God Pushes Peter to Be a Witness to a Lost Gentile Named Cornelius
May 29, 2022
Pastor Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland
I. Introduction (Acts 9:43)
A. Acts 9:43 And it came to pass, that he [PETER] tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
B. Peter is Resting in Joppa
1. He has been able to get away from the persecution against Christians going on in Jerusalem
2. Things are calm, restful, nice and tidy – everything seems to be under control
3. Jews are getting saved all over, daily
4. Miracles were happening
5. What more could God want?
C. He had no idea that God was about to do something no one would have predicted…
D. God was going to open the door for the Gentiles to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and get saved just like the Jews!
1. That may not seem like much to you, but it is a very big deal
2. The fact that you and I are here today listening to the same Gospel that Peter and Paul and Jesus preached, is because of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius
A. Meet Cornelius (Acts 10:1,2)
1. Acts 10:1,2 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
2. A Centurion
a. Like ‘Century’ stands for 100 years, Centurion stands for a 100 man man!
b. It means he was a Captain over 100 Roman soldiers, in the Roman army
c. He had great power and authority and even was very wealthy
d. There are 4 centurions mentioned in the Bible, and they all seem to be men of integrity and character (see Matthew 8:10; Mark 15:39; Acts 27:43; And here in Acts 10)
3. An Italian Man
a. He and his men were part of the massive Italian Band of the Roman army that occupied Israel and Syria
b. Well over 6,000 men controlling the entire area as part of the Roman Empire
4. A Gentile (Not a Jew)
a. God had divided the world into two groups of people:
1) God’s people…
2) And those who were not God’s people
b. God’s people were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – Israelites
c. Gentiles were ALL other nations and cultures and languages (incl Ireland)
5. Living in Caesarea
a. A city 28 miles north of Joppa, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea
b. Like travelling from here to the far side of Macroom – all by foot
a. Many people – TOO MANY – think strong men, masculine men don’t care about God and are fine without any religion! The more “manly”, the more atheist
b. Not true throughout history
c. Here is a fierce soldier who was a devout worshipper of Almighty God!
d. Not a catholic man, or a Jewish man – just devout
e. That means he worshipped God – and not just any god, but the God of the Jews
f. He worshipped the God of Abraham, in spite of his options:
1) Roman gods were quite popular: Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Neptune, Apollo
2) Caesar claimed to be a god and demanded worship – call him LORD
3) But Cornelius evidently heard the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, and was convinced that the God of the Jewish people is the true God!
g. His devotion was deep and serious – not superficial
1) He not only worshipped God, he FEARED God
2) He was a GIVER to the needs of the Jewish people – Question: ARE YOU?
3) He PRAYED, and depended upon the God of Israel all the time
4) He was devoted to God’s honour and glory and worship – very serious minded
h. This Centurion was an amazing man!
7. Lost – unsaved. You will undestand this more in the next portion of Scripture
B. Cornelius Has a Vision from God (Acts 10:3-6)
1. Acts 10:3-6 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to 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, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
2. An angel started talking to him
a. It is 3pm in the afternoon – they were soldiers, working throughout the day
b. He is not sleeping - Not having a dream, but a vision
3. This was NOT a normal thing – God didn’t normally communicate with Gentiles
a. He regularly communicated with Jewish prophets like Daniel, Isaiah, Elijah, etc
b. And many others
c. But almost never to Gentile people – to non-Jewish people
d. Yet here was God sending an angel to specifically speak to and warn this Italian man named Cornelius
4. The angel reveals that “your prayers to God are being heard in heaven”
a. What a thing to hear! His praying, even as a lost man was NOT wasted effort
b. God DOES hear the prayer of lost people – especially when they are trying to find Him and know Him and worship Him!
5. “You Have reminded God of a promise that He Made”
a. Genesis 12:1-3 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. [NOT JUST YOUR FAMILY]
b. Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant [THE MESSIAH], whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
c. Isaiah 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles
d. Isaiah 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
6. “You need to send for a preacher”
a. Send men to Joppa, and find a man named Simon Peter
b. Listen to him – he will tell you from the Bible what God wants you to do
7. Why? Because Cornelius was Lost – unsaved
a. Don’t be fooled
b. Devotion, prayers, morality, sincerity does not mean a person has been converted…
c. Peter explains more in Acts 11:11-14 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, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: And he shewed 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 shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
1) Cornelius doesn’t know it, but he needs to hear about Jesus dying in his place – the Gospel
2) He is doing all the right things – moral things – religious things
3) But he lacked the most important thing – faith in the perfect works of Jesus!
d. Notice: Gentiles needed to hear JEWS at first tell them the Gospel. Why? Because ANGELS cannot give us the Gospel – God has reserved that effort for PEOPLE!
C. Cornelius’ Influence (Acts 10:7,8)
1. Acts 10:7,8 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.
2. Cornelius was responsible for the lives of 100 men under him
3. He worked hard to influence them for good!
4. Most military men throughout history have been brutal leaders
5. This unsaved man was a good influence – that matters!
6. He had good men under him – men he could trust – THAT is rare
7. Cornelius has inspired another Roman Gentile soldier under him to seek and worship the God if Israel – now THAT is godly influence!
D. Peter Also Has a Vision from God (Acts 10:9-16)
1. Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
2. Acts 10:10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
3. Acts 10:11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
4. Acts 10:12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
5. Acts 10:13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
6. Acts 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
7. Acts 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
8. Acts 10:16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
9. It is the next day, around noon. The three men from Cornelius have been travelling since 3pm the day before – 28 miles is a bit far by foot
10. Peter is hungry – waiting for lunch to be prepared
11. He now has a vision too – a trance
a. The sky splits open
b. Something starts descending out of the sky, and floats down to Peter
c. It was a sheet, a table-cloth, like an upside-down parachute, full of every kind of animal and bird and bugs – some good animals, and some unhealthy, and unclean animals
d. And it was setting down right in front of a hungry Simon Peter
e. A voice commands Peter to get up and kill any of those animals, cook them, and eat as much as you want!
1) “You are hungry right?”
2) “Well, here are some potential steaks, and burgers, and pheasants, and bacon and ham, and sausages, and peperoni, and salami, rashers and chicken wings…”
f. Peter argues with the voice – “No way Lord! There are so many unclean animals in there! I am a law-abiding Jew. I have never eaten anything that you told us not to eat”
1) God had explicitly told His people in the Law to NOT eat scavengers, and unhealthy animals and bugs
2) God made it a sin to eat: Pork and catfish, shellfish, etc
3) And that was / is not a bad thing
4) God’s dietary Laws had kept the Jews free from the majority of diseases that the rest of the world struggled against for 1,500 years!
5) So, understand… Peter had never eaten pork, lobster, crab, clams, oysters, catfish, scamp, or scallops in his life!
g. Yet the voice from heaven said, ALL those animals and birds and bugs have now been cleansed!
1) So, Don’t call them unclean or sinful anymore
2) Because EVERY one of those unclean animals are NOW lawful for Peter to eat and it won’t be a sin
h. What? How could that be? What could have changed?
1) Did the animals magically change and become healthy to eat? … No!
2) Well, Did the Laws of God change? … Yes!
3) The animals did not automatically become healthy, but they were no longer sinful to eat!
i. God had to repeat this vision THREE times to confirm it was from Him, and that Peter was supposed to do things differently now – to see unclean things differently
j. It was leading up to a great revelation of a New Testament Gospel Truth
E. Peter Learns to Soul-Win By Faith (Acts 10:17-23)
1. Acts 10:17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
2. Acts 10:18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
3. Acts 10:19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
4. Acts 10:20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
5. Acts 10:21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
6. Acts 10:22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
7. Acts 10:23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
8. Peter does not yet know what this vision means:
a. His understanding of the cross was only that Jesus died to take away the sinfulness of Israel’s sin
b. He never would have imagined sinful, pagan GENTILES could be forgiven and cleansed as well!!!
9. (At that very moment…) A knock on the gate – some men are looking for Simon Peter
10. The Holy Spirit told him to go with them, doubting nothing – go by faith – obey the call
a. NOTE: This was Peter’s Macedonian Call to missions
b. Notice also that the HOLY SPIRIT sent those men, not Cornelius – God is at work in EVERY heart, drawing them to Himself!
c. God is at work in men’s hearts, even when we are not!
11. The men explain why there are there
a. “We work for a man named Cornelius – a centurion, a godly man, a God-fearing man who has a good reputation with the Jewish people – he is not your enemy”
b. “He was warned of God to send for you, to hear what YOU have to say”
12. Peter agrees to go… The next day, they will head north to meet Cornelius
13. We will learn what happens NEXT WEEK
III. Application – So, What is Going On Here?
A. Six Things Peter Did Not Know
1. That Christ had not only cleansed Israel and made a way for the entire nation to get saved from their sins
2. But His death on the cross had even cleansed unclean animals, so that it was no longer a sin to eat the unhealthy ones
3. And Christ’s death had cleansed all people and nations and cultures – so that THEY were no longer “unclean” either
a. They all can be saved now!
b. There was no wall stopping the Jewish believers from giving them the Gospel
4. God was opening the door to ALL Gentiles (no matter how lost) to come to God now
a. All people everywhere are under sin (Romans 3:9) – under the judgment of God
1) Romans 3:9 What then? are we better than they? [NOT NOW] xNo, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
2) In serious trouble with God
b. God is the God of all Gentiles like He is of the Jews (Romans 3:29) Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
c. All are in need of the same Saviour as the Jews are (Romans 3:30) Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision [JEW] by faith, and uncircumcision [GENTILE] through faith.
d. All need to hear the Gospel (Romans 10:12-14)
1) Romans 10:12,13 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
2) This WHOSOEVER is a big word – it means absolutely EVERYONE
3) Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
5. There is no difference now between Israelites and Gentiles now – all need to be saved
a. 1Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
b. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
6. Peter did not realise how hard it would be to convince the other Jewish Christians of the value of Gentile souls. Don’t be the same toward Jewish souls and other nationalities!
B. What Changed?
1. The Differences between Jews and Gentiles has changed
a. There were so many laws in the Old Testament against mixing with Gentiles.
b. But not anymore!
c. There is a third group now:
2) Gentile (non-Jews)
3) And those in the Kingdom of God’s Son
4) Colossians 1:13 [GOD] Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness [BOTH JEWISH AND GENTILES], and hath translated us [ALL] into the kingdom of his dear Son:
5) 1Corinthians 10:32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God
2. Gentiles can now approach unto the throne of God, and get saved, and become holy – without becoming Jews first – that is a big deal!
a. Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
b. Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [THEY ARRE GENTILES]
c. Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
d. Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both [JEW AND GENTILE] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
e. Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man [A CHRISTIAN MAN], so making peace;
A. So, here we have the example of Cornelius
1. Someone who was not a Jew, who did NOT grow up with the Scriptures, but heard them, and was convinced by them that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only God to worship and obey
2. The Bible will do the convincing if people would just hear it
B. This man is proof that God always gets the Gospel to people who are looking for Him
1. Thankfully God also sends us to people who are NOT looking for God to plant Gospel seeds
2. But amidst all the rejectors, and mockers and scoffers, there are Cornelius’ that are searching, and hungering for God
3. Not all who are looking, actually want Jesus, but they will hear about Him
C. Cornelius was as lost as Hitler – as moral, and devout as he was, he could never be good enough for heaven
D. And needed to believe the Gospel and get born again
E. Don’t wait for an angel to warn you and convince you to get saved – God has sent ME
F. And dear Christian, don’t try and figure out who to give the Gospel to… just go and tell ANYONE that there is a God in heaven, and if they are looking for Him, they will find God, and forgiveness, and a whole new life in Jesus!