September 13, 2021
Last week we discussed Acts 1:8 “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We said that Jerusalem and Judea had mostly Jewish people, Samaria had ½ Jews (Samaritans) and the Jewish people despised them, and the ends of the earth were non-Jews. To a Jew, any person that was not Jewish was called a Gentile.
At that time in history, Jewish people were only allowed to eat certain foods because some of the food was considered “unclean” or bad. They were only supposed to have friends and relatives that were other Jews. Gentiles were considered unclean or bad and Jews did not associate with them. This was taught to Jewish people from birth and engrained into their lives and thinking.
Because of this thinking, following through with being a witness beyond Jerusalem and Judea was going to be difficult for the disciples. How were these Jewish men going to witness to someone they were not supposed to be associated (Gentile)?
Acts 10 describes how Peter overcame his prejudice.
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. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”
Let’s dive into this a bit deeper. During prayer Cornelius had a vision of an angel who wanted him to send men to Joppa and bring back Simon Peter. While Cornelius’ men were on there way to Peters’ home, Peter also had a vision. He saw a sheet coming out of heaven with animals on the sheet that Jews were not supposed to eat. The Lord wanted Peter to eat the food.
Peter answered the Lord, “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” A voice answered him saying not to call anything impure that was made by God. This happened three times. Apparently, it took Peter a while to understand.
While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit said that three men were looking for him and not to hesitate to go with them. Peter invited the men in and they spent the night. The next day they went to Cornelius’ home where he had called relatives and close friends to join.
Peter went in the house and said in verse 28, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” Then in verse 34 Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accept from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
After this conversation, Peter began to share the Good News of Jesus with these Gentiles. Verse 44 says, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.” Then the Gentiles were baptized.
Other Jewish people heard that Peter had gone into the home of a Gentile and criticized him. Peter told them the story and said in 11:15-18 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
You can see the transformation in Peter and the others. They went from believing they could not associate with Gentiles, to going into their home, sharing the gospel, and praising God that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
This change in thinking was a big deal for the church. Through a vision to different people in different people groups, God was able to show that he sees all people equally. The apostles and disciples needed to see this so they could “love their neighbor as themselves” and share the gospel to the ends of the earth.
The above verses are not just for the Jews 2000 years ago. They are for all of us today. Like God, we need to see all people equally. Acts 10:34-35 says that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
- Have you ever been the recipient of prejudice? What happened and how did it make you feel?
- Are there any types of people that you feel prejudice against? It does not need to be racial prejudice. It could be a type of person; poor, rich, young, old etc. If so, pray that God will take those feelings away and show you how to love that person as Christ loves them.
Next week’s reading: Acts 15-21.