Summary: God is in the business of changing lives, and that means the disruption of our comfort zone. Here is the story of a man whose world was rocked!
Passage: Acts 10:1-8
Intro: Henry Ford Story, submitted by Jeff Strite
1. change is tough, whoever and whatever is involved.
2. we settle into a comfort zone, where we know everyone and everyone know us
3. we appreciate the known, even if that known is miserable. A known misery is often preferred over an unknown delight.
4. the church of Jesus Christ around 40 a.d. was in just such a comfort zone.
5. it had known some trials, but after the conversion of Saul, things had settled down.
6. it was a distinctly Jewish church, with the only known non-Jewish member (an he might have been a convert) an Ethiopian eunuch who conveniently lived 500 miles away.
7. but God was about to change that.
8. the non-Jews were also in a comfort zone.
9. as we’ll see, God is creating in the church a new species of humanity, one without borders or racial barriers or nationalism.
I. God’s View of Aliens and Strangers
1. lest we think that God is doing something brand new here, lets look at a somewhat overlooked part of the OT
PP Exodus 22:21
2. easy for Jews to see themselves as unique, superior, “chosen by God”
3. yet their society attracted others for a variety of reasons.
4. clearly their worship of Almighty God was one of the reasons people became part of their nation.
5. and they were to be welcomed
6. in fact, loving the alien was a very godly thing to do.
7. and they were even invited to be part of the worship of Israel’s God
8. those who chose to live with Israel were responding to the light, were drawn by the blessing and presence of God.
9. and here is the most amazing of the OT scriptures about aliens and strangers.
10. this is simply amazing, the heart of God for those who were not physical Jews.
Il) they had an open border, but once inside, they expected aliens to live according to the Law.
11. generally, the Jews had missed it, but God did not let them forget.
12. that’s the background, now let’s look at the application of this principle to a godly Roman in the early life of the church.
II. Rattling the Cage of Cornelius
1. Cornelius was in a comfort zone of his own.
2. Roman centurion, like a captain in our army.
3. commanded as few as 80 men and as many as 600, a cohort. (1/10th of a legion)
4. he was a commander in an occupying force, so he was in charge.
5. he lived in a city that had become very Roman.
6. Judah had only one seaport, which was Joppa, a modern day suburb of Tel Aviv
7. Joppa was very anti-Roman, so the Romans built a new seaport at Caesarea to serve their interests, 33 miles north of Joppa.
8. built a seawall, deepened the shallow harbor, built a wharf, amphitheater, took 12 years.
PP Pictures of Caesarea
9. as for Cornelius, he was probably very comfortable.
10. safe, secure, and possessing a relative godliness. V2 But was he a Christian; on his way to heaven?
11. he was monotheistic, did not worship Caesar.
12. he was religious, but not saved. Why else would God send an angel, instruct him to send for Peter.
13, He was probably comfortable in his spiritual life.
14. in my understanding, Cornelius manifested the light given by the Holy Spirit. He was in the process of being regenerated, drawn by God to Himself.
15. and yet he needed to hear about Jesus, and that meant he had to hear the story from a Jew.
III. The Barrier Begins to Fall
1. for his salvation to take place, Cornelius needed to hear the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
2. and the only people who had that story were Jews.
PP John 4:22
3. but apparently the Jews were not going to initiate the sharing of the gospel with the Gentiles, even though that had been part of the mission.
PP Acts 1:8
4. God was not going to let His mission languish.
5. the angel gave Cornelius specific instructions, which he carried out by sending three men to get Peter from Joppa
6. since Cornelius was a seasoned soldier, he certainly knew that the Jews avoided any unnecessary contact with Gentiles
7. in light of that, he might have refused to obey because it would put him at risk of being rejected.
8. but this is important to recognize!
9. God was at work to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, but it required a response of faith by Cornelius!
10. as we’ll see next week, the real problem was a stubborn apostle named Peter!