In Caesarea there was a Roman centurion named Cornelius who loved God and worked to honor Him through generosity and prayer. An angel appears and tells him to send for Peter in Joppa.
Meanwhile, Peter on a rooftop in Joppa has a vision of a sheet being lowered and various animals presented to him to eat, including those who were “unclean” by the law of moses. While pondering this vision, the 3 messengers from Cornelius arrive.
Peter and his entourage go to Caesarea and enter and dine with Cornelius, a fact that would have also been in violation of the law since Cornelius did not follow Jewish dietary law in the prep of food or even in the decoration of his home (prayer at the doorpost, etc.)
Peter receives the revelation of his vision – all belong to God: “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Peter witnesses about Christ and, without any altar call at all, the entire household present receives the Holy Spirit with proof in the speaking of tongues. Peter calls for them to be baptized.
Peter catches flack from Jews for extending the gift of the Holy Spirit to non-Jews.
5. a. v2: “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly”
b. I believe others, particularly friends and family, see me as a man devoted to God.
b. Act 10:15 – God made it clean. The price of sin was paid by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Mat 5:17: the law has been fulfilled
Rom 14:14-17: kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
7. a. 12: Get up, kill and eat; v15 do not call anything impure that God has made clean; v19 go with the men without hesitation
b. v21, the men were there; v22, A holy angel told him to have you come to his house
c. 33: we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us., 34: I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism. 44: while still speaking the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message
8. Unquestioning obedience and humility to God’s direction. He said go, they went. The act of Cornelius, a centurion, bowing at Peter’s feet who was an outlaw, simply because God had directed him to this man, therefore this must be a man of honor in God’s kingdom.
9. (Challenge) no, it says who fear him and do what is right.
- The fear of the Lord is a gift of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2)
- Even the spies of the sanhedrin recognized that Jesus “taught what is right” Luke 20:21
- Jesus is the only way (John 14:6)
10. To follow jewish law was akin to running a marathon. Each step counted and you were in it for the distance. And now, with the death and resurrection of Jesus and the advent of the Holy Spirit, there is a big banquet the runners are enjoying. But how unfair it seems to them that these gentiles (non-runners) are showing up at the banquet. They aren’t saying they can’t participate, they just want them to go run the race first.
Conclusion: God’s patience and self constraint amazes me. Sometimes he is very clear and exact with us and sometimes he presents us with a message in such a way that we have to take it in and steep in it for a while to really internalize the message.
Last week we had God revealing specific instructions to Ananias, go to this house on Straight street, meet with this guy. He couldn’t have been more clear if he had just plugged it into his calendar. And even this week to Peter: go downstairs, there are 3 men looking for you, go with them, don’t hesitate.
I was doing some work with furniture this week and this story reminds me of it. Think of it this way. The specific directions God gives us are a lot like furniture cleaners. You spray it on, you wipe it off – clean. God says it, you do it – clean. The less specific information God gives us is more like paint stripper. You spray it on, wait for it to soak down in and get under the surface so that it works on cleaning from the inside out.
This is a major shift in reality for these jewish Christians: that they would now be dining with gentiles, associating with them as family, foregoing dietary law to spread the good news. Peter is not a young man and he notes that he has never eaten something unclean. This is a really big change. Now, God could have told him and Peter probably would have followed. But, God was so much wiser and more patient. He revealed his message to Peter in such a way that it could soak down in and then work on changing Peter’s views and perceptions from the inside, rather than just on the surface.