Letting God Correct Our Vision

Acts of the Holy Spirit Through the Apostles  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:35
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INTRO: Right belief and behavior begins with right understanding. (or to reverse the order) Right thinking leads to right belief leads to right living. Right perception (seeing rightly) leads to right conclusions which lead to right conduct.
We must let God correct our wrong thinking. If we don’t let God correct our vision, we will live disconnected from God to die and go to our destruction eternally distant from God. If we don’t let God give us better vision, we will go on believing and behaving in ways that are counterproductive to his purposes in Jesus Christ.
In this section of Acts, God is showing the church how to see rightly (to think rightly) about the new covenant people he is making for himself. As we have applied what God is teaching Peter for the sake of the church to ourselves, we’ve come the following conclusions:
To be the messengers of the gospel that Jesus desires for us to be, we must learn to see ourselves and others as God sees. (Ac 10:1-16)
Cornelius receives a vision from God.
Meanwhile, Peter receives a vision from God.
When we see others as God sees, we are persuaded by His impartiality to put aside ethnic prejudice and associate with people who are different from us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. (Ac 10:17-35)
Here was saw the evidence that Peter began to understand and became persuaded of God’s intention. Invite people into our lives… invest in them where they are (Not leave them as they are, but go to them where they are)…
God has shown Peter that...
The good news that Jesus is Lord of all means that his salvation is sufficient for all who believe. (Ac 10:36-43)
So when Peter preaches the gospel this time, such is the emphasis. The gospel is the same, but the major new theme in this speech to Cornelius’s household is the ethnic impartiality of God (vv. 34–35). Therefore, the christological theme that “[Jesus] is Lord of all” finds a new dimension (v. 36): not only his superiority & sufficiency for salvation but also his sufficiency for everyone, apart from ethnicity or religious background. If Jesus is Lord of all, then the gospel can go to all. Anyone, regardless of ethnicity (or religious background) can be accepted by God through faith in Jesus.
Acts 10:36 ESV
36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),
Acts 10:43 ESV
43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
In the last section for today, God is confirming that his acceptance is through Jesus and not contingent upon observing any Mosaic ceremonial laws (such as circumcision, or dietary laws, or sacrifices for purification, or observation of festival days—all requirements in the old covenant that God had placed on his people for demonstrating their faith in him, knowing he desired that they should set themselves apart to him). Now, people do not have to convert to OT Judaism to be saved and accepted by God. Jesus is sufficient.
So if I were to tell you what I believe the lesson was for the Jewish church at the time, it would be this:
The Spirit’s confirmation of Gentile inclusion means that the Church must welcome these believers into full fellowship and equality in the community. (Acts 10:44-11:18)
What we have in the text today is clear evidence from God the Holy Spirit and defense from Peter that the Gentiles’ belief in Jesus is sufficient to make them one with the Church (and that the community needs to treat them as such).
Acts 10:44–11:18 ESV
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. 1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
If we want to apply this text to our lives today, we have to plumb the underlying truths and implications behind the uniqueness of this occurence in Acts for the early church that was predominantly Jewish church at the time. Here’s what we will explain and apply that this text teaches us:
We must let God correct our thinking about who can be saved. We must let God correct our thinking about how one is saved. We must allow God to correct our thinking when we elevate religious traditions as more important than relationship(s).
Then right understanding will yield right belief will yield right behavior.

We must let God correct our thinking about who can be saved & how one is saved.

Who can be saved?
Peter has had his vision corrected by listening to God. So he declares in v. 43 ***
What the Holy Spirit does at this “Gentile Pentecost” proves (vindicates) what God told Peter and is meant as God’s confirmation of his promise and to cause the other believers to see it as well. vv. 45-46, and 11:16-18
Who is too distant from God to be saved? (too far gone, too much of a sinner)
Saving faith is a conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit regarding the truth of the gospel and a trust in the promises of God in Christ. Who is beyond God’s reach?
How is anyone saved?
Jews are not saved by being Jewish. Gentiles are not saved only by fearing God and praying to him. The gospel is that we can be made right with God through Jesus Christ. (This is the good news, the message.)
These Gentiles (Cornelius’s household) could not be right with God apart from knowledge of Jesus, and belief in Jesus, and calling on him for salvation.
In the gospel of Jesus Christ we see God more accurately and ourselves more accurately. We come to understand his majesty, his perfection, his holiness, and his wrath against sin… We begin to see the depth of our sin and our need for salvation… We see the faithfulness of God to his promises, and the unique mercy and sacrificial love of God. We see his grace toward us in Christ Jesus. We begin to desperately desire to be rescued, and we cry out to Jesus to save us.
Here are some examples of wrong thinking that a passage such as this from God helps correct:
Wrong thinking: I deserve salvation. - Put yourself in the shoes of the Jews. Should you be thinking that you “deserve” for God to save you? (If anything, by God’s grace he chose this people and we have proven faithless and rebellious.) No, the only thing we deserve for our sinful waywardness is destruction. - Cornelius doesn’t think that God “owes” him anything. That’s why he’s coming to God for salvation!
Wrong thinking: I must earn salvation. - If this could be done, the Jews would have done it under the Mosaic law. God gave them detailed, specific instruction on how to live before him, how to walk rightly with him, but they couldn’t do it. With the Jews as our representatives, God has given us every opportunity to be right and do right, but we cannot attain the perfect holiness of God. It just isn’t possible for us. Sin prohibits it.
Faith means that we trust in God’s promise and not in our performance. Abraham had faith in the promise of God concerning a future deliverer, and it was credited to him as righteousness. And we trust not in our faith but in Christ. He is the object of our faith. It is Christ who saves.
Wrong thinking: It’s not fair for God to make Jesus the only way to be restored to him.
First, God is perfectly just, but if God was only just, we’d be cooked. You don’t want fair. You want mercy and grace.
Second, there’s no sense complaining of only one bridge between God and man. There is only one bridge; you must use it.
Let’s say I need to get from here to Orlando. And there’s only one flight per week. I could foolishly complain about it and never get on the flight. I could gripe that every other airline should have a flight to Orlando. The point is, they don’t. I can either get on that flight or I can stay where I am.
There’s no sense complaining that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Instead, we must be overwhelmed with gratitude that there IS a mediator and that God has revealed him to US! So we get on the bridge. Right understanding impacts right belief impacts right behavior. We place our faith in Christ alone to save. - We do not even trust in our faith but in Jesus. He is the object of our faith. He is the one who saves.
You can’t keep your religion and add Jesus to it. Jesus is enough (sufficient) means that all religious practices must submit to the Lordship of Jesus and God’s instruction for the New Covenant Church in Christ. Jesus is mediator of a new covenant. This Lord has inaugurated a kingdom that no longer requires strict adherence to the Mosaic covenant. Instead, in everything the Lordship of Jesus is to be our aim. We submit to him in everything and abide in him for everything.
Wrong thinking: God himself is saving people, so I don’t need to worry about it. (All that matters is that I’ve got my ticket.)
If Jesus is the only means of salvation, that means people must hear of Christ to be saved, and it means we must go to them and preach the word of Christ.
Here’s a great text from Paul’s letter to the Romans that fits this text in Acts 10-11 exceedingly well: (verse before and after this can be pertinent too, but here’s what I have time to show)
Romans 10:11–15 ESV
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Cornelius’s household believed because they heard the word, and they heard the word because Peter went to them and proclaimed Jesus as Lord.
Through Peter’s gospel proclamation, God provided Cornelius (and his household) with better understanding so that he believed in the Lord Jesus and called on him to be saved. - God had prepared them (v.33), they just needed to know how to be saved. They needed knowledge of Jesus.
This isn’t to say that we will have perfect knowledge. There will always be limits to our comprehension, especially when it comes to God. But we must have understanding of what God has revealed. God promises that his revelation and our (God-given) capacity and his own work in us is sufficient for us to have right thinking and right believing and right behavior.

We must allow God to correct our thinking when we elevate religious traditions as more important than relationship(s).

This is true in our relationship with God, and it’s true in our relationships with others.
Getting pushback from some Jewish believers, Peter has to defend his non-discriminatory behavior. They don’t appear to be complaining about his witnessing to the Gentiles; they’re complaining about Peter fellowshipping with them in their homes without worrying about ritual impurity. (v. 3)
We can tell plainly, however, that Peter’s thinking has been corrected (and those Jewish brothers with him). Peter was willing to fully and freely fellowship with these believers because the Spirit had confirmed their conversion, and God had told Peter not to discriminate based on anything other than faith in Christ.
So Peter defends his actions basically by saying that this was from God and not from him. In order to do that, he retells the story (with only very minor new details).
Peter says: Look, this is what happened and how God showed me that I should be impartial, as he is impartial.
The Holy Spirit has confirmed God’s acceptance of Gentile believers in Christ. (without distinguishing between ethnicities, and without the observance of Jewish rites and customs)
Apparently up until this point Peter and other Jewish believers weren’t completely clear that Gentiles could be saved without converting to Judaism (as a part of their believing in Jesus), or at least that they needed to do the Jewish things to be in fellowship.
So they needed obvious evidence that the same Spirit was present in these Gentiles believers. Is there any doubt that God intentionally had the exact same outward manifestations as he did at Pentecost?
In this context, there should be no question that the purpose of this event is the Holy Spirit confirming the conversion and acceptance of Gentiles also. - Through faith in Jesus Christ, God was accepting the Gentiles as full and equal members of his people. Speaking in tongues to praise God was the outward demonstration of the Spirit’s presence and God’s acceptance (without circumcision) through belief in Jesus.
Context is king in Bible interpretation. - God himself directed and confirmed the expansion of the church to the Gentiles also. Does this type of manifestation of the Spirit’s presence need to be repeated every time someone is saved? If not, why not?
It isn’t wise to expect God to use us in precisely the same way he used believers in this transitional apostolic era. Such thinking has led to a great deal of wonky behavior that is more consistent with pagan mysticism than with New Testament teaching.
So too physical baptism was a public declaration of conversion (a personal commitment to Christ), an outward sign of God’s internal work. Does water baptism save you?
Under the New Covenant, faith in Jesus Christ is the only distinguishing feature (condition) of full and equal acceptance into the kingdom. - The only external ordinances that identify us outwardly with Christ and his people are water baptism and participation in the Lord’s table. They are not conditions but acts of obedience.
God’s acceptance on the basis of Christ alone means that we must welcome into full fellowship those who have faith in Christ.
The Jewish Church needed this lesson so they would welcome Gentile believers in Christ into full fellowship. The Spirit’s confirmation of Gentile inclusion means that the Church must affirm God’s acceptance and welcome these believers into full fellowship with the community.
When people are reconciled to God, they are reconciled to Christ’s church. Whom God accepts we must accept. (That’s the reason that our forgiveness is evidence that we are forgiven by God.) We cannot place other “requirements” on people other than faith in Jesus Christ. Even baptism (the ordinance of immersion in water) is something we press as obedience to Christ, but it is not a “condition” of God’s acceptance unto salvation.
The church isn’t leading in this context; rather, the church is following God’s lead, learning how God views people.
Who are we to argue with what God has made clear?
Who are we to withhold fellowship in Christ’s community?
God is leading. We’re following. (God has spoken. We listen and obey.)

Conclusion: See the Doctor

I see the orthopedic doctor tomorrow about my knee.
Pray desperately for God to help you see rightly. Seek the knowledge/wisdom he provides in his word (as if for hidden treasure.
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