Summary: Exposition of the story in Acts 10 of Cornelius’ conversion and its ramifications of that upon the church as a whole
Text: Acts 10:1-48, Title: An Equal Opportunity Savior, Date/Place: NRBC, 2/17/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: A local business puts a sign in the window, stating the following: “HELP WANTED. Must be able to type, must be good with a computer and must be bilingual. We are an equal opportunity employer.?
B. Background to passage: Peter has been ministering in Joppa and Lydda strengthening the church and ministering to individuals. The gospel has moved from Jerusalem into Judea, and then into Samaria which was a big jump, and now stands poised to make the last big jump in its race to the ends of the earth. One cannot underestimate the value of the next two chapters in the book of Acts for all of us who are gentiles. And being gentiles we can hardly understand how huge of an issue this would have been. But God goes to great links to demonstrate that the battle-hardened, but devout Roman soldier and family can be saved just as the Jews on Pentecost and the Samaritans under Philip’s ministry.
C. Main thought: from the text we will examine three truths about this situation
A. Good men need a Savior (v. 1-8)
1. The text makes a clear assertion that Cornelius was a “good” man. He was probably a man of integrity who was sympathetic and maybe even participatory in the synagogue. He is a man of prayer, morality, holy fear, and generosity. And the text indicates that he led his family to be the same. But as indicated by Peter’s speech, and clarified in the next chapter, Cornelius needs to be saved.
2. Isa 59:1-2, 64:6, Eccl 7:14,
3. Illustration: Getting into the White House not because you tell the guards that you know George Bush, but because he told the guards that he knows you, D.L.Moody said “Many persons flatter themselves that they are going to be saved because they know a great deal about Jesus Christ. Mere knowledge will not save. Noah’s carpenters may have known as much,” C.S. Lewis once wrote, "You cannot go on being a good egg forever. You must either hatch or rot." Billy Sunday was right when he said, "Joining the church does not any more make one a Christian than entering a garage will change one into an automobile.’" The preacher said, “That’s right. They had the ticket stubs. They had the program. They had been to the theatre. They knew the music. But the trouble is, they didn’t see the performance.” Then he added, “A lot of Christians are like that. We come to church. We have the bulletin. We know the songs. We know what to say & what to do. The problem is…
4. One of the biggest deceptions of Satan within our society is that you can be good enough to go to heaven. Ever notice how you never go to a funeral where someone is spoken about being in hell? Going to heaven is not about doing enough good things for others, not about going to church enough or praying enough, or giving enough, or having “an arrangement with the man upstairs,” nor is it about walking an aisle, praying a prayer one time, or being baptized. Going to heaven is about being born from above, getting a new heart, having a relationship (that means a consistent two-way conversation), having transformed desires that result in transformed behaviors. But it is not the behaviors that get you in, because even unbelievers can be moral, and even have significant life change for the wrong reasons. You must know Jesus, and He must know you. Within the context of the modern missions’ mindset, Cornelius could represent those individuals in unreached countries that are in some sense seeking to know the One True God. And of course the implication is that many of us should go. All of us should give. And we should be aware that those people are around us here. The Thom Rainer book The Unchurched Next Door highlights the large percentage of unchurched Americans that could fall into this category.
B. Old habits die hard (v. 9-16)
1. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard for us to imagine this from a gentile perspective. The Jews would not buy eating utensils from Samaria, let alone a gentile place. You were deemed ceremonially unclean by simply contacting a gentile, let alone going into a house. The dietary restrictions were just as much about their identity and separation as a nation as anything. Jews hated the Romans, in fact the whole city of Caesarea was hated because of their presence. And so God begins with animals on a sheet. And note the irony that Peter addresses the voice as Lord, but tells it “no.” But God is clear with his message: don’t call common, what I have cleansed! God is taking down dietary, social, racial, and cultural boundaries to reach the gentiles. He is also making a statement toward prejudice of any kind! God tells Peter to go without reservation. And Peter then invites the Gentiles in, then goes to stay at one’s home. Think of how awkward it would be for him. And he confesses to his sin several times. And it is still a problem later.