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Acts 10:1-48: A Gentile-Saving God Print E-mail

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We are privileged people.  We live in a privileged country.  Some of the freedoms that we enjoy are rare.  We have jobs and food and shelter.  We are surrounded by people who love us and care for us.  We do not live under constant threat of arrest or starvation or exposure as many in our world do.  When we got ready this morning, we had multiple choices (some of us too many) about what to wear, maybe even what to drive.  If we get sick today, we have doctors and medicine.  If we get bored, we have entertainment in numerous formats.  If we get lonely, we can pull out our phone and call whoever we want, wherever they might be in the world, and there’s a good chance they will answer (or at least call us back).  We are a privileged people.  Yet, privilege can come with problems, the foremost being that it often makes us ungrateful.  When was the last time you thanked God for any of things I just talked about?  We take them for granted.  In fact, if any of these privileges were taken away, we would grow frustrated and angry, perhaps even at God.  After all, He owes us all of this right?

The greatest privilege that any of us have ever been given is to be blood-bought sons and daughters of God.  If you have turned from your sins and trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then you are part of the family of God.  We are orphans no more.  We were outcasts, we were rebels, we were dead in our sins.  And as Gentiles, we were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).  The Gentiles were not born into God’s covenant community.  They were not given the Law and the promises.  They were without God in the world.  This is who we were before Christ.  But Paul goes on and notes that we are now brought near, we now have access in one Spirit to the Father, we are fellow citizens with the saints, who are being built into a dwelling place for God (Ephesians 2:13-22).  All of this by the work of Christ.  All of this by His blood and His mercy and His grace.  He has brought us into such a privileged state and we should never ever grow ungrateful for His love.

Our passage this morning tells the story of the first Gentile conversion to Christianity.  We have seen Jews and Samaritans believe, but this morning we see Gentiles join the family of God.  The gospel breaks through another circle of people.  And we are part of this circle.  What is revealed in this passage should captivate us and bring us to our knees, namely that God saves both Jews and Gentiles.  So then, let’s walk through this story and be amazed at what our God has done.

The Lord Prepares the Way (v. 1-33)

Since Acts 1:8, we have been tracking the spread of the gospel in Acts.  So then, how does it get to the Gentiles?  The movement begins with two visions from the Lord.  The first is given to a man named Cornelius.  Look at verses 1-8.  Cornelius was a Gentile living in Caesarea, a place heavily populated with Gentiles.  He was a soldier, technically a sergeant or a captain, who was in charge of about a hundred men.  Luke also notes that he was a devout man who feared God.  Some might say that is enough.  But the story reveals that more is necessary for salvation.  One day while Cornelius is praying, the Lord sends an angel to speak to him.  The angel tells him to send to Joppa for Peter and even gives him details about where Peter is lodging.  So Cornelius chooses three trusted men and sends them to Joppa (about thirty miles from Caesarea) to get Peter.

The second vision is given to Peter.  Look at verses 9-16.  Peter is given a vision of animals coming down on a sheet and he is told to kill and eat.  The problem for Peter is that some of these animals are considered unclean according to the Law and Peter has never eaten any unclean animals before.  But he is told: ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’  The same vision happens three times to drive the point home.  Peter is no longer to consider certain foods unclean or common. 

Even though Peter is not sure exactly what is going on, the Lord is preparing him for the invitation from Cornelius, which is what takes place next.  Look at verses 17-23.  The men tell Peter of the angelic visitation and ask him to come with them to Cornelius’ house.  The problem is that Peter would not normally go to a Gentile’s house to share a meal, for that would make him unclean.  Yet, the Spirit tells him to go with them, so he agrees.  They make it to the home of Cornelius in verses 24-29.  Look at those with me.  Cornelius had some time to get ready for Peter’s arrival and so he invited his friends and family.  When Peter arrives, Cornelius begins to worship Peter, but the apostle stops him and tells him he is just a man.  Then Peter tells them that it is unlawful for him to be there as a Jew but that God had given him a vision that he should not consider anyone unclean or common.  Thus, the vision was about more than just food, it was about people and God used it to get Peter to the home of Cornelius.  Cornelius goes on and explains that he invited Peter because of the vision that he had.  Thus, it is obvious that God has used these two visions to get these two men together.  He has prepared the way.  And the stage is set for Peter to preach the good news.  Look at verse 33b.  What will Peter say?

Peter Preaches the Good News (v. 34-43)

The first thing we see Peter do is open his mouth.  Look at verse 34a.  Once again, the gospel demands words.  People need to hear the good news and we must use words to tell them.  What exactly does Peter say?  Look at verses 34b-35.  Peter relates the change that God had made on his thinking.  He now knows that God shows no partiality for nations.  He is a Gentile-saving God just as much as He is a Jew-saving God.  He has made a way for God-fearers from every nation to have their sins forgiven.  Again, some might think that just fearing God is enough.  If that were the case, then Peter would have stopped right here.  But he goes on.

Peter lays out the content of the gospel in verses 36-41.  Look at those with me.  Peter recounts the historical life of Jesus.  John came first proclaiming baptism and then Jesus came.  Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit, performing miracles and healing people, revealing his power over the devil.  Peter knows that this really did happen because he witnessed it.  He was there when the demons were cast out and the dead were raised.  And he was there when they hung Him on a cross after he had denied Him three times.  But that was not the end.  Three days later God raised Jesus from the dead and He appeared to his witnesses, who even shared meals with Him.  This is gospel content: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  If Jews or Gentiles are going to be saved, we must open our mouths and speak this good news.  We must tell them what Jesus came and did.

How are we supposed to respond to the gospel?  Peter tells us in verses 42-43.  Look at those with me.  Peter knows that he is here to tell.  The Risen Christ commanded him to tell others the good news that if they turn from their sins and believe in Jesus, they will be saved.  The truth is that Jesus has been appointed to judge both the living and the dead.  Every man and every woman will have to stand before Him on that final Day.  How can we be prepared for that?  What can we do about our sin?  The good news that Peter and the others were told to declare is that Jesus has paid for our sins.  Our Judge is our Redeemer.  So Peter tells these Gentiles: everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.  Do you want to be forgiven of your sins?  Trust in Jesus.  Do you want to be ready to stand before the Judge?  Believe in the sacrifice that He made for you at the cross.  Believe in Him!

The Lord Confirms their Conversion (v. 44-48)

Yet, before we get ahead of ourselves, we still need to ask this question: how do we really know that the gospel is able to save Gentiles?  How can we really know that we are welcome in the family of God through faith in Jesus?  Look at verses 44-48.  There is some ‘hallelujah’ in these verses!  These first Gentiles are brought into the family just like the Jews were on the Day of Pentecost.  The Jews that had made the trip with Peter are amazed at what they see: God is giving the gift of the Spirit to Gentiles.  Praise God!  He stamps His approval and affirms their conversion in such a way that none of those present could doubt that they are now brothers and sisters in Christ.  So Peter asks: ‘If God has baptized them with the Spirit, then we should baptize them with water!’  This is significant because it represents their inclusion in the Church.  They are not half-Christian.  There are no step-brothers in the family of God.  We all come in through faith in Christ and when we do, we are full-fledged children of God.  So they baptize these first converts and Peter remains with them to continue their discipleship.

The Lord prepared the way for Peter and Cornelius to meet.  Peter preached the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and called for faith and repentance.  And the Lord confirmed their salvation by pouring out His Spirit upon them in the same way that He did at Pentecost.  In this way, the gospel has spread from just Jews to include Gentiles.  The Lord has broken down the barrier so that Gentiles might now be brought into His family.

Even today, the mission continues.  The Lord continues to prepare people to hear the gospel.  He even uses visions and dreams at times, as so many missionaries have stated.  Sometimes He uses circumstances and even tragedies.  He opens doors and breaks down barriers.  He gets us in situations so that we can share the good news.  So then, what should we do?  Just like Peter, we need to open our mouths and tell people about the death and resurrection of King Jesus.  We need to tell them about all that He did, healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead.  And we need to tell them that He died for their sins.  He paid the price for their forgiveness.  And we need to proclaim that God raised Him from the dead, declaring His sacrifice enough to pay for our rebellion.  We need to call on them to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus.  And when God pours out His Spirit on them, when He takes out their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh, then we need to baptize them and welcome them into the family.  We need to take all the gospel to all people, all for the glory of God.  The good news declares: ‘All are welcome in the family of God through faith in Jesus.’  It is our great privilege to believe this good news and to share it with everyone we can, both Jews and Gentil

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 August 2014 )

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