I want to begin this worship service with a short video clip. Harriet Olsen has been accusing someone of being illiterate when in reality he is an immigrant who is quite literate. Watch the clip where it picks up.
Little House on the Prairie Clip:
Charles Ingalls is to preach so he has Harriet read the Scripture from a Bible in another language. She had called someone illiterate the previous week. He really was literate, simply not in English.
Now, there are many different cultures, countries and languages in the world. I did an internet search and found out the following: When people are asked how many languages they think there are in the world, the answers vary quite a bit. One random sampling of New Yorkers, for instance, resulted in answers like “probably several hundred.” However we choose to count them, though, this is not close. When we look at reference works, we find estimates that have escalated over time. The 1911 (11th) edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, implies a figure somewhere around 1,000, a number that climbs steadily over the course of the twentieth century. That is not due to any increase in the number of languages, but rather to our increased understanding of how many languages are actually spoken in areas that had previously been underdescribed
This makes Revelation 7:9 so much more powerful:
How amazing is that? All of these languages, all of these cultures, all of these tongues worshipping the Lord together. This Thursday we will be going to New Zion to worship the Lord at another church, together, as we well should, Praise God!
We are too often divided. A few weeks ago I was listening to a short message about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s best message which was not a sermon but Letters from Birmingham Jail. In it he talked about people asking him to quit. He said that he cannot quit. When he is asked to quit he thinks about how his daughter will ask him why they cannot go to that restaurant or that amusement park. He will think about certain other things. I listened to that very message the day after watch a movie titled 12 Years a Slave made after a book written after a true story and a very moving story. How sad it is, truly sad it is how culture divides us. How sad it is, truly sad it is, how language divides us.
What I see in this Bible passage is God saying, “NO MORE!” God is saying:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Amen! Can you agree to that? If so, say Amen??? Everyone, everyone should be saying Amen!
I do not think that I am going to read through the entire passage this morning, but I am going to break it down. We are going to set up this chapter this week. And finish it next week. This passage is a transition in the book of Acts.
[I am listing the passage in the manuscript for those that read it.]
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
Peter at Cornelius’s House
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.
This is the longest narrative in the book of Acts.
- Verses 1-8: In verses 1-8 and angel visits Cornelius.
- We find out in verse 1 that Cornelius was part of the Italian Cohort. Just some brief information about this man and area:
- Caesarea was the seat of the Roman government of Judea (see note on 8:40). Cornelius was a centurion, a commander of 100 men, and a member of the Italian Cohort. (A “cohort” consisted of 600 men under the command of six centurions, but with auxiliary forces in remote areas such as Judea a “cohort” might have as many as 1,000 men.) Ten cohorts formed a “legion.” Centurions were paid very well (as much as five times the pay of an ordinary soldier), so Cornelius would have been socially prominent and wealthy.
- Verse 2 tells us that he was devout:
i. He prayed.
ii. He feared God.
iii. He gave.
iv. He was a God fearer which means that he was considering Judaism. He may have been a full Jewish convert, but maybe not. We are unsure of this. He was definitely a Non-Jewish man and did not keep the dietary laws.
- In the next few verses he sees a vision. The Bible says that this is clear. This is unmistakable. So, this is an angel and the angel says that his prayers have been answered. He is to send servants to Joppa where Peter is.
- Now, that sends us to verse 9 and to Peter.
- Verses 9-23: In verses 9-23 God prepares Peter.
- So, two soldiers are on their way to Peter. Peter, being a devout Jew, is about to have his world rocked.
- Noon was the normal time to eat and it was normal to use the roof for rest as well as for drying vegetables and other things.
- Noon was not a regular hour of prayer (3:1), so Peter prays in addition to the traditional hours followed by many of his contemporaries.
- I wonder, just a note of application, what is your prayer life? What is my prayer life?
- It is important, it is critical, it is imperative, that I am about prayer, that we are about prayer. We won’t do anything without God’s help. Wait, I feel like that was said and written wrong. We need God leading us. We need communion with God. We need prayer. We need dependence on God. Are you seeking Him? I must ask myself the same thing. Am I seeking Him?
- You know what? Let’s pause and pray now?
- Lord, may we seek you with all our heart, do not let us stray from your commands and may you speak to us as you did Peter, continue to speak to us in this message which is not complete.
- Have a moment of quiet and then close the prayer.
- So, Mr. Peter is praying and God gives him this vision and we are not going to break down this vision. Peter sees unclean animals.
- By the way, the animals are given in a similar manner as they would be in the account of the flood narrative, which is interesting.
- Verse 13: take, kill and eat…
- God is for P.E.T.A. People Eating Tasty Animals
- Verse 14 and following Peter says, no way, my translation, I have never eaten anything unclean.
i. You must know that the Jews had dietary laws. They were not supposed to eat certain foods. In the Old Testament, God separated them from the other nations.
ii. I some cases they were not even to eat with people who at those foods, even if they were not actually eating the foods.
iii. This consumes a lot of space in the New Testament, and actually this consumes a lot of space in the Old Testament.
iv. In 1 Corinthians chapters 8-10 Paul writes about the dietary laws. In Acts chapter 15 we will come back to the dietary laws. In Romans (14 and 15) we will come back to the dietary laws. In Galatians and Colossians we will come back to these concerns.
- 3x the Spirit (verses 15-17) says take and eat God has made it clean.
In verse 23 we are left with Peter and others leaving to Caesarea. Some of the brethren are accompanying him. I find this so very profound because we see witnesses many of what God is doing. God is opening up the Gospel to Gentiles. This is pivotal for the rest of the New Testament.
We are going to pick this up right here next week and we are going to look at Cornelius’ conversion. But think about the importance of the Gospel to all these nations. All these languages and Jesus came for all of them. In the past there were these set dietary laws. In the past, in the Old Testament, God set up a Jewish nation state, they were their own culture and civic organization. Christianity transcends culture. We do not have language barriers. Not anymore. We do not need to be bound by culture.
That is why Paul wrote:
1 Cor. 9:19-23:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law(though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
This is why Martin Luther King Jr’s dream is so powerful and meaningful. This is why Revelation 7:9 could be true:
Revelation 7:9 so much more powerful:
The question is, how do you feel about it?
Do you know Jesus?
Are you opened to other cultures and people knowing Jesus?
Who do you need to introduce Jesus to?
Who do you need to be opened to introduce Jesus to?
Where are your prejudices?
Where are mine?
Do you know Jesus?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
 Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Ac 10:9). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.