Summary: God is preparing the hearts of lost people through prayer.
God’s Plan to Grow His Church, Part 1
Acts 10:1-8 – A “Corny” Plan
18 Jan 2003 – fellowship community
INTRODUCTION: We are beginning a new series today called, God’s perfect plan for His church.
Big Idea for series: WE WILL KNOW GOD’S VISION FOR THE fellowship community, WHEN WE FOLLOW HIS PLAN
GOD IS PREPARING THE HEARTS
OF LOST PEOPLE THROUGH PRAYER
So, let’s open God’s precious Word to Acts 10 and observe God’s perfect plan. (Read verse 1). Caesarea has been mentioned by Luke twice before this time. He mentions it as a mission outpost for Philip in Acts 8:40. The second time, Paul was led down to Caesarea by his friends once news broke that the Jews were looking to kill him in Acts 9:30. Now we see this city the becoming the epicenter for God’s expanding plan for the church – to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 10). But why pick this city?
Historically, we can view some things that might indicate why God used it. Caesarea was known originally as Strato’s Tower, which Caesar Augustus gave to Herod the Great in 30 B.C, according to Josephus – Jewish historian who lived in the first century A.D. In turn, Herod wanted to exchange a kind deed – so he named the city after Caesar to Caesarea. Not only that, Herod rebuilt the entire city. In twelve years, (22 – 10 B.C.), Herod constructed an amphitheatre, public buildings, a racecourse, a palace, an aqueduct, and a magnificent harbor according to modern historians.
As when new construction begins, it attracts many people. Likewise, in Caesarea, new construction brought a wide mixture of Greek culture and Roman influence. The Roman governor had his residence in this city and the headquarters of the Roman army. Although there was the Greek culture and Roman influence, Jews were a strong minority within this city.
Under the authority of the Roman governor were some three thousand troops, among them was an Italian Regiment. Its members belonged to the second cohort of Roman Citizens who had volunteered their service. This regiment served in Caesarea in A.D. 69, and presumably also before that date, to protect Roman interests.
Within this Cohort, was a Centurion – a noncommissioned officer who commanded a hundred soldiers, named Cornelius – a common name among Romans and it points not only to his race – a gentile, but also his citizenship – a Roman. Now, let’s allow Dr. Luke identify some general observations about this man.
First, he was a man of wealth. Luke tells us he had servants (v. 7). In addition, verse 24 tells us this house was large enough to hold his friends and close relatives. We are not sure how many were there, but in verse 27, Luke says, Peter “found many people assembled.” That sounds like double digits to me. Maybe even triple. And that would mean a large home to house such folks.
Second, he was a humanitarian. Verse 2 says he gave many alms to the Jewish people. “Alms” is a word that refers to showing acts of mercy or compassion towards others in need. Jesus uses this word in Matthew 6:2, when he refers to giving to the poor. So he was a humanitarian – a man of compassion.
Third, Cornelius was what we would call today, “spiritual.” Look at verse 2 again. Luke calls him a devout man. Now this is a word Devout (eusebes). (Acts 10:2, 7; 2 Peter 2:1). It might refer to a worshipful pagan (Acts 17:23, sebasmata, objects of worship), but connected with “one that feared God” (phoboumenos ton theon) Luke describes “a God-fearing proselyte” as in Acts 10:22, 35. This is his usual term for the Gentile seekers after God (Acts 13:16, 26;17:4, 17, etc.), who had come into the worship of the synagogue without circumcision, and were not strictly proselytes, though some call such men “proselytes of the gate” (cf. Acts 13:43); but clearly Cornelius and his family were still regarded as outside the pale of Judaism (Acts 10:28, 34; Acts 11:1, 8; Acts 15:7). They had seats in the synagogue, but were not Jews.
From here, let’s proceed to the main thought for the day: God prepares the hearts of lost people through prayer. Prayer prepares lost people to receive His plan and prayer prepares lost people to follow His plan. Let’s pray.
1A. PRAYER PREPARES LOST PEOPLE TO RECEIVE GOD’S PLAN (2b-4)
Luke states, Cornelius “prayed to God continually.” Lost people believe in prayer. That’s something at times we forget as believers. In fact, one recent survey stated that over 91% of people in America believe in prayer. Now we can say confidently, that not 91% of Americans are saved, so that means nonbelievers still pray and believe in prayer. This also tells us prayer is how God prepares their hearts for his plan.