Summary: I would like to thank Pastor Jerry Shirley for sharing this series on Acts. It has been a blessing as well as a great help. I have used these for our church, as I spend my days caring for my dying father.
“A Vision that Changed the World” Acts 10:1-33
God called the people of Israel to a special relationship with Him. They were to be His people, His witnesses and His missionaries to the rest of the world.
But somewhere along the way they forgot their purpose and began to create barriers between themselves and the rest of the world.
They soon believed that salvation was only for Jews.
It was this world the church was born into. The Apostle Peter, being a good Jew, had been taught, not to have anything to do with a Gentile.
If he touched one even accidentally he would have to go home and wash.
Think about what would happen if this attitude or this mindset were carried over into the church. This kind of belief system would have been devastating to the spread of the gospel.
Large areas of the world would have never heard of Jesus Christ. I think about the people we met in Africa who had been given membership cards to the “New Apostolic” church but had no idea who Jesus was.
Even you and I, as Gentile believers would be without Christ.
But remember from last week that Holy Spirit has been moving Peter from one human need to another until he ended up in the city of Joppa at the house of Simon the tanner…a man who touches dead things.
The very fact that Peter was willing to stay in the home of Simon the tanner proves that God was gradually moving Peter away from his man-made legalistic attitude.
This is what I think is so cool; the very moment God is drawing Peter away from his prejudice, He is drawing another man toward Him and ultimately toward Peter.
I. THE INTRODUCTION OF THE VISION vv. 1-8
Cornelius was a member of a military regiment made up of freedmen from Italy and who, because of their service, were given Roman citizenship. As a centurion, Cornelius commanded a group of about 100 soldiers.
Cornelius is also portrayed as a godly man. We are told that he was “devout.”
What this means is that he knows there is a god and he is seeking him. We are also told that he “fears God” that is that he lives his life as if he is answerable to God. We are also told that he is a generous man, one who gives to those in need. And we are told that he is a praying man.
Here is a man that is religious, sincere, and prayerful and yet he is not saved.
There are many people today who think that all you need in order to make it to heaven is to be religious, to be sincere and to live a good clean moral life. Cornelius’ position points out clearly that one can have all of that and still be lost.
The angel who appears to Cornelius tells him to send down to Joppa for a man named Peter who is staying in the house of Simon the tanner.
I remember Dan Paige, our team leader, telling about his encounter with the chief of one village, while we were in Africa. Dan said the chief kept staring at him and he had a strange look on his face. The chief told Dan and our missionary, Jim Mussen that he had experienced a dream of a white man with white hair, wearing a hat with a symbol on it, coming to his village with great news. The hat Dan was wearing had that same symbol the chief saw (Atlanta Braves) and when Dan pulled his hat off, his head was full of white hair. The chief even said the man in his dream looked just like Dan.
Cornelius’ story, and Dan’s experience, for me, sheds some light on the question that many ask, “What about the person who has never heard of Jesus Christ? What about the person who has lived up to the light that he has received, but has never heard of Jesus Christ? What happens to him?”
What happened to Cornelius? When he was obedient to the light he had, God saw to it that he received more light. I believe that it is safe to say that any person anywhere in the world who sincerely wants to be right with God and who is sincerely searching for the truth, can find that truth. God has ways, we know nothing about, of getting his word to those who truly seek Him. Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon if “the heathen could be saved if they did not hear the gospel.” His wise reply was, “Can WE be saved if we don’t deliver the gospel?”
II. THE INSPIRATION OF A VISION vv. 9-16
The vision was a sheet being lowered from heaven with several kinds of animals, some considered clean and some considered unclean.