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86. Acts 10: “Crossing Barriers (in God’s Name)”

Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening

Service on 2/15/2018

and

Mission Teens Drug Rehab Center in Norma, NJ -Evening Chapel Service on 2/17/2018

and

South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 2/18/2017

(edited August 2021)

 

As this chapter in the Book of Acts opens, Saul of Tarsus has been saved and has stopped persecuting the Church in Judea.

 

Also, Peter has now had his own “Talitha cumi*” experience through the power of the Holy Spirit:

Acts 9:36-43

“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.”

Amazing, right? Yet, as one who had walked with Christ during the Lord’s earthy ministry, Peter was just doing what he had seen and learned from Jesus (*see Mark 5:21-43). For Peter, based on his experience, raising the dead was “Christ-like” behavior! What has the Lord taught you to do for Him? He has taught me a lot more than I actually do sometimes, I’m sorry to say.

 

At any rate, the early Church was “on the move!”. And that movement of Christianity was about to spread beyond Ancient Israel. Let’s jump right on into our study tonight in Acts chapter 10:

 

Verse 1: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,”

 

Cornelius was a Roman, a gentile soldier. He was part of the foreign occupying force that had taken over Israel in that day.

 

Verse 2: A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”

 

He was the wrong man on the outside, but not on the inside where it counts with God.

 

Verse 3: He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.”

 

It seems like so often in the New Testament, the next chapter of the Church’s story begins with a personal announcement by an Angel! By the way, Angels from Heaven will return to the Earth again on Judgement Day, we are told.

 

Verses 4-6:  And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”

 

This Angel had some very clear instructions for Cornelius.

 

Verses 7-8:  And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”

 

Cornelius listens, then immediately acts on the instructions he has received. That is always the KEY when we hear God’s Word and discover His will for us. Then we must act on it! It’s kind of interesting that we are studying the Book of Acts, right now.

 

Verses 9-13: “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.”

 

Peter must have really been confused. You see, this would violate the rules of the Old Testament that Peter had grown up on and was STILL trying to faithfully follow, even after believing in Jesus.

 

Verses 14-16: “But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”

 

Change is HARD, in religion and in life in general. It can be shocking what God asks us to accomplish sometimes. Wouldn’t you agree? Old Peter had to be told three times. And he still doubted:

 

Verses 17-23: “Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.  While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.  Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.”

 

Again, we see that Cornelius, the gentile, is being very obedient to God’s Word, as delivered by the Angel. Will Peter, the Apostle Peter, follow through as well? God’s will and His Word challenges all of us all the time regardless of how long we have believed in Christ or how “religious” we are. But so far, so good, for Peter:

 

Verse 24: And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends.”

 

This man was READY to be saved for God was calling him! Has He ever called you to accept Christ, or is He calling you, perhaps, right now? Cornelius was READY to learn, READY to accept the Truth, and to believe in Jesus Christ. And he was excited about it, too. Now, Peter could not save Cornelius, but God will be using Peter to bring His message of salvation to Cornelius and to those who had gathered around.

 

Real ministry happens when God goes in before the sermon and prepares the hearts of the listeners. But of course, the listeners have to be open and willing to let God in. Even Jesus once had a problem when He tried to minister in His hometown of Nazareth and almost nobody was interested. So, if that could happen to Christ, none of us should be too shocked to discover that our words alone cannot save! Not everyone you try to minister to will be as open to the Spirit of God as old Cornelius was.

 

Verses 25-33: “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.  But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for 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, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.  Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”

 

How smoothly the wheels of ministry and blessing turn when we allow the Spirit of God to freely move and work among us! This goes for clergy and the laity. In a way that term “Christian Leader” is not accurate. In Christianity we are ALL followers! We ALL need to be obedient to the Truth as God reveals it to all of us.

 

Now it’s Peter’s turn to respond to gentile who is seeking the Truth. Maybe the dream Peter had was a little fuzzy, but so far, he’s been obeying the Lord anyway. And because he is acting in faith, God is about to grant Him the knowledge and wisdom to preach a sermon to Cornelius and company. A great sermon on the great Truths of the New Covenant. Here it comes:

 

Verses 34-43: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

 

I can tell you that in my limited experience, I have learned more by DOING God’s Word than by studying it! For me this kind of raises the question of “What is a sermon, really?” My opinion is that it is, ultimately, just words. Even from someone like the late Rev. Billy Graham. It’s just a man speaking words. The only power to be found in those words is when the Spirit of God moves in the hearts of people, implanting Truth and the desire to respond!

 

That’s exactly what was happening here. Oh my, look at what a time they had:

 

Verses 44-45:  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

 

God had to lead both Cornelius and Peter with dreams because the “next step” for the young Church at Jerusalem was just BEYOND what either of them could imagine or dream of on their own. This was like the Day of Pentecost all over again, but this time for the gentiles too. As a gentile, that makes me feel so good!

 

Verses 46-48:  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”

 

Peter is now FULLY convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all who believe! We need to remember that today as we look around at the people God brings into our lives.

Let’s pray.

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