Last week, in the sermon that changed everything, on the day of Pentecost, we heard Peter quote the amazing verses from Joel 2...
Acts 2:17-18 "And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
The Spirit will be poured out on “all flesh”! When Peter quoted these words from Joel in his sermon, that changed everything, Peter did not realize what poured out on all flesh meant... but he was about to find out!
This morning, we are going to be studying what should be your favorite story in all 39 chapters of The Story. You may have thought Acts 2 was your favorite chapter with day of Pentecost and 3,000 people baptized; but it’s not. Birth of Jesus... Resurrection... Garden of Eden... Elijah on Mount Carmel... But I am here to tell you, this morning, Acts chapter 10 is your favorite chapter in the entire Story.
Don’t believe me? Let’s find out...
Acts 10:1-2 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
Here is a great reason to love Acts 10 already. We have a Roman centurion who loves the Jewish God; YHWH. Somehow this high-up military commander has been introduced to God and has learned to love Him. So much so, that he prays to YHWH, and gives to the poor in the name of YHWH.
He was chosen by YHWH to get a visit from an angel.
Acts 10:3-4 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. (SAR) "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”
Three o’clock in the afternoon was a time for Jewish prayers and meditation. As he is praying suddenly, bam, an angel says, “Cornelius!” -- Scares the Whoopi-John out of him. Then, this frightening angel tells him a reason for this being your favorite chapter. “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Isn’t that an amazing metaphor? Can you visualize it? Prayers and helping the poor are like the smell of incense wafting all the way up to the throne of God. Who needs a Temple? Who needs a priest?
The angel delivers his message...
Acts 10:5-9 “Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner; whose house is by the sea." When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
Real quick here is another reason to love this story. God is the God of timing. YHWH choreographs everything to his glory.
Just as Peter is about to get his vision, the three guys from Cornelius are approaching the house.
Acts 10:10-16 Peter became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (low blood sugar) He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
If you like the smell of bacon cooking in the morning, or the sound of bacon sizzling or the taste of crisp bacon with your eggs, then, Acts chapter 10 is your favorite chapter.
Peter denies the Lord three times; again. Peter is not going to eat anything unclean! The Jews were God’s different people from the days of Moses until the days of Cornelius. All of that is about to change.
Acts 10:17-23 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So, get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them." Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?" The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
Already this is amazing. Jews, of Peter’s day, rarely invited Gentiles into their houses. There was no table fellowship, at all, between these races. Plug in the worse kind prejudice you know between them... you will be close. But the walls of racial prejudice are about to come down.
Acts 10:23-26 The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."
Peter takes his companions and the three Gentiles and travels the 30 miles north to Caesarea. Cornelius is expecting Peter and is ready to worship him. But Peter makes the same point as our Declaration of Independence; “All men are created equal!” “I am only a man myself!” Peter is beginning to see a pattern here; nothing unclean. Gentiles are people, too. Wow! Isn’t this really becoming your favorite story?
Acts 10:27-35 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So, when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?" Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' So, I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us." Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (pour out his Spirit on all flesh! Peter is about to get there.)
Peter doesn’t know why he has been summoned; a healing, maybe a raising from the dead he has done that before. Peter finds he is supposed to preach to them. “What? No, not a gentile. No, no, not a Roman. NO, NO, not a centurion!” Could God have been any more to the point?
Who is getting preached to here? Cornelius or Peter? God is preaching to Peter and the sermon is; God does not show favoritism! The Spirit is poured out on... don’t say it, Peter begs... on all flesh... even Roman Centurions!
Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. He came to establish a Jewish Kingdom. He was supposed to deliver the Jews from the Romans! Jesus was Jewish! But no! Jesus came to save the whole world; even Roman centurions! Should this story be called the conversion of Cornelius or the conversion of Peter? Peter is dumbfounded as he says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”
For us this is good news!
Acts 10:36-43 “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached-- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-- by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone (Wait... everyone?) who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
Here we have the heart of the message, the message that is going to spread to the ends of the earth. That heart is Jesus. Here is Peter’s realization; if Jesus is Lord, at all, then he is Lord of All! All those who believe in Jesus can be agents in the kingdom... with keys!
Wow... It’s coming... The Spirit... It’s coming... the pouring out part... It’s coming... on all flesh... It’s coming... even Gentile flesh!
Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
I think that is 98% of us are Gentiles. Even, we can be filled with the Spirit! Even, we can be baptized in the name of Jesus! Even, we can receive the Spirit, too!
Peter, and the rest of the Jewish Christians, needed to know that these Gentile Christians weren’t going to be second-class Christians. They were just as much Christians as those who first knew Jesus. It is the Gentile day of Pentecost! So, the Holy Spirit did to Cornelius and his bunch the same thing he had done to Peter and his bunch. The Spirit was poured out upon them and they spoke in languages and praised God! Even, Gentiles, that’s us, can be God’s chosen people!
I want to make sure we get that point, like Peter did. Notice how many times Luke makes the same point in this chapter:
10:4 – A Roman centurion’s prayers and alms are accepted by God as a sacrifice!
10:15 - Don’t call anything impure that God has made clean - 3X
10:20 - Do not hesitate to go with them
10:23 – Peter invited them in to be guests
10:34 - God does not show favoritism.
10:35 – God accepts all men who fear him and do right
10:44 – The Holy Spirit came upon the gentiles
10:45 – Astonished the gift had been poured out on the gentiles
10:47 - Can we keep them from being baptized?
And then as Peter retells the story back at the house, in chapter 11...
Acts 11:17-18 “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" When they heard these things, they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
Luke makes his point that the Gospel is for all. God is the God of Everyone! Without Acts chapter 10, we would be separate from God. Without Acts chapter 10, there would be a barrier between us and being one with the Spirit. Without Acts chapter 10, we could only wish for Jesus. But, because of Acts chapter 10 we can call Jesus, Lord!
Your favorite Story?
The Spirit is poured out on “all flesh”! We, you and I, get to be agents with keys. We have the Holy Spirit, the key, to open the gates of eternal life!
August 12, 2018
Los Alamos Church of Christ