2018-08-05 – Acts 10.9-23 – For All Who Believe – 2

Acts 10About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 They answered, “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 Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

2018-08-05 – Acts 10.9-23 – For All Who Believe – 2
Good morning everyone. I am so pleased that you chose to spend the morning with us here today. God bless you all.  (School Starting up, Business meeting)

The new pastor of a rural church dropped into a Sunday-school class and decided to quiz the students to test the effectiveness of the teacher. “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?” he asked one of the boys. “It sure wasn’t me, pastor,” the boy said. Turning to the embarrassed teacher, the pastor exclaimed, “I suppose that’s a sample of the kind of class you maintain!”. To which she responded, “Now, Reverend, Timmy’s a good boy and doesn’t tell lies. If he said he didn’t to it, I believe him.” Thoroughly upset, the pastor took the matter to the church’s board of deacons. After due consideration, the board sent the following reply: “We see no point in making an issue of this incident. The board will pay for the damages to the wall and charge it off to vandalism. The pastor was beside himself in the matter, that was until he had the chance to do a thorough tour of the facilities. Turns out in back of the church there was a small model of Jericho.

In this worship service today, we are going to knock down some walls as we are going through the book of Acts. And Peter, in our verses, is in the city of Joppa to spread the Good news to the people there. This message today is the second part of a three part message entitled For All Who Believe. It is about Salvation. 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 10:9 (pg 129 of the Pew Bibles), which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, but let us start with prayer.  

Like I showed last week, I have a little map that depicts the areas in Israel that our events took place, specifically in Joppa and Caesarea, which are encircled on the left along the Mediterranean Sea.

Last week we read where a Centurion named Cornelius was visited by an Angel who told him that God had noticed his good works and his regular prayer. The Angel instructed him to send for Peter who could tell him about Jesus and the good news of salvation. I thought that message was wonderful as it showed us that we don’t have a disconnected God. God took notice of this Roman soldiers character and actions, and God notices our character and actions as well.

So today we are going to see just how involved God is with people’s lives. The men Cornelius sent to Joppa are on their way to get find Peter.
Then verse 9 says:

Acts 10About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 

First I want you to notice that Peter went up on the roof to pray. He went someplace where he could be alone with God. This is not something we do often enough in my opinion, and I am not an exception. Now I do generally take a few moments at the break of day and read scripture and pray, but not as often as I should. There is something special about going to a quiet place to be with God. In Psalm 46 King David wrote, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;”. And the Prophet Elijah described God as having “a still, small voice” (1 Kings 19). So if you want to be with God, Like Peter, we should be seeking out a good time and a quiet place to be with God in prayer. God will be pleased in that, and you will be blessed. God wants to spend some quality time with you and I.

And Peter was hungry this says when he went up on top of the roof. He wanted something to eat as it was being prepared for him. That was probably an instrumental dynamic for why Peter took that vision of food God subsequently gave him to heart. Another dynamic that I am sure played a part here was that Simon Peter, was staying in the house of Simon the Tanner. Being a Tanner of hides means that he was slaughtering animals and taking the hides and making leather. Jews avoided anyone that touched the flesh and blood of animals. I am sure many were shocked that Peter even associated with such a man. But all this God setup in advance for His purposes. It gave a perfect scene backdrop for the vision that God was about to gift to Peter on the roof that day.  Verse 11 reads:

11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

Now we live in the middle of America, and most of us would call this event either a great setup for a picnic or barbeque opportunity. However, I know all around the world are people have different dietary standards, and many practice some “flavor” of vegetarianism. In the U.S., four percent of men and seven percent of the women are defined as vegetarians. Whereas in India 31 percent of the population is considered vegetarian. Overall, of the 7.3 billion people on earth, there are roughly 10-20 percent of the people that don’t eat meat at all.

Now Jews are not vegetarians, but they have very strict religious diets. Peter was a Jew, and according to Jewish law as written by Moses in Leviticus 11, certain foods were forbidden to be eaten. For instance rabbit and pigs, fish without scales, eagles, hawks, rats, weasels, snakes & lizards just to name a few; all were forbidden to be eaten, and anyone that does would be considered unclean.

This large sheet is better described to be like a large ships sail; it was huge, and it was full of forbidden living things that Jews, under the old covenant, could not eat. Even today Jews cannot eat anything that is not considered kosher. Kosher means not only is it an approved type of animal, but it must be handled in a very specific way as not to be defiled as it is being processed. That is the normal Jewish environment from which Peter was coming from. They didn’t even want to touch such unclean animals let alone eat them. This was a big deal for Peter.

Through this vision, God was correcting the Jewish practice. What is interesting is that Jesus Himself addressed this issue while He was ministering in Jerusalem.
As written in Mark 7, Jesus gave the people a parable, for which afterwards He explained, “Do you not know that whatever goes into the man from the outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach and is eliminated. He said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” Jesus was focusing on the latter, being that sinful acts is what really defiles a person, not food. But old habits are hard to break, and Peter was being challenged now by God for what Peter “thought” was important and true.

17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 

I find it fascinating that God has set this all up so that Peter will know without a shadow of doubt that it is God that is at work here. We know that before all this God spoke to Cornelius. Cornelius then sent these men to Joppa, and they just happen to show up at the exact moment that Peter is pondering the vision.
The vision Peter saw about unclean animals happened three times, and then verse 19 says that three men were now at the door, this too is no accident.
God wanted to make it clear to Peter that the people that you have formerly regarded as common and unclean and separated from your fellowship are not to be viewed that way. Go with these men.

I also find it interesting that there is something special about the number three with Peter. In the past we know that Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times when He was being persecuted prior to being hung on the cross. Jesus even told Peter he would do this ahead of time. Then later, three times Jesus asked Peter “Do you Love Me” after He rose from the grave and before Jesus ascended into Heaven. Peter must have been that kind of guy that needed to be told or showed three times before he got it. I can symphonize with Peter myself in this J

21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 They answered, “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 Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

Again, this event is breaking down a lot of barriers for Peter. First Jews didn’t normally even socialize with Romans or Gentiles, and they certainly didn’t invite them into their house for lodging. Peter was a Jew through and through before Jesus chose him to be one of the Apostles. Although he is now a Christian, generations of Jewish law and practice was in his person, and God was now whittling away the old paradigm under the Old Testament covenant or contract. So let us now see what happens next in verse 23. We will make reference to this next week in the conclusion of this sermon series For All Who Believe:

23The next day he [Peter] got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. 26 But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; 28 and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”  30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. 31 He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’  33 Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.”

Again this is the setup for next Sunday’s sermon message. However there are a few points I want to bring out here. As they were bowing down to Peter, who by the way is the head of the whole Christian church, Peter said, “Stand up; I am only a mortal”. That same thing happened to Peter before and also Paul as they were going about meeting new people, carrying out the Great Commission and starting churches. They didn’t want any special honor. Like Peter, we need to recognize that as Christians, we are all on the same level playing field. Jesus is forever now our only High-Priest, we show everyone the same level of respect.

Peter is learning now that all people are to be respected. This is setting up to become a huge shift for to whom the church will allow fellowship and membership going forward.

Pastor Charles Spurgeon in 1871 wrote: “Our Lord Jesus, by his death, has rent the veil, and pulled down every wall of separation, so that the same Messiah who was sent to the seed of Abraham after the flesh is sent to us also who were sinners of the Gentiles, but who become of the seed of Abraham when we believe in Christ, for Abraham was the “father of the faithful.” The fountain is open then in the removal of the barrier which divided the natural Israel from the rest of mankind.”

Jesus is the Great Equalizer of mankind. Ever since He met the Samaritan woman at the well that started His three and a half year ministry, all the way up to his death on the cross and resurrection, Jesus loved on all the people, regardless of their position. I present to you now a couple verses that depict well this new Christian dynamic that all are equal under God. This first one is from Jesus Himself:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

And finally I will end with Peter’s own words, which will be the start of next week’s sermon message: Acts 10:34 “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Thought: Intentional and Unintentional prejudice occurs too often even in our Christian circles. We should always endeavor to foster a harmonious environment, especially within the church family. Jesus is our perfect example, we show love to all because He loved us first. Amen?

At the start of the service I had a little quip about who knocked down the walls of Jericho. Although we don’t have a model of Jericho here in our church, I would suggest we all should still endeavor to knock down the walls of separation as the Holy Spirit reveals them to us. Are you with me on this?

Please Stand with me now and Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father..