Acts 10: 1-23

Written by kathleen on May 31, 2015 in - No Comments

Acts 10: 1-23   

Two Visions Equal One Conversion

(From “Yeager” by Chuck Yeager, 1985)  Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot, was flying an F-86 Sabre over a lake in the Sierras when he decided to buzz a friend’s house near the edge of the lake. During a slow roll, he suddenly felt his aileron lock. (Part that controls maneuvers) Says Yeager, “It was a hairy moment, flying about 150 feet off the ground and upside down.” A lesser pilot might have panicked with fatal results, but Yeager let off on the throttle, pushed up the nose, and sure enough, the aileron unlocked. Climbing to 15,000 feet, where it was safer, Yeager tried the maneuver again. Every time he rolled, the problem recurred. Yeager knew three or four pilots had died under similar circumstances, but to date, investigators were puzzled as to the source of the Sabre’s fatal flaw. Yeager went to his superior with a report, and the inspectors went to work. They found that a bolt on the aileron cylinder was installed upside down. Eventually, the culprit was found in a North American plant. He was an older man on the assembly line who ignored instructions about how to insert that bolt, because, by golly, he knew that bolts were supposed to be placed head up, not head down. In a sad commentary, Yeager says that “nobody ever told the man how many pilots he had killed.” I wonder how much of the work of God I have killed by not listening to God; thinking I already had all the answers. Like Peter, I’m stubborn, obstinate, and down right hardheaded especially when it comes to change. I think the Apostle Peter was in this kind of a rut. God was trying to teach him a very important spiritual lesson here in chapter 10 But Peter was so set in his ways he didn’t want the Word of God to interfere with his opinion; Peter was headed towards a Rotten situation

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

Caesarea was a predominately Roman city on the shores of the Mediterranean in Judea. It was the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province of Judea. The first thing we learn about Cornelius is that he is an officer in the Roman Army.

The Roman army was divided into legions of six thousand men. The legions were divided into cohorts of six hundred men. At this time there were Thirty-two cohorts stationed in the different provinces of the empire. The cohorts were divided into six groups of one hundred men—each overseen by a centurion. Centurions were the “master sergeants” of the Roman army.

They were known to be brave of heart, sound of mind, and strong in discipline. Interestingly, every time a centurion is mentioned in the New Testament they are always spoken of in a favorable light Because Cornelius was such a loyal servant of the oppressors of Israel, any patriotic Jewish person of that day would have been automatically prejudiced against him. BUT !!!

Cornelius was in the category of what the Jews called God-fearers   These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel and were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision.

Three important qualities in the life of Cornelius. #1 We see the faith of Cornelius. Cornelius feared God. Yet, although he was a very religious man, we will see he was a very lost man. Although he was a man of prayer and of almsgiving, he did not know Jesus was the Messiah therefore he had no personal relationship with Jesus.

Second, Cornelius wanted his family to know the True and Living God

Third we see the life style of Cornelius as he went about doing good and praying always.

There are those who say, “Even though a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ, as long as he loves God and does good works toward his fellow man, he’ll be okay and make it into heavven.”

But this account tells me they are wrong, for if all it took for a man to get into heaven or be saved; was that he loved God and his fellow man, God would have said, “There’s Cornelius down there. He’s a pray-er. He’s a God-fearer. He’s a giver. I’ll give him a pass”

That’s not what the Bible says;  John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me

Many say that’s very narrow minded and Jesus agrees with them!

Matt 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

This is why it is so important to understand the passage found in the book of Ephesians- 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

As this story begins with Cornelius seeking God; God reaches out to him for God will allow any seeker to find him. Prov 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.

3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”

4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.”

Twenty five to thirty miles between Caesarea and Joppa (3 days)

We are not told specifically that Cornelius was praying, but it was the ninth hour (3:00 in the afternoon). This was a customary time of prayer for Jews. Also, as Cornelius relates the incident to Peter in verse 30, he specifically says he was praying at the ninth hour. This was not a dream, or was it actually happening.

This was a vision that came in the “mind’s eye” of Cornelius. At the same time, it was so vivid that Cornelius would later say, a man stood beside me in bright clothing

Chances are that Cornelius didn’t even know who Peter was. But he knew that he should do what God told him to do!

7 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.

8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.          

9 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.

In that culture, the housetop was used as a sort of “patio.” There was nothing strange about Peter going up on the housetop to pray. As God was speaking to Cornelius, and as Cornelius had sent the messengers to call Peter, God is now speaking to Peter.

Typically, this is how God operates. He speaks to several people about a matter, not just one. Then confirmation is provided, and out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, a word is established

10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance

This often happens during prayer; distractions in our body come while we are trying to direct ourselves to God. However, God would use these very distractions to speak to Peter, as he fell into a trance.

11 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. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

This obviously goes against Peter’s commitment as a Jew, which was to never eat anything except kosher foods

Peter must have thought he was being righteous with his response but his first response is the language of legalism and pride

The only legitimate answer to a request from our Lord is “yes.”

15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

At this point, Peter believes that God is speaking about food. But God will show Peter that He is really getting at another point.

For a person with a strong Jewish background, and strong Jewish roots, it is extremely difficult to overcome the hold that tradition has on them.  Traditions many times are stronger than doctrine even when they are not doctrinally sound.

Peter, growing up in the Jewish tradition, looked upon the Gentiles as unclean.  And the Lord is going to bring into Peter a very radical and dramatic change! The realization that God will save Gentiles!

The Jews did not believe that a Gentile could be saved.  They believed that the only hope for a Gentile, as far as salvation was concerned, was to become a Jew. And this was also the feeling of the early church as well.

Now the Lord is trying to break Peter from this tradition. Which will take some time as Peter still had problems with this later on in the Gentile church of Antioch, where Paul was ministering, Peter came up to visit the church.

And he ate with the Gentiles until there were certain Jews of the church from Jerusalem, who came in.  Then he separated himself and wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles and it caused a division in the church of Antioch.

With the statement What God has cleansed, don’t call common; God was referring to the fact that He’s washed you in the blood of His only begotten Son so don’t call yourself common.

Most of us have the tendency to say, “God couldn’t use me. I’m no good. I don’t pray like I should. I say things I regret. I struggle with things. I’m just common. I’m just a worm in the dirt. I’m nothing.”

But God says to us, “Don’t call common or unclean what I have cleansed. I’ve cleansed you. I chose you by name before the foundation of the world” and he repeats this vision three times.

17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”

21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”

When the vision ended, Peter did not have it all figured out, and the visitors are arriving at his door. Peter must have been shocked when he opened the door and saw two servants and a soldier at his door.

He would have known immediately that they were not Jews, and he would have wondered why God told him to go with them and why God had sent them.

The idea that God would send and use Gentiles would have been entirely new to Peter.

22 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.” 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them.

On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

So Peter now is beginning to understand.  Cornelius, the centurion, is not a Jew; but he is favorable towards the Jewish people. He is a devout man; and God has spoken to him. By now Peter’s prejudices are beginning to break down.

You see it was an unthinkable thing to invite a Gentile in to your home.  Every place that he would sit down would be considered unclean.  If you would sit down where he had sat in a chair, then you would be unclean.

They felt that this ceremonial uncleanness could be transmitted by touch or by touching something that a Gentile had touched.  So to invite them in to spend the night was the beginning of the breakdown of the prejudice.

There is a change in Peter’s heart by the way he invited them in and lodged them. Lodged them is literally “to entertain as a guest.” Peter didn’t just coldly give these Gentiles visitors a room; he entertained them as welcome guests, and he did this against every custom and traditions of Israel, but not against God’s Word

Notice in this text that God works on both sides. He spoke to Cornelius through an angel and to Peter through a vision. When these three men showed up at Peter’s gate, it was confirmation that both Cornelius and Peter had heard God correctly.

Sometimes well-meaning brothers and sisters come to you and say, “The Lord told me to tell you…” When this happens, your answer should be, “If that’s so, He’ll tell me, too.”

So much is said in the name of the Lord that is not from the Lord or of the Lord. We need to be careful. Well-meaning people are sometimes convinced they’ve had a vision or a prophecy, and they’ll share it freely—even though it may never come to pass.

The messengers from Cornelius come with an invitation. Peter is to come to the house of Cornelius, and he wants to hear words from you. Of course, this was an invitation Peter couldn’t pass up –

A Gentile – worse yet, an officer in the Roman army – wanted to hear the gospel from Peter. Peter has never done anything like this before!

You can’t always choose the people God sends into your life with whom He wants you to share the Good News.

We can’t just choose people who dress like us and talk like us and look like us and act like us. The good news is for everybody whether they   are like us or not!

On the next day Peter went away with them reaching out in love to Cornelius in obedience to what God has told him to do.

Peter was willing to re-examine his traditions and prejudices and his daily routine in light of God’s word, and he began to share God’s heart for a lost world.

God has offered Salvation to everyone.”  God offers salvation to Gentiles.  God offers salvation to Roman Centurions.  God offers salvation to despised tax collectors, to the people on drugs, to alcoholics, to slumlords, to bank robber. God even offers salvation to people in church.