Sunday 26th August 2018 Message Notes
Above: The high-level aqueduct of Caesarea built by Herod (37BC to 4BC), Caesarea Maritima, Israel – (Attr Carole Raddato FRANKFURT, Germany)
Book of ACTS Study – Part 11 – The Italian Connection
Cornelius – Roman Centurion ACTS 10:1-8
Cornelius was a Centurion attached to the Italian Cohort – Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum. A cohort was an equivalent of a modern battalion consisting of between 300-800 soldiers. 10 cohorts (about 5000 men total) made up a Roman legion. The Italian Cohort was likely made up in whole or in part of Italian volunteers who were Roman Citizens.
This story follows on the heels of the conversion of the Ethiopian official and gives us a picture of the genesis of the revival that sweeps the Gentile world.
Cornelius is recorded as being a “God-fearing man” who engaged in charitable pursuits.
He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. Acts 10:2
Cornelius is visited by an Angel, who encourages him, telling him that his piety and his works have been noticed by God. “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” Acts 10:4-5 As a result of this visitation Cornelius sends one of his soldiers and two servants to Joppa to fetch Peter
Peter’s Vision Acts 10:9-16
Peter, who is staying in Joppa with Simon, a tanner, has retired to the roof of the house to pray. He becomes hungry and calls for a meal to be prepared. While waiting, he has a vision. The vision is the key to the whole event, so we need to understand what the Holy Spirit was doing.
A note on visions.
Why didn’t God send the same Angel with a message, telling Peter plainly what to do?
God uses visions (like Parables) to communicate something more than words. Visions often help us to deal with root issues in our lives in a way that is not-confrontive, but rather, explanatory. As we begin to understand by revelation what we are seeing, the inner root is weeded out and replaced with new thinking. We see the Word differently because the hold of sin, wrong thinking, legalism or dogmatism has been removed and we are free to see the Truth. We need to see visions and dreams as “the language of the Holy Spirit” as Paul Cho remarked. These communications of God are valuable and life-changing.
Important points to help with the interpretation of dreams and visions:
- Dreams and visions are PERSONAL. That is, they are given to YOU. They are specific to you, and you are the only one who can pray to interpret the communication. There are common themes in Scripture that are helpful – e., colors, symbols, etc; these are what we call universal elements. However, to rely upon these as some kind of formula for unlocking the truth is to miss the mark. A vision or a dream is personal because it draws upon your history, your understanding and your mindset. God is speaking to you in your personal life language. What means one thing to you, might mean a completely different thing to someone else. This can be exampled by looking at the way different commentators interpret Peter’s vision. There is only one interpretation and Peter made it. He is the only one qualified to make it and he does not add to it.
- Dreams and visions are rarely – if ever – literal. Some interpreters have looked at the content of Peter’s vision and made incorrect assumptions on the cessation of Jewish dietary laws. This is not what is being communicated.
- Dreams and visions are often linked to other events. The arrival of Cornelius’ party followed Peter’s vision. They were linked. The vision was a preparation for a real-life We should see visions and dreams as an important component of the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.
- Dreams and visions can pull together different elements of the “voice of the Lord”, it can be like a piece of a puzzle that the Lord has been constructing that suddenly causes all of the existing parts to come together. They are always in the context of the Word, never supplemental to or in disagreement with it.
The major issue in Peter’s life that was hindering him in taking the Gospel to the Gentiles was the “oral law”. This was the behavioral restrictions for Jews based upon the interpretive writings of the Rabbis. Peter considered the Gentiles to be “unclean” because they did seek God, obey God or follow God’s law (which included certain dietary restrictions). There were numerous reasons why a Gentile might be unclean, so it was better not to mix with them, socialize with them, and especially eat with them or visit their houses. Peter accepted all of these restrictions – after all he had grown up believing that this was God’s way.
The Vision – Acts 10:13-16
Peter sees a large sheet, reminiscent of a sail, made of fine white cloth. (remember Peter was a fisherman hence its relevance). Inside he sees all kinds of birds, 4 footed animals, and reptiles. Some ceremonially clean, others prohibited. A voice from heaven tells Peter to “kill and eat.”
“Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
The instruction from Heaven was to “kill and eat”. Peter responded forcefully (religiously) and protested, saying that he had never eaten anything unclean. At this point, Peter obviously thought the vision was literal. This happened three times. Three is the number of completeness and of fullness, indicating that this was about a shift, a complete change. Then the voice declared, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Was God changing His mind with regard to the Law? Was bacon now on the menu? Peter felt confused.
The key point here was “God had made all of the animals clean.” What did this mean? Peter began to piece the pieces of the puzzle together:
- The Cloth sail spoke of travel beyond the current location
- The animals, birds, and reptiles, represented something other than what was literally being seen. Peter knew that in Jewish thinking animals etc. were often representative of the Gentile Nations.
- God had made something “clean”; perhaps if the animals were representative of something else, perhaps God was speaking not about food being cleansed but the nations themselves. Peter’s understanding of the power of the blood of Jesus, and Jesus own command to take the Gospel to the NATIONS, must have brought him to the conclusion that the Blood of Jesus had washed the “uncleanness” (original sin) of the Gentiles. Therefore the oral requirement of separation was invalid.
He began to consider the vision and its meaning. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to Him, “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” The Lord misses out a pertinent point; it wasn’t three men …. It was three Gentile men!
I think that as soon as Peter met the men and heard their story everything fell into place in his mind and a great shift took place in his thinking. The anointing broke the yoke of separation and Peter was free to obey the command of Jesus to go and to preach. The next day Peter travels to Caesarea and meets Cornelius who recounts the Angelic visitation and command to Peter.
The fact that Peter now fully understood the vision and its message is clearly defined in his opening words: Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10:34-36 The vision has nothing to do with food!
The first roman revival Acts 10:23-47
Peter began preaching the Gospel (there is good evidence to believe that it was Peter himself who recounted these words to Luke). He remarks that Cornelius’ household was familiar with the Ministry of Jesus – or that is how it appears.
As he is speaking, suddenly the power of the Holy Spirit falls in the room. He didn’t even have time to tell them that they needed to repent and be baptized! Cornelius and his household begin praying and Worshipping in the Spirit with their Prayer language – just as had happened on the Day of Pentecost. How shocked but full of joy Peter must have been!
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. Acts 10:44-47 The new believers were baptized and Peter returned to Jerusalem.
Peter returns to Jerusalem and encounters a storm of criticism
It is important to note that it was Peter that received the vision and experience of revival and not the other Apostles. Peter’s thinking had been revolutionized. Not so the others.
The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Acts 11:1-3
Peter explained his “extraordinary” actions and recounted the events at Cornelius’ house. He finished with these words:
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
The only response the other believers could muster was Praise. It went against everything they believed, but they were mature enough to know it was God. The reality of “Going to the Nations” was settling upon their consciousness.
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life. Acts 11:15-18