting that 3 men were sent to Peter? The vision happened 3 times and even in a larger context of scripture this principle plays out in spiritual matters. 2-3 witnesses are often needed to establish any kind of report.
Matthew 18:16 – But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.2 Corinthians 13:1 – This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.1 Timothy 5:19 – Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.Hebrews 10:28 – Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
So Peter is perplexed (vs. 17 and it is at that moment that the men arrive. Vs. 18 the men ask whether Peter is there and then in vs. 19 Peter is told by the Spirit that three men are looking for him. He is told to arise go down and accompany them without hesitation for I have sent them. Notice here something we cannot miss. Remember that I said earlier that when looking at this passage we are tempted to just see Peter and Cornelius in this passage but fail sometimes to see the work of God? Notice God takes the credit for sending them although Cornelius actually sent for them this was God’s work through an angel telling him to send men to Peter! This is so important for us to understand since it is Him initiating and instructing our hearts through faith.
Vs. 21 Peter goes down to them and tells them he is the one they are looking for and then asks them why they are there.
Vs. 22 The men tell him that Cornelius has sent them after hearing from an angel to send for Peter.
- 23 Peter invites them in and the next day they go towards Joppa a few men accompanying Peter.
So, we have seen God’s initiating, God’s instruction and now we will see God’s saving power.
III. God Saves (Acts 10:24-45)
- God saves Peter from his partiality (24-30)
- God Saves Cornelius and His family (30-48)
God saves Peter from His partiality, and will continue to in his lifetime.
Vs. 24 They enter Caesarea the following day (so this is day 4 since Cornelius had his vision) and Cornelius is expecting them and has invited close friends and family. Then notice Cornelius’ response to Peter. (vs. 25) He begins to worship Peter. Perhaps he was overwhelmed at how this vision played out and that the apostle Peter was before him, but just as any Christian should, Peter refused to be worshipped. It is Christ who ought to receive the worship and glory. Do we my friends try at time to take the credit for what only God can do? Peter asks him to arise and not worship him for he is only a man. Vs. 27 Peter enters the house and finds all these people gathered.
Vs. 28 He tells them, “ You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God…..isn’t that what happens to us? We are caught in our sin and prejudices or even our culture and God stands before us correcting our understanding and sin turning us to Himself and how to view things His way.
Vs. 28 “but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” That is the principal text here in this passage. If you missed everything up to this point that is the main idea, the lesson learned the clincher for Peter. God does not show partiality! So while it seems Peter learned his lesson here it is important to note that years later Peter is still struggling with this. Paul rebukes him over this. Turn to Galatians 2:6-14.
“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor,the very thing I was eager to do.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him,so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before the mall, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
So, Peter continued to learn this lesson of showing partiality. Have we learned it? It doesn’t just involved race as with Jews and Gentiles, but also other classes we tend to put people into. James addressed it between the rich and the poor as we read in our call to worship.
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said,“Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
So, Peter asks vs. 29 why they sent for him and Cornelius recounts his story to Peter, then in verse 33 he says “now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” What an open invitation! Oh that we had more opportunities like that one! So what is Peter’s response?
Vs. 34- he acknowledges again that God does not show partiality for truly this man is asking to hear the gospel! So he shares the good news of Christ and all he did while amongst them and Peter recounts that he was a witness to these things. Vs. 35-42
- As Peter is saying these things the Holy Spirit falls upon them. Vs. 45 the Jews are amazed by this as this is the first gentile believer and they witnessed him come to Christ with his household. This is significant because Peter mentions it again when he reports what happened in vs. 11:15; 15:8 Vs. 46 Even the household speaks in tongues again as evidence that the Spirit is indeed working in their midst. Remember that the gift of tongues was originally given so that unbelieving Jews would believe. Who was accompanying Peter? Jews. What Paul later says to the Ephesians in ch. 2:19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, – Ephesians 2:19 Jew and Gentiles are now one in Christ!
Vs. 47 so Peter asks why they should not be baptized. Why would he ask this? The Jews accompanying him! They could say nothing, the Holy Spirit had spoken and then then all those who believed were baptized and he stayed with them several days.
God wanted to accomplish saving Peter from his partiality as well as saving Cornelius and His household from themselves and mere good behavior. They had a genuine desire to know Christ and they indeed came to know Him through the preaching of the gospel by Peter.
So, what are we to glean from this text?
|Epoch: New Covenant provides for all peoples to be reconciled to God as God initiates and saves those who belong to Him.|
|Non-Christian: Must hear that the gospel is for the sinner, not the ones who have not seen a need for a Savior. In other words, Christ is enough, it’s not Christ plus good behavior, Christ plus behavior modification. It is Christ plus nothing. Christ alone.|
|Society: Our society runs contrary to the gospel. Partiality abounds. From racial tension to socioeconomic issues, to political agendas, to gender and sexuality issues. Are we reaching out to our society and individuals with the gospel?|
|Christ: Christ came to set His people free from sin, Satan and themselves. He is doing this through the gospel in our own souls, our society and to the ends of the earth.|
|Christian: Are we showing partiality in our lives? Are we giving the gospel to those who need it most? It is to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Are we showing partiality in a reverse manner to not go to the Jews and proclaim Jesus as Messiah? May we be faithful as God gives us opportunity!|
|Church: Are we as the church going to model God’s character and nature through giving the gospel impartially?|
S – Spiritual Lives
P- Predisposition towards obedience?
U- Urge people towards conversations about the gospel
R- Repent of this sin of partiality and how it shows itself in our lives.
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