Today: [Acts 10:] How Sensitive are you to God’s Spirit? In Acts 10 we find two men have visions that they choose to act on. One is Peter, and the other is Cornelius a Jewish convert. These are two men willing to act upon very subjective leadings and because they did a massive spiritual event takes place that reverberates down to this very day. Are you ready to be that sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God?
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[Act 10:1-24 KJV] 1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band], 2 [A] devout [man], and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. 3 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. 4 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. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for [one] Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. 7 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; 8 And when he had declared all [these] things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. 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: 10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 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: 12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice [spake] unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. 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, 18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. 19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. 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? 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. 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. 24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
In Act chapter 10 we find the account of the gospel coming to the Gentile nations. A Roman centurion in Caesarea experiences a vision at the ninth hour of the day where an angel comes to him and calls his name. Why does Luke mention the time of day? For Cornelius to be praying at the ninth hour (3 p.m.), it indicates that he is a Jewish proselyte, a Gentile who had converted to Judaism. This is genuinely notable because he is also an officer in the foreign army that occupies Jerusalem and Judea as well. It is as noteworthy for Cornelius to convert to Judaism as to say a Nazi in 1940’s Berlin became a Jewish convert and built a synagogue. For this reason, this man’s prayers and alms were particularly notable before the throne of God, and the angel is dispatched on a mission to arrange the circumstances under which Cornelius becomes the person instrumental in bringing the gospel not just to his household but the entire Gentile world.
What does the angel instruct Cornelius to do? He is to send for Peter who is still in Joppa after Tabitha was raised from the dead. The angel informs him that Peter can be found at the house of Simon the tanner located by the seaside. He did everything but give Cornelius the address. Notice that this visitation of the angel was not literal but in the form of a dream. Do you think that the angel indeed visited Cornelius? Does the fact that it was in a dream and not when Cornelius was awake diminish what happened here? We experience dreams and visions and discount them somewhat in contrast to a waking experience where something of this type of thing might happen. The same is true when the angel appeared to Joseph and instructed him not to put Mary away because she is pregnant. This angel didn’t come to Joseph by day; it was in a dream. Have you ever experienced something like this in a dream? Did you pay attention or dismiss it? Dreams and visions are significant. If Cornelius shrugged this off, we would not know his name today.
After waking from his vision, Cornelius immediately obeys by calling two servants and sending them to Joppa. Would you be willing to act on someone else’s dream? These servants didn’t have a choice but what if someone close to you said: “I had a dream, I want you to go to this address and look for someone named Peter and bring him here…” Cornelius didn’t know who Peter was. Can you imagine how strange these instructions must have seemed to Cornelius’ servants? We tend to compare ourselves to people in these narratives and think “yes, I would have done the very same thing…” but in truth, God had spoken to us in dreams and visions many times when we chose upon waking not to act on them.
The men go their way, and we find it is a long journey. They would have left in the afternoon of the previous day and at noon the following day they are finally getting near to where Peter will be found. What is Peter doing? He is praying on the rooftop and fell into a trance. We would have said he fell asleep. He also has a vision of unclean food items offered to him. God tells him to eat these things, and Peter refuses. God’s response is to tell Peter that what He has called clean is not to be considered unclean. This happens three times. When something is repeated in a dream pay attention. It means the thing is established and from God and also that it will shortly come to pass. Remember that these men are walking up to Simon’s front door at this very moment.
After Peter wakes up, he ponders what the meaning of his dream was. When you wake up, you need to stop and think about what you dreamed the night before. If you wait till even a few minutes later it will elude you. What happens next? Another very subjective leading of God. The Spirit speaks to Peter and tells him to go with certain men that are about to knock on the door. This was not an audible voice. It was an inward prompting, and sure enough, it comes to pass. Peter goes down, finds the men at the door and invites them in for the night. You might wonder about this because it is mid-day. Why didn’t Peter immediately get his overnight bag and start off to Caesarea? For one thing, remember he was very hungry. I wonder if the servants of the centurion thought they would rather be on their way. You don’t keep a Roman officer waiting, but they don’t have a choice and the next day they make their journey to Cornelius’ house. What time did they arrive? Based on the travel times it would have been no earlier than mid-afternoon.
[Acts 10:25-48 KJV]25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him]. 26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. 27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore came I [unto you] without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? 30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of [one] Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. 34 Then Peter opened [his] mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36 The word which [God] sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) 37 That word, [I say], ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; 41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, [even] to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God [to be] the Judge of quick and dead. 43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house, and upon seeing him, Cornelius falls at his feet and worships him. Can you imagine this? Peter was a commoner yet this Roman officer is entirely in awe of what is happening. He has called all of his friends together with his family to witness what is happening. Can you imagine it? Your friend gives you a call and says he has seen an angel in his sleep and as a result, two servants were sent to look for a specific person in a particular place and bring him back to your friends home, and don’t you want to come over and be a part of this? Would you take your friend seriously or would you beg off? What if this was happening in your church? You tell the pastor before service Sunday morning that you had a dream, saw an angel and they are supposed to suspend normal activities this morning because this and that is going to happen. Would you be believed or would you be told to sit down because it is time for the announcements?
Peter sees the people gathered and started to speak with them. You would think his words would be kind but in fact, his tone seems somewhat insulting. He reminds them that as far as he is concerned, they are unclean Gentile dogs but goes on to say God has spoken to him that he should no longer call any man unclean. He even tells an untruth by saying that he came to them without gainsaying because, in actuality, he argued with God in the vision at first refusing to cooperate. This is not a very good beginning. How would you respond if a speaker gets up in your church and starts out by insulting your race and misrepresenting what is actually going on? Peter goes on standing before this crowd and looks at Cornelius and says “why have you sent for me?” Can you imagine? The guest speaker in your church asks is someone in the crowd would tell him why he is there? Doesn’t Peter know why he is there? If he doesn’t know then why have we called him to come?
After listening to Cornelius’ story, Peter begins to preach Christ to the gathered people. He is bringing what must have been very familiar words that Peter has repeated many times in his missionary journeys thus far. It doesn’t matter what he says because in the middle of his discourse the Holy Spirit falls upon every one of them. The Jewish converts in the room that probably came with Peter from Joppa are astonished that these racially unacceptable people are receiving the Holy Ghost just as they have. What would have been your response if a visiting minister and his entourage were looking at you with such racially charged attitudes? Would you have gotten up and left or would you have stayed? This is a very different crowd than the sort that we usually see on a Sunday morning.
How do we know that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon these people? Peter and his friends must have seen something. It wasn’t just laying on of hands and pronouncing they had it. They didn’t even put hands upon them or even finish the message Peter had prepared. They know the Holy Ghost is poured out because they are speaking in tongues. Perhaps even tongues of fire appeared above the heads of the people as well.
What does Peter do next? Does he tell them to all sit down so he can finish his message? You have to be ready for God to do something different than you might expect. Are you interruptible? Peter is following the leadership of the Holy Spirit and concludes the meeting and says “let’s find some water and get these folks baptized…” There were all kinds of reasons none of this should have happened. If Cornelius had dismissed his vision as a figment of his imagination. If Peter had refused to set aside his prejudice to enter a Gentile’s house. If the people had chosen to be offended by Peter’s racially charged words. None of these things hindered what God was doing because the people were hungry for God. Peter was sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit to obey even when obedience called upon him to do controversial things. Do you have this kind of flexibility and sensitivity in you? Then you are eligible to be the next Peter. If you can stay obedient even when obstacles are put in your path, then God can and no doubt will use you to bring salvation and revival to your city.
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