Skip Heitzig - Acts 10
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I hope you brought a Bible, or, did you bring one? Let's see it. Raise that up. Ah. That's such a sweet picture. So how many of you, and if you don't, I don't care. It's OK. But you don't carry a leather Bible, but you have a Bible like on a device, raise your device up. Look at that. There's a lot of them. That's good. So are you using You Version of the Bible? OK, so You Version is like the biggest, most popular Bible app in the world, I think. And we have a plan on there, I just found out about. We have a plan on there, I didn't just find out we had a plan on there, that I knew. But I was told that 47,000 people have downloaded the plan called What's Next, a Study in Revelation.
And they wanted to inform us that's a lot of people. Compared to all of the other plans we have on there, that's like one of the biggest. And people are completing it. So if you've done that, if you've gone on that version, thank you for that. We're just great that people all over the place, places can download that and go through that as an app.
But we're going through, some of us right now, the 30 day 30k challenge. And I started out at along with some of you. And today, you may remember that we did Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Not that we read all of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but we mentioned in that study that those are synoptic gospels, that the writers, though they have different viewpoints of the life of Jesus, there are similarities between the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, and the Gospel of Luke, in the way the format is and the chronology that we call them synoptics. They look and agree together on some of those things, whereas John is its own entity, and we're going to be covering that tomorrow.
But if you are following the Bible from 30,000 feet in this month, the New Testament, we mentioned today that the Gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience, the Gospel of Mark was written for a Roman audience, the Gospel of Luke was written for a Greek audience. And Luke addressed his book to a guy named Theophilus.
And the Book of Acts, you could look at it as Luke Part 2. Because Luke goes through the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, then he writes about the early church in the Book of Acts that we're studying. And by the way, we're in Chapter 10, if you want to get ready on your tablet or phone or real Bible. And he opens up the Book of Acts by saying, "the former treatise which I wrote to you, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up." The implication of that opening verse of the Book of Acts is that in the Gospel of Luke, I told you about the beginning of what Jesus did and said.
Now I am switching gears and showing you the continuation of what Jesus is doing, through the lives of those that He saved and that followed Him on this earth. Jesus was taken up, as Luke said, into heaven. So Luke is the continuation of Jesus moving. I remember being a part of what's called the Jesus Movement. And a lot of people say, yeah, do you remember the Jesus Movement, man? You were a part of the Jesus Movement. Jesus is still moving now. He didn't stop. It wasn't like an era that lasted a decade and then the Jesus Movement is over, Jesus is now not moving. He is moving more powerfully than ever, and you're a part of it.
And so we are in the Book of Acts. We're in Chapter 10. And what I love about Jesus moving is that He reaches people, and here's part of the narrative now of the Book of Acts. He reaches people that some would think are beyond reach. I mean, who could ever reach out to the Samaritans in a meaningful way and have them convert en masse to believe in the Jewish Messiah, given the rivalry that has existed all the way throughout the Old Testament history?
And so a persecution, in Chapter 8, Verse 1, occurred in Jerusalem, forcing many of the believers to go up to Samaria. One of them was a deacon in Jerusalem named Philip. And the Lord gave this volunteer servant of the Lord in Jerusalem the power to preach the Gospel articulately, clearly, compellingly, and to do signs and wonders, so that people en masse in Samaria turned to the Lord. Unreachable people, the Lord reached them.
You could continue and say, well, how could the Lord ever reach the Ethiopian kingdom and the African nations after Jesus, the Jewish messiah, came? So a diplomat, an Ethiopian eunuch, goes up to Jerusalem. And on his way back, he stops his chariot and pulls his convertible over. He's reading a Bible, reading, just happened to be reading Isaiah Chapter 53. Philip is there again, and the Lord sort of taps him on the heart and says, go join yourself to that chariot. Sit down next to that guy.
So he sits there and goes, hey, do you mind if I jump in your Camaro and we can talk? And the guy said, come on in. He said, well, what are you reading? He said, and he started showing him Isaiah 53. And then he said, look, I'm reading it, but who's he talking about? And so Philip was able to say, well, it's funny that you ask that. And beginning at that scripture, he preached Jesus to him. So now you have a government official in the Ethiopian administration who comes to faith in Christ, is baptized, goes back down into that continent of Africa, that area that we call Ethiopia, and the gospel spreads.
Then the quintessential example of reaching the unreachable is a guy by the name of Saul of Tarsus, a super Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, he said, blameless, somebody who was vehemently opposed, vitriolic against the Christian church. The Lord reaches out through this incredible vision on the Damascus road and saves him, and he is radically converted. And I love reading the stories of those who are the unlikely ones to be saved.
So I remember years ago when I was a kid, picking up on the news stories around 19 I think 76, when a guy named David Berkowitz was a serial killer in New York. They named him the Son of Sam. And the story is that he thought he heard Jesus talking to him through a dog and inspiring him to kill people. So he killed several people. He was a serial murderer.
He was convicted. He was sent to prison in the Poughkeepsie area of New York. And I get a phone call one day, because I was planning a visit to New York to do an outreach. And a lady was on the other end of the line. She said, I'm a chaplain at the Sullivan Correctional Institute in New York and we have a prisoner named David Berkowitz. I said, I'm familiar with him.
She said, well, apparently he listens to your radio broadcasts every day and he would love the chance to meet with you. And I'm going, gosh, I don't know if I want to do that. But I said, well, tell me more about him. And she said, let me tell you, I've spent hours and hours and weeks and months with him. He has given his life to Christ. It's genuine. It's real. I mean, he is a converted man. And yeah, I'm glad that one of you is excited about that. I was very excited about that.
So I went and I spent the day with him, just talking to him, interviewing, hearing his heart, hearing his testimony. And he told me, he goes, look, I don't want out. I don't deserve to get out. When he came up for parole, he told the judge, I'm not getting out. Don't even consider me. After what I've done, I deserve to be here, and there are people in this prison that the Lord will use my testimony for. Those are the very people I need to be around. So he knows he's in for life, but I've corresponded with him since. And he feels like in an odd way, even though he said admittedly I was a Satan worshipper and an unbeliever, I now follow Christ. And I'm convinced I'm going to see him in heaven.
Then a few years ago when I was in Israel, I saw this guy. I recognized him. I didn't know who he was, but I recognized his face. And somebody goes, oh, that's Brian Head Welch. That's the guitar player in Korn, that radical metal band. I would call it a radical metal band. Maybe some of you would think that sort of orchestral. But anyway, he gave his life to Christ. And I watched him the day he was baptized in the Jordan River. And just being able to hear his testimony of how he came to faith and what he's doing, following, and I love to hear these unreachable people or places that the Lord gets a hold of.
History is filled with people like C.S. Lewis and many others. You are probably people that your high school friends or college friends said no way. I was of that sort. When I showed up at one of my high school reunions, that's what they, no way. I said, way. I mean, way way. But isn't it great that the Lord has a plan? And one of the things we see here in the salvation of another unlikely, person a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius, is the providence of God. And we see that God had been preparing Cornelius for many years for this intersection of a meeting between Cornelius the Centurion and Peter the apostle. And I love how the Lord orchestrates not only the fact that He saves people, but the means by which they come to Him in His sovereign grace.
So in Acts Chapter 10, that's where we're going to look at, we have the story of the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman military man, a centurion. But be careful and watch out for this, because you're going to find out not one conversion, but two conversions in this chapter, the conversion of Cornelius the Centurion and the conversion of Peter the apostle. You say, wait a minute, Peter's already saved. Yes, he is. But he needs a conversion from legalism to grace. He still has a little bit of hesitancy. He's reticent to accept complete non-Jewish people. You know, at least Samaritans are sort of related historically to the Jewish faith. But to have somebody who is a complete Gentile come to faith in Christ, Peter wasn't quite ready for that. But the Lord readies him through it.
So it's a pivotal chapter. It's the first Gentile conversion in scripture. And remember, Jesus told His disciples, go into all the world and preach the gospel. You know, there's sometimes we read things in the Bible or we hear the Lord say things and we go, yeah, yeah, OK, I get it. I get it. Yeah, yeah. But when it's really what he means, no, I mean, like all the world. I mean, I love all the world. I will save anyone who will call upon me. When it came down to it, Peter was a little hesitant, as we'll see.
So Acts, Chapter 10, Verse 1. Now, there was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian regiment, or the Italian cohort. The Roman army was comprised of legions, and a Roman legion had between 5,000 and 6,000 men. Legions were then comprised of cohorts, or the word here is regiments. And in the cohorts, 600 men per cohort, you had centurions who were officers who were in charge of 100 men. So there were 60 centurions in every legion of the Roman army.
And according to history, It was the Roman centurion that really was the backbone of Roman discipline in the army and the success of the Roman army. Some of the reports of centurion's is that they were adventuresome go-getters, fearless, unafraid. At the same time, they had a very steady character. They didn't get riled easily, and so they were very, very stable in their personalities. They were trained that way, so they could face a variety of subjects. And so there was a ruler of 100 men, a centurion of what is called the Italian regiment, or the Italian cohort.
Something else interesting about centurions in the New Testament. It seems that whenever you read in the New Testament about a centurion, they are cast in favorable light. They seem to be amenable toward the things of faith, or the people of God. Example, there was a centurion in the city of Capernaum. You know what Capernaum is. It was the headquarters where Jesus headquartered his ministry for 3 and 1/2 years by the Sea of Galilee. The Bible tells us that the synagogue in Capernaum was built through the financial means of a centurion in that city. So when you go to Israel and we show you the remains of the synagogue, it is built upon the remains of the synagogue before that at the time of Christ, or the synagogue that that centurian built, paid for to get built.
It was that centurian, when Jesus was going into Capernaum one day who approached Jesus and said, would you come to my house? Or he said, I have, he didn't say would you come to my house. He just said, at my house I have a servant who is very ill, paralyzed with the fever, and close unto death. And Jesus said, I will come and heal him.
And the centurion looked to Jesus and said, well, don't bother coming. I'm not worried that you should come into my house. Just say the word right here, just speak the word, and I know my servant will be healed. And Jesus looked at that centurion, that Gentile Roman officer and said out loud in the hearing of all the Jewish people, he said, I haven't found so great a faith even in Israel. So Jesus commended a Roman centurion for having more faith than the Jewish people of that town. Then there is the centurion at the cross who at the crucifixion realized this is innocent blood and said truly, this man is the Son of God.
So let's read a little bit more about Cornelius. He was in Caesarea. He says he is a devout man, Verse 2. So again, it speaks favorably of this centurion. And one who feared God with all of his household, unusual, who gave alms generously to the people, that would be to the Jewish people, no doubt, and he prayed to God always. First of all, a word about says Caesarea. And I give a word for it, because whenever I take a tour to Israel, we start in the city of Caesarea. But then a few days later, we take them way up north to a city called Caesarea. And they go, wait a minute, I thought we were in Caesarea. You were. This is another one.
So the one here is the one on the Mediterranean, known as Caesarea Maritima. And the one up north is Caesarea Philippi. You have two places named after Caesar Augustus by a couple of different builders, a couple of different people. That's all. So they named them like that after, in honor of Caesar Augustus. Caesarea is one of my favorite places. When I lived in Israel, in the old days, out even by the ruins, there were guys who would rent surfboards right there on the beach. And you know, I was young and single and living on a kibbutz. And I just thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I can surf at Caesarea, where Paul the Apostle spent two years of his life, where Pontius Pilate had his headquarters, and Herod Agrippa was, and Felix and Festus in the Book of Acts. So it was a cool couple days.
Anyway, it was one of the rulers, the emperors of Judea, one of the Herods, decided that he wanted to build a port, a harbor at Caesarea. So if you go there today, you can see this outline of a rock outcropping underneath the ocean on two different sides where they built this break wall, this break water. One of them goes in a semi-circle about 2000 feet out into the ocean. And the tour guide will tell you that underneath there are massive stones held together by mortar. And everyone always asks, well, how do you hold something together under salt water with waves pounding, with mortar? And then they give you the explanation, which I found amazing.
Over 2000 years ago, the Romans discovered a way to pour cement that would harden under salt water. And so the harbor was built with these massive aschlers, these massive stones, held together by concrete. And some of that concrete is still in place today. And they did it 2000 years ago. So it was a massive endeavor to build this harbor and to attach this incredible city that is still being excavated to this day. So at Caesarea, it had quite a population. That's where Pontius Pilate, as I mentioned, the governor, all the governors after him would have their headquarters. Then they would go to Jerusalem for the festivals, just to make sure that order was kept in the city.
So this centurion was stationed at one of the coolest places, with some good waves. And that is at Caesarea. It says he is devout, and he feared God with all of his household. He gave arms generously to the people and prayed to God always. Here's what's amazing about this centurion. He was a man of influence, a man of authority. And at the same time, he hungered for God. His position, his status, his wealth, his power wasn't enough to satisfy his soul. So interestingly, it says he feared God. Now, it could mean he was just religious in general, but it probably means he was a God fearer. That's a technical term. A God fearer was called in Judaism a proselyte of the gate. And a proselyte of the gate was somebody who believes in the God of Israel and aligns himself with that covenant, but not completely. Let me explain.
He would pray to the God of Israel. That is, he is now monotheistic, does not believe in all the pagan deities and entities of the Roman pantheon and belief system. He believes in the monotheistic God of the Jews, number one. He's allowed to not only pray but attend the synagogue. He cannot attend temple sacrifices. And that is because though he can pray and he is generally accepted as one of them, he hasn't gone through the ritual of circumcision. You can imagine that many Gentiles who were adults said no, I'll pray to God, but I'm not going through that ritual, because I'm not eight days old. I'm now 30-some years of age, and that's going to hurt. So no thanks. So they were called proselytes of the gate, as opposed to proselytes of righteousness. They went through the entire ritual.
So he is drawing near to God, and he's a regular prayer warrior. And he gave his alms. He gave substance. He gave generously to support the poor in the area. Now watch this. About the ninth hour of the day, that's 3:00 in the afternoon. In Judaism, that was one of the hours of prayer. So no doubt, that was his typical time, like Jews would do, to pray. So it was the hour of prayer, ninth hour and the day. He saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, Cornelius. What would that make you feel like? Make you scared. That's why angels, always the first words out of their mouth, fear not. Because duh, you see an angel, you get pretty scared.
And when he observed him, he was afraid. So here you have a seasoned soldier, trained not to be afraid. But hey, when you see an angel, all bets are off. And he said, what is it, Lord? So He said to him, your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa and send for Simon, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, we left off with Simon the Tanner in Joppa in our last study, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do. And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. So if the ninth hour is 3:00, the sixths hour is noon, lunchtime. Then he became very hungry, and he wanted to eat. But while he made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, Rise, Peter. Kill and eat.
Now, back to Cornelius for a moment. What you are seeing is God unfolding a very elaborate plan to get somebody who has an interest in spiritual things, he has a deep interest in the things of God. He is a prayer warrior and alms giver. He is seeking God, only to discover that God has been seeking him all along. And the plan is to get Peter in front of him to share the Gospel with him. That's what you're going to see. All of this elaborate orchestration is to get Peter, who is 35 miles away, up to Caesarea to have an audience with him to share the Gospel. I just want that to fall on you with impact. He already fears God. He believes in God. He prays to God, and yet he's not saved. And because he shows an interest in the Lord, the Lord is going to make sure that he hears the whole truth.
Why is this important? Because the common modern philosophy, you hear at probably daily in some form or fashion, is it really doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe sincerely. And if you're sincere in your heart and you seek whatever form of God you call God, that's enough with God. So don't go and try to change somebody's belief system if they're sincere. Don't go into another culture as a missionary and try to change their culture and custom and religious upbringing. That's the apex of pride. Let them believe what they want. Really?
So how would you feel if a cannibal moved next door to you and had deep religious convictions that you should be killed and eaten as part of his worship system to his deity? Do you have a problem with that? He's sincere. Or what if one of the members of ISIS moved into your neighborhood, the Islamic State? You have no problem with what they believe? Because I do. And here is a guy believing in God, sincere, and God's going to make sure he takes it to the next level, the next step, and here's the whole truth. And he's going to do it through Peter. So now back down to Joppa. It's noon. Peter goes on the roof. He sees this vision. And he sees a vision of food.
Now, I like this. He falls into a trance and he sees food, but it's not food that he is a Jew would be accustomed to having prepared. And the Lord, or a voice says, rise, Peter. Kill and eat. And this is a shock to his system. Why a vision about food? Well, number one, he's hungry, and it corresponds to his experience. So it gets his attention, because it's an immediate need. It's been said, I remember my mom used to say this kind of common wisdom, that a man's heart is through his stomach. So Peter's hungry and he sees all these things. But it's not, again, what he as a Jewish person would be accustomed to eating.
Also not only because he's hungry, but because he is hesitant. He knows he's Jewish. He knows he's part of the chosen people. But the idea of being chosen 2000 years ago to Jews in Israel meant I am favored to the exclusion of somebody who is not Jewish. So it took a while in the early church. This is what I really want you to see, and you really see it come alive in Acts 15.
In the early church, they had a difficult time believing that anybody except Jewish people could ever be saved. In fact, in Acts 15, they're going to explicitly say unless you keep the laws of Moses and get circumcised, you can't be saved. And Peter's going to go, uh, that's not true. I learned a lesson. Here's the lesson he learned. Paul the Apostle will be there to go, that's not true. Let me tell you where I've been and what I've seen. But there's this of adjustment. And they're going through this, and Peter is going through this now with Cornelius. So he sees this incredible vision of these things that could be eaten, but not by Jewish people.
What God is getting at is not to change Peter's diet. It's to change Peter's heart. And the truth that underlies this is found in Galatians 3, where Paul says, for there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ. So the Gospel removes the barriers, removes the boundaries. This is a brand new covenant. It's the covenant of the torn veil. Remember when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two. Access was now permitted to God. We're in the covenant of the torn veil, the new covenant. And the new covenant requires a new means to reach people. It's a new wine skin, with new wine. So Peter's learning these lessons.
So the voice comes to him back in verse 13 and says, rise, Peter, kill and eat. Now, before we get into his not-so-friendly response to this heavenly voice, I have a question for you. Just think about this. Cornelius is praying. An angel speaks directly to him. So he's got his attention. He's afraid. It's a heavenly being. Why not have the angel just, now that he's speaking to him, having a conversation, Cornelius recognized him. Man, this, I've never had this happen before in a prayer meeting. That's an angel talking to me.
Now that the angel has his attention, why not just share the gospel with him? Why go to this elaborate, you've gotta send for this guy. He's 35 miles away, which means it's a two day journey to walk down there, and then you've got to fetch him and bring him back, so it's about a week away. You've got to make sure that you get Peter. Why? Why not just preach the gospel to him? Have you ever thought of that? I remember reading this going, boy, that's going around the block to get next door. What's the purpose for that? Here's the purpose for it.
First of all, angels are amazing creations of God, but they haven't been given the privilege of proclaiming the gospel. We have. Human beings have. God chose that men and women would be the receptacles and the transmitters of the gospel, not angels. Except for one exemption. In the end times, in the tribulation period, just to cover all the bases to make sure everybody on the earth during that time of judgment hears the gospel, in Revelation 14, it says that an angel was dispatched to fly through the heavens and proclaim the everlasting gospel to all who dwell on the Earth. That's one final act of mercy where an angel does preach the gospel.
But up until that end time event, that eschatological scenario, angels have not been given the privilege. We have been. That's why Peter said, angels look at us, and they desire to look into these things. Probably scratching their heads and their wings going, why did you give these humans this privilege? Because a lot of them don't really exercise that privilege. So that's number one.
Number two, because Peter needed this. Peter needed a conversion from this strict ideology of the gospel going to just the Jews, going to, now, all of the world, and getting out to the Gentiles, beginning with Cornelius. So 35 miles away, this little group goes to get a hold of Peter.
OK. I have another question before we jump into that text. Why get Peter? I mean, there are closer people in the city of Caesarea Peter's 35 miles away in Joppa. Why not get Philip? At the end of chapter 8, it says that Peter, after he, or Philip, after he led the Ethiopian eunuch to faith in Christ, he made his way to Caesaria.
And then when we get to Acts chapter 21, when Paul the Apostle is going back to Jerusalem, he stops through Caesaria, and he lodges, listen to this, at the house of Philip the evangelist. So he has a home there. He's now called Philip. Not just Philip, but Philip the evangelist. So why not get an evangelist to go into Cornelius' home? He probably lives a couple of blocks away. Again, because Peter needs this. Philip doesn't need this. Phillip needs, Peter needs this lesson. And so the voice says to him, Peter, rise, kill, and eat.
Now back to our story. Verse 14. But Peter said, not so, Lord. For I have never eaten anything common or unclean. Ah, there he is. There's the Peter we all know and love. The Peter who doesn't say, yes, Lord, whatever you want. He goes, no way, Lord. Which by the way, is a perfect contradiction in terms. You can't say not so, Lord. You can say, not so, dude. Not so, whoever you are. Not so, friend. Not so, mom, dad, brother, sister. But you can never say the words, not so and Lord. Because if he's Lord, them you say, whatever you want. Because if you say not so, He ain't your Lord. If you say not so, then He's not your Lord.
Well, that's Peter. His immediate response is not so, Lord. Now, compare. You've just got to do this. You've just got to understand how entrenched Peter is. Compare the centurion's response to the angel to Peter's response. Just for fun. Verse 4. And when he observed him, that is, the centurion saw the angel, he was afraid and said, what is it, Lord? Like, whatever you say, I'm ready to do it. And he did what the angel told him to do. We get over to Peter, voice from heaven, not so, Lord. Any it's capital L, so it's like he's saying to God, no.
So who is more compliant in the story, the Roman centurion or the Jewish, I follow Jesus three and 1/2 years apostle? The centurion is. His excuse is, I have never eaten anything common or unclean. OK. I get it. I get it. But Jesus asked a question once. He said, why do you call me Lord, but you don't do the things that I say. How many people do you know that say, oh, yes. I love the Lord, or I love the big guy in the sky, or the good Lord, but they're not compliant. They're not obedient. They're not bendable to His commands.
And I said, there he is. This is Peter. This is the Peter we know and love. Because this is what Peter is known for. You remember when Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee and said Peter, let's go fishing. Launch out into the deep for a catch of fish. And Peter said, look, Lord, you're a great preacher, but you're talking to a fisherman. I fished all night, caught nothing, and that's the best time to fish on the Sea of Galilee. Been there, done that, caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your word, I'll humor the preacher. We'll go fishing. That's what you want. Then remember in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus said, who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am? And then Jesus began to announce to them that He was going to go to Jerusalem, be betrayed by someone, be delivered to the chief priests, get killed, and then rise the third day.
And Peter spoke up and said, no way. We're not going to let that happen to you. To which Jesus replied, get behind me, Satan. Ouch. Or what about the time when Jesus announced to His disciples, hey. All of you, all of you are going to run away tonight. You're going to flee from me. And Peter said, you know, Lord, even if all are made to stumble, not me. So he's telling Jesus, who's telling him what's going down, you're not really accurate about that, Lord. I know you're like God and stuff, and you predict the future, but you're wrong when it comes to me being the guy who's going to run away. Because they might, because they're flaky, but I'm Peter the rock. I'm rocky. Not going to happen.
So Peter always was the guy who was resistant. He has a mind of his own. On one hand, I admire it. On the other hand, I relate to it, unfortunately. And in the other hand, there's only two hands, so I ran out of hands. Oh, here's another one. Remember when Jesus is washing their feet, and he comes to Peter, and Peter goes, you're not going to wash my feet. So this is just his history, his character. Verse 15. And a voice spoke to him again, the second time. What God has cleansed, you must not call common.
Now, this was done three times, and the object was taken up into heaven. Now, while Peter wondered within himself, and I love that about Peter. He's thinking, man, this is weird. What could that mean? He's processing. Well, he wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant. Behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius made inquiry for Simon's house and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. It happened three times for Peter. Why? I don't know. But it is interesting to me, and these are things I look at, and I ask, why three times? I know that Jesus was, He restored Peter three times.
He said, do you love me, Peter? Yeah, Lord. I love you. Do you love me, Peter? Yeah, Lord, I love you. Peter, do you love me? OK, I love you. And that's because Peter denied Jesus three times. Now he sees a vision, and he goes, no way. Happens again. No way. Happens again. OK, I better listen. OK. So it could be that he's just tough to get through to. You have to knock a coconut hard with a hammer to bust it open sometimes. So he's a little hardheaded. Maybe ADD just everywhere, and God had to grab his attention. But it's interesting that three times were given to Peter. And the message was the same. What God has cleansed, you must not call common.
Pause for a moment and think back quickly in your mind to an Old Testament person who had difficulty believing that a group of non-Jewish people should have God's grace and favor extended to them. Can you think of anybody? He was a prophet. He was on a boat, but he went the other direction. Jonah. Because he didn't want the Ninevites to hear a message of forgiveness and have God not annihilate them. He wanted them dead. They hated his people. They were so Gentile, it reeked. So he didn't want to be the preacher to extend a hand of forgiveness and have God overlook judgment in Nineveh. So he went the other direction.
So he is like Peter on steroids. But what's interesting is what Peter's name is. Peter or Simon, son of Jonah. Not that he was the son of that Jonah. That was actually his name. His dad's name was Jonah. But it's interesting that they are so similar. One much more so than the other. Jonah much more so than Peter. But I just find it interesting that he was Simon, son of Jonah. And I wonder how many sons of Jonah we have here. Sons and daughters of Jonah. A little bit tough, hard-hearted, for God to get through and break His grace into their lives. So they would extend God's grace to others.
OK. Now we can go on. While Peter thought about the vision verse 19, the spirit said to him, behold, three men are seeking you. Arise, therefore, go down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and he said, yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?
Now, what is the Lord just say? Go with them, asking nothing. So Peter meets them, he goes, what do you want? Old dog, new tricks. I love Peter. I just, I love him. I relate to him. It's like, you forgot that already. Even though a voice came from heaven and told you that, you forgot that part already. And they said, Cornelius, the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear words from you. Then he invited them in and lodged them. And on the next day, which in and of itself is amazing that he brought Gentiles into a Jewish home, but after all, he's staying with the tanner, right? And we said last week, a tanner is somebody who is considered unclean because he handles carcasses of animals.
So he brought them in, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the following day, they entered Caesarea. Now, Cornelius was waiting for them, and he had called together his relatives and his close friends. Now, two worlds are about to collide. A Jewish apostle of the messiah, the Jewish messiah, and a Gentile God-fearer, a Roman military man, and the grace of God is going to interact and intervene. It's a pivotal moment. It's a milestone in redemptive history. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet. And what did he do? It says he worshipped him. I wonder what Peter thought about that worship. I wonder if Peter said, yes, my child. This is good, and there will be other saints after me that you will have to bow down and worship as well.
Now, it says, but Peter lifted him up, saying, stand up. I myself am also a man. And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Throughout the New Testament we find people who are tempted to worship someone other than God; the saints. Peter was one. Mary was another, rebuked by Jesus when somebody tried to worship Mary. Later on, in Acts 14, when Paul and Barnabas make it to Lystra, and a man, through their agency, is healed and cured, the people of Lystra say, the gods have come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes. And they started sacrificing to them. And Paul said, stop this. This is nonsense. We're just human beings.
Even John the apostle, when he saw the angel in the Book of Revelation, chapter 22. At the end of that revelation, that angel that had given him the whole preview of end-time events, it says, John said, I fell down, and I worshipped him. And the angel said, see that you do it not. I am a fellow servant of the living God. So angels forbade people to worship them. Peter said don't worship him. Paul and Barnabas said don't pray or worship me. Jesus said, don't pray to my mom and worship her. So I wonder about those who want to worship others other than Jesus. This should give them pause. This should get their attention.
Then he said to them, Verse 28, you know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go into one of another nation. What a thing to begin with. Welcome! Come in my house! We're here to see you! He falls down in the street. No, get up. You know, I shouldn't even be here. It's not even lawful in my religion to hang out with you. But again, I love this guy. But he says, but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean, kind of betraying what he really thinks about him, therefore, I came without objection. I wonder if he swallowed weird when he said that. As soon as I was sent for. Yeah, right.
I asked then, for what reason have you sent me? And Cornelius said, four days ago, I was fasting until this hour. And at the ninth hour, I prayed in my house. And behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your arms are remembered in the sight of God. Send, therefore, to Joppa, and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you. So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now, therefore, we are all present before God to hear all the things commanded you by God.
Then Peter opened his mouth, which can be a dangerous proposition for Peter in the past. But here, under the control of the spirit, he said, in truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. He's honest here, and he says, you know, I'm new to this. I'm not good at this. I've never really thought about a Gentile coming to faith in my Jewish messiah. Now, Peter would have remembered, perhaps, at this point something our Lord Jesus said in John, chapter 10, when he said, there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them I must also bring. They will hear my voice, that there may be one flock and one shepherd. Speaking of non-Jews, Gentiles.
And so Peter's honestly saying, you know, I think I'm figuring this out. I think I'm getting the message The Lord is trying to tell me. I'm starting to understand what this is. And the bottom line is, in truth, I perceive that God shows no partiality. Can I just say congratulations, Peter? You passed the test. You just discovered the grand truth God's been trying to get through to your thick head, and that is God has no favorites. God has no favorite people. God has no favorite places. God loves the world, and you are discovering the great truth of that, that God plays no favorites.
Can I just say really quickly, I think it goes without saying, because you probably believe and understand it, but there is no place at all for bigotry and prejudice in the Christian church. We can never stand before God with a clear conscience while we are holding ill will toward people of another race, or a different economic system, or a different origin, who happen to be among us. We can't.
There's an interesting story about Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader, who was trained as a lawyer and spent time in South Africa. What's interesting is that he was drawn to Christianity. He was drawn, in particular, to the person of Christ. He was enamored with the Sermon on the Mount, and he was thinking about converting to Christianity. He believed that Jesus Christ and Christianity, from what he understood by reading the New Testament, was the answer to the caste system that plagued India.
So one Sunday, he went into a church. That is, he tried to enter a church, and he was stopped at the door by an usher who suggested that he, as a brown person, go worship with his own. And he was not allowed into that white church. And Mahatma Gandhi walked away from that, and he wrote, well, there seems to be a caste system even within Christianity, so I just think I'll remain a Hindu. And he said that was the seminal moment where he rejected Christ, rejected Christianity, and decided, I'm just going to stay with the system I was raised with and try to reform it. How sad.
So Peter's recognizing, God has no favorites. There is no partiality with Him. I'm figuring that out. But in every nation, verse 35, as we saw. Verse 36; the word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, He is Lord of all. That word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea and began from Galilee after the baptism, which John preached. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
And we are all witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Now, he is appealing to Cornelius' knowledge of the local facts. I bet you've heard about this Cornelius. I bet you know the story. I am just here to say, that was the guy. That was the messiah. That Jesus is God's answer. That's God's solution. We're witnesses of that. Verse 40; Him, God raised up on the third day, preaching the death, burial, and resurrection. The core gospel. And showed Him openly. Not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God. Even to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.
And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him, all the prophets witness that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins. So it took all of this elaborate scheming of a vision of a sheet with unclean things to Peter three times, 35 miles away from the guy who has to hear the message, who sees an angel, to go get the guy who saw the vision, and they come together, and this is what he hears. And that's it. It's a simple message.
If you compare Peter's message here to Cornelius, with Peter's message preached at Pentecost, there's two different messages. One is a very hard-hitting polemic against Israel and forcefully preaching repentance. Here, it's just the very simple facts of the gospel; death, burial, resurrection. He's the guy. We followed Him. We're witnesses. You've got to believe in Him, you'll have remission of sins. And you know, when it comes to sharing, you should tailor your testimony and your message depending on the audience. Peter gives a good lesson in both of these examples. While Peter was still speaking verse 44, these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
And those of the circumcision who believed, those Jewish people who are believers, messianic believers, were astonished. As many as came with Peter. Because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles only. Like, what? Wow! It's like what happened in Jerusalem on Pentecost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Notice that. That is used as a prayer and worship of God. And then Peter answered, can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit, just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.
So what lessons did we learn? First of all, no one is beyond reach. Second, we learned what a privilege it is to preach the gospel. A privilege that even angels don't have, but we have. Number three, there is no place for bigotry or favoritism among God's people. And finally, number four, leadership means, or excuse me. Lordship means ownership. If He's your Lord, it means He owns you. You are his servant. And a servant never says, not so, master. Not so, Lord. He says, what do you want me to do, Lord? You're the Lord. I'm not. You're the master, I'm the slave. What is it you want me to do?
So go back to Peter fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Watch out into the deep, Peter. Let down your nets. Oh, Lord. I'm a fisherman, you're not. I'm the captain of this ship. Yeah, Peter, that's the problem. I'm showing you you're not in control. Because last time I checked, like you said, you fished all night and caught zero. So let down your nets over there and prepare for a big catch. And the nets began to break, there were so many fish. What changed? It changed the moment Peter let Jesus be the captain of his boat. Captain of his ship. Remember that bumper sticker, Jesus is my copilot. Have you ever seen that?
I remember, it used to be a popular bumper sticker. Jesus is my, or God is my copilot. I hate that bumper sticker. No offense if that's on your car, but change it. God doesn't want to be your copilot. God wants you to move to the back seat. He'll drive. Give him the keys. Give Him the pink slip give him control. You're sitting next to him, going, well, let me help you out, Lord. I'll grab the wheel. Let me, no. Get off. God is my pilot, not my copilot. Give Him the reins of your life if you haven't already. Let Him into your boat. Do what He says. Say yes, Lord, and when you say yes to the Lord, you're in for a grand adventure.
Father, thank you for so many incredible truths that are found in a simple chapter, an historical narrative of a man named Peter and a man named Cornelius, both who needed a conversion. One to the full knowledge and gospel of Christ, and one from legalism to the grace of Christ. There are no favorites with you but that you will come into anyone's heart and anyone's life and anyone's boat, but you want to be the captain. You want to be in charge. And I just pray, if anyone here has not surrendered to Christ yet, allowed You into their lives as the pilot, the captain, the one in charge, that that surrender would take place in just the next moment. With our heads bowed, if you've never surrendered your life to the lordship, the ownership, of God through His son Jesus, I'm going to give you that opportunity. You may have gone to church. You may have been religious all your life. You may have believed in your mind certain things like Cornelius did, and you've done good deeds and alms. But you need the gospel that Jesus died for you. Rose again from the dead for you and wants to live inside of you. And what He wants from you is your faith, your belief, that simple repentance of Lord, I'm turning from myself. I'm turning from my past. I'm turning to you as my Lord and master. You just let go, and you give control to Him.
If some of you hearing this remember that you did something like that or a facsimile thereof years ago, but tonight, you're not walking with the Lord, it's not a conscious following of Him. You're not, you're not following Him, you need to come back to Him. With our heads bowed, and our eyes closed, I'm going to leave my eyes open, just raise your hand if you're willing to say yes to Jesus right now and come back to Him or come to Him for the first time. Just raise it up and keep it up for a moment, so I can acknowledge you. Raise it up in the air right now.
God bless you, right there, in the front. In the middle. Yes, sir. In the middle and in the back and on the side, right up here to my left. Yes, sir. Yes, ma'am. Right over on my left. Another one right here. Anybody else? Would you raise your hand up? In the back. To my right. Father, it is our prayer that these who have raised their hands would know the life-transforming Jesus personally, as He comes to live inside of them and change them. That you would make all things new for these who are about to become brothers and sisters in Jesus' name. Amen.
Would you stand with me? We're going to do this real quickly. I know that time is up, but as we sing this final song, if you raised your hand, I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, and just come walk up here. And in a moment, when you're up here, I'm going to lead you in that prayer to make Jesus the captain of your boat. The King of your life. The master of your existence. Jesus called people publicly.
And I believe it's important. And you can see the, hear the encouragement for you to come. So if you raise your hand, way in the back, on the side, in the middle of a row, just say excuse me and come stand right up here for just a moment. It won't take long. Yes. Come on up. Just stand right up here in front. I'm going to lead you in that prayer. Make it real. Make it your own tonight. No matter your background, no matter your experience. You're here, we're here, the Lord is here. Let's do this. You feel like you've messed up? You feel like you're a failure? God loves messed up people. God loves to fix failures. You come just as you are. Just as you are. Anybody else? Take just another moment. Come stand right up in the front.
Those of you who have come, I don't know your background. I don't know what you've done. But then again, you don't know my background or what I've done. But I do know that God loves you, and He has a plan for you. And you've come as you are, and now I'm going to ask you to say a word of prayer with me. I'm going to pray out loud. I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud, after me. You say these out loud, say them from your heart, as you give your life over to Him. Let's pray. Say:
Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. That He died for me. That He shed His blood for my sin. And that He rose again. That He's alive right now. I turn from my past, I turn from my sin, I turn to Jesus Christ as my Savior and my master. It's in His name I pray. Amen.