Prejudice, racism, and confusion about God’s love for all people were and continues to be a problem in the church. We learn in Acts 10:1-43 how the Gospel is made known to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, but also see how God’s love continues to be shown to Peter and the rest of the early church. As the early church had to learn to leave traditions and ingrained prejudices left over from their days before knowing Christ, the church today needs to be reminded of God’s desire for unity and oneness among all people despite traditions, pride and prejudices.
The Myth of Herod’s Power and the Fact of His Existence
3 Things that Happen When God's People Pray
The Good Infection: Christianity
Humility in Men and Prejudice in the Church: Something to Be Praised and Something to Be Purged
The Conversion of Cornelius AND Peter
How the Saints Go Marching Out
Saul: The Second Most Important Conversion in History
Extraordinary Living Marked by Ordinary Obedience
The “Illusion” of a False Faith and How to Deal With It. Simon Magus and Tares Among the Wheat
Tale of Two Adams: A Strategy to Change the World
Hello, Watermark in Plano and Fort Worth and Dallas. It is awesome to be with you. We are back in the book of Acts, and we're going to hang there for some time. We'll be interrupted by Easter, and we'll focus on what happened around that time, but we're going to journey through Acts and pray that Acts journeys through us.
This is a section of Scripture where we're going to be in the northern part of Israel around a town called Caesarea for a couple of chapters and then up to Antioch. We're going to see the Word is about to go out from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and now to Caesarea and then eventually to the uttermost parts of the earth.
We're going to read a lot of Scripture today. You're going to find out that what we're going to look at today is so important Luke tells it to you twice. He'll give it to you in his own words, and then he's going to have Peter share in his own words what happened in Caesarea. This is a pivotal section of Scripture.
The failure of the church to understand what I'm about to teach you the next two weeks has caused the church no small amount of trouble in terms of it being what God intended the church to be, which is what God always intended Israel to be, which is a people that was blessed so that they would be a blessing to others.
They were never to confuse God's election of them with his favoritism for them. They were never to look at other nations, people groups, or races as unworthy of God's love, as "dogs." That's what they called them, and I don't mean cute puppies. I mean like Cujo. Like kill them, get rid of them. That's what the Jewish people thought of Gentiles.
We're going to see that God said, "We'll have none of that. As I start to associate my name with this people called out of darkness into my marvelous light, you're going to see I never loved the Jews exclusively. I was going to use the Jews in a unique way to reach people I loved." The church of Jesus Christ to this day desperately needs Acts 10-11. It needs to deal with its racism, its prejudice, its arrogance toward other peoples.
It's not just a white man's problem. Let me just say it has been a white man's problem in America. We have talked about in America from day one how we were a Christian nation. A lot of us say that. We're not saying every founding father was a Christian. We're not saying you had to be a Christian to be in it. In fact, we were determined not to make government impose upon you any faith.
There was never a suggestion by our founding fathers that faith should not inform our government, and from the beginning we say that all men have been created equal and have been given by our divine, providential Father certain inalienable rights. We've said that. All men should have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…unless you happen to be from Africa and we own you and bought you on some stone and chained you to us and treated you like property.
The church in America (not Jesus' church but the church in America) was a major reason that slavery and racism continued to be a problem, then and maybe now. The church of Jesus Christ has never had a problem with it. The church of Jesus Christ is the reason there is no longer slavery in England and in America, people who understood what God was trying to teach the church right here in Acts 10-11. We're going to look at it, and let's pray that God will teach us something.
I'm going to do something really simple with you today. I could give you a funny illustration, a couple of points, and a close, or I could do what I'm going to do, which is to read you a chunk of Scripture and then walk you back through it and make observations, interpret those observations, and beg you to apply them to your life. I'm going to show you how to read your Bible. Are you ready? Let's go. Acts 10.
"Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort…" You might not know this. A cohort is 600 men. A legion is 6,000. A centurion is the face of Rome. A centurion is a leader of 100. This is a guy who was an enemy of Israel. He was an occupier, and he was not a Jew. He was a Roman of an Italian cohort.
"…a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day…" That we are referencing here in the book of Acts by our historian Luke, which is 3:00. The Jewish people would always mark the day based on sunrise, so let's just say sunrise is 6:00 a.m. The ninth hour would be 3:00 a.m. Since you know third-grade math, you are with me.
" [About 3:00 in the afternoon] he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, 'Cornelius!' And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed…" Wouldn't you be? "…he said, 'What is it, Lord?' And he said to him, 'Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.'"
Remember when we taught you guys through the conversion of Saul? One of the things God said to the gentleman he wanted to tell Saul about who he was… The Spirit of God told Ananias, "Let me just tell you, here's where Saul is," and he later told Saul, "Here's where Ananias is, and I want you to go to this place on this street, and there is my man." God will direct people he wants to to people who know him so that they will hear of him. God knew exactly where his servants were.
One of the things that encourages me about this place is every now and then I bump into somebody… I've bumped into them from the jungles, Buddhist priests from Cambodia who have made their way through the jungles of Cambodia during Pol Pot's persecution that literally would say, "The Lord directed me here" when they got to the States. I've talked to people in Afghanistan whom God has directed to our podcast, the Porch podcast, and other places.
It humbles me when God entrusts us people he cares deeply about and says, "I want you to listen to these gentlemen, because they will tell you about Jesus." It humbles me when people in this town… God in his sovereignty has them be your waiters, waitresses, laborers, neighbors, and coworkers. He wants them to know you, because he expects you and he knows where you are…
Just like he knew where Peter was, where Ananias was, he knows where you are, and God is directing people to you this week. You want to be as ready as Ananias and Peter, because you just might be bumping into a centurion God wants to save or a terrorist he wants to convert. Are you ready? It goes on here. He says, "I know where he's at. He's hanging out with Simon, whose house is by the sea."
"When the angel who was speaking to him had left, [Cornelius] summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, and after he had explained everything to them…" As an angel. "He has told me where I can find out more about this God I have been seeking." "…he sent them to Joppa. On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray."
What time was it? Noon. The middle of the day. It's hot, and Peter went up there to pray. Not even an hour of prayer for devout men. This is a devout, devout man seeking God at noon. The hour of prayer was 3:00 in the afternoon. That's when Cornelius is praying, but Peter is also up there seeking God at noon.
"But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.
A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius [two servants and a soldier] , having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate [of Simon's house] ; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there.
While Peter was reflecting on the vision [trying to figure out what he had just seen] , the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are [downstairs] looking for you.'""You don't even know what I'm trying to tell you yet, but they're down there." "But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.""They're on an errand for me."
"Peter went down to the men and said, 'Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?' They said, 'Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.' So he invited them in and gave them lodging. And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him."
We're going to find out a little bit later in chapter 11 there were six men from Joppa, including Peter. So we have four plus six, ten guys on a journey. They're going to walk about 30 miles up the coast, 32 miles from Joppa to Caesarea. If you walk four miles an hour it's about a nine- or ten-hour walk with stops.
We find out in verse 24… "On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him." That ought to make Peter feel good. "But Peter raised him up, saying, 'Stand up; I too am just a man.'
As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. And he said to them, 'You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.'
Cornelius said, 'Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, and he said, "Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea." So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.'
Opening his mouth, Peter said: 'I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem.'" Think what flooded through Peter's mind right then. I'd love to tell you the stories.
"We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.""One of your own centurions was there and saw it, and when he saw the way he died and what happened around that, he said, 'Surely this man must be the Son of God.'"
"God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."
This is one of those texts that you read and you're like, "That was nice. I read my first-century history today. What good is that going to do for me in the twenty-first century, 2017 to be specific? God, I open my Bible up, I read it, I want to have you teach me something, and I just now know some story.
Because I even took more time than most people and Googled 'Caesarea,' I found out it was basically the Roman capital in the Palestinian province, and there was a great harbor there that was built by Herod the Great, and Joppa is about 30 miles down the sea that today is next door or even a part of Tel Aviv, which I think I hear about every now and then getting bombed like Haifa."
You read that and you're like, "What am I doing?" Well, let me show you something. This is one of the most important chapters in your Bible, and when you understand and stop and reflect and listen, it'll change you. You won't be a Southern Baptist getting a letter from a Birmingham jail rebuking you in 1960. You'll be right there alongside Dr. King and other people who know that all men have dignity and that all men are loved by God.
You won't be some Westboro Baptist idiot, made in the image of God, who needs grace, who thinks homosexuals are less dignified than you are in terms of God loving them and caring about them. Just because your sin isn't as salacious as theirs you shouldn't feel superior to them, but you should see them as slaves to sin and in bondage to death, just like you.
You love them and tell them their confusion is not going to allow them to find the peace, hope, joy, and love they want, but you have your own confusion that has kept you from the peace, love, and joy God intended for you, and just like you have found grace, grace is available to them. You love them, and you don't try to make them change their gender identity; you try to make them change their understanding of God, who made them in his image and loves them and wants to set them free from the lusts of their flesh, just like me.
Watch this. Are y'all ready to learn something? I am. "Now there was a man who was a centurion." Watch the way this guy is described. This is an amazing guy. He's devout. One of the things I want to say, and I guess I'll get to it later because it comes back up… We hear that this guy is revered. He is a non-Jew, but he has heard of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He has been around the Jews, and he wants to learn from them.
He's not satisfied with all of the many gods of Rome. He knows there's something that's just not right about this Parthenon of deities that are no gods at all, and he sees something in this Jewish God, who is the Creator of all, and he seeks him, but he doesn't understand him completely. He's not really loved or welcomed by the Jews, but he loves the Jews he's around, and he sees in them something. So he's crying out to that God.
Look at what else he is. He gives many alms. He's a generous guy, and he's constantly crying out to this God. "God, if the God of the Jews is the one true God, if he is the Caesar of the heavenlies, then I want to be at peace with you, because I know what it's like to be on the wrong side of Caesar. I serve in his army, lest death come to me. Caesar will soon die, but if you are the living God, you will never die, and I want to know you." This is the attitude of Cornelius. It's the attitude of all godly men.
I'm going to explain something to you. Really quickly look with me, because this is a key verse. I'm going to make sure I explain it to you, because it can be really confusing. When you come across chapter 10, verse 35, and you see (Peter discovers this), "In every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him," you can start to think to yourself, "Okay, man. This is good, Todd, because now I'm learning that there are people all over the earth who don't know who God is really.
They have an idea about him. It's the God of the Jews, maybe. Maybe the God of the Muslims. I don't know. Maybe the God of the Christians, but I'm seeking him as best I can. Because the Bible says in Acts 10:35 that 'in every nation a man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him,' I see now (oh, this makes me feel so good) that there are many roads to heaven." You would be wrong.
There are not many roads to heaven, which is why God in his grace finds a man who his grace has worked in in such a way to show him that there is no future in being a centurion. There is no future in being a Roman. There's no future in being an occupier. The only future any man has is not in his own righteousness, devoutness, and philanthropic ways. The only future any man has is if he's reconciled to God.
What you can learn from this is if there is a man that God has worked in his life in such a way that it would produce a grace that would cause him to cry out to this God he does not know, God in his kindness will, in fact, move toward him. What I want to do right here is answer a question that I've done in seven minutes for you called, "What happens to those who have never heard the gospel, the unevangelized heathen?" This is really, really important.
Too many people can read Acts 10:35 and think devout people from all over the earth are welcome because they're devout in the way they seek him. That would be a mistake, which you're going to see. If there are devout men who seek God with all their heart, their alms and their seeking God, which they will only do if God has produced in them a humility that makes them want to do that, God will give them what they need in order to know him.
What do we find that Saul needed? By the way, if Jesus wanted to convert Saul on the road to Damascus, did he need Ananias in Damascus? Say no. If he wanted Cornelius, who was a devout man praying on his roof at 3:00 in the afternoon, to know who he was and to meet the risen Lord and to be converted, did he need to go summon Peter from Joppa? Say no.
There's a reason he did that, and here's the reason: because God cares about his church. God in his sovereignty has chosen to allow you and me to participate with him in the glorious mission of redeeming people, and he wants his church to know that he loves all people. In fact, if I could, before I answer the question in hopefully five minutes that I answer in seven minutes on Real Truth, Real Quick… I say that so you can go back and search it later and review, but I'm going to give it to you right now.
There was something that ticked off Jesus that he did twice, at the beginning of his ministry that was public and at the end of his ministry that was public. What was it? It shows up in John 2, and then it shows up again in Matthew 21 and Mark 11 and in Luke at the end of his ministry when he goes to Jerusalem for the last time. The first time he goes to Jerusalem, he sees the temple and goes into the court of the Gentiles.
In the court of the Gentiles, the Gentile money wasn't good. You needed Jewish money. You needed, specifically, temple Jewish money, so you had to get robbed by the Jews to turn in your Roman coinage to get Jewish temple coinage, and there was an awful exchange rate, so you could buy an animal that wasn't unblemished in your eyes but that had been approved by the Jewish priest that was marked up, so you could then maybe go and appease this God, and the Jews would run your errand for you before him.
Jesus was not happy. He said, "This is a house for all nations. Their unblemished lamb is as good as your unblemished lamb in this moment as an expression of faith, and their money is as good to me as your money." He flipped the tables and said, "You're ticking me off, because you're keeping people I love from coming to know me, and that's why you're here: to help people know me."
This makes Jesus mad: when people have a view that there are some folks out there who are not worthy of receiving the same grace he offers to his children. You know that I'm going to be in India in just a week and be there for 10 days. I'm going to be sharing with people in India. One of the things I know is true in India is the Indian church needs Acts 10-11, and they're going to hear it from me.
In India when you are converted and become part of a Christian church in many of the larger denominations and you walk in there, you are now a Christian, but you're still either a Brahmin or a Dalit. There is a Communion cup you drink out of if you are part of this lower slum class, and there's a Communion cup you drink out of if you're part of this higher class. There is a priest who will minister to you who ministers to your class, and there's a priest who will minster to that class. It is an offense to God.
This is the caste system in India. I don't know if you guys know about it. There are four levels and really a fifth that doesn't even show up. It's below. The Brahmins are the leaders and the highest class; then you have the warriors and the rulers, the Kshatriyas; then the Vaishyas, the farmers, traders, and merchants; then the laborers, the Shudras; and the folks you walk on are the Dalits.
If you're a Dalit and you come to Christ and you're in a church with a Brahmin in some of the classic denominations, the larger denominations in India, you are not welcome to sit by the Brahmins. They need Acts 10. But let me just stop. It's easy to pick on India. Let's just stop and ask us a question. Is there anybody you know whom you look at and go, "They're not worthy of the love of God" or "I'm not going to care for them and treat them with the same dignity I have"?
One of the things I am constantly amazed by is some of the folks who are here as refugees… If you want to know what I think about the refugees, read it. I have a balanced view. My view is that the government's job is to vet refugees. It's their job to prosecute evil and to praise those who do right. It's the church's job to love whomever they're around.
We don't need people to be here to love them. Our job is to love them wherever they are. Our land is not the hope of the world; our Lord is. We can't act like they're not our problem just because they're not right next door, but if they're next door, we'd better love them. Dallas is the largest refugee settlement area in America. Whether they should be here or not is our government's job. Whether we should love them or not is our Lord's calling, and we'd better do it.
A lot of those guys who come here who are refugees who aren't as smart as you because they can't speak your language (not to mention they know seven other languages), who are maybe helping you out with your security or helping you out as you get something, as you run quickly through a convenience store… These guys are pharmacists. They're engineers. They're highly trained, brilliant individuals who happen to live in a land where they don't know the language and sometimes just got the ability to work.
You know they're made in the image of God even though they don't look like you, you fool who believes God is a white man, and that those people are as loved by God as you are. I bite my tongue so I don't say more. God expects you to treat them with dignity, honor, care, and concern and not act like they're just there to check you out. You are there to share the love of Christ with them and to go, "How can I be his hands and feet to you?"
One of the things I am most proud about in this church is when we started we all looked like me, a bunch of white guys married to white women, and we live in a town where 70 different languages are spoken in the largest public school system in our town. Lo and behold (this was news to me), I look up 17 years later from when we started, and guess what? There are people in this church who were born in 90 different countries who have come here.
Many of them found Christ here and realized we don't preach a white man's North Dallas gospel; we preach the gospel of Jesus, so when they come to Christ, they don't want to go to their Korean church. They don't want to go to their Chinese church. They don't want to go to their Farsi-speaking church, because sometimes that culture is taught more than the Bible.
They come here and go, "You're not teaching a white man's gospel; you're teaching the gospel. You're not just saying, 'We don't speak this way, but not to our elders, because that's our culture's tradition.' We speak to all men in love, and we want to come and learn of Jesus here." You have loved them. You are the reason they know here exists, because you have treated them with dignity and honor. Some of you guys have read Acts 10-11, or the grace of God has made Acts 10-11 known to you. Way to go.
Here's a truth about a guy like Cornelius. First of all, Cornelius would have never sought God if God didn't seek him. In Romans 3 it says, "There are none who do right, none who seek God." The idea that there is some guy somewhere on earth who is desiring to have an intimate relationship with God (including you, by the way) is a myth. It's just not true.
All of us have no desire to know God and would just as soon that God not be there and he leave us alone and we go our own merry way, and God in his kindness has brought some of us through pain, some of us through a grace environment where there are believers over us who teach us what is true. He has taught us to fear him and we seek him, but that is already a prevenient work of God, where he is already wooing us toward him.
We're not seeking him. Men couldn't care less about God. Men don't want to honor him. We might want to appease him, but we want to be left alone. There is no unevangelized heathen who desires to live rightly unless God is doing some work of grace in his life. By the way, many who seek God in other cultures are not seeking the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They're seeking God as they have made him in their image, just like, by the way, many people who go to American churches do.
They're called churches. There are crosses on them. They talk about the fact that they love Jesus, but they don't love the Jesus of the Bible. They love a Jesus they have made who will largely leave them alone and not ask them to die to his will and surrender their lives to him. They have their own little pastors. They're called Christian pastors. They're not Christian pastors.
They're Christian prostitutes, and they're puppets in the hands of the will of the masses so that they would stay in their positions, and they do not make disciples. They're called churches, but they're not the churches of Jesus Christ. That's why our country, which is informed by a lot of these churches, is as thoroughly confused as it is. But if God does, in his kindness, cause you to seek him, he will care for you.
Now let me just do this quickly. What you need to know is that God is just. If there's anything the Bible teaches it's God is just. In Job 34:12 it says, "Surely, God will not act wickedly…" It would be wicked if you judged people because they didn't respond to what they did not know. That would be wicked. Isaiah 61 says, "For I, the Lord , love justice…"
If we, being evil, when our son asks us for bread wouldn't give him a stone, if he asked for a rope wouldn't give him a snake, don't you think God would do better? You can count on it. God is just. So whatever is true of this unevangelized heathen, you can be sure God is not being unjust to them. That's number one. The Bible is clear.
Secondly, nowhere in Scripture is there ever any claim that people will face judgment or go to hell because they've rejected a Jesus of whom they've never heard. It's not in your Bible. No one is going to go to hell because they reject Jesus. Do you want to know why people are going to go to hell who don't have a biblical Christian next to them, who don't have a Peter in their Joppa or an Ananias on their Straight Street in Damascus? Here's why. Romans 1:18-21:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
The glory of God is revealed in the heavens. This place didn't just happen through time plus nothing plus chance. There is a creator. There is order. That means there's design. That means there's a divine designer. We all know that. It's through what's called creation we see the glory of God.
Verse 21: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures [and everything all around Rome and all around India] ." They've suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, and they will be judged for it.
They will also be judged because they look at other people and go, "Hey, what you're doing is wrong." They're going to be judged because they suppress the truth of the revelation of God in creation, and they'll be judged because they suppress the truth of God setting a righteousness in their hearts. They go, "What you're doing is wrong," and when they do that same thing, they are acknowledging that they're sinners.
That's Romans 2:1-3. "Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." That doesn't mean you don't make judgments. It just means when you know there's wrong and you do the same wrong, you're acknowledging you deserve judgment.
So what do we know so far? We know God is just and we know there's no man who goes to hell because he rejects a Jesus of whom he has never heard. Why do they go to hell? Because they suppress the truth of creation and hide behind some pseudoscience called Darwinism or myth and because they seal their consciences and go, "Well, what I do is not bad enough to deserve judgment," even though there is holiness in God.
Thirdly, the Bible leaves no room for any other way to be forgiven and allowed to enter heaven except through the person and the name of Jesus. This is Acts 4:12. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." That's why I'm talking to you.
Acts 10:43: "Of Him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." So whatever Acts 10:35 says… "Todd, what does Acts 10:35 say?" Well, I've read it to you three times. I'm going to read it to you a fourth. It says, "…in every nation the man who fears [God] and does what is right is welcome to Him."
What that means is if by some gracious work of God you fear the God who really is (not the God you want to be out there, not the God of The Shack, not the God of the Brahmins, not the God of the Muslims, not the God of Joseph Smith; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and seek him with all your heart, God will get what he needs to get to you.
He's the one who gave you that longing, and he will give you what you need. Guess what God is going to give them. What do you guess? Faithful people like you who are ready and who know that they have dignity even though they don't look like you.
Lastly, if you care about those who have never heard, the most illogical thing you can do is ignore the message yourself and keep the message to yourself. Whatever is true about the unevangelized heathen is not true of anybody who hears me. Sometimes people ask this question because they think, "Well, maybe if there's a way out for them, there's a way out for me." Wrong. You know the message. You're not unevangelized heathen. You are just a heathen.
I love the way Spurgeon answered this question. Spurgeon, when he was asked the question, said something like, "It's more a question with me whether we who have heard the gospel and failed to give it to those who have not heard it can consider ourselves saved." Let me ask you guys a question, you who are concerned about the unevangelized heathen. How many heathens did you talk to about Jesus this week? There are a bunch of them in this country.
Before we started Watermark, three friends and I sat down and said, "We're going to go where the gospel needs to be shared." We looked to find the largest mass of English-speaking… Because I was an idiot and speak one language, and I didn't want to go learn a language for two and three years so I could share the gospel with people. I said, "Lord, where are the largest amount of lost English-speaking people?" Guess where I found they were. Right here.
Not only that, but God has decided to settle more refugees where I live than anywhere else. I can reach the world from Dallas, Texas. I don't need to go to India to meet Indians. Have you noticed? Any Indians here? Raise your hand. There are a few of you in the room. There are 90 different nations here, even more in Dallas.
"About the ninth hour of the day, this righteous man," who you're going to find out needed Jesus, "saw a vision, and an angel of the Lord who had come to him said, 'Cornelius!' Fixing his gaze on him, he said, 'What is it, Lord?' and he said, 'Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.'"
By the way, I have been in Jordan. I have been in the Middle East, and I'm talking to Muslims over there. I tell them. I say, "Can I just ask you…" Because we talk about Jesus. We talk about Isa. I just say to them, "Hey, listen. If Jesus is not who Muhammad made him to be, but if he's really a great prophet, a prophet who claimed, in fact, if you've seen him you've seen God, that he's the visible image of the invisible God, his record shows, wouldn't you want to know him?
Would you just do this in the quietness of your bed tonight? Why don't you just lie in your bed at night and say, 'Hey, God, if you're there, if I'm confused, if Muhammad is not a good prophet, if Muhammad has taken me away from you, would you show me who you are?'" I go, "Just pray that prayer." I go, "By the way, let's pray right now. If I need to know Muhammad's revelation for me to know God, would you want me to know that Allah?" I go, "I hope you would."
I don't want to offend Allah, which is the Arabic name for Lord. Unfortunately, when Muslims use it, they don't mean the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even though they will tell you that's the God they're talking to. What have they done? They have changed the incorruptible God into something else. He is corrupted. So much so that man can appease him. This Bible says, "Man can't appease me."
They have dumbed God down and made him less than he is so they can get what they want from him. So I say, "Why don't you just pray to that God? Seek him with all your heart. Not the part that wants to still be Muslim…" Not, Cornelius, the part that wants to be still a successful Roman. Seek him with all your heart.
Can I just ask you to do something? If you're here saying, "Jesus, I want to work you into my North Dallas prosperity," would you just repent and say, "Father, would you show me all of you? I want to know all of you. Not the part that's tolerable and easy for me; I want to know all of you." That's how you get saved. That's why the angel of the Lord said, "Bingo!" God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble, wherever they live. His standard way of getting grace to them is through his church.
By the way, this section is, in my opinion, more impressive for its conversion of Peter than it is the conversion of Cornelius. You don't believe me? Let's fast-forward. This is Peter after he had the vision I read to you about. You're going to find Peter talking to these guys. Look down at Acts 10:28. "And he said to them [in Cornelius' house] , 'You yourselves know how unlawful…'"
It's interesting here. That word is not anomos. Nomos is the word for law, as in the Pentateuch, as the Word of God. It is another word that means, "It's against our customs. This is taboo for me to be here with a Gentile." A good Jew would never walk into a Gentile's house, because they'd be unclean. A good Jew would never let a Gentile into his house. A good Jew wouldn't stay with a tanner. A good Jew would never go to table with a Gentile. It was taboo and against their custom.
It wasn't unlawful in God's eyes for a Jew to love a Gentile. In fact, he was commanded to treat him with respect, but they had developed their own little system, just like the pagan Indians do when they go, "How about if we do this? Let's just say people who are poorer than us are poorer because they're cursed, because they lived unholy lives previously. Yes, and this is their judgment, so if we try to deliver them from their judgment we will be going against the gods; therefore, we should oppress them, take advantage of them, and continue to live in comfort and think we're better than they are."
That's a heck of a system to make me not feel like I need to help you. It isn't the system of the Bible. The pure and undefiled religion of the Bible cares for the orphan, the oppressed, and the widow…and the Dalit. Peter is just simply saying, "Hey, man, this is not what I would have done, but God has shown me something. When God showed me this, I came without ever even raising an objection."
Let me just give you some observations I have written as I have made my way through this section, and we'll see if we can't find out where they go. Gang, I'm telling you. My favorite place in the Bible is the place I've spent the most time that week. I am just shocked at how much beauty there is. How about this? Here's an application I came up with myself.
1.When the Lord tells you there is a place where you can access more knowledge of and intimacy with him, if you're a godly person you will waste no time and spare no resource to get it. Just like humble Cornelius did. "Cornelius, I've heard your prayer. You want to know me? Go get Simon at Simon the tanner's house." "Boys! Servant! Soldier! Go get him."
We have told you where to find what God wants for you in membership. We have told you where God has provided for you, what he wants for you in terms of Bible knowledge, to be equipped, and some of you guys don't have it because you don't want it. You have to be woken up out of your delusion that you are a God-fearer.
You are not a God-fearer; you are a god-maker, and you have made a god that's okay with you going to church a couple of Sundays a month and maybe cutting 2 percent of your salary to him. You need to repent. God-fearers, when they hear that there's a place you can go to learn more of God, to be more intimate with him, waste no time, spare no expense, and get it.
2.When the Lord tells you there are people who have no knowledge or intimacy with him, godly people waste no time and spare no resource to go and share it. What's so great about this is we have a Jew who lived in Joppa before, and God told him, "I want you to go and take the gospel to Gentiles." He said, "I don't want to take the gospel to Gentiles, so instead of going up there to Assyria, I'm going to sail across the Mediterranean and go over here to Tarshish, as far away as I can go."
Now we're going to see there is a prophet who loves God in Joppa, and it isn't a dead Jew; it's a living Jew who knows the Messiah and the love of God. What did Peter know that Jonah didn't? I'll tell you this. Jonah had a good life as a prophet, living there in the seaside Mediterranean beautiful place he was at. He didn't want to go take the gospel somewhere else. Peter sought the Lord. This is a note to myself. God changes the hearts of those who seek him.
Am I asking God, just like Peter…? In the middle of the day, at the noon of the day, he was crying out, "O God, I want to know you," and God said, "I'm going to show you more who I am. Peter, there's nothing that's unclean anymore. I'm going to make it all clean through Jesus. Jesus is what made you clean. Remember when you taught to devout Jews in Jerusalem? What did you tell them to do? Repent. Guess what devout Gentiles need to do. Repent. They need Jesus.
Stop being separate from them. The dividing wall has been broken down. There is no Court of the Gentiles. The Holy Place has been made open. If you're a godly person, you're going to do everything you can to get the resource of truth to them, and you are going to seek God, and he is going to show himself to you." Psalm 139. Pray this. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."
O God, had we as a country prayed this before 1950, before Abraham Lincoln was president, before we had to learn from William Wilberforce and other faithful people in England that that ain't right. "Search me and know me, God. Show me what's wrong." I'll tell you what's wrong. You treat people like property. I'll tell you what's wrong. You still think you're better than the black man. You don't listen to his problem.
I love this. Look at what Peter did at this one particular point. Acts 10:13: "A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'No! I don't do that. I'm a good Jew.'" Peter is good at this. "Peter, who do you think I am?"
"Well, you're the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. By the way, as the living God, I am going to be turned over to the scribes and the Pharisees and the Romans, and they're going to kill me."
"God, no! We're not going to do that."
A little bit later, Jesus throws a towel over his shoulder. He said, "I'm going to wash you boys' feet." Peter said, "You ain't washing mine." Peter was good at telling the Lord "No," and guess who else is? As I was reading this, reflecting on Peter's life, I just wrote this down for myself. "The words no and Lord should never be in the same sentence."
"God, I'm 30. I've been faithful. I'm sick of being faithful. No, Lord. That's enough. You aren't going to bring me a godly spouse at this age? We're going to start figuring out how we can cut a deal with ourselves and still feel good about it." "No, Lord" should never be said. What you're really saying when you say, "No, Lord" is "I'm lord," and it will not go well with you if you say that.
It happened three times to Peter, which encouraged me, because I just wrote down to myself, "It often takes more than one rebuke to make a saint." Anybody relate to that? Good lord. That's why I need you. That's why I have to be in community. Do you guys know I've been in community with some people for 17 years and they were going over stuff with me again the last three days? I'm just so grateful they're still there in my life.
I'm not anywhere near home, and they're gracious to me, but they're persistent. Not three times but seventy times seven times, and they still love me, but they will not relent, because they're godly people. Do you have that kind of community? I sure hope you do.
3.When you truly believe you have found a more sure word from God, you gather anybody and everybody you love as quickly as possible to hear it. That's what Cornelius did. Can I ask you a question? Cornelius heard there were people who loved God and they were coming to tell him… The angel said, "Go get Simon." Simon was coming. What did Cornelius do? He got everybody he had any relational capital with. He said, "You be here. Somebody is coming."
How hard to the hole did you go this week to get somebody here? How hard to the hole are you going to go Easter to get somebody here? If you love them and you love God and you know God is good, you'd have this place packed. Look at all of these seats we're wasting. O God, make us like Cornelius. I love this. What did Cornelius do when Peter showed up? Right there down on his face. We should treat those who teach us about God with the utmost of respect.
You might go, "Todd, that's a very self-serving observation you just made right there." Here's the next one I made. Those of us useful to God are to remain utmost in our awareness that we are nothing but servants. I know what you mean when you tell me God used me. You're not praising me; you're thanking God I was willing to leave my Joppa and just try and do something this week to be useful to you.
I am a servant of Christ, and it's through the mercy of God… I am so sick of Christian celebrity, the way we love them and the way we'd love to be them. Peter said, "Don't you worship me." It is wrong to view any man as divine or any man as devoid of value. That's one of the points of this text. There are no divine men. There's a divine Son of God, and we serve him. There is no man who is not worthy of God's redeeming love, and you preach to him.
Devout Jews and devout Gentiles need to become devoted disciples and dependent on Jesus, because the Lord God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness, full of grace and truth. He gives loving-kindness to thousands of generations, but by no means will he let the guilty go unpunished.
If you are here and you are devout, good for you, but if you have not become devoted to Jesus, and I mean devoted to Jesus, where you go, "Lord, here's my gender dysphoria; fix it. Here's my sexual brokenness; have it. Here's my hard heart toward my spouse; deal with it. Here's my love of money; strangle it out of me. Here's my indifference to the beauty of your Word; change me." It is not enough to go to church. It is not enough to be a devout Jew, a devout Gentile, or a devout Christian. You must depend on Jesus, and no and Lord are never in the same sentence.
Father God, thank you for this section of Scripture. There's so much beauty here, so much we need to learn. Make me like Cornelius. Make me like Peter. Make me willing to go. Make me a man who wants to fill my house up with people to whom I can say, "Come here. I want you to hear this message." Make me treat those who teach me and admonish me with incredible respect. Make me, as I'm an admonisher and a teacher, incredibly humble.
Father, forgive me that I often say "no" and "Lord" in the same sentence. Thank you that you persevere with me. Thank you, Lord, that you love all men. Not just the Jew, not just the American, not just the Indian, not just the Arab…you love us all. We're all made in your image. Father, we want to increase in our conformity to the beauty of your Son, that we might be your people to the glory of your name.
If there is anyone here, Father, who has at least interrupted their week enough to be here now to hear this, who needs to know you, would you not let them leave until they talk to a Peter who can tell them what the prophets have said about the only man who can save them? He is Jesus of Nazareth, crucified for them and risen on the third day. Would you bring them to a saving faith, and may they see that saving faith in us. For his glory and our good I pray, amen.