Many people are confused about the church. I saw an incident in my home the other day that reminded on how many people look at the church. My little three-year-old daughter was carrying a winter doll around that I had not seen for quite a while. This particular doll sings different short songs. Usually, such toys lose their ability to make lights, noises and sounds rather quickly. But this one was still singing even after not seeing it for a while. I heard an older daughter make the same observation and said, “Oh, it still works!”
A lot of people think of the church as some antiquated and irrelevant religious organization. These people have not seen the church in action. When we take a look at the way God steps into people’s lives and shape history in Acts 10, these kinds of thoughts fall to the side. Why? It is simply because we seek God working in the church. If God is working in the church, then it must be important. We get a little picture of God’s great purpose for the church. Oh may the world and the church again know that the church still works today!
As we look at the two visions given to the two individuals living in different places and at different times, we are struck how God directs them to meet together. One could summarize this intervention by God in Acts 10 as the cause the local church has become a worldwide church. God is stating that His people must be international. This is the nature of the church not simply a characteristic of how it developed. God made it this way. This is not a theological treatise but a lesson on how to practically teach ignorant people to think the way they should about the church.
Before looking at these two visions, let’s again look at how this fits into the purpose of the Book of Acts.
The power and will of God creates such a power in the Gospel that nothing can hold back God’s purpose of bringing the gospel to the ends of the world! Here we see it like a budding seed, not fully grown.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NASB).
Note the three stages: (1) Jews, (2) Samaritans (half-Jews) and (3) all others the world.
The gospel is a specially crafted arrow designed to break the resistant walls of men’s heart.
In this picture we see the Gospel having its full and proper impact on the world. God continues to work out His strategic method today.
A. Vision #1: Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8)
Cornelius was a remarkable man. The qualities listed below clearly show God’s work in his life even before he became a believer in Christ. His own men described him to Simon (Peter), “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:22). May it be more so with our own lives!
Caesarea: “A city of magnificent palaces lifted above the sea on a rocky ledge of the coast, ... Its harbour was the most costly in the world, and ran far out into the sea like an arm that would touch the mother city (i.e. of Rome). ... As the political centre of Judaea and the seat of the Roman governors, it had little in common with the Jewish cities....”
(Quote by An Atlas of the Acts by John Stirling, p. 2)
Caesarea was about thirty miles north of Joppa along the coast. It was a Roman capital that had little to do with the Jewish people.
A centurion of the Italian battalion
A centurion is a Roman captain who is in charge of one hundred men. Note how ‘centurion’ has the same root word as century, meaning one hundred years.
A godly man. He allowed God and His Word to shape his own life.
Feared God with his household
He was a leader not only in the military but also in his home. He led his family in worship of God. This is a much lacking quality of fathers today.
(1) Gave much in charity
He had compassion on others. He followed it up with passing on his wealth to others.
(2) Prayed continually
He regularly prayed throughout the day. He didn’t ‘skip’ devotions. God was in his life, and he conformed his life to God’s desires.
About 3 pm he had a vision
They use a different time system. Add six hours to the ‘ninth hour’ to find out that it really means 3:00 in the afternoon. Some translations put the time in our own terms in.
He saw an angel of God
Paul acknowledges that there are good men (cf. Romans 5:7), but that does not mean they do not need forgiveness.
Salvation by works believes that one's good works will enable him to enter heaven. This is totally denied by this passage. God recognized the prayers of a good man, but that does not mean God answered them. That is a privilege of the saints because of Jesus' name. If we draw any principle from this verse, it is only that God is looking all around for the 'good' man and will give him the opportunity to hear the gospel message.
He was told to dispatch men to Joppa to get Simon
The angel gave him very specific directions. They included identifying an individual’s name, place and even directions to get to his house. And of course, he told him why he was given this information. He was to send some men to get Simon Peter and accompany him back.
He sent two servants and a devout soldier
Cornelius obeyed! He promptly did what he was told. He didn’t delay or think of his possible embarrassment.
He didn’t need to know what would come from it. He could simply trust God to work all the details out.
What would have happened if Cornelius did not send his soldiers? The issue was not the timing but obedience. God took care of the hard part of timing. Never fear timing but only disobedience!
See what Peter's vision was like next.