Summary: God is always at work…and sometimes we get to see it. When we don’t see it…remember God is always at work.
We made a quick road trip to Virginia last weekend to see two of our daughters and sons-in-law…and three of our grandchildren. Here’s a picture of us decorating pumpkins with them. And here’s a picture of our grandson Dean with his pumpkin. Dean lives in Davenport (we join Biff and Robin Rollins as doting grandparents).
We left Thursday afternoon and came home early Monday morning. While the visit was short, it was worth it. When we were about 30 minutes from arriving at Lydia’s house, a yellow light blinked briefly on the dash and I heard what sounded like a chime. Because it didn’t stay on long, I just ignored it. On Sunday morning, while driving to church, yellow lights were lit up all over the display alerting us to a low tire.
After church, I immediately found a tire repair shop. They discovered a screw embedded in the shoulder area of the tire (when they told me it was in the shoulder area, I started rubbing my recently repaired rotator cuff). I smiled at God’s sense of timing because I arrived right before four other customers came in. Because of the location of the puncture, they couldn’t patch it, so I had to buy a new tire.
Beth and I have had many experiences where something went wrong with our car and we were able to fix it right before heading out on a long trip. It made us stop again and praise God for His sweet sovereignty and tremendous timing.
In our passage today we’re going to see how God got the attention of some people before they took a long road trip. We’ll see how He accomplished His will and His ways for His glory and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Please turn to Acts 10 where we will see His sovereign sense of timing on full display.
While using the Edgewood Bible Reading Plan this week, I read the words of Jesus in John 5:17: “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” After reading this verse, I wrote down a sentence, which actually serves as a good summary for our sermon today: God is always at work…and sometimes we get to see it. When we don’t see it…remember God is always at work.
Last week Pastor Tim did a great job preaching the last part of Acts 9 where he established this theme: “God uses obedient people and troublesome circumstances to expand His influence.”
We’ll take our passage in sections so we can allow the narrative to unfold. The main characters are Cornelius, a Roman officer, and Peter, a Jew, and one of the twelve disciples. This is a groundbreaking chapter in the history of the church and a crucial turning point for the advancement of the gospel. It’s so important that 66 verses are devoted to this encounter (we’ll cover the second half next week). Two main points will emerge from the text which we can apply to our context.
• Adjust our attitudes (Acts 10:1-20)
• Align our actions (Acts 10:21-33)
We’re going to see how God orchestrates events to bring these two men together by breaking down the wall of prejudice between them.
1. Adjust our attitudes. We’re introduced to the first character in verse 1: “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort.” Caesarea was a beautiful seaport city and home of the governor, along with many members of the Roman military. The city was named after Caesar Augustus and was a place Jews denounced for its immorality and idol worship. Cornelius was a high-ranking military officer, in charge of 100 men. Incidentally, centurions are always depicted in a positive light in Scripture.
Listen to verse 2: “A devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” We learn four character traits about Cornelius.
• He was devout. This means he was a reverent man.
• He feared God. This was not just a description of his character, but the title “God-fearer” was given to those who worshipped with the Jews in their synagogues but had not been circumcised. Basically, he was a Gentile who worshiped the Jewish God. He was a moral man but not yet saved. God-fearers were not full converts but had left their idolatrous ways.
• He was generous. Alms were gifts of mercy, given generously by Cornelius. This reminds me of what Acts 9:36 says about Tabitha, “She was full of good works and acts of charity.”
• He prayed continually. He not only gave gifts to others, but also gazed toward heaven as he offered his prayers to God throughout the day.
In verses 3-4, when Cornelius gathered for prayer at 3:00 pm, an angel appeared in a vision and called him by name: “And he stared at him in terror…” The idea behind staring is to “strain or stretch forward.” He was filled with fear but responded with a faith-filled question, “What is it, Lord?” His eager response is similar to how the young boy Samuel replied to the Lord in 1 Samuel 3:4: “Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, ‘Here I am!’” Have you ever said, “Here I am, what is it, Lord?”