In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus said to His disciples, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Jesus had commanded His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. So the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all men, regardless of nationality, ethnic background. And we watched the movement in the book of Acts as they began first in Jerusalem, bearing witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and multitudes being added to the church daily.
Then upon persecution, we saw where Stephen went up into Samaria. Other disciples were spread throughout Judea, and little pockets of believers began to spring up in the second part of that prophecy of Jesus, in Judea and in Samaria. With the continued persecution of the church and with the increased number of converts who traveled freely in the Roman Empire, we saw how that the Gospel began to spread into all the world.
It is interesting that Paul the apostle, thirty years after the birth of the church, was able to write to the church in Colosse saying that the Gospel, “Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world” (Colossians 1:6). So the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus as they had carried the Gospel by thirty years into all the world. But we see that the movement was gradual. They began in Jerusalem; they spread to Judea, then into Samaria.
Now beginning in chapter 10, we get the next movement of the spread of the Gospel as it is now being proclaimed to the Gentiles. And the Gospel came to the Gentiles in a very interesting way.
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band that is called the Italian band (10:1),
That doesn’t mean they had a mandolin and a guitar and a soloist. The Roman legions had approximately six thousand men and then they had their companies, which would be equivalent to our battalions, which were about six hundred men, because there were ten companies in a legion. And then the companies were divided down, and over a hundred men there was a officer equivalent to our master sergeant, who was called a centurion, inasmuch as he was over one hundred men.
And there are some very interesting requirements that have been found in the Roman record for a centurion. And one of them was a man of great courage and bravery. If he was outnumbered, he must stand with his men and fight until he falls, and he had to be a man of that kind of courage. He wasn’t to go looking for trouble, but he was always to meet trouble with resolute courage.
It is interesting that in the Bible we are introduced to other centurions, and in every case in being introduced to a centurion they were all commendable men. You remember that the centurion came to Jesus and requested that Jesus would heal his servant who was dying. And Jesus said, “I will come to your house.” And he said, ”Oh, no, Lord. I’m not worthy that You should come under my roof. But I understand authority because I am a man under authority and I have under me men. And I can say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes. And I can say to this one, ‘Come over here’ and he will come. I understand what authority is about. And I know that all You have to do is say the word and my servant will be healed.” And Jesus marveled at his faith and He said, “I have not found this much faith in all of Israel.” And He marveled at the faith of this centurion.
Now we’re introduced to another centurion, Cornelius. He was over the Italian garrison there in Caesarea, which was the Roman capitol city of that area. And he was, according to the record here, verse 2,
A very devout man, and one that feared [or reverenced] God (10:2)
Many of the Romans were tired of the multiplicity of gods that were worshipped by the Romans or by the Greeks. You remember Paul the apostle when he came to Athens said, “I can see that you people are very religious, for as I have been walking through your streets, I have found altars inscribed to so many different gods.” And it is true that the Greeks had such a multiplicity of gods. In fact, they had a god for each emotion: a god of love, a god of hate, a god jealousy, a god of wrath, and a god of peace, a god of war, and a god for everything.
And some Greeks came up with the idea, “We may have missed one. We surely don’t want to slight him and get him angry with us.” And so he built an altar and he inscribed it to the unknown god, “Whoever you are, wherever you are, don’t feel slighted, we want to recognize you too.” And so Paul said, “I saw this altar to the unknown god, and this is the God I would like to declare unto you, because He is the One who created the heaven and the earth and everything that is in them.” And so he declared unto them the true and the living God.
Now many of the Romans and Greeks did not believe in the multiplicity of gods, and many of them after their experience in Israel became convinced of the one true and living God. Cornelius was such a man.
he feared God with all his house, and he gave much alms to the people (10:2),
He was a man of prayer. Now here was a man who was walking in the light that he had. And it is so important that we walk in the light that we possess. Unto whom much is given, much is required. Unto whom little is given, little is required. Luke’s gospel tells us in chapter 12 that a man will be judged according to the knowledge and the light that he has received. “For that servant, that knew the will of the father, and did not accordingly will be beaten with many stripes. Yet he who did things worthy of many stripes, because he did not know the will of the father shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whom much is given, much is required. Unto whom little is given, little is required.” (Luke 12:47-48). But we are always required to walk in the light that we have. And if we will walk in the light that we have, it always follows that God will then give us more light and understanding.
And so it’s important that we walk in the light that we have. Just how much light that Cornelius had, we do not know. He did know of God. He reverenced God; he feared God and he prayed unto God continually. He gave alms to the needy, much alms to the people.
He saw a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day (10:3),
So he was probably observing the three o’clock afternoon prayer hour of the Jews.
[He saw] an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Your prayers and your alms are come up for a memorial before God (10:4).
God is aware of your prayers; God is aware of your giving. They have come up before God.
And now send men to Joppa (10:5),
Which was one of the ancient seaports along the Mediterranean. The area of Caesarea was also a seaport, but it was built by Herod the Great. It was not a natural seaport. But Herod the Great built a breakwater there and it is still a beautiful little harbor today. And it’s a great place for skin diving because you can find Roman coins on the sandy floor of the beach within the harbor there at Caesarea. But Joppa was south from Caesarea about twenty miles, which means a two day journey in those times, because an average day’s journey was ten miles. So he is told,
That there in Joppa, he is to inquire for a man by the name of Simon, whose surname is Peter: he will tell you what you ought to do (10:5-6). So he is lodging with Simon who is a tanner whose house is by the seaside, and he will come and tell you what to do. Walls are tumbling. The Jew had many walls built up, nationalistic walls, inasmuch as a Jew would really have no dealings with a Gentile in close contact. They would not eat with Gentiles, they would not invite a Gentile into their home, nor would they go into the house of the Gentile, for the Gentiles were considered unclean. And to touch a Gentile would make you unclean and you’d have to go through quite a ritual of cleansing before you could go back into the temple if you touched a Gentile.
Now the Pharisees were so particular about this that when they walked down the street they would wrap their robes very tightly around them. Their robes they would wrap them very tight so that their robes wouldn’t swish. They didn’t want their robes swishing and actually touching a Gentile. For if they did, they would be unclean and actually go through this cleansing right before they could worship God again. And so you see the Pharisee, his robe wrapped tight around him, small steps going down the street, careful that his robe doesn’t swish out and careful that he doesn’t come into physical contact with the Gentiles.
Now another person who was an outcast was a tanner. For under the Mosaic law, anybody who touched a dead body of an animal or of a person was also unclean. And so a tanner would be considered a man who was constantly unclean, and therefore, you would also be careful not to touch a tanner for that would constitute your becoming unclean. So the very fact that Peter is in the house of Simon the tanner indicates that walls are already beginning to come down in Peter’s heart, as Paul tells us in Ephesians, chapter 4, that Jesus Christ has broken down that middle wall of partition that used to exist between the Jew and the Gentile. So in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all, and in all. He has broken down these racial barriers between men. So Peter was there at the house of Simon the tanner.
And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa (10:7-8).
So he called his servants, and as you recall the one centurion said to Jesus, “I also am a man under authority. I can say to one, go, and he goes.” And so he is exercising again his authority that was given to him, and he is commanding these fellows to go to Joppa to bring back this man Peter.
Now God always works on both ends. Know that. My son, Chuck Junior, who used to be on staff here years ago, and whom I would readily admit is a very handsome young man, had great difficulty while he was single in the ministry. For many a beautiful young lady felt that God had revealed to them by an angel or dream or some other means that they had been chosen by God to be his helpmate. And it actually got to the place where it began to bug him after a while, he became shy and asked the girls, “Please don’t send any young girls over for counseling.” But God works on both ends, and they come in a tell how God had revealed that he was to marry them and all, and he would say, “Well, God hasn’t revealed that to me yet.” But God does work on both ends.
If God is guiding you to a particular project to go and to get someone to come and help you do something, you can be sure that God has already worked on the other end and is also speaking to them about going. God always works on both ends. And I would not venture out into any venture for God until God had first spoken to me. If someone should come up and say, “Well, God has revealed to me that you’re to resign Calvary and you’re to go to Cucamonga and start a fellowship out there and buy a grape vineyard,” I would say to them, “Well, I’ll wait upon the Lord to see if God speaks to my heart upon this issue.” I would not go upon what God has spoken to someone else. I would wait for God to speak to me and I encourage you to follow the same example.
If someone comes up and they’ve had a tremendous revelation, they saw colored lights in the sky, they went into a trance and the angel of the Lord appeared unto them and told them that they were to come unto you and tell you that you’re to sell everything you have and move to Hawaii. As much as that appeals to your flesh, you had better wait upon God to speak to your own heart about that, or your move to Hawaii could be disaster and you find yourself as Jonah, probably intercepted somewhere in between.
God works on both ends. So as God was speaking to Cornelius, He also was speaking to Peter there in Joppa. So we see now the other side of the coin and God working in Peter’s heart. Now it was on the next day and there’s a day’s difference here. So,
On the next day, as they were on their journey, and they were getting near to the city [of Joppa], Peter went up on the housetop to pray about the sixth hour (10:9):
So he was still following the Jewish pattern of prayer, which they prayed at the third hour at nine o’clock in morning, the sixth hour noon, and the ninth hour three o’clock in the afternoon, were the Jewish hours of prayer.
And so it was lunchtime, it was noon, and Peter had gone up on the rooftop to pray. And that sounds strange to us, but if you’ve ever been to Israel, that kind of a mystery would soon disappear, because the rooftops there in Israel are part of the living quarters of the family. And usually they have flat roofs and you’ll see little patios with gardens and potted plants and you’ll see them hanging their clothes out there on the rooftops. And it is just a standard part of the house. Because of the limited space, they don’t have yards and so their yards and play area are oftentimes the roof of the house. And so you call your kids, “Come down off the roof and eat your lunch!” And the kids jump off the roof or come on down and eat there. But it’s a part of the living quarters there. So it is not at all unusual that Peter would go up on the rooftops to pray. And because it was noon,
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they were preparing his lunch, he fell into a trance (10:10), Now I really don’t know much about trances. I’ve never had one. That is not to say that I am opposed. In fact, I would find probably going into a trance probably a very interesting experience. And if God wants to put me in a trance to reveal something to me, that’s all right. I’ll buy that. I want to be open to any way God wants to communicate to me. I would imagine that it would be sort of in a dream state.
Now I just about go into trances sometimes as I’m sitting listening to people talk and I’ve been up half of the night. And my eyes get glassy and I sort of drift off and you sort of come to. And I think that sort of in between that sleep and awake state is probably the trance state. And however it may be and whatever it may be, in this trance,
He saw the heavens open, and a certain vessel descending unto him, it was like a great sheet (10:11)
And that word in the Greek is used for sails. Now he’s right there on the seashore, so he sees this great sheet or sail,
knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: and on it were all manner of fourfooted beasts (10:11-12),
Now according to the law, they could only eat the animal that chewed the cud or had a cloven hoof. But on this sheet there were all kinds of animals.
fourfooted beasts, and there were creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him and said, Rise, Peter, kill; and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean (10:12-14).
I would like to draw your attention to Peter’s response as being a perfectly inconsistent statement, but one that is very familiar to all of us, “Not so, Lord.” Impossible! That is total inconsistency. How can you say, “Not so, Lord”? If the Lord has asked you to do something, the only possible response is, “Yes, my Lord.” If He is indeed your Lord, how can you say, “Not so”? So Peter could have said, “Not so, buddy.” “Not so, friend.” But you can’t say, “Not so, Lord.” Completely inconsistent. God, free us from that inconsistency in our own speech. For so often we find ourselves arguing with God, and God is challenging us to do something. “Oh, Lord, I can’t do that. Oh Lord, not me. I don’t want to do that Lord.” And it puts me then in the driver’s seat. You see, I’m putting myself in the position of lord. So Peter’s inconsistency of speech, “Not so, Lord. I’ve never eaten anything that is not kosher. I’ve never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” Now in the mind of the Jew, the Gentile was both common and unclean.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God has cleansed, do not call common. This was done three times: and the vessel was received up again into heaven (10:15-16).
So this experience three times over, and I suppose Peter was inconsistent three times over, and then the vessel was taken back up into heaven. But the Lord was preparing Peter’s heart.
Now while Peter was wondering in his mind what this vision should mean, [What in the world is that all about? Those pigs on there; kill them and eat them. What can that mean?] behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and they were standing before the gate (10:17),
Now that’s all the further they could come. According to the Jewish customs, they would not dare to come in beyond the gate because that would make the house of Simon the tanner more unclean than it was already. Being a tanner, it was unclean, but it would be doubly unclean at that point. So they stood at the gate.
And they called, and asked (10:18)
They were calling in. They wouldn’t come in; they just called through the gate and said, “Is there a Simon Peter around here?”
While Peter was wondering about the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, there are three men who are seeking you. Arise, and get down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am the man you are looking for: what is the cause for which you have come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, is a just man, and he is one who reverences God, he is of good report among all the nation of the Jews, and he was warned from God by an holy angel to send for you into his house, and to hear words from you. Then Peter invited them in. [The walls of tumbling. Peter is inviting these gentiles to come on into the house.] And on the next day Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And on the next day after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his family and close friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man (10:19-26).
Peter refused to receive the worship. He didn’t let him kiss his toe, but ordered the man to stand up because, “I also am a man.” It is interesting how that people seek to elevate the servant of God many times to a position of almost worship. This was something that the apostles had to guard against. Paul the apostle with Barnabas, when they were in Lystra, found the people coming down the street with the priest of Jupiter who was dragging an ox behind him. And he was going to sacrifice unto Paul because they were amazed of the healing of the lame man. Paul had to strip off his clothes and said, “Hey, I’m not a god; I’m a man. Don’t do this. Worship God.”
So Peter is refusing to receive worship from this man, honor, glory. All of the honor, all of the glory belongs to Jesus Christ. We make a mistake when we hold persons up in high esteem, and the Bible actually warns us about being a respecter of men’s persons. If someone comes into the assembly and is wearing a Rolex watch and diamond rings and all, you say, “Oh, come on down here to this nice seat, soft cushion, comfortable, where you get a good view.” Where someone comes in in Levi’s that are dirty, bare feet. You say, “Sit back there in the corner. Don’t get the carpet dirty. After all...”
And James says, “Look, you are showing respect unto persons just because the way the fellow is dressed.” He said that is not right, you should not do that. We are not to be respecters of men’s persons. We are to give honor and glory unto God and respect Him. So Peter refused to receive the worship of Cornelius, but he took him up and he said, “Stand up. For I myself am only a man.”
And when he talked with him, he went into the house (10:27),
Walls are still crumbling. Peter now goes into the house of a Gentile. He’s had the Gentiles in the house there in Joppa. Now he enters into the house of the Gentile.
and found many people that were come together (10:27).
Hungry hearts there in Caesarea. Now, here’s an interesting thing, and I don’t have the answer for it; I only have the puzzle. How God works. There was living in Caesarea at this time Philip the evangelist. Why didn’t God send Cornelius over to Philip’s house? Since Caesarea isn’t that big, he couldn’t have lived that far from Cornelius. Why would God have him send all the way down to Joppa to get Simon Peter? Probably because Philip was not a leader in the early church, but only a deacon. And had Philip gone to the house of Cornelius and God worked by His Holy Spirit in the lives of the people, they would have booted him out of the church immediately, and he wouldn’t have even had a hearing. At least they were ready to give Peter a hearing because of his position in the church.
They were upset when they heard that Peter went into the house of a Gentile. They really got shook back in Jerusalem, and when Peter got back, they called him on the carpet. They contended with him. “What are you doing? Taking the gospel to the Gentiles. Terrible.” So the Lord, no doubt, chose Peter because of his position of authority, leadership in the early church, and at least he was able to have a hearing before the brethren before they kicked him out. And he said unto them, You know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; [Now you know that what I am doing is illegal, according to the law of the Jews you know that what I’m doing is illegal,] but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I to you without gainsaying [without arguing], as soon as I was sent for: I ask for what purpose did you call me? And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and he said, Cornelius, your prayer is heard, and your alms have been brought in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he comes, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded to you by God. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons [man is, but God isn’t]: but in every nation he that reverences God, and works righteousness, is accepted with him (10:28-35).
That God does not limit His work to any nationality. What an eye-opener this was for Peter. What a difficult truth this was for the rest of the church to receive. That a man could be saved without becoming a Jew. They felt that a man had to become a Jew before he could be saved. And when there were many Gentiles who came to the Lord in Antioch and word came back to the church in Jerusalem concerning the Gentiles being saved, there were certain of those who came up from Jerusalem and they said to them, “Look, you guys can’t be saved until you are circumcised and you keep the law of Moses.” And they created quite a big stir there in Antioch with this premise.
So Peter said, “I realize that God is no respecter of persons, but He will accept any nationality who will fear Him or reverence Him and do the works of righteousness.”
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)(10:36)
Now up until this point the centurion probably only knew of God through Judaism, and now he’s being introduced to the fuller revelation that God has fulfilled His promise and sent the Messiah and he is preaching peace unto all men through Jesus Christ. For He is the Lord of all.
That word, I say, you know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached (10:37);
“Now you’ve heard of Jesus. You’ve all heard of Him.” You remember when Paul was facing Herod in Caesarea, he said, “Hey, Agrippa, you know all about this. This thing wasn’t done in a corner. You know about Jesus; you’ve heard about Him. He didn’t just go stand in a corner some place. Everybody knows about him.” So Peter recognizes that you’ve heard about Jesus Christ, the works He did beginning in Galilee.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God as with him (10:38).
So he is testifying now to the works of Jesus Christ.
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly (10:39-40);
So again, the testimony of the resurrection by Peter. But He showed him,
Not all the people, but unto witnesses who were chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead (10:41).
So we remember that Jesus had the fish prepared by the seaside and He said, “Come and dine.” And He ate fish with them and He drank with them. So after His resurrection He was both eating and drinking with them.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead (10:42).
Christ has been given by God that authority of standing in judgment of men. Now it is interesting that Jesus was judged by men. He was brought before Pilate and He was judged by Pilate. But there’s a paradox here. For Pilate said, “What shall I do with this man Jesus who was called Christ?” The crowd said, “Crucify Him!” He said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried all the louder, “Crucify Him!” “Shall I crucify the king of the Jews?” “We have no king but Caesar.” So Pilate delivered Him over into their hands to do what they please. But he said to Jesus, “Don’t you realize I have power to release you, set you free, or to order You to the cross?” Jesus said, “You don’t have any power except that which has been given to you by my Father. But don’t worry about it, those that turn Me over to you have a greater guilt than you have.” And Pilate sought to release Him, and Pilate was frightened at that statement. But in reality, Pilate was judging himself.
Now every man must face the same question Pilate faced. What am I going to do with Jesus who is called Christ? You must make a judgment of what you’re going to do with Him. But in reality, the one being judged is you by the judgment that you make. You see, if you reject Him, then you are declaring your own judgment. You will be rejected of God. If you deny Him, then you’re declaring your own judgment because you will be denied by God. So every person really has to stand in judgment of Jesus, but the person who is affected by the decision that they make is really themselves. Everyone is determining their own destiny by how they judge Jesus Christ. God has made Him to be the judge both of those who are alive and those who are dead. And we read of this judgment in II Corinthians 5, and Revelation 20.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins (10:43).
He declares that this is something that the prophets all spoke about, that God would grant the remission of sins through their believing in Jesus Christ. And, of course, we can go back in the Old Testament and we can find these hundreds of prophecies that related to Jesus Christ. And the central message of the prophets is that God would send His Son. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). But that His Son would be despised and rejected of men, but all of our sins would be laid upon Him. Those who believe in Him shall be saved. So Peter refers to the prophecies.
While Peter was saying these things [while he was preaching his sermon] the Holy Spirit interrupted him and he fell on all of those who heard the word (10:44).
Now Peter didn’t coach them and say to them, “Now say, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba.” He didn’t coach them how to speak in tongues, it just happened simultaneously to all of them through the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.
I am a little leery about these sessions when a person is coached and taught how to speak in an unknown tongue. I believe in that sovereign work of God’s Holy Spirit. Some instruction is needed and necessary, but yet, the work that is to be wrought should be wrought by the Spirit of God.
Now you remember some came down with Peter from Joppa. In fact, there were six that came with Peter; Peter made the seventh.
And they that were of the circumcision who believed [that is the Jews that had come with Peter who were believers] they were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (10:45).
How can this be that God would put His Holy Spirit upon an unclean Gentile? They were astonished at the sovereign work of God that the Gentiles had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. How did they know?
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God (10:46).
Now that’s exactly what was happening back in the second chapter of Acts when the Holy Spirit fell upon the church. In the beginning they were speaking in these other dialects, magnifying God, declaring the glorious works of God. The same thing is happening here. The people are speaking in unknown tongues, magnifying God.
Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (10:46-47)
Now up until this time, they would not baptize any Gentile into the church. But Peter says, “Hey, what can we do? God’s given the Holy Spirit. We might as well go ahead and baptize them.”
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry for a few days (10:48).
And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come back to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision had a fight with him, and they said, You went to men that were uncircumcised, and you ate with them. But Peter just rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it to them according to how it happened in order, and he said, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet (11:1-5),
And he repeats this vision. Now it is interesting that Luke really is limited by space. At this time, of course, they did not publish books, but they wrote everything on a scroll, and there was a limit to what you could write on a scroll. And the longest scrolls were about thirty-five feet long. And they would write these epistles on these scrolls. And, of course, they would roll it and write as they were going, rolling and unrolling the scroll. And they became very bulky if they got over thirty-five feet long.
Now the book of Acts, because of its length, would have to be recorded in the scroll of maximum limit, about thirty-five feet long. The original copy that Luke wrote of the book of Acts was probably in a thirty-five foot scroll so that you would want to conserve the space so you could tell as much of the story as you could. But for a definite reason, the Holy Spirit has this account of Peter being called to the Gentiles recorded twice in the limited space of the book of Acts. No doubt that God might bare witness to all of the Jews and to all men everywhere that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the free gift of God to every man regardless of his color or his ethnic background. So the Gospel is open to all and so the Lord sees fit to record this vision of Peter twice in the limited area of the thirty-five feet of the scroll of the book of Acts. So he tells again the vision of the sheet with the four corners.
Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them (11:6-12),
So Peter is not taking the responsibility for what happened and he’s not taking the blame. “The Spirit bade me to go. I was being directed by the Spirit of God.”
doubting nothing. Moreover I took these six brothers with me, and we entered into the man’s house (11:12):
So Peter took the witnesses probably because he didn’t know what was going to happen and he wanted witnesses when he got back on the carpet in Jerusalem to verify that the story that he told was true, that it wasn’t really me, it was God who did it. I wasn’t responsible. So that he wouldn’t get kicked out of the early church.
And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who will tell thee words, whereby you and all of your house shall be saved (11:13-14).
So the Spirit bade me to go and bring them the Gospel, the word of salvation. God has ordained to save the Gentiles.
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning (11:15).
I didn’t touch them; I didn’t do anything!
Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them [I didn’t do it. Don’t blame me. As God gave to them] the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God? (11:16-17)
Good question isn’t it? “Who am I that I can withstand the work of God?” Better that I not try to withstand the work of God. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of people who have been in that position who are trying to withstand the work of God. God begins to work and they try to withstand that work. They criticize or they find fault or, “Well, it didn’t happen according to our traditional standards.”
I was given a letter recently, which was sent by a pastor of a Church of Christ to one of the ladies here at Calvary who had moved to California and has started attending church here. And he wrote to her rebuking her for attending the church here because we could not be legitimate, we are, all of us, going to hell because we don’t have the right name above our door. If we are not called the Church of Christ, then we are worshipping under false banners and cannot be truly worshipping Jesus Christ.
Now we are all wrong because we don’t have the right name. Poor fellow. His heaven is going to be a very lonely place. It’s like the fellow being ushered around heaven by Peter and he saw all these different groups of people worshipping the Lord and having a great time. There was a Baptist over here and a Presbyterian over here, and the Methodists over here, and the Pentecostals over here. They were just having a glorious time together and as they went down the road a bit, there was this high wall. The fellow heard the noise of people singing behind it and he said, “Who are they? How come they’re not out with the group?” And he said, “Shush! They’re the Church of Christ and they think they’re the only ones here!”
Now let me say that this pastor is not representative of all of the Church of Christ pastors. He is an individual; he has his own individual convictions which I don’t agree with. They are, I believe, very narrow. And I really...well, I’m sure that the Lord will give me grace to accept the brother when we get to heaven, but I have a hard time with people that are that narrow in their view. I have excellent fellowship with many Church of Christ pastors and I respect the work that they are doing for the Lord. And this man is not at all representative of the Church of Christ ministry. He only represents a small segment of that marvelous fellowship of churches, and I’m thankful that he is not representative of all of them.
But there are Church of Christ ministers here in the area that I love and highly respect and I thank God for the ministry that they have and for the influence that their churches have in their community. So I don’t want you to go out and say, “Oh man, he really put down the Churches of Christ.” Not at all, I don’t intend to do that. It was just a joke and it just represents a small man with small concepts of God’s grace and God’s work.
Unfortunately, there are people who are that small and that narrow, but we pray that God will broaden their horizons, because it must be terrible to live with all of that pent up venom just eating you up inside. Because how can you explain the work of God? Well, what they do is say, “Well, it’s really Satan working.” And it’s a tragic thing that people are that narrow. But, for instance, Thomas Overton in Huntington Beach, what a beautiful brother and how I love this man of God, and I have had, in the past, great fellowship. So if any of you run down to Tom Overton with a tape of this sermon, Tom knows that I love him!
So Peter is explaining, “Who was I that I could withstand God?”
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then God also to the Gentiles has granted repentance unto life (11:18).
And they accepted the work among the Gentiles. Now they weren’t really ready to enter into full fellowship with the Gentiles. As we move along into the book of Acts, we will find that Peter went down to Antioch and he was eating with the Gentiles until certain brethren from Jerusalem came down. And then Peter separated himself because of the feelings that they had still of eating with Gentiles, and it caused a division in the church of Antioch for which Paul rebukes him. And Paul refers to that in the book of Galatians.
So the walls are tumbling, though they’re not completely down. Not by a long shot. And we’ll come in the fifteenth chapter to some issues that arose over this very thing.
Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen, they traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch (11:19),
Now Antioch was the third largest Roman city. After Rome and Alexandria was Antioch. A very large metropolis where the Orentes river comes into the Mediterranean sea. The basic or the chief god of Antioch was Daphene and there was a huge temple to Daphene in a laurel grove five miles from Antioch. And according to the story, Apollo fell in love with Daphene and was pursuing her. But in order to save her from being raped by Apollos, she turned into a laurel tree. And so they built this temple to Daphene there in the laurel tree grove, and the priestesses in the worship of Daphene were prostitutes. And there in the laurel groves they would reenact in their worship the seduction by Apollo of Daphene.
So their worship was very licentious. And the city of Antioch became a synonym for people who lived a very loose, licentious life. Gambling was rampant, as was all kinds of vices, moral and all. They were prevalent and rampant, so they said that a person in Antioch is a person that is living a very lustful life of vice.
But it is interesting that it was in this pagan city that the Gospel of Christ gained such a strong foothold. And the church in Antioch became the center for the mission to the Gentiles. And it was from this church of Antioch that the Gospel really spread through the Gentile world, and the missionaries would come and report to the church in Antioch. And it became one of the centers of the early church, especially the Gentile element of the early church. Now they had gone to Phenice, Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word but only to the Jews. [They weren’t preaching to the Gentiles.] And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come Antioch, they spake to the Grecians [the Hellenists], as they preached the Lordship of Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then the tidings of these things came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would [stick or] cleave unto the Lord (11:19-23).
Now Barnabas was really the ideal man to send, because his ministry was that of reconciling within the body of Christ. He was the one who, when the church in Jerusalem would have nothing to do with Paul after his conversion, brought Paul to the brothers and said, “Look, he is a brother. Receive him now as a brother.” And he was the one that brought Paul into fellowship there into the church in Jerusalem. The son of consolation is what the name Barnabas means, and a man who reconciles opposing parties or differing parties. And so he was an ideal one to send to Antioch when this revival has broken out now among the Gentiles. He is a man who has great grace and understanding and was able to accept the work that God was doing there in Antioch.
Now he exhorted them that they should purpose in their hearts to just continue in the Lord or to cleave to the Lord, or abide in the Lord. So he exhorted them that they should purpose in their hearts, that is, make a total commitment. Not just decide in your mind. Too many decisions are made in the mind. The heart is the seat of a man’s will. When you purpose in your heart, you are setting the course for your life. You’re making the full commitment. He’s calling on them make a full commitment of yourself to Jesus Christ because Barnabas knew that they were going to be facing persecution; they were going to be facing real problems in the Gentile world which was antagonistic to Jesus. A Gentile world that, especially there in Antioch, was given over to every vice and sexual impurity, and if you don’t make a total commitment to Jesus Christ, you’re going to fall by the wayside. You’ll be sucked back in to that whole world system.
So he exhorted them, “Purpose in your heart you’re going to stick with the Lord.” Make that complete commitment. Purpose in your heart this is the way that it’s going to be. Even as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves when carried away to Babylon.
For he [Barnabas] was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith: and [many] much people were added unto the Lord. Then he departed to Tarsus, to look for Saul (11:24-25):
Now he recognized that here is a work of the Holy Spirit being wrought in this Roman culture or a city that is steeped in actually the Grecian culture, but it is a major city of the ancient world. And he realized that the ministry here would take a special kind of a person, one who had been liberalized by the Holy Spirit, one who understood the Grecian culture, and yet, one who was strong in the Word.
Now Paul the apostle, at this time he was still called Saul, when he left Jerusalem, went back home to his home city of Tarsus, and this is some eight years later. I am certain that those eight years were spent by Paul making tents in Tarsus, but also sharing his faith there in the city of Tarsus. As God was preparing him still for the work that God wanted him to do.
We oftentimes make a great mistake in seeking to jump immediately into the ministry the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord. It is important that our lives be prepared by the Spirit and that preparation is not an overnight preparation. During the war we had what were known in the Air Force as the ninety-day wonders. Through basic primary school and all and your first lieutenant bar is in ninety days as we were training men for the Air Force. But God has no ninety-day wonders.
It’s important that we be rooted and grounded in the Word of God and in the work of God. And it is interesting to me that this is some eleven years after Paul’s conversion. He spent the first three down in Arabia there learning. Now eight more years of silence in Tarsus before Barnabas, seeing the work in Antioch, realizing that Paul would be the ideal person for this ministry, went to Tarsus to look for Saul.
And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (11:26).
The word Christian is actually Christ folks. Now during a period a few years ago, there was a title placed upon a bunch of the hippies that were accepting Jesus as The Jesus People. That’s much like this title. It was given in sort of a derisive way to church. They would say, “Oh, they’re Christ folks, they’re Jesus people.” And it is much as the accolation, Jesus people was put upon those young people who were committing their lives to Jesus Christ during that period of time. They’re Christ folks. It wasn’t really a title of admiration, but more or less of sort of a derision as they called them Christians or Christ folks first there at Antioch. Now, notice, that in verse 19 they were preaching the Word to none but unto Jews only. And in verse 20 they came to Antioch and they were preaching unto the Grecians the lordship of Jesus. They were preaching.
Now when Barnabas came, it said that he exhorted them, and when Paul came, it said he came for the space of a year and taught them. And there is an important difference between preaching, exhorting, and teaching. I believe that in the church today there is far too much preaching. I think that we need more exhorting and I believe that we need, most of all, teaching. You see, the most part was spent in teaching, for the space of a year they stayed and taught the people.
Preaching is to the unconverted. It is proclaiming to them God’s good news that He has provided for man’s salvation through the death of His Son who was raised again by the power of the Spirit on the third day. And by believing in Him you can have the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of eternal life. That’s what preaching is all about: proclaiming God’s good news to man.
Now when a person believes the message, then they need exhortation. Now Barnabas was exhorting them, “Now stick to the Lord. Purpose in your heart you’re going to stick with Him.” But Paul came and he spent a year teaching them. Teaching them how to stick, teaching them how to pray. Teaching them how to walk. And teaching is a vital function in the church. And the church today in many places is very weak, very anemic, very ineffective, because the people have not been taught in the Word of God.
So we have dedicated our ministry here at Calvary to the teaching of the Word of God, and then we have Romaine as the exhorter. I’m telling you what you should do, and he’s there kicking you in the seat of the pants getting you to do it. Exhorting us in to what we should be doing for the Lord. And it’s a vital, important ministry and it balances here. We have Randy on Saturday nights preaching to all of the young people that gather. So there’s a place for preaching, there’s a place for exhorting, and there is the important place of teaching within the church. And if the church is going to ever become strong and effective, it’s got to be Paul.
And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch (11:27).
Now these prophets were sort of roving men in the early church. They were sort of nomads; they would roam from church to church. Now as the result, there were men who took upon themselves the title of prophet and they would roam and they would come into the church and they would say, “I’m a prophet of God.” So it was one of the problems in the early church to tell whether or not a man was really a prophet of God or not.
So there were the writings of the apostles that were called the Didache, which was sort of a little rule book in the early church that first began to be circulated about 100 A.D. And this Didache had rules for discerning who was a true prophet and who was a false prophet.
Now the man came in and declared himself to be a prophet of God, you were to listen to him for one day. If he stayed the second day without going to work then he was a false prophet. He was just sponging off the church. If a man came in and declared himself to be a prophet and he said, “Thus saith the Lord, fix a large dinner, fried chicken, rice pilaf, mashed potatoes!” If he would eat of that dinner himself, he was a false prophet. So these were some of the rules by which they were to discern some of the false prophets in the early church written in the Didache, an interesting little guidebook for the early church before they were all established with elders and pastors and so forth.
Now, there was one prophet by the name of Agabus, and we’re going to be coming across Agabus again later on, years later, and we’ll find him in Caesarea when Paul is returning towards Jerusalem. But this one prophet Agabus,
he signified by the Spirit that there was going to be a great drought throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar (11:28).
So he was a true prophet. This drought that he predicted did come to pass.
Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea (11:29):
Now the church in Jerusalem had gone through heavy persecution and had been scattered. They also experimented with communal living and found it disastrous financially. So when Agabus came and predicted this great drought that was going to come, these men decided to take up an offering to send it back to the saints there in Judea to help them out. And so Christian love, stretching across national barriers, stretching across state lines, and stretching across the confines of our church. We’re reaching out to the body of Christ elsewhere to help others, sharing that abundance which God has bestowed upon us. Here at Calvary Chapel we have that glorious privilege of reaching out because God has given us an abundance. God has given us a surplus. We have the glorious privilege of reaching out and sharing this surplus with churches in other areas, with Christians in the body of Christ throughout the United States and throughout the world. So here’s where the practice really began, in the church of Antioch. Became a center, even as God has more or less made this a center from which many have gone out to establish churches. Well over two hundred churches now having come out of this church, being established around the United States. So God has made us sort of a center from which the Word of God has spread. And it’s a blessed thing to be in this position of being able to reach out and help the brethren elsewhere.
Now that’s not what was happening here. Actually, in a sense, the church began in Jerusalem and they’re sending the help back to Jerusalem. But we don’t need the help of the churches and we are able to help them, and we thank God for that. It is more blessed to give than to receive, so we are on the blessed side. So they took up the offering for the brethren in Judea.
Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (11:30).
So Saul is coming back now to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas, bringing an offering from those brothers in Antioch. And the walls now of difference have been broken down. This beautiful generosity expressed now by the Gentile believers towards the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
So next week we move on into chapters 12 and 13. Shall we pray. Father, we thank You for Thy Word, a light unto our feet, a lamp unto our path. What a blessing, Lord, to gather together to study to show ourselves approved, approved unto God, workman who need not to be ashamed. Lord, help us to rightly divide Your Word of truth. Lord, may each of us purpose in our hearts that we’re just going to continue in the Lord. We’re going to walk with You Lord no matter what. Lord, bless Your people. Place Your hand upon each of our lives. Anoint us for Thy service. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.