2018-07-29 – Acts 10.1-8 – For All Who Believe – 1

2018-07-29 – Acts 10.1-8 – For All Who Believe – 1

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.

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. “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. 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.

018-07-29 – Acts 10.1-8 – For All Who Believe – 1

Good morning everyone. I am so pleased that you chose to spend the morning with us here today. God bless you all.

Amy and I want to thank you all for allowing us to go on a vacation last week. It is actually the first real vacation we have taken since we were called into this ministry. It is also the first vacation we have taken by ourselves without children in around twenty years. We had an excellent time going about both Lower and Upper Michigan and Minnesota, enjoying each other’s company and delighting in God’s beautiful creation. Again, thank you all and Pastor Joe Gardner as well.

Speaking of traveling, I read where a woman who traveled abroad without her husband got to Paris and found a fabulous bracelet she’d been looking for. So she sent a wire back home saying, “I have found this beautiful bracelet, one I’ve been looking for all my life. It only costs $7,500. Do you think I can buy it?”
Her husband wired back a short but firm reply, “No, price too high!” And he signed his name. But in the transmission, the comma was left out and the message read, “No price too high.” Oh, she was thrilled! Omitting that comma almost put that guy in a coma. –Je LoMusio, If I should Die before I Live

Now Amy and I didn’t buy any expensive jewelry on this trip, (at least to my knowledge), but it does cost a lot to travel. And we are glad to be back home.

In this worship service, we are going through the book of Acts. And Peter, in our verses today, is in the city of Joppa to spread the Good news to the people there. This message today is the first part of a three part message entitled For All Who Believe. It is about Salvation, and we will discuss what it is, who is it for, why is it important, and how do we obtain it.

Please turn now to Acts 10:1 (pg 128 of the Pew Bibles), which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, but let us start with prayer.  

I have a little map that shows the areas in Israel that these events took place, specifically in Joppa and Caesarea, which are encircled on the left along the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa is about 30 miles Northwest of Jerusalem, and Caesarea is about 30 miles north of Joppa. The city name Joppa in the Bible is called Jaffa today.

Again this is the first part of a three part message. However, first I would like to read through a summary of accounts that Peter recites himself in Acts 11. Then we will come back to Acts 10 to better understand what had taken place.

So starting here in Chapter 11:1 is Peter’s own account of what took place:

11 1Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11 At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”
18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

So that is the overview and summary given by the Apostle Peter himself of what we are going to be going over these next few weeks. Peter was declaring or arguing that God makes available Salvation For All Who Believe. And that would include you and I dear brothers and sisters; to that I say, Praise the Lord.

Acts 10: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. 

You might know that a centurion was one of sixty leaders in a Roman military Regiment, that was in command of 100 men each. Being that I am retired from the Army, I can probably equate him to what we would call a company commander. They would generally have four platoons of 20-30 soldiers.
They would be somebody that has proven themselves and earned their rank and privilege. This reminds me of another favorite story in the books of Matthew and Luke about the Centurion that asked Jesus to heal his servant.

Jesus said He would come to the Centurion’s house, but the Centurion responded with” Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes. Jesus was marveled at his faith and healed the servant because of the Centurion’s faith. That is the same type of person we are reading now about. A soldier of faith.

One day at about three in the afternoon [the centurion] had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “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. 

Can you just imagine that? It must have been something amazing to see. And this Roman centurion stared at the Angel in fear! This commander of men, was in fear, or maybe in awe. How would you like to get a message from an Angel?
I believe I have received a couple messages through the years from God through Angels.. How about you? Have you ever received an angelic message?

This Angel in our verse had a message for Cornelius that day. I did a little digging and found that Angels are being used throughout the Bible to send messages from God. I make reference to a couple that you might recall.

Luke 1 (to John the Baptist’s father) “The angel Gabriel said “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” Then later Gabriel said to Mary
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

Luke 2:10 (to the Shepherds) The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”.

You might recall that angels also appeared at the tomb where Jesus had been laying, and again after Jesus ascended into heaven, and told the people “Men of Galilee, they said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

God’s angels are used throughout the Bible and I will argue that they are still at work today as they were when God first inspired His word to be written. Just as angels served as messengers and even protected God’s people in the past, we can be assured that they are still giving messages and guarding us today. And I especially like what it says Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I think that is awesome, and I believe in it with all my heart.

In our Acts 10:4 verse here, notice what the Angel said to the centurion Cornelius, he said that his prayers and gifts to the poor have been noticed by God. Noticed by God! I find this amazingly hopeful and affirming as to our work as a church and also individually as we are serving the community and showing God’s love to those we meet, especially the poor and broken hearted. Can you imagine that an Angel might say that to you one day? God noticed your work Earleen, God noticed your work {  }. That tells me that we don’t have a disconnected God, we have a God that takes notice. Praise the Lord!

Then the Angel told Cornelius in verse 5,

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.”

You might recall from our last message that Peter went to a house in Joppa where God used him to raise a lady named Dorcas from the dead. And as a result many others in Joppa came to accept Jesus as their personal savior.

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.

Again this is just the first part of a three part message. Next week we will see how Peter also received a message from God right before these men arrived at Simon the tanner house by the sea in Joppa.

But the take away for today is that even the most righteous of people need Jesus. Cornelius was a most respected high-level type of person. It is likely he was a well-regarded, wealthy, prominent figure in the town. Cornelius was a Roman but was obviously influenced by the Jewish religion and people that he accepted YAHWEH God as his Lord, but he was not a believer yet of Jesus Christ as the Savior. The Angel even said that God noticed Cornelius’s faith and righteousness. However even though Cornelius is that good of a person, God still required that he accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If God sent Angels to lead Cornelius to Peter so he could hear the Gospel and choose to believe for himself, then that means to me that God requires all people to hear the Gospel and accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, and for the forgiveness of their sins. Believing in God is simply not enough.

I meet people all the time that tell me that they believe in God and that they try to be good people. But I am here to tell you folks there is no other way to get to heaven other than through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Cornelius couldn’t get into heaven without accepting the Gospel, and no one else can get to heaven without accepting the Gospel either.

The second thing I want you to realize for yourself is Cornelius gave to the poor and he prayed regularly. God notices these things and He wants each of us to do these things as well. God doesn’t force you, but it is the desire of His heart that we take care of the poor and that we pray to him regularly.

Finally friends, Angels are real. The Bible says that God has legions of Angels to do His bidding and watch over us and to be His messengers to us. We should be looking out for angels in our day to day lives. And we should treat all people with dignity, especially the poor, as in doing so, you might be entertaining Angels without knowing it. However, as wonderful as Angels are, it is our awesome God that commands them. Like the song we played earlier at offering time says,

I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of Angel Armies is always by my side. The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine, the God of Angel Armies is always by my side.”

And our awesome God, with His legions of Angels is by your side too.

These sermon messages “For All Who Believe” are designed to challenge our understanding about who is worthy to be saved. Peter’s mind will be changed through the events that are unfolding in our scripture verses. Peter will in-turn convince the other Apostles and churches to change their position on this issue as well. Because it is God’s will that all people, regardless of their lineage, regardless of nationality, status, race, color, sex, or background has the opportunity to accept His Saving Grace through His Son Jesus Christ.

Cornelius, although he was even noticed by God for his goodness and faith, had to accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, which he did. And each of us too have to do the same. It isn’t enough to just love God and be a good person. This story makes that clear. Jesus is the only way that anyone will get to Heaven.

While Amy and I were traveling last week, I had the opportunity to talk to about many people about their faith walk. Sadly only a small percentage of them were born-again Christian believers. Most were just like Cornelius, they believed in a God and were kind people, but unfortunately they were not Christians.

Like the couple in the illustration I started with today that confused the term “No price too high” Many of the people I talked to, probably never even counted the costs of their faith decision. I hate to think of the fact that many of them are probably destined to an eternity in hell as a result. Nobody likes to think that way, but until we face up to that fact, we too will not even be active in possibly saving their eternal lives by introducing them to the Gospel. Through Peter, God showed Cornelius the way, and we should be pointing to the way as well with the people God sends in our path. Are you willing?
Please Stand with me now and Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father..