Grace for All
Grace for All
Grace for All
For the last couple of weeks we have learned about Saul.
We talked about his Conversion and subsequent persecution.
Luke is going to take a step back from Paul for a minute and highlight an important turning point in the mission of Christ.
Remember when we started this journey through Acts I told you that the driving force behind all of this book is found in Chapter 1:8
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Grace for All
Grace for All
So far we have read about converts in Jerusalem through the preaching and teaching of the apostles.
We read about conversions in Samaria because of the preaching and teaching of Philip.
Today we are going to briefly see some conversions is the outer reaches Judea due to the preaching of Peter.
Then Luke is going to take us to one of the stories of greatest importance in all of Acts.
The conversion of a Gentile and the conversion of Peter.
The conversion of the Gentile is one of turning to Christ for Salvation.
The conversion of Peter is toward a full understanding of the implications of the Gospel.
Remember the only people that Peter has seen converted have either been Jewish or of Jewish Descent.
Peter still doesn’t fully grasp that the Gospel is for all people at all times.
Now the reader of Acts will remember the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch.
That was done through the proclamation of Philip.
It was important and lets the reader in on the importance of preaching the gospel to all people, but what we will look at today expands the mind of the Peter and by that the acceptance of all people to know the salvation of the Lord.
However, before we get to the gentile conversion we have to walk in the footsteps of Peter as he walks in the footsteps of Christ.
Luke is going to reveal two scenes that show us the type of ministry that Peter was involved in.
Both of these scenes take place outside of Jerusalem into the outer area of Judea.
These two scenes are important because they both mirror Jesus’ earthly ministry.
It’s almost as if Luke wants us to see that Peter is truly walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.
Truly relying on the power of Jesus and the HS.
32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
Restoration and Resurrection
The first scene takes place in Lydda. There are some believers who have made there way outside of Jerusalem and have come to dwell in this town.
Peter interacts with the followers of Jesus and comes into contact with a man had be paralyzed for 8 years.
Through the power of the name of Jesus, Peter tells this man to rise and make your bed. (v.34)
He restores the man to wholeness through the only name able to do so Jesus Christ.
Remember that Acts was written by Luke. He wrote Acts as a part 2 to his gospel.
So the careful reader would remember the account of Jesus healing the paralytic in Luke 5.
Where he says ““I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 5:24.
Now obviously these aren’t direct parallels, but you see that Luke is conveying a picture. There is restoration to be found in the Name of Jesus.
The next scene takes place in Joppa, a coastal city.
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
Restoration and Resurrection
We read that there was a disciple in Joppa who had died.
Here name was Tabitha (Aramaic) (Dorcas, Greek)(Gazelle, Translation)
Luke gives some pretty great descriptors about Tabitha.
“Full of Good works and Charity”
She ministered to the widows of the city by making them tunics and garments.
This is a great example of how to rightly do ministry.
You take your talents and passions and use them to bless people.
What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?
Who needs that specific talent and how can you bless them?
BOOM! That’s your ministry.
I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a guy who asked me a very pointed question.
He asked how do you stay grounded in Christ.
I had to stumble around an answer for a minute then it came to me.
It makes perfect sense.
We imitate Christ and we do that through serving people.
We do that through ministering to people.
If we are busy serving and loving people we won’t have time for pettiness.
We won’t have time to get prideful, self-reliant, and self-centered.
This was the very character of Tabitha.
Her tombstone would have read.
“Tabitha (Dorcas) full of service and good works”
Just a quick reminder,
We don’t do good works for God’s Grace, but from his grace.
We do good works out of appreciation for what God has done in our lives.
We were called to Christ to have a new life and out of our gratitude we do good works.
This was how Tabitha lived her life.
This is why people were distraught at her death. This great woman of service and charity was going to be missed.
But they knew that Peter was about 8 miles away in Lydda so they sent for him.
Peter came to the home where Tabitha was laid and asked every one to get out.
He prayed. He Spoke. She Lived
Those simple words mimicked the Words of Jesus when he resurrected Jarius’ Daughter.
In fact, the command was so close that only a letter separated the two phrases.
Jesus said, “Talitha, arise.”
Peter said, “Tabitha, arise.”
Peter through his preaching ministry in both Lydda and Joppa was walking in the way of Jesus.
He was demonstrating that Jesus came to both restore and resurrect people.
That Jesus is the king of the universe and that he is in the business of making all things new.
And because of Peter’s ministry many in both Lydda and Joppa became followers of Christ.
But even though Peter was doing might works for God in these towns, there was a mightier work planned for him.
In the book of Acts, there are 3 watershed moments.
Three of the most important and impact full events that happen after the resurrection of Christ.
We have already visited 2 of them.
1. Pentecost. In chapter 2 where the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus to Dwell in his people.
2. Saul’s Conversion on the road to Damascus.
3. The conversion of Cornelius. which we are about to study.
This story is broken down into a few scenes:
Gospel Vision in v.1-16
Gospel Application v. 17-33
Gospel Proclamation v. 34-43
Gospel Confirmation v. 44-48
Gospel Defense 11:1-18
1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
In this text we see a tale of Two Visions
One to a God Fearing Gentile and One to Peter the Apostle.
We learn a little about Cornelius in this opening section of chapter 10.
We learn that he is a Centurion.
Meaning he is a commander in the Roman Army
He is in charge of at least 100 men.
As a Centurion his is wealthy and of great influence and stature in the community.
We also learn that he is a God Fearer.
Meaning that he believes in the God of the Jews.
He is not a complete convert though b/c he hasn’t undergone the most demanding rite of passage: Circumcision.
However, he does pray and give generously to the people of the town.
Yet he is not of Jewish Descent. He is a Gentile.
He has a vision of an angel.
Remember Angels are messengers of God.
“Your Prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
This is some OT language.
Basically, stating that God has heard his prayers and seen his generosity and is pleased with how Cornelius is living his life.
The angel also tells Cornelius that Peter is in Joppa and that he is the one that Cornelius needs to speak with.
Though Cornelius has believes in God he doesn’t have a saving faith.
He is doing the right things, but he doesn’t have the correct object of his faith.
Christ is the only one who can provide relationship to God.
That’s why Cornelius is going to have to hear the gospel of Christ through the preaching of Peter.
Jesus is the only one that saves.
So quickly Cornelius gathers up some of those under his command and sends them to Joppa.
Luke then tells us about Peter’s Vision.
Peter’s vision may look a little weird to us.
Let’s look at it together.
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
Peter went up to pray and became hungry.
Can anyone relate to him there. In fact, I think I can hear some rumbling bellies right now.
But I digress,
Peter has a vision as well however, his vision is very different from Cornelius’ vision and on the surface they don’t seem to relate at all, but I assure you they do.
Peter sees "something like a great sheet descending”
On this great sheet were a wide variety of different kinds of animals.
Something we have to know about food for the Jewish People.
It was and is very important for demonstrating devotion to God.
The Jewish People were forbidden from eating certain kinds of animals and these animals were deemed unclean and unfit for eating.
For an overview, read Leviticus 11.
But I am sure you know some of them. No shellfish, No Pork, No mixing dairy and meat, etc.
So a devoutly Jewish person can never know the glory of a Bacon Cheeseburger.
However, here in this vision there were both clean and unclean animals present, and the Voice tells Peter to “Rise, Kill, and Eat.”
But Peter in his normal fashion, believes that he is right and the Voice from heaven is wrong.
“I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
The voice said that what God creates is not common or unclean.
And Three times Peter argues with him. And Three times Peter is Wrong.
Peter is one of those stubborn friends who always takes a little longer than everyone else to catch on.
3 Times Christ asked him if He loved him.
3 Times he denied knowing Christ.
3 Times he argued about the cleanliness of Animals.
That God Peter thinking, and the story moving forward.
17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.” 30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
“Peter was inwardly Perplexed”
He was just as confused about what he saw and how it was going to play itself out.
I can imagine him scratching his head and thinking, what does this all mean?
Can I go down to Whataburger and enjoy a Bacon and Cheese Whataburger?
My whole life is about to change.
As he is thinking the men that Cornelius sent make it to Simon the Tanner’s home.
There is an important detail that we shouldn’t overlook when it comes to where Peter is staying.
He is staying in the home of a man that is perpetually unclean.
His very job makes him unclean.
On top of the dietary laws the Jewish people were supposed to follow. They would be declared unclean if they came in contact with an animal carcass.
Simon the Tanner’s business was built on animal carcasses, literally.
So, Peter would have undoubtedly come in contact with or been around some things that would make him unclean according to the law.
It’s no accident that God has Peter staying with Simon.
God is working on Peter’s heart and changing his mind about the things of God.
So, these men relay the circumstances to Peter upon their arrival.
They tell them about Cornelius the God-fearing man and that he heard from an angel of the Lord.
Cornelius would love to hear what he has to say. What does he have say?
The Gospel of Jesus.
Cornelius needs the gospel. He is devoted to God but he needs the gospel to be in relationship with God.
Then Peter does the unthinkable and lets them come into the house and be his guests.
Gentiles and Jews together in the same house.
Unthinkable. Unlawful. But he does. God is Working on Peter’s heart.
The next day they left to go to Cornelius’ house.
In the Meantime, Cornelius had invited a lot of people over. All his relatives and close friends.
The message that they would hear was an important one and Cornelius knew it.
When Peter arrived, Cornelius fell down and started to worship him.
Peter was quick to say Don’t do that I am only a man.
Peter was then made aware of all the people that were there. Of all the people that were waiting to hear what he had to say.
Then we come to the “AHA” moment for Peter and for us
28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.
Here is why this is important.
Jews didn’t associate with Gentiles because they didn’t know if the home would be a clean or unclean home.
They couldn’t share a meal provided by a non-Jewish person b/c of the fear that the food had be sacrificed to an idol or was prepared not according to the Law.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so the Jewish people never intermingled with Gentiles.
The reality is that you can never truly know or care about a person that you will not share a meal with.
Eating together is an intimate and loving act.
You may be looking at me like I’m crazy, but what do you do when you start dating someone?
Go out to eat.
What do you do when you have a night free from the kids?
Go out to eat.
When we gather for holidays what do we do?
So the fact that God showed Peter that no food is unclean is a huge turning point.
The Jewish Believers can now associate with and love the Gentiles in the one of the most intimate of ways.
They can share a meal with them.
This is a sort of conversion for Peter. His eyes are opened and he sees that the gospel is not limited to the Jewish people, but it is for all people.
v. 33 Cornelius asks to hear what Peter has to say.
So what does he do...
He begins to preach
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Paul’s sermon is simple and short.
Notice that it is very different than any sermon he’s preached so far.
It’s because his audience is different.
His audience is made up of non-Jewish people who would not have known the Hebrew scriptures.
So he just goes along an proclaims the majesty and glory of Christ.
Christ is Lord of all.
He shows no partiality.
All people. All people groups. All ages, all races, all genders, from every tribe and tongue.
Jesus is Lord of all.
He was the perfect Son of God who was nailed to a tree and died a sinners death so that he could bring people into the family of God.
But he didn’t stay dead. He rose on the third day in victory.
He appeared to his followers in a renewed body and commanded the disciples to preach the gospel to all people
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. Mat. 28.19-20
He offers forgiveness for the rebellious, the wayward, the sinning, and the unlovable.
While he was still preaching something amazing happened
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.
Those present received the HS.
They were now marked as part of the household of God.
They were now part of the family of God.
This is what some refer to as the “Gentile Pentecost”.
It mirrors the reception of the HS in Acts 2.
They speak in tongues.
They proclaim the truth about Jesus
They are then Baptized.
Baptism followed Belief.
But not all things were hunky dory.
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.”
Peter is opposed when he returns to Jerusalem.
He is accused of eating with “uncircumcised men”
So Peter relays all the events that happened.
The Prompting of the Spirit
then he ends in a question
“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?
Basically, I am not going to get in the way of what God is doing.
God is calling all people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to himself.
Who are we to stand in the Way.
There are people in this community that may not look like you, sound like you, eat like you, or speak like you, but they still need to hear the gospel of JC.
We have to realize that God has positioned us in this neighborhood for these people in this community.
They all need to know the grace of God.
They all need to know the mercy of Jesus.
They all need to know the love found in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.
And how are they to know if we don’t tell them?
If you are here and you have never given your life to Christ, I would like to invite you to submit to his Lordship.
He is the the judge of the world and the only standard he goes by is perfection.
If you haven’t been perfect, and I assure you you haven’t, then you will stand on the harsh side of that judgement.
But he offers you grace and forgiveness.
He offers to take the guilt away and grant you his perfection.
will you accept it?
If you are a follower of Jesus, you need to be telling someone about the grace and goodness of God.
Tell them about the one who came to save them from their sin and condemnation.
If you don’t who will?