“Personal Obedience In Gospel Progression”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Acts 10
Acts 10. A popular today is the question, “What did the early church do?” Our problem today, many people say is, that we need to get back to the first century church and to do what they did. That’s a little naïve….but we know they were obedient to the Lord’s leading.
They were given the commission of Christ in Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
They were called upon by Jesus Christ to be witnesses … They were to give a firsthand account of what they saw. And what they saw was the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ. And by the grace of God, they were His witnesses to remote places of the earth. They were obedient.
But it wasn’t easy. In Acts 1:8, the early disciples were called upon to be witnesses to Gentiles. It sounds nice, but there are a lot of personal issues that these Jewish believers had to get over before the Gospel could reach the Gentiles.
I mean, just think of the Samaritans. John 4 tells us that that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. And whole books could be written about the details of how the Jewish people at this time abhorred the Gentiles. They would not eat with them; they would not sleep in the same house together … There seems to be way too many ethnic issues between the Jews and the Gentiles.
The plan of Christ is to send his Gospel out into all the known world, and even to the Gentiles. But how is the Gospel going to reach beyond the walls of Jerusalem and into the Gentile world when there’s so much distrust, disgust, and even hatred between Jew and Gentile?
The answer to that is the Lord is going to shepherd his people and enable them to be obedient to his master plan for evangelizing and discipling the world! But it’s going to take obedience on the part of his people.
And in Acts 10, we have an example of Jesus preparing a Jewish man to preach the Gospel to a Gentile. And Jesus’ preparation of this Jewish man is the means by which Jesus will prepare His entire people to spread the Gospel out into the entire world, to the ends of the earth.
So Acts chapter 10 is especially important because it is the catalyst that will begin to move the mission of the Gospel to the Gentiles.
And the amount of space given to this story in the book of Acts is also telling. First, the events are narrated in verses 1-48 and then they are recounted in chapter 11:1-18 and are again recalled in chapter 15.
The story is important. Luke gives so much space to it and within the flow of Acts, probably because it is the catalyst that begins to move the mission of the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Like I said, there is an issue to deal with before the Jewish apostles and disciples can see that the Gentile mission is God’s plan.
And here is the problem again: how can Jews, who follow the laws of cleanliness in the Old Testament, be brought together with those Gentiles who are unclean?
How is the Lord Jesus going to teach his Jewish disciples that they no longer must follow the laws and customs of cleanliness?
Let’s see together how Jesus does this… And what we will see is that Jesus is going to teach Peter and Cornelius obedience so that the Gospel mission can proceed to the Gentiles. So, I’d like to preach on “Personal Obedience In Gospel Progression.”
Acts 10:1-2 1 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.
The setting is in Caesarea, a largely Gentile city and the main location of the Roman army. So it’s no wonder that we see a Centurion there, named Cornelius.
A Centurion commanded 100 men and was one of six such men in the cohort. The cohort was made up of 600 soldiers. 10 cohorts combined made a Roman legion.
Luke records that Cornelius was a “God fearing” Gentile. He followed Jewish practices but was not a full proselyte. He would’ve prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, and would have practiced some of the Jewish customs. But he would have sat in the back of the synagogue, if you know what I mean. As a Gentile, he didn’t exactly get special treatment.
And because it says he was a devout man and one who feared God … Which is a good thing, we also know by how he’s subscribed that he didn’t become a full proselyte. But nevertheless God sent his angel to him to give him additional light. God shows no favorites!
In verse 3, Cornelius sees the angel.
Let’s read Acts 10:3 3 About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!”
Cornelius was observing the regular time for prayer, the ninth hour, or 3 PM. At this time, he sees an angel from God who had just come in and even speaks his name…
And in verse 4, he reacts with fear…Acts 10:4 And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.
Cornelius stares at the angel and being very alarmed speaks to the angel and the angel says that his prayers have not been forgotten, but have ascended as a memorial before God.
….But this man wasn’t more anymore righteous than others; and, he could have participated more in the Old Covenant. And yet at the same time his prayers have ascended as a memorial before God! Take note here, God remembers … He does not forget prayers!
Take encouragement and a warning in your prayer life that prayers are memorialized… Revelation 8:3-4 speaks to this … 3 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
God remembers your prayers as he does Cornelius’ prayers.
Now, the angel commands Cornelius to send some men to Joppa to call for Peter. Acts 10:5-6 5 “Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6 he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.”
Cornelius is in Caesarea and Joppa is on the coast and is 30 miles away. ..Peter is there in Joppa and he had been there since back in chapter 9, when he raised Tabitha from the dead.
The angel tells him to send men to Joppa to get a guy named Peter to come back to Caesarea.
Peter is staying with a tanner on the coast, there in Joppa. Tanners tan animal hide and so they are always touching the carcasses of animals. The Jews would avoid even Jewish tanners because they would be perpetually unclean. The Jews had strict rules when it came to how to handle a tanner. But Peter is staying with one!
We get the idea here that Peter is beginning to relax his strictness to the Old Covenant cleanliness laws and some other of his natural prejudices.
Now, in verses 7-8, Cornelius obeys the vision.
Acts 10:7-8 7 When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, 8 and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
Cornelius chooses two servants and a devout soldier, who were his personal attendants.
It was 30 miles to Joppa so they left early the next morning so as to avoid traveling through the night. Cornelius has successfully obeyed God’s will for him.
APP: The stakes are high for obedience to the will of God. Cornelius is at a crucial point in the history of God’s program of salvation. If he chooses to obey, the Gospel is opened up to the Gentiles. If he chooses not to obey … what a disaster that could be! The stakes are no less high today. Are you obeying God’s will …his will as it’s written in Scripture?
We think…well, if I don’t obey on this or that small point…or I take my liberties to do my will and don’t make time for God’s will for my life as revealed in the Bible…I’m ok! No sir! Gospel expansion is at stake! Will you, by choosing your will over God’s, choose to hinder the progress of His Gospel?
Obey …at least obey what’s in the Bible and do right and don’t prevent the advancement of the Gospel by your lack of obedience to the word of God. Your life matters, your growth in grace matters to this assembly, and your response to God’s Word matters.
So we saw Cornelius’ obedience. And his obedience is key in the progression of the Gospel to the Gentiles. And now, in verses 10 all the way down to verse 29, we have Peter’s obedience. Peter’s obedience to his own revelation along with Cornelius’ obedience to his revelation…. Both of their obedience is going to create the catalyst that will open the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles.
In verses 10-16, we have Peter’s vision. And we find Peter in Joppa at Simon the Tanner’s house at noon on the next day as Cornelius’ servants are on their way and about to enter the city.
Let’s read Acts 10:9-16 9 On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
So Peter is in Joppa out the Tanner’s house. It’s noon and the servants of Cornelius are approaching the city and Peter is on the house top at noon praying.
When was the last time you had a prayer meeting on top of the house? Well, it makes sense here because these homes have flat rooftops, and often are protected by a canopy of sorts. This allows for a nice getaway for a word of prayer.
It’s lunchtime, and Peter becomes hungry. As Peter was waiting for the food to be prepared, he falls into a trance.
APP: It is interesting to note that both Cornelius and Peter received an angelic visitation while praying. God’s works when you’re at prayer…
Now, as we progress, keep in mind the issue that the Lord’s people have to overcome in order to see the progression of the Gentile mission in God’s plan.
How can the Jews, who follow various laws of cleanliness in the Old Testament, be brought together with those whom they consider to be unclean? How was God going to do this?
And the way He’s going to do it is through Peter’s vision in verses 11-16.
The vision consists of the lowering and raising of something like a sheet from the sky containing both clean and unclean animals. It contains birds of the sky and crawling creatures, which are likely reptiles.
And Peter hears a voice. Likely the voice of an angel … “Get up, Peter, kill and eat.” Peter understands this to mean that he should eat the unclean animals and he responds as if he is being tested concerning his devotion to the Old Covenant.
“By no means Lord!…for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” I wouldn’t disobey the Old Covenant!
The voice speaks a second time Acts 10:15 …“What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
This entire scene happens three times and immediately the object is taken up into the sky.
Peter is considering this vision and he is perplexed about it… What could this possibly mean? The voice said that God has cleansed something… Does this mean the food laws are no longer in effect? Or is there a deeper meaning?
How do you approach those Old Testament laws that tell you about not wearing clothing with mixed linen and wool and not eating water animals that don’t have fins or scales … Hey …. But I like shrimp!
As a Gentile, am I going to have to obey these laws? And Peter’s thinking as a Jew, “does this mean that Jesus is destroying the Law of Moses?”
Well, in Matthew 5:17 … Jesus said that he did not destroy the law of Moses. Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
When Jesus came, He fulfilled, he did not abolish, He fulfilled the law and the prophets. So if you wanted to talk about those Mosaic Laws, you would say they are fulfilled. He fulfilled all of it, not part of it.
When did that happen? Christ fulfilled that entire Mosaic Law in his death and resurrection, according to Colossians 2:14-16. At the cross he has forgiven all of our transgressions and in the resurrection he has disarmed the rulers and authorities and has triumph over them ….now, because of his death and resurrection Paul writes …verse 16…Colossians 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—
No one then is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a Festival or a new Moon or a Sabbath day. How many old testament laws does that cover that we don’t have to obey? Food, drink, festival days, new moons, Sabbath days …
So Christ came to fulfill the law and he did that in his death and resurrection and because he did that, now the Old Covenant Mosaic Laws are fulfilled and no one is to act as your judge regarding what’s in that Law.
And that’s why Paul can teach in Ephesians 2:14-15 and say that the Law has now ended.
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both [Jew and Gentile] into one, and broke down in His flesh the dividing wall, which is the racial hostility. (v15) He broke down racial hostility by ending the Law with its commandments and regulations. He ended the Law so that in Himself He might create the two into one new person, resulting in peace.
Similar teaching is in Romans 10:4… “Christ is the end of the Law.” Paul says in Galatians 3:25 that we are no longer under the tutor of the law but in fact in Romans 7:1-6 we have died to the law.
So when Christ came and he died and was raised from the dead he fulfilled the entirety of the Old Covenant Mosaic law, he has forgiven us of our transgressions, and he has imparted to us his very own righteousness. This is all through faith in Jesus Christ.
And what Peter doesn’t understand in Acts 10 is that we no longer have to obey those Old Covenant food laws….But this was back in Mark 7:18-19 18 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Peter then adds this note … Thus He declared all foods clean.)
And so now, we are under the law of Christ… 1 Corinthians 9:21 [we are not] without the law of God but under the law of Christ…
We are under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. Hebrews 8:13 says that the first covenant, the Mosaic Law and has become obsolete and is ready to disappear.
And what the Lord Jesus is trying to help Peter understand are these very things. That’s why the Lord can say …. Or can authorize to be said to Peter “Kill and eat” these unclean animals. And, “what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” God has cleansed these foods…. But is there a deeper meaning than this?
Because the Old Covenant is taken as a whole, if the food laws or no longer in place, there’s no reason to avoid social contact with Gentiles either.
And that’s the point here with Peter’s vision. Food laws are no longer in effect, and so laws of the Old Covenant are fulfilled, and therefore there is no reason to avoid social contact with Gentiles any longer.
You see, in order to progress the Gospel into the Gentile world, Jesus had to do something with that Old Covenant law. Ephesians 2:14-15 remember, taught us that there is racial hostility between Jew and Gentile. And so to end the racial hostility, the Lord Jesus through his death and resurrection, ended the Mosaic Law and thus broke down that wall that divides Jew and Gentile.
And this is what God is teaching Peter in this vision.
Let’s see if Peter puts it together… Acts 10:17-18 17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared [right then and there] at the gate; 18 and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there.
Now, if you see this vision around lunchtime and then there are these men who are coming to your house and are about to tell you about an unclean Gentile, you should put “two and two together.” God is not so much concerned about food, is he?
So these three men arrive from Cornelius…
Acts 10:19-20 19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 “But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.”
There should be no misgivings, no doubting about going down there and accompanying these men. If you see this vision and the Spirit instructs you concerning these three men and not to doubt anything… No doubting…not about unclean food, but about unclean men…ok….We now have more reason to know God is not so much concerned about the food…but his focus is on these Gentiles.
And now Peter obeys … Acts 10:21-23 21 Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.” 23 So he invited them in and gave them lodging.
So Peter obeyed. He received the revelation from God and obeyed it. And this put him in a position to be a vessel to progress the Gospel. He put two and two together …that God has cleansed the Gentile just like he cleansed unclean food.
Now, in order for the Gospel to progress and not to be restricted in its progress, Peter needed to grow in his understanding of God’s word. He needed to grow…. He needed to receive God’s revelation to him and to be obedient to that revelation.
APP: And we too, in our lives, if we fail to grow in Christ and fail to grow in our understanding of who he is what he has accomplished for us and what his will is in Scripture…. If you fail to expose yourself to God’s revelation in the Scripture, you will fail to grow and you very well may, through your lack of growth, restrict the progress of the Gospel in our community.
The book of Acts is all about the expansion of the Gospel ethnically and geographically. That is the one overarching theme in Acts. And we learn in this passage that obedience….that personal obedience is used by God to progress His Gospel. Oh you who trust Jesus, be found in the path of obedience to Him and His Word!
What is in your life that is preventing further progression of this glorious Gospel in the hearts and lives of men and women and children in this area? We’re taking a break from a discussion on marriage today… I know it’s hard to do something with all that application… but foul marriages can prevent the progress of the Gospel. Take serious steps to make sure that there is nothing in your life that hinders the growth of Christ.
Grow in Christ and get help to grow more in Christ.
Well, verse 23 continues …
And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
So Peter takes some of the brethren along with him from Joppa and they all go and meet Cornelius in Caesarea. Now, let’s read verses 24-33… And as we do, I’ll just insert some comments along the way.
Acts 10:24-33 24 On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. [so there is a large group. Cornelius has invited others to join him as they wait for the men to return to hear Peter’s sermon…verse 25…] 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. […but not as a god…but reverently falling at his feet is the idea…] 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, [Peter will now concede the point that he was technically not supposed to do this according to Jewish custom … ] “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. [See, Peter got it. It’s not about the food. It’s about the people, the Gentiles that God has cleansed. Verse 29 .. ] 29 “That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.” 30 Cornelius [speaks now, recounting his vision…], “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he *said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 ~’Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 33 “So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
Cornelius says in effect … I have obeyed the command of the Lord to call for you…. Now you obey the command of the Lord and preach….preach the message you have from the Lord.
Acts 10:34-43 34 Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
Peter here obeys God in the vision and preaches the Gospel. He begins by a testimony of his own growth in his understanding of God’s plan. He most certainly understands that God is not One to show partiality but in every nation the man fears God and does what is right is welcome to him.
So here we have one example of apostolic preaching…
In verse 36, he testifies that Jesus is the Christ and that he is Lord of all and that God, through Jesus was preaching peace … Peace with God through the forgiveness of sins.
And then Peter continues to recount Jesus’ life of miracles and good deeds …His anointing by the Holy Spirit and His power to heal all were demon possessed….
He tells the crowd that day Jesus was crucified by the Jews …. But that that was not the end, God raised him from the dead and he appeared to many witnesses.
Also included in Peter’s preaching is that Jesus is the One, verse 42 says, who has been appointed by God as the Judge the living and the dead.
That’s just like John 5:22 says … John 5:22 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
And then finally, in verse 43, Peter testifies to the fact that Jesus’ fulfills prophecy and that even when Gentiles believe in or trust in Christ, they receive forgiveness of sins. Peter in his Gospel preaching appeals to the fulfillment of prophecy.
For example, Daniel 7:14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.
Isaiah quoting the LORD in…. Isaiah 65:1 “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.
Hosea 2:23 “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”
When Jesus came, he began fulfilling these prophecies. And through trusting in him, he forgives all of their sin.
So, when the time was right and when Cornelius obeyed God’s revelation and when Peter obeyed God’s revelation and when they grew to a greater understanding of God’s plan, they were used by God in the progress of the Gospel…. They were used by God to begin to open the door of salvation to the Gentiles.
And where there are men, women, and children today who are properly prepared by God through salvation and because they are obedient to Him, God uses them to progress His Gospel further.
We see that in Acts 10:44-48 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Acts 10
Jesus is expanding his Gospel even today. But if you fail to live according to God’s word in your life…your marriage, your family, and in relationship to His church, you will hinder God’s progression of the Gospel. He desires to use you…be obedient to Him in all areas of Scripture so as to further the progression of His gospel.
697, O Zion Haste…a mission song.