Message – Spirit bear hugs Italy’s 1st believers
Spirit bear hugs Italy’s 1st believers
“(1) Now there was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort. (2) He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was all his household; he did many acts of charity for the people and prayed to God regularly.
(3) About three o’clock one afternoon he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, “Cornelius.” (4) Staring at him and becoming greatly afraid, Cornelius replied, “What is it, Lord?” The angel said to him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have gone up as a memorial before God. (5) Now send men to Joppa and summon a man named Simon, who is called Peter. (6) This man is staying as a guest with a man named Simon, the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
As we will see there was more to this conversation with the angel but it gives us yet another example of how NO ONE is invisible to God!
It also offers a beautiful confirmation of a truth which is all but lost in the modern church and that is that giving to the poor is a HUGE deal to God!
This sinner desired God, pursued Him in the only ways he knew how and his worship was genuine what made this proof positive was that it reached his wallet!
PLEASE do not let this slip by you
– it is worthy of ALL of your attention.
There were only TWO reasons given for God’s having paid attention to Cornelius and those were that he was a reverant man who feared God AND he gave to the poor! He gave as a matter of heart and conscience. Giving alone is not enough. God is not looking for just outward actions, He is looking for hearts which are sensitive to His attributes and character.
I’m telling you the truth when I tell you that MANY in the modern church believe all ministry should be free (by which they mean that under the New Covenant they are not under any obligation to give) and hardly anything could be further from the truth!
The gospel being sent to this man through Peter was that of the New Covenant and his giving was one of the TWO reasons why the Spirit of God saw fit to engage with this man in leading him to the truth!
“(7) When the angel who had spoken to him departed, Cornelius called two of his personal servants and a devout soldier from among those who served him, (8) and when he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
(9) About noon the next day, while they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (10) He became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing the meal, a trance came over him.
(11) He saw heaven opened and an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down to earth by its four corners.
(12) In it were all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth and wild birds. (13) Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!”
(14) But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything defiled and ritually unclean!”
(15) The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!”
(16) This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into heaven.
(17) Now while Peter was puzzling over what the vision he had seen could signify, the men sent by Cornelius had learned where Simon’s house was and approached the gate.
(18) They called out to ask if Simon, known as Peter, was staying there as a guest.
(19) While Peter was still thinking seriously about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look! Three men are looking for you. (20) But get up, go down, and accompany them without hesitation, because I have sent them.”
(21) So Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the person you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
(22) They said, “Cornelius the centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man, well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear a message from you.”
(23) So Peter invited them in and entertained them as guests. On the next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.
(24) The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting anxiously for them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
(25) So when Peter came in, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him.
(26) But Peter helped him up, saying, “Stand up. I too am a mere mortal.”
(27) Peter continued talking with him as he went in, and he found many people gathered together.
(28) He said to them, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile, yet God has shown me that I should call no person defiled or ritually unclean. (29) Therefore when you sent for me, I came without any objection.
Now may I ask why you sent for me?”
(30) Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock in the afternoon, I was praying in my house, and suddenly a man in shining clothing stood before me (31) and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your acts of charity have been remembered before God. (32) Therefore send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter.
This man is staying as a guest in the house of Simon the tanner, by the sea.’
(33) Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come. So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.”
(34) Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, (35) but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him.”
What a DIFFERENCE between the gospel of the modern church and the gospel Peter taught. We tell everyone to come, which isn’t bad, but notice those who are WELCOME to come…
Those who do what is right and who fear God!
“(36) You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming The Good News of peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) –
Peace was a well known and long expected virtue of the Messianic Kingdom which all Jews looked forward to and greatly anticipated. However, they were not alone.
It is perhaps one of many reasons why God waited until this particular time in human events to send Jesus into the world for even the world was expressing a need for peace.
Epictetus, a first century pagan writer, said:
“While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy; he cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearn for more than even outward peace.”
“I prefer the most unfair peace to the most righteous war.”
“Peace is freedom in tranquility.”
“(37) you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: (38) with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power.”
“He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him.”
It is a simple revelation of God’s character to read these words.
They are essentially the: Who, what, why, where, when & how of the Gospel.
- Who – God
- What – anointed Jesus
- Why – to do good and free from evil oppression
- Where – Judea & Jerusalem
- When – after obedience was fulfilled (baptism of John)
- How – God was with Him and the Spirit upon Him
“(39) We are witnesses of all the things He did both in Judea and in Jerusalem.”
“They killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, (40) but God raised Him up on the third day and caused Him to be seen, (41) not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.
(42) He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that He is the One appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
(43) About Him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”
So for those who may sometimes think I am looking for Jesus in the prophecies we read in the Old Testament – You are right…because He is THERE!
The very spirit of prophecy is the Testimony of JESUS!
“(44) While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message.
(45) The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, (46) for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
This was the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is an event subsequent to salvation. We do not need to guess at this, Peter himself calls it such when he gave an account of these things to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem which we will read about in the next chapter.
Then Peter said, (47) “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”
This is another proof that Baptism is a sign – a proof of conversion and new birth, not a cause of it.
The Spirit came upon them and there was instant proof of union with God. Those speaking with stammering lips and another tongue are those who are His, those who stand idly by and will not hear are those who are NOT His.
“(48) So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for several days.”
It was at this moment that Peter’s heart was knit to believing Gentiles which we will learn later got him into some trouble with Paul, but Peter was a good man, with a good heart and discerned God’s meaning in the vision at Simon the Tanner’s house and never again segregated from the Gentiles but treated them as equals in the house of God or as welcomed to come.
A Secondary Issue
Another side issue addressed in these passages is the freedom we now have from Jewish Old Covenant dietary laws which were only given as types and shadows.
“(16) Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days – (17) these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!”
“(25) Eat anything that is sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience, (26) for the earth and its abundance are the Lord’s.”
“(1) Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, (2) influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. (3) They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (4) For every creation of God is good and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. (5) For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.”