Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Faith’s Reward: Salvation and The Holy Spirit’
© November 2, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship:
Responsive Reading #601 (Faith and Confidence – from Psalm 27); Prayer
Opening Hymn #128: One Day When Heaven Was Filled; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Scripture Verses: Acts 10:1-48, Hebrews 11:6
Acts 10:1-48 (ESV) Peter and Cornelius
10 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day[a] he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour[b] to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19 And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation,[c] for I have sent them.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour,[d] and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
Gentiles Hear the Good News
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Let us pray…
Good morning, for our lesson this morning, I would like to examine how the Lord intercedes and addresses the imperfections in his children which hinder them from achieving their full potential as ministers of Word of God. That is to say, how the Lord shaped the believer.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives an account of how God is able help his children to break the social and cultural barriers which hinder them from working together in love and harmony.
Through a visit by an angel to the Roman Centurion Cornelius and a Devine vision to the Apostle Peter, the Lord brings two of his servants together; bringing salvation to one and religious tolerance to the other.
We know that Peter was chosen by Jesus to be the rock of his church which was founded after the Day of Pentecost, where the Holy spirit of God came upon the disciples of Christ. But who was the Centurion named Cornelius, and what is the significance of his conversion to Way of Christ?
For the answer, let us examine a series of Wikibits, offered by a variety of online sources that will help us understand how God uses visions, angels and His Holy Spirit to reveal His desire for children to discard the restrictions under the Mosaic Law in order to facilitate the teaching and understanding of the Word of God. First, let us look at Cornelius, the Roman Centurion:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
A centurion (Latin: centurio; Ancient Greek: κεντυρίων), also hekatontarch (ἑκατόνταρχος, hekatontarchos) in Greek sources, or, in middle Byzantine times, kentarch (κένταρχος, kentarchos), was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 B.C. Most centurions commanded 80 men but senior centurions commanded cohorts, or took senior staff roles in their legion. Centurions were also found in the Roman navy.
Comparisons between the centurion grades and modern officer ranks can lead to many incorrect assumptions. Centurions could be elected, appointed by the Senate, or promoted “from the ranks” for a variety of reasons. Julius Caesar is said to have promoted his centurions for displays of valor. Other historians cite examples of them being the first over the enemy’s wall or through the breach.
Centurions had to be literate, have connections (letters of recommendation), be at least 30 years of age, and had already served a few years in the military. The centurion in the infantry is chosen for his size, strength and dexterity in throwing his missile weapons and for his skill in the use of his sword and shield; in short for his expertness in all the exercises. He is to be vigilant, temperate, active and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk; Strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers, in obliging them to appear clean and well-dressed and to have their arms constantly rubbed and bright. (Vegetius. De Re Militari,] II, 14 )
We understand the stature of the Centurion as a role model and leader, but how does being a Christian have any bearing career as a soldier of Rome? Bac to Wiki:
Soldiers, mostly drawn from polytheistic societies, enjoyed wide freedom of worship in the polytheistic Roman system. They revered their own native deities, Roman deities and the local deities of the provinces in which they served. Only a few religions were banned by the Roman authorities, as being incompatible with the official Roman religion and/or politically subversive, notably Druidism and Christianity.
We see that being both a Centurion and Cristian Cornelius would have kept his faith practice a secret to avoid being arrested as a subversive threat to Roman authority. Back to Wiki:
A centurion of the Italic cohort, Cornelius was stationed in Caesarea, the capital of Roman Iudaea province. He is depicted in the New Testament as a God-fearing man who always prayed and was full of good works and deeds of alms. Cornelius receives a vision in which an angel of God tells him that his prayers have been heard. The angel then instructs Cornelius to send the men of his household to Joppa, where they will find Simon Peter, who is residing with a tanner by the name of Simon.
The conversion of Cornelius comes after a separate vision given to Simon Peter (Acts 10:10–16) himself. In the vision, Simon Peter sees all manner of beasts and fowl being lowered from Heaven in a sheet. A voice commands Simon Peter to eat. When he objects to eating those animals that are unclean according to Mosaic Law, the voice tells him not to call unclean that which God has cleansed.
When Cornelius’ men arrive, Simon Peter understands that through this vision the Lord commanded the Apostle to preach the Word of God to the Gentiles. Peter accompanies Cornelius’ men back to Caesarea. When Cornelius meets Simon Peter, he falls at Peter’s feet. Simon Peter raises the centurion and the two men share their visions. Simon Peter tells of Jesus’ ministry and the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone at the gathering. The Jews among the group (presumably they were all Jews if Cornelius was the first gentile convert, see Jewish Christians) are amazed that Cornelius and other uncircumcised should begin speaking in tongues, praising God. Thereupon Simon Peter commands that Cornelius and his followers be baptized. The controversial aspect of Gentile conversion is taken up later at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), but has its roots in the concept of “proselytes” in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) and Jewish Noahide Law.
Peter later chose not to eat with Gentiles in Antioch after some Jews criticized him. The apostle Paul publicly confronted Peter for being hypocritical as related in Galatians 2.
The full importance of the Lord bringing the Apostle Peter to the Centurion Cornelius is revealed in Commentary of Matthew Henry:
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:
Hitherto none had been baptized into the Christian church but Jews, Samaritans, and those converts who had been circumcised and observed the ceremonial law; but now the Gentiles were to be called to partake all the privileges of God’s people, without first becoming Jews. Pure and undefiled religion is sometimes found where we least expect it. Wherever the fear of God rules in the heart, it will appear both in works of charity and of piety, neither will excuse from the other. Doubtless Cornelius had true faith in God’s word, as far as he understood it, though not as yet clear faith in Christ. This was the work of the Spirit of God, through the mediation of Jesus, even before Cornelius knew him, as is the case with us all when we, who before were dead in sin, are made alive. Through Christ also his prayers and alms were accepted, which otherwise would have been rejected. Without dispute or delay Cornelius was obedient to the heavenly vision. In the affairs of our souls, let us not lose time.
The prejudices of Peter against the Gentiles, would have prevented his going to Cornelius, unless the Lord had prepared him for this service. To tell a Jew that God had directed those animals to be reckoned clean which were hitherto deemed unclean, was in effect saying, that the law of Moses was done away. Peter was soon made to know the meaning of it. God knows what services are before us, and how to prepare us; and we know the meaning of what he has taught us, when we find what occasion we have to make use of it.
I would like to recap, with some of the important aspects or lessons revealed by our study of the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts:
- Passage of Scripture describes two obedient servants of God following the Lord’s instructions; one delivered by way of an angel and the other by way of a Devine vision
- Both Peter and Cornelius were directed by the Lord in a direction quite outside their respective comfort zones and contrary to their socio-political status; one a soldier and the other an evangelist, both sharing a love and respect to the same God
- The distance from Caesarea to Joppa about 30 miles
- Gentiles who were excluded from the Old Covenant of Abraham, are now included in the New Covenant of Christ
- We must remember in that Acts 10, Luke gives us the account of the first Gentile conversion to the way of Christ
- Jesus, following his resurrection from the grave and before he ascended to Heaven, instructed Peter and the rest of the Disciples to go forth and preach the Word of God unto the ends of the world, not just to the Jews but to the Gentiles as well, as was indicated by Peter’s vision of all the animals created by God are no longer unclean, indicating the end to the Old mosaic Law
- Both Cornelius and Peter learned how Christ’s crucifixion made parts of the Mosaic law obsolete under Christ’s New Covenant
- The significance of the vision of Peter and the visitation to Cornelius of the angelic messengers show us the different modes the Lord uses to communicates to his children
- Cornelius’ conversion is significant in that it demonstrated Christ’s salvation is available to all: Greek and Roman, Jew and Gentile, man and woman, alike; all who seek God in obedience and by faith
Perhaps the most important impact the conversion of Cornelius’ conversion, that is to say the conversion this man who was both a Centurion and a Gentile is that it was the beginning of a change first to the Roman Empire, and eventually to the world. This is the perfect example of how, over time and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, faith which is small as a mustard seed was able to change not just an empire, but the whole world. Our Wiki bits again:
Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ Μέγας; 27 February c. 272 – 22 May 337), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman army officer, and his consort Helena. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west in 293. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia. Acclaimed as emperor by the army at Eburacum (York) after his father’s death in 306, Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324.
As emperor, Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire. The government was restructured and civil and military authority separated. A new gold coin, the solidus, was introduced to combat inflation. It would become the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a thousand years. The first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity,[notes 4] Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan, which decreed tolerance for Christianity in the empire. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed was professed by Christians.
By his death in 337 Constantine had established Christianity as the favored religion of the Roman state. Other emperors had greater political, economic, or military impact, but when Constantine recognized that small religious sect, he eventually transformed the course of world history.
To close today’s message, I think of the proverb set to rhyme, For Want of a Nail:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
In the case of our message, the nail becomes the Centurion which results in a victory instead of a lost. The Victory begins with
For through the Gospel – by Steve Mickelson
For through the Gospel of Christ the centurion was won,
For through the Gospel of Christ the apostle was won,
For through the Gospel of Christ the message was won,
For through the Gospel of Christ the battle was won,
For through the Gospel of Christ the kingdom is won!
Sweet Victory won through the Gospel of Christ Jesus!
Let us pray…
Communion: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
In order to effect God’s will both the Apostle Peter and the Centurion had to surrender all to their Lord. Let is now sing together our closing hymn:
Closing Hymn #373: All to Jesus I Surrender
Benediction – (Ephesians 6:24):
Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.