This past Sunday morning we found ourselves in Acts 10 as we continue to follow the life of the early church as God leads, convicts and corrects.
In Acts 10 we are met with two main characters, Peter and Cornelius, and one beautiful plan of our Savior. Peter and Cornelius may just seem like 2 individual characters with their own stories, but in our discussion Sunday morning we spoke about how they truly do represent something much grander. They represented two people groups becoming one in the eyes of the Lord. Those who had been identified as God’s chosen people and those who had not, those who were jews and those who were not, those who thoughts of themselves as the beloved and those who were seen as common.
What’s even crazier is that Acts 10 is actually the moment you and I enter the story, the moment in which we become considered God’s children, and no longer to be dependant on a basis of being born jewish or not.
Okay, so let’s go on and get into the discussion points then:
Go on and read Acts 10 in it’s wholeness and then we will break down some key points in the verses as well as providing some additional scriptures to further explain concepts touched on:
In verse 1-2 we are introduced to character #1: Cornelius (he’s going to represent you and me, so let’s root for him in this story!)
vv. 1-2 "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God." vv. 3-4 "About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God"
It’s important to note who exactly Cornelius was. He was described as one who “feared God“. He was not a born Jew, yet he followed Jewish culture, participating with those who were following God. Here we see him representing the nations of those who lived in accordance to that which pleased God, seeing him giving alms and adhering to prayer customs.
- We looked at Hebrews 11:6 to see a description of someone after God’s heart, someone who pleased the Lord
- Other examples of people who found favor with the Lord we mentioned were: Job, Moses, Abel, Abraham, David
We see the Lord met Cornelius in his time of prayer. We must remember that God loves to meet us as we seek Him, more on this at the end of this post.
**Do you believe that when you seek the Lord you will find Him, like truly believe that? Spend some time praying to the Lord right now. We know that prayer pleases Him and yet we forget to actually stop in the hustle of life at times and pray. The Lord loves to hear you, your desires, your hurts, your heart. So pause and pray and expect the Lord to meet you there!
Look to verse 5-8 to answer the following questions:
What did the Lord ask of Cornelius?
What was Cornelius’s response?
vv. 5-8 "And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa."
We find that Cornelius was faithful to follow the Lord’s direction to send men to Joppa, even though he may have been slightly confused as to the why behind the action. Take a second to think about what the Lord has been calling you to do that you have laid to the side and said, “I need some more reasoning in order to do that”. Be challenged to let the Lord lead, even when it feels uncertain as to why. We can trust His character which means we can trust His steps forward.
In verses 9-16 we pick back up with character #2, Peter. We have been following his life in Acts thus far and have knowledge that he is seen as a leader, a disciple near to the vision and direction of the Lord. (refer to Acts 2:14 where Peter had the courage to preach at Pentecost).
vv.9-16: "The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven."
Some questions we looked at that are worth answering:
(1) What symbolism can we find in the voice having to speak to Peter 3 times? (refer to John 21 and Mark 14:66)
(2) What is odd about the request to kill all kinds of animals? How did this go against previous Jewish law?
(3) What did vv.15 mean to Peter, what does vv. 15 mean to us today?
We stopped and talked about the idea of clean, acceptable, worthy things. Sometimes, we like to be the judge of the labels we put on people saying things like: “He looks unfit to be used in the Kingdom of God” “She doesn’t look acceptable for this church” “I cannot be worthy of being a daughter of the King because of my past”…
When thinking of the Lord as the final judge on all things, we must lay down our own opinions, our own judgements, our “normals” when we enter His kingdom. We must be reminded that our inheritance is not product of anything we ourselves have done, it is not because of some special quality that we possess, it is not from our ability to stay clean in a dirty world, and it is not by the color of our skin.
In Peter’s vision we get a glimpse of what the Lord is up to. God is breaking down barriers to the gospel, he is unifying a people, he is building up an impartial church. Let’s continue in the scripture:
In verse 17-23 we see Peter inwardly questioning the vision he had and yet the Lord being faithful to speak to Him and comfort Him in the way He was calling Peter to act.
vv. 17-23 " Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests."
From here we see the story of Cornelius coming into the presence of Peter, immediately feeling as thought he should fall on his face before Peter, a Jew. (Go on and read verse 24-29 here) and yet there is something so powerful in what Peter’s response is, what the Lord is trying to tell his people.
vv. 28 "And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean."
We are met with the impartiality of God, and in turn the impartiality we are to live with.
Here are some verses to explore more on this idea, to see this beautiful characteristic of the Lord:
- Gen. 12:3, Gal. 3:8, Romans 2:6-16
Some more questions to look at with these verses:
In what ways have you been impartial in your love over the past 2 weeks?
How have you decided for yourself who deserves patience, who deserves kindness, who deserves your time?
How do you normally judge others? What do you notice about people you are interacting with?
Continue on and read verse 34-35.
vv. 34-35 "So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."
A humbling thought we discussed in the context of God’s impartiality was that there wasn’t anything in you that made Him choose you. There was no special characteristic, no excellent skill, no extreme beauty in you or in me that granted us a place in His kingdom. You see, it’s all HIM, His beauty, His grandness, His perfect character in us that makes us worthy.
You see, we love to have things specific to us that others notice and love us for. The teacher made an exception for me on a deadline because she knows I normally get my work done. That friend spent extra money on me for Christmas because she loves me a little bit more than her other friends. The coach put me in the game more than my teammates because I am simply better than they are and they all know it.
The Lord here is literally saying to flip that notion on it’s head and start a new way of living. A life that doesn’t cling to favorites, special treatment, or pedestals to try to be put on.
If that is the case, then our actions should image Christ better in our ability to see all people as deserving of the gospel in word and deed. We no longer get to stand for division or “fairness based on merit” or to rest in our given family name or wealth.
God went through great lengths to bring you and me into this story. God spoke not to just Jew, not to just Gentile here. We see Him reaching both Cornelius and Peter, and it’s kind of a big deal. He did it to make sure His love was a redemption story for ALL and not just some. How beautiful is that?
(**Read Ephesians 2:11-22 to enrich your understanding of what God is making a way for as he lifts the title of “chosen” off of only Jewish born individuals and places the title friend on ALL who have chosen to follow Him and have been covered by His blood)
Take some time to go on and finish reading Acts 10.
Below are some more thoughts and references to help as you explore some of the themes and application of this chapter.
(1) Acceptability, cleanliness, goodness.
What does the Lord say is acceptable in His children?
Who is God now saying is clean in the eyes of the Lord if it is not just those born Jewish?
What is the Lord making clear in this passage about what our idea of good in someone should actually look like?
(2) Further exploration on how we must seek the Lord, much like Cornelius and Peter. Both were seeking guidance from God, praying daily, in tune with the Spirit, willing to follow where He was leading. Here are some verses that lean into the idea that as children of God, we must seek Him and as we seek Him he promises us we will find Him!
- Deut. 10:12, Jer. 29:12-13, Gen. 4:26
(3) Read Isaiah 49:6
Sit with the wording “Oh it is too small a thing, too light a thing…”
How is it too small a thing to only love those whom it is easy to love? To love the ones who look like us, do like we do, speak like we do?
Why would it be too light a kingdom is God simply wanted His people to be kind to those who were worthy by the world’s standards (i.e. to count the beautiful as worthy, to reach the wealthy, etc)
See, He’s pushing us to much, much more and it’s up to you and me to follow where he nudges us further or not.
(4) The Lord is a Lord of peace, and peace is a promise He keeps!
Read Eph. 2:17 which quotes Isaiah 57:19
Peace is gospel we need to preach to one another. Peace with God and peace with one another.
How have your actions over the past 2 weeks preached peace? How have the preached conflict?
God’s aim to unite Jew and Gentile is a plan to unite you and me. Let us rejoice in our Father’s effort to bring ALL to himself!
We are praying for a spirit of impartiality in our ministry and in you this week!
-Your First College Crew