I. AND IT CAME TO PASS THAT HE TARRIED THERE MANY DAYS IN JOPPA WITH SIMON WHO WAS A TANNER.
A. God is going to break down many prejudices in Peter's mind as far as the Jewish traditions go.
1. It, no doubt, began in his going to Samaria to minister to them. You remember that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans.
2. This is another chink in the wall that is to be broken down.
3. Under the Jewish law, if you touched a dead body of a man or beast, you were considered unclean in a ceremonial sense. You would have to go through a cleansing ritual before you could go to the temple to worship God.
4. A tanner was not allowed to live within a city. The trade was so disdained by the Jews, that if a man betrothed his daughter to a man and it was later discovered that he was a tanner, the contract became null and void.
B. In chapter ten, God is going to bring that wall crashing down.
C. In Ephesians, Paul speaks of how the Lord had broken down that wall that once separated us.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us];
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; to make in himself of the two, one new man, [so] making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
II. WE ARE GOING TO LEAVE PETER FOR A MOMENT AND MOVE UP THE COAST FROM JOPPA, TO CAESAREA, A MAGNIFICENT ROMAN SEA PORT BUILT BY HEROD THE GREAT. IT WAS THE CAPITAL CITY OF THE ROMAN RULE OVER THE TERRITORY. HERE WAS THE HOME OF THE ROMAN GOVERNOR OVER THE TERRITORY. IT WAS A TYPICAL ROMAN TOWN, WITH THE ROMAN THEATER, ROMAN HIPPODROME, AND ROMAN ARENA.
A. Herod had built an aqueduct from springs at the base of Mount Carmel, around ten miles away to bring fresh water to this city. Portions of the aqueduct can be seen today some 2000 years later.
B. This is where the Roman Garrison was stationed that kept order in this part of the Roman Empire.
C. Here we are introduced to Cornelius, a centurion, of the Italian Band.
1. A centurion was an officer in the Roman Army over a hundred men.
a. The Roman army was divided into legions. A legion was as a division of 6,000 men. The legion was divided into 10 cohorts, 600 men each; a cohort was divided into six centuries of one hundred men each.
b. Over each century was a centurion.
c. An ancient historian said: "Centurions are desired not to be overbold and reckless so much as good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive to start fighting wantonly, but able when overwhelmed and hard-pressed to stand fast and die at their posts."
2. Several times in the New Testament centurions are mentioned, always in a good light.
a. In Luke 7
, we read of the centurion who had a servant who was dying so he sent some of the Jewish elders to Jesus requesting Jesus to heal his servant. They testified to Jesus that he was a worthy person who loved their nation and had built them a synagogue. When he heard that Jesus was on the way to his house, he sent his servants to tell Jesus that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to his home, for he understood authority. "I am a man under authority, having under me men, and I can say to one, "Come," and he comes, and to another, "Go," and he goes. All you have to do is to speak the word and my servant shall be well. Jesus said that he had not found that great in all of Israel.
b. At the cross there was a centurion, who when he saw the darkness come over the land at noon, he observed how Jesus died; and felt the earthquake. He declared, "Truly this was the Son of God."
c. When they were preparing to scourge Paul in the Antonio fortress, Paul asked a Centurion who was standing by if it were lawful to scourge a Roman citizen who had not had any charges filed against him. The centurion had the scourging process stopped.
d. Paul was delivered to a centurion, who was in charge of seeing that Paul got safely to Rome. He treated Paul with great respect. Ultimately, allowing Paul to take over command of the ship.
3. It seems that these men were well-selected and well-trained.
D. What we are told about Cornelius.
1. A devout man.
2. He feared God with all his house.
a. The kind of man whose faith influenced his whole household.
3. He gave much alms.
4. He prayed to God always.
5. He saw in a vision about the ninth hour of the day.
a. The Jews had three times in the day set aside for public prayer, the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day. Inasmuch as their day began at sunrise, the third hour would be equivalent to 9:00 in the morning.
b. The ninth hour would be three in the afternoon.
E. The vision of Cornelius.
1. We are told that he saw an angel which called him by name.
a. As we have mentioned previously, a vision is the capacity to see the spirit realm that surrounds us. It is like a dream, only you are awake.
b. God often spoke to persons through visions.
c. I believe that God still speaks to people through visions, though I have never had Him speak to me that way.
2. His reaction was one of fear. I think that would be a common response.
3. When the angel called his name he responded by asking, "What is it lord?"
a. How do you think you would respond to a supernatural being who suddenly appeared in your room while you were in prayer?
4. His prayers and his giving had come up as a memorial before God.
a. God had taken note of his prayers and giving.
b. Malachi tells us:
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard [it], and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
c. The scriptures infer that God keeps records on our lives.
d. We are told that one day all will stand before God and the books will be opened and they will be judged out of those things that are written in the books.
e. I believe that for those who love and serve Him, he only keeps a record of those good things that we have done, out of pure motivation.
f. I believe for those who do not believe in Him, a record is kept of all the evil things.
g. The prophet Micah said:
Who [is] a God like unto thee, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retains not his anger for ever, because he delights [in] mercy.
He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
III. THE PRAYERS OF CORNELIUS.
A. Remember Cornelius was outside of the covenant people, yet God took note of his prayer.
1. Peter recognized the work of the Spirit in the life of Cornelius.
Then Peter said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
2. He acknowledged that salvation was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
B. Jesus told His disciples to pray to the Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret would reward them openly.
1. Paul had to call God as his witness of his prayer life.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
C. This is the second place in the book of Acts where we see God responding supernaturally to the quest for God from a searching heart.
1. The first was the case of the Ethiopian eunuch. God brought Philip from the revival in Samaria to bring this man who had come from Ethiopia to Jerusalem seeking God and going home still searching.
2. Here is Cornelius who is also seeking God and supernaturally God directs him to Peter.
3. In the first case, God sent Philip to the Ethiopian.
4. In this case God had Cornelius to send for Peter.
5. In both cases, God used a human instrument to bring the message.
6. The angel could have explained to Cornelius the message of salvation, but the angel directed Cornelius to Peter, that Peter might bring the message. God has ordained to use human instruments to bring the gospel to others, either by directing the human instrument to the seeker, or the seeker to the human instrument.
7. What a blessed privilege it is to be an instrument in the hand of the Lord to bring His message of hope and salvation to the lost.