- Sermon Notes
Be The Change God Wants to See
Illus. To be, or not to be?
Throughout the past three chapters in Acts we have seen several people changed and converted to life in Christ. We saw in chapter 8 that the message of Jesus Christ was preached to an Ethiopian eunuch who was converted to Christ, and we saw the beginning of his changed life. In Acts 9 we studied the conversion of Saul or Tarsus, later known at Paul, as he turns his life over to Christ and is changed from one who was in opposition, to one who began devoting his life to the mission and gospel message of Jesus Christ. And this morning in Acts chapter 10, we will see two more conversions, one will be a Roman centurion, and the other is Peter the apostle.
“Wait just a minute,” you might say, “Peter is already saved!” And you would be correct in that statement, but there was a conversion of Peter’s heart that the Lord wanted to carry out, a change He wanted to see, but regarding the change Peter is initially hesitant.
The change that Peter was resistant to specifically, was a posture toward a people, the Gentiles. A Gentile is a term that refers to a person who is not Jewish. In the early church, the believers were first Jewish, and there were significant prejudices that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. Strict Jews would have nothing to do with Gentiles.
They would not be guests in the home of a Gentile or invite a Gentile to their home. They referred to them as “dogs,” dirt from a Gentile country was considered defiled, they would not eat food prepared by Gentile hands. They were a people that Jews wanted to avoid, so too, the Gentiles avoided the Jews.
Surely the climate of the day had an effect on all people, even those who had come to know and follow Christ. The reality of it all meant there was a tone and struggle in the acceptance of Gentiles as equals before the Lord. Jesus came and brought about change; He had modeled a different way. Jesus extended salvation to all would receive Him as Lord, he told his disciples to go into all nations, to be His witnesses to the entire world:
John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 28:19, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8, …You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.
Much had been said about “the world,” regarding “all nations,” and the “remotest part of the earth,” but thus far, though it was the reality Jesus wanted His people to pursue, the ministry had not gone to these places specifically. It is in Acts 10, when we see the mission toward the Gentile world begin, a pivotal chapter in church history and an important one for us to see. In Acts 8 we saw Phillip preach to an Ethiopian eunuch would receive the message and was baptized. He, however, returned to a distant land and did not pursue fellowship with the Jewish believers. In Acts 10, there is a reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles in the church. The time had come for the language to and heart posture to change from “them” to “us,” from “separate” to “one.”
In Ephesians 2:11-22, the point is well made that through Christ’s one, sacrificial death, He made Jew and Gentile, the two groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall (14).
Acts 10 shows us the realization of this truth, by telling the story of two men, the apostle Peter, and a Gentile Centurion named Cornelius. There was change God has in store for both of them, it was inward change that would bring outward results. On surface, both men looked good, but the Lord was looking to their hearts. One needed Jesus and to come to salvation in Him, the other, that the Lord wanted to seek the nations and was going to use him. The change God wanted to see, would start with their hearts.
- Pursue the Path He Points You To
Acts 10:1-3, Now there was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household and made many charitable contributions to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!”
- Cornelius was a centurion of what was called 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. 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.
- Cornelius is described as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and made many charitable contributions to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually”
- Cornelius is identified as a “God-fearer,” which was a technical term applied to a particular type of Gentile. A God fearer was called in Judaism a proselyte of the gate.
- Proselyte was a name given by the Jews to foreigners who adopt the Jewish religion. And a proselyte of the gate was somebody who believes in the God of Israel and aligns himself with that covenant, but not completely.
- These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel; they were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision.
- So, Cornelius feared God, He drew near to God, was praying continually, he gave to those in need.
- What becomes clear, however, is that despite it all, all of these good things, something was missing.
- Verse 3 tells us that about the ninth hour of the day, an angel appears to Cornelius with something to say.
- The ninth hour of the day was one of the customary times of prayer for Jews in that day. And in verse 30, Cornelius will reveal that at the time the angel appeared to him, he was in fact, praying.
- What he sees is an angel of God who calls his name, “Cornelius!”
Acts 10:4, And he looked at him intently and became terrified, and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and charitable gifts have ascended as a memorial offering before God.
- Seeing the angel, this seasoned soldier is terrified, and asks “what is it, Lord?”
- The angel acknowledges his prayers to the God of Israel, his charitable giving, that they had both ascended as a memorial offering before God…His seeking, praying, giving had been noticed and seen by God.
Acts 10:5-8, Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.” As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
- There was a path that the Lord had for Cornelius to pursue, and so by responding to the instructions of the angel he was pursuing the path the Lord pointed him to.
- Though the specifics we see in the life of Cornelius show us devotion, charity, and sincerity, a relationship with Jesus was missing.
- But what becomes clear as the angel continued speaking is that despite is all, something was missing. There was something the Lord had for Cornelius to see, someone he did not want Cornelius to miss, it was Jesus.
John 3:16 reads that is it those who believe in Jesus as Lord who have eternal life…
Acts 4:12, There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.
John 14:6, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
- It was important that Cornelius come to know and follow Jesus, that he come to know Jesus as the only way. And so, he is pointed along the path whereby he would ultimately hear from Peter.
- The Lord was going to get Peter in front of Cornelius. Peter will travel 35 miles away to Caesarea; he will share the Gospel message of salvation and changed life in Jesus Christ with Cornelius. So the attendants were sent on the path to Peter.
- But before they would get there, there was something God needed to prepare, it was Peter’s heart, and in the next verses we understand the change God wanted to see in Peter.
- Hunger for His Heart
Acts 10:9-16, On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and wanted to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and on it were all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the sky. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again, a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
- While in Joppa, Peter had gone up to a rooftop to pray. It was the sixth hour which means it was twelve noon.
- He becomes hungry he wants to eat, he is up there praying, he knew preparations were being made for lunch, he falls into a trance and sees food in a vision.
- Peter has a vision, there is a large sheet lowered down by the four corners to the ground, and there were all kinds of animals on it, including animals that were unclean according to Jewish law. Peter has a vision and a voice came to him, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”
- Peter will later acknowledge that it was the Lord showing him all of this and this is an interesting vision, but why is the vision about food?
- It seems that the vision is corresponding with what he is experiencing. He is hungry, he wants to eat. The vision gets his attention because he has an immediate need.
- The Lord was going to speak to Peter’s heart. But He would have to work His way there.
- In verse 14 we see Peter respond first with, “by no means, Lord, I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”
- What the Lord was asking Peter to do, was something he had never done. Not only that it challenged and pressed on the conclusions he had previously come to.
- In the Old Testament, there were certain dietary restrictions for Israel. There were foods that were forbidden, these are found in Leviticus 11.
- The sheet comes down before Peter, full of forbidden foods, and it is these foods that were once forbidden that the Lord is telling him to eat.
- Certain foods would make it difficult for a Jew to eat with Gentiles without risking defilement, and the point of it all was about to be made clear, that God was now working outside of Israel, and if Peter was going to be a part of what God was doing, he needed to understand that nothing was unclean.
- There was a New Covenant, and a calling of a new people, the days of the previous restriction, as Peter would clearly come to see, was over.
- The Lord wanted to change Peter’s posture, but Peter first responded… “By no means, Lord!”
- I feel for Peter, he is the consistent example amongst the disciples of one who makes a conjunction out of the words no and Lord.
Illus. No, Lord?
- The Lord would always respond to Peter and what we also see consistently is that Peter would respond to the Lord.
Acts 10:14-16, But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. (NKJV)
- In the Old Testament thinking, there was the clean (or holy) and the common. When the common came in contact with the clean, it could only be made holy or clean again through ritual cleansing.
- At this point, Peter thought the Lord was speaking to him in his hunger, only about food and a dietary change; but he will soon see that the Lord is bringing about a bigger change in Peter’s heart, a change that was needed regarding his heart toward a particular people, the Gentiles.
Galatians 3:26-28, So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- There was something the Lord wanted Peter to see. The Lord had sent an angel to Cornelius and pointed him on the path to Peter. Why go through all of that? Why not just do to him directly? No angels, no Peter, just present the gospel to him like He did Paul?
- Because both Cornelius and Peter had a need in it all. Peter needed a hunger for God’s heart, Peter needed this specifically.
- There was something Peter needed to see. He needed to see it specifically. We know Phillip was there. At the end of chapter 8, it says that Philip, after he led the Ethiopian eunuch to faith in Christ, he made his way to Caesarea, which is where Peter would meet Cornelius.
- And then when we get to Acts chapter 21, when Paul the Apostle is going back to Jerusalem, he will stop through Caesarea, and stay at the house of Philip the evangelist. Why not get Phillip to go into Cornelius’ home? He probably lived nearby, we know in Acts 21 he has a nickname, “Phillip the Evangelist.” Why not send him?
- Because Peter needed this. There was someone he desired Peter to be, there was a change he wanted to see. Peter was not just resistant to a food, but a people, and it was going to get in the way of what the Lord had for him to do.
- Be Committed to His Call
Acts 10:19-20, While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.”
- Peter first thought about the vision, but his thinking was short lived, he was wondering what it all meant, and the Holy Spirit directs him as to his next steps, “three men are seeking you, go with them, they have been sent by me.”
- Peter goes down to them, they tell him about Cornelius, the vision he received and that they were sent to get Peter and go back to his house.
- After staying the night in Joppa, Peter went with them.
- The next day they arrive to Caesarea and Cornelius was waiting for them. He had called together his relatives and close friends.
Acts 10:25-26, When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter helped him up, saying, “Stand up; I, too, am just a man.”
Acts 10:28-29, Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
- Cornelius recounts his story and tells Peter that all the people gathered there before him, are there to hear from him the things commanded by God.
Acts 10:34-35, Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
- Peter says to the people that he realized something; God shows know partiality. He has received it now; he perceives it now. No one is “off limits,” the ground is level at the cross.
- The word there for partiality is “one who discriminates,” and Peter says clearly, God doesn’t do that. His call is for all.
Acts 10:43, To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.