Yesterday we were introduced to a Roman Centurion by the name of Cornelius. And we are told that this “Gentile” was “God-fearing.” Today, we are going to see Peter reenter the action. And more specifically we are going to see Peter be shown a vision while he is praying that is going to completely change the course of church history, because as we will see Peter’s vision shows him that God is going to accept the “Gentiles” just as they are without any prerequisites.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.—10:9-16
The Holy Spirit, the author of the Scriptures, has revealed that the New Testament Christians were people devoted to prayer. They understood that God’s kingdom could not be revealed or experienced in its full power with a few minutes of prayer each day. The devout Jews prayed two or three times a day. It was the custom of Christians, especially the leaders among them, to pray with the same devotion. Peter and John went up to the temple “at the time of prayer,” while Luke and Paul did the same. Peter prayed regularly at noon. God rewarded Cornelius for being faithful in keeping his prayer time.
God’s Word urges Christians to be faithful in prayer, pray always, pray continually, pray everywhere, pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers, persevere in prayer and pray powerfully. There can be no effective spiritual power in our battle against sin, Satan and the evil in the world, nor will we have victory in our efforts to reach people for Christ, without consistent daily prayer.
Consider Jesus’ urgent request the night he was arrested that his disciples watch and pray at least “one hour,” and consider the urgency of the end times in which we live. Would it not be pleasing to God for each of Christ’s followers to commit to a consistent time of prayer and the study of God’s Word daily. This time would certainly help us to better understand and fulfill God’s purposes and advance his kingdom on earth.
One hour of prayer might include the following: verbal praise, singing to the Lord, thanksgiving, waiting on God, reading the Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, praying words directly from the Bible, confessing faults and failings, praying for others, making requests for one’s own needs and praying in tongues.
Peter’s time of prayer the next day was at noon. Peter’s prayer happened while the servants were approaching Joppa. Peter’s vision was of a sheet containing animals Jews were not allowed to eat. Peter’s kosher diet meant he was honoring God with the traditions handed down to him. In the new covenant, dietary regulations are a matter of freedom and are voluntary, not mandatory. The Lord’s words to Peter make this clear. Peter’s hesitation and the Lord’s affirmation are repeated. Luke noted in Acts 9:43 that Peter was staying at a tanner’s home; this man regularly touched dead bodies and thus was ceremonially unclean. Since Peter refers to food, he cannot be charged with hypocrisy but perhaps with being selective. The point is that Christ was accepting the Gentiles into the new covenant without placing them under the old covenant first. The Gentiles came to Christ as Gentiles, not taking on Judaism as a prerequisite. Peter was being shown powerfully what God’s will was.
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.—10:17-23a
The arrival of the delegation from Cornelius at just that time demonstrated God’s fingerprints on the situation. God’s working is demonstrated not only in the providential timing of the arrival but also in the Spirit specifically telling Peter that the men had arrived. Peter offered the men hospitality for the night in preparation for the return trip.
In conclusion, the Holy Spirit desires for all people to be spiritually saved and to experience a personal and eternal relationship with Jesus. Since Christ’s followers received the Spirit, they too wanted all people to know and receive Christ. Intellectually, however, they did not fully understand that salvation and a personal relationship with God was not Israel’s exclusive right to receive or pass on. God’s gift was now offered freely to people of all nations. It was the Holy Spirit that revealed this broader vision to the church. In Acts, he is the power behind the mission to take the message to the rest of the world, and he was now directing the church into new areas of ministry. The outpouring of the Spirit and a passion for missions (the taking of Christ’s message to people of other nations, lands and cultures) always go together. Even today, many Christians express a desire for people in their communities to know Christ, yet they have not fully grasped or taken part in the Holy Spirit’s purpose to send the message to peoples throughout the world. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we conclude Acts chapter 10.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Chronicles 17-18, Romans 9:25-10:13, Psalm 20:1-9 and Proverbs 20:2-3
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