Summary: God’s call to embrace all people not exclude them
Freedom to eat, Freedom to meet, Freedom to speak
God’s call to Embrace not Exclude
Acts 10:1-34, 44-48
Introduction to Topic
There are many cultures in this world, with various distinctions. One distinction that we have is in the foods we enjoy eating. There are some foods which we all enjoy eating, but there are others which are almost taboo.
What is a delicacy in one part of the world, is not necessarily a delicacy in another. About 6 years ago I was in Indonesia on a missions tour. We were at a restaurant beside a lake where the only light was a few flickering lanterns and so you couldn’t see much of what you were eating. We were being treated to a great feast which included a chicken dish. As expected, in it were chicken’s feet - quite crunchy & quite a delicacy. The atmosphere was quite placid until one of our elderly leaders let loose with a casual “Oh its a head - I wondered why it was so hard.” Thinking he’d selected a lovely looking piece of meat, he tried to take a bite from it. Being like a rock, on further inspection, this lovely piece of meat was in fact the head, complete with beak and eyes.
Cultural differences and social differences have always been a barrier to the Gospel and probably always will be. Even such simple things as different foods.
Background to Acts & the growth of the Christian Church:
In the early church, cultural distinctions caused a great deal of controversy. One of these was to do specifically with food and in general, the place of Gentiles in the Christian Communtity. It is the subject in Acts Chapter 10 & 11, part of which was read to us before.
Acts is a great book and we are going to be looking fairly closely at chapters 10 & 11, so please take your Bibles and open them to Acts chapter 1 because that is where the whole story starts.
Unfortunately, sometimes I think we cheat the book of Acts out of a bit of its significance. If I were to ask many of you what Acts is about, you would probably tell me that it is about the early church. And you’d be right, but, I’d argue that you’ve missed the main point. The book is about the development or the growth of the early church. If you lose sight of the growth aspect, the book looses a lot of its excitement and application to us. Luke wrote a two volume book to document the events which led to the Christian church spreading throughout the Roman Empire.
The first volume is the gospel of Luke which starts by relating the life of Christ up unto his resurrection. Acts continues the story and is an account of the church’s growth in obedience to the Great Commission which is the first recorded event in Acts (Acts 1:8 you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”). The story of the church being Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth is the story contained in the following pages of Acts.
Here in Chapter 10, Luke tells of the gospel crossing this cultural barrier between Jews and Gentiles, between Jerusalem and the Nations - a barrier that had existed since the time of Moses. So let’s now have a look at what it has to tell us about our growing church.
The passage at hand:
This story has 2 main characters. In verse 1 of chapter 10, we meet the first, an
Earnest Enquirer (10:1-2) - Cornelius
Cornelius is his name. He’s a soldier in the Roman army at Caesarea and was a centurian in charge of over 100 men and a God fearer. It’s important to realise that in the Jewish mindset, there were 3 classes of people.
1. There were Jews - any Israelite. You could not become a real Jew other than by birth.
2. Proselytes were non-Jews who had adopted the Jewish religion and had gone through the initiation ceremonies of circumcision and baptism.
3. Everyone else, who were not initiated into the Jewish religion was a Gentiles and therefore pagan. Among these, however were God fearers, who may have worshipped God and prayed, but not been initiated and therefore not a Jewish proselytes.
This earnest enquirer was praying at about 3:00pm, a traditional hour of prayer when he received a miraculous message through a vision.
Miraculous Message (10:3-8) - Send for Peter
The message received was simple - that God had heard Cornelius’ prayers, was pleased with them, and that he should send for Peter to find out more. The words used in verse 4 concerning his prayers going up to God as a memorial are the same words as those used of God being pleased by men’s sacrifices in the Old Testament. - There was no difference in God’s eyes between a Godly Jew and a Godly Gentile.