Monday: Acts 10
An unexpected sequence of events leads to an undeniable conclusion for the Apostles:
"God has granted repentance to the Gentiles." (Acts 11:18)
An Italian centurion named Cornelius has an angelic vision. Forty miles away, a hungry Peter has a food dream with a much deeper meaning. A delegation from the Gentile Cornelius leads to a meeting with the Jewish-born Apostle Peter and an opportunity is born for the Gospel to be preached to these outsiders. It all comes together with a remarkable demonstration of the Gentile crew being filled with the Holy Spirit where they are soundly saved and immediately baptized.
This marks a significant turn in the mission of Christ to go beyond Jerusalem and Judea even to the end of the earth to make disciples of all nations. The fact that Gentiles could be saved in such great numbers would be a shocking truth that many religious Jews and Jewish Christians like Peter would have to come to grips with. Many would be offended by it. Peter and the Apostles, seeing God’s hand in it, gladly embraced it.
It begins with a certain man named Cornelius. We love that the Holy Spirit calls him a certain man. We see the beautiful picture of election. As Jesus found the one that was lost from the ninety-nine, God found this man. We are told he was a Centurion. Centurions were usually common men who had been promoted from within the fighting ranks. These men typically had no nobility. He was one of one hundred men, a century. These were under his charge. More than that, he was one of sixty Centurions that led 6,000 men collectively in a Legion.
See this man as one man in a Legion of men, and yet God found him.
What providence there is in God’s election! We have nothing to brag about, our salvation is all His doing. This is why we make much of Christ and not ourselves.
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,” (2 Timothy 1:9, NKJV)
Tuesday: Acts 10:1-4
Cornelius was one out of a hundred because he was devout. That means he was committed to God. How rare are those who are devoted to the Lord. They stand out among thousands.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”” (2 Chronicles 16:9, TNIV)
He feared God. That is—he revered Him. See how his reverence affected his whole household. Not some of his family, rather, all of his family. Parents without faith make children without faith. Parents who fear God raise their children with fear of the Lord. They pray for their children. They instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. If you are all in with Christ, expect your children to have an experience that brings them all in too.
We shouldn’t hold back from teaching the fear of the Lord. Many go through a lot of apologetics these days to rehabilitate God’s reputation as though God needs a make-over. These will say to fear the Lord doesn’t include terror. While fearing the Lord means to earnestly endeavor to please Him in all things.
It also includes very real understanding that God’s punishments and wrath are not tickles and taps.
These would omit stories like God killing Ananias and Saphira. Friend, God doesn’t need a Public Relations man. What makes the Gospel a Gospel of peace, is that it makes peace between men and the God he has greatly offended.
“The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.” (Psalm 99:1, TNIV)
He gave alms to the people. The work of grace was alive and well in Cornelius well before he came to Jesus. He was generous with others. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 We always find it to be true—the happiest people are always giving people. They refresh others and are themselves refreshed.
All of these works of grace were at work in this Gentile man. Long before he is introduced to Jesus, he is a worshipper of the one true God of the Jews. He that begins a work in you will be sure to finish it.
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, TNIV)
Wednesday: Acts 10:1-4
Now we come to the secret of this singular man. He prayed to God always.
He was not an irregular pray-er. He didn’t pray with fits and starts. He didn’t pray only when he was in trouble or in need. No. He knew prayer at all times. He prayed when he was happy. He prayed when he was downcast. More importantly, he prayed when he didn’t feel like it. Life will bear out that when you don’t feel like it, you should especially pray.
He, being an always pray-er, means he didn’t need outward disciplines or afflictions to draw him to turn his head heavenward.
“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” (Psalm 32:9, TNIV)
He was a first Thessalonians five, sixteen through eighteen man: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, TNIV)
The fact that Cornelius prayed always could only mean that he also prayed everywhere.
Let our lives be described in this way: “He prayed to God always.”
Blessing, mercy and grace will follow such a person all the days of his life—guaranteed. These kinds of people are rare, maybe one in a hundred or maybe one in six thousand. Jesus pondered,
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”” (Luke 18:7–8, TNIV)
See how Cornelius had a vision of God at the ninth hour of the day. This was a common hour of prayer.
“Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me” (Acts 10:30, TNIV)
Verse four tells us that prayer is a two-way street. The Lord speaks to Cornelius. We shouldn’t fill up our hour of prayer with our own words. We should pray, whenever possible, with an open Bible, a pen and a paper. See how the Lord speaks to him by name. You will find your name on many of those promises in the Bible. They are checks to be cashed and signed with surety by God’s own hand. And what does the Lord say?
“Your prayers and your alms have come up as a memorial.”
There is a sacred essence upon a man’s prayer life, and he fruit that comes from it.
Leviticus 2:2 tells us a grain offering (alms) and Frankincense (prayer) comes up as a memorial before the Lord. It is sweet. It is the aroma of Christ, both his prayer and the fruit that came from his prayer—even atonement. What a great gift!
Your prayer and the giving that comes from it is never forgotten, no matter how many years have gone by. Even if you forget it—He will not.
Cornelius has a vision with particular instruction. “Send for Simon Peter”. The angel gives him the address where to find him. The next day, hungry Peter as a vision of a sheet has all kinds of animals, even non-kosher creatures like shrimp and pigs. God tells Peter to “kill and eat.” Peter infamously tells the Lord “No!” Peter has never eaten unclean food. God says, “Don’t call unclean what is clean.” While Peter is wondering what this means. Three men in the unclean category show up at his gate. The Lord tells Peter to go with these Gentiles and to doubt nothing. Peter breaks with everything he has ever practiced by letting the Gentiles lodge for the night. The next day Simon Peter will travel with them to Cornelius’ house where he will enter the home of the Gentile and a Gospel opportunity will bear much fruit as the Holy Spirit falls on the listeners. Peter and his Jewish entourage hear them speaking in tongues. Is this a tongues event that is reverse from Pentecost where Peter now heard the Gentiles magnifying God and Christ in the mother tongue Hebrew
In any event, of this comes together in a remarkable way to prove that God is at work. There are a lot of working pieces to this story. If one part fails, everything comes apart. This is called providence. Everything was perfectly put harmonized and working together.
Synchronicity is the hallmark of God at work.
The Bible is filled with such providential events where reward, retribution, rescue and remarkable stories unfold in the mystery of beautiful providence.
Anna and Simeon “just happen” to be at the Temple when the Baby Messiah Jesus is brought for dedication.
At least twelve acts of the providence occurred in the life of Joseph. If just one would have failed, he would have never rose to authority in Egypt to save his offending brothers and greater family from famine.
Moses “just happened” to be floated upon the Nile and come safely to rest exactly where Pharoah’s daughter was bathing. When she needed the baby to be nursed, she sought a Hebrew mother who just happened to be Moses’ mother.
Seven acts of providence came together to perfectly undo Haman who sought to kill the Jews. The gallows he built for Esther’s uncle Mordecai was the same gallows he, himself, would be hanged upon also with his ten sons. Mordecai got promoted to Haman’s position.
And with Cornelius and Peter, they were skillfully brought together. An appointment made in heaven was kept on earth by God’s wise and invisible hand.
We can always attach providence to prayer. Praying people will see the divine ordering of events, seeing inconsequential actions and even ill-intent by some, to be marshalled together for great benefit. When you look back on it, you will see how marvelous it is and how only God could have done it.
Friday: Acts 10:34-48
To appreciate how momentous this event is, one must look hard at the separation culture of the Jews to Gentiles. To break the wall down between the two groups, God had to break down a sacred wall in Peter’s mind.
God called the Jews to be separate from the Gentiles. And not without reason. When the Lord brought the Jews into the Promised Land, He warned them not to intermingle because their pagan ways would compromise God’s people.
“Therefore, take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you—and make marriages with them, and go into them and they to you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.” (Joshua 23:11–13, NKJV)
And yet, that is exactly what they did, over and over to their own predicted demise. As they mingled and intermarried, they did begin to worship idols and heathen gods. From there they did a moral deep dive into immorality that staggers the mind. The Jewish people suffered continually throughout their history by the hand of their own compromise.
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:2, ESV)
This is what Peter’s sacred wall looked like.
Peter and the Jews only saw half of the scope of God. Yes they were God’s Chosen People, but they were chosen to be a vessel of salvation to the world!
The original promise to Abraham, who was himself a pure-bred Gentile until God called him to be the father of a new nation, was this:
“I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,” (Genesis 26:4, ESV)
Jesus had given them a peek at the grace that would come to the Gentiles, by healing the Centurion’s servant, or the Canaanite Woman who had a possessed daughter, or even the Gadarene Demoniac. We remember how shocked the disciples were to find him ministering to a Samaritan woman at the Well. All of these mini-events were precursors to a greater event, the opening of a door to through Cornelius’ house to Syria, Asia Minor, northern Africa, Greece, Italy and Rome.
The fact of the matter is, what happened at Cornelius’ house opened the door for you and me to get into Salvation!
How did we get in here?
You weren’t good. For years you weren’t even trying. If you finally did try, it was because God brought you to a place where you saw your own stupidity and the futility of life without Him. When you finally did come into the faith, it was less about trying and more about surrender. You didn’t earn it. Or as Paul says in Romans, “Where is the boasting?”
It is excluded.
No, you didn’t earn it and definitely don’t deserve it. But many of you have it. Why? Because Jesus found you!
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16, NKJV)