Sermon: The Gentile Pentecost (Part 2) What God Calls Clean (Acts 10:9-29)

The Gentile Pentecost (Part 2)

What God Calls Clean

Acts 10:9-29

Introduction

I am always amazed when reading the Book of Acts and see God work in multiple people at one time.  I’m amazed at how God puts people together at just the right time.  It all seems, from human perspective to just be working out almost on its own when in reality it is God working all things for His glory and our good.

I’m reminded of the timing and how God worked to connect Philip, the messenger of salvation and the Ethiopian Eunuch, the receiver of salvation together at just the right time as he was reading the Prophet Isaiah and Philip asked do you understand what you’re reading?  Here again was a man who worshipped God and was on his way back to northern Africa and still had to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So too, is the amazing timing and God’s work in the lives of Cornelius the receiver of salvation and Peter the messenger of salvation.

Also, please notice with me the change that is taking place within the Apostle Peter.  Peter had been raised in Judaism.  He had been taught many traditions.  God in fact, commanded some of the traditions, but many were not.  The Israelites had strayed from God’s original intent.  They, His chosen people were to be the light to the Gentiles.  They were to bring in others into God’s covenant, as even non-Jews were to be welcomed into the family.  But instead, they had become elitists.  They believed they were special and all other nations were accursed.  Rather than loving others, they hated anyone not Jewish.  This was the mindset of Peter and this is what God had to take away from him.

One account of radical hatred speaks of a Jew traveling through other nations and the very dirt on the bottom of his sandals would be seen as unclean.  So became the well-known practice of shaking off the dust from your feet.

Matthew 10:11-15 (ESV)
11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.
12 As you enter the house, greet it.
13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

The unclean town or house according to Jesus was the one who refused the Gospel message.
This account today of Peter and Cornelius is God throwing open the door to the Gentiles and cleansing them through the Gospel.

TT- God has the supreme right to declare sin forgiven and people clean.

Human need met by text

 

Acts 10:9-33 (ESV)
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour 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, 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.
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.”

1. Peter’s Vision

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.
In Peter’s vision, God is lowering from heaven unclean animals.  Technically, it is a mixture of clean and unclean.  However, because the clean were in contact with the unclean animals, all were rendered common or unclean.  This is the point God is making with Peter.  In other words, normally the clean and unclean cannot mix, if they do all become unclean.  Peter is taken back by what he sees.  Then what makes matters worse is that God commands Peter to… Rise, Peter; kill and eat.  In the past, God had commanded that the Israelites not mingle with other nations because in doing so, they would begin worshipping the false god’s of the nations.  So, part of keeping the Israelites separate from the nations was to incorporate dietary laws.  Dietary laws were meant to encourage a distinction or a separation between the Israelites and the nations.  Nations could come to God but they had to adhere to Israel’s standards of circumcision of Sabbath observance and so on.  This is different; this event marks a new day in redemptive history when a non-Jew can come to God through Jesus Christ as a Gentile.  We’ll see that Jews and Gentiles are now in the same boat they all must come to God through His Son.

Peter is appalled at the sight and at God’s command.  Peter was a good Jew who knew God’s laws and knew his Bible…

Ezekiel 4:14 (ESV)
14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.”
By quoting from Ezekiel, Peter must have felt he was on solid ground.  However, God is doing something altogether new.  Through Jesus Christ both Jew and Gentile are made right with God.  In essence, both are unclean and must come to Christ and be formed into a new people.
What God is showing Peter is that the dietary laws are now done away with because both Jew and Gentile are being formed into a new nation.
This really speaks to why dietary laws were first introduced to the Israelites by God.  They were to remain separate from true fellowship with Gentiles.  When people eat together they become closer and adopt one another’s practices.  Therefore, by not allowing the Israelites to eat the same food as the Gentiles, table fellowship was hindered.

Now, because of the blood of Christ that great wall of separation between Jew and Gentile is torn down then so must the food restrictions be torn down.
Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV)
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Paul can speak about this because he too is standing on the shoulders of the prophets and apostles before him.
But it had to begin sometime.  God in His great wisdom knew exactly how to do it…He would use Peter.  Peter, however, needed to be changed from viewing the Gentile as unclean.

2.  Peter’s Second Conversion

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, for I have sent them.”
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.
I’m using the term conversion, not to mean Peter is now saved, we know Peter is already saved, but I’m using to show the significance of the change that needs to take place in Peter.  In one sense God has been opening Peter’s eyes to the Gentiles.  He has been lodging with Simon the tanner for some time, some even think a few months.  Here, in this section Peter will see through a new set of lenses.  God will accomplish His purposes in Peter.  He will see Gentiles on an equal footing, especially after the conversion of Cornelius.

When God removes the sheet, Peter’s vision is over.  At this point, Luke reports that Peter is perplexed about all he has just seen.

Inwardly perplexed- diaporéō (from 1223 /diá “thoroughly,” which intensifies 639 /aporéō, “no way out”) – properly, totally perplexed because having no solution (“way out”). 1280 /diaporéō (“deeply perplexed”) refers to “one who goes through the whole list of possible ways, and finds no way out.

What Luke is saying about Peter is that Peter’s world and in many ways, his belief system has just been turned upside down.  God has taken Peter to the next stage of His redemptive purposes which now include Gentiles and Peter’s brain is about to explode.

When Peter cannot make heads or tails out of the vision, God moves.

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
The instant the vision was over, Cornelius’ messengers were standing at the door asking for Peter.

Now, to even make things more interesting, 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, for I have sent them.”
Notice the similarity here between “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” And now God’s command to… 20 Rise and go.

It seems at this point Peter is getting an idea as to what the vision meant.

In the same way God can declare Gentiles clean, He can also remove the limitations that existed concerning certain food restrictions.  When those restrictions were to hinder table fellowship with non-Jews, now Peter must enter into the home of a Gentile, namely, Cornelius and eat with him as Cornelius opens his home and hosts Peter as his guest.

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.”
Cornelius is waiting very anxiously for Peter and his friends to arrive.  The moment they do, he falls down and seeks to worship Peter.  Now what Peter does is very clear and to the point, showing that Peter realizes that he and Cornelius are just men who both need Jesus…I too am a man.

Here in the next passage, Peter explains that God has indeed shown him that no longer are there clean and unclean people by mere ethnic background but that all are seen as clean in Christ.

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.
Conclusion

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has broken down ethnic barriers between Jew and Gentile.  No longer should it be seen as us and them but we…what God has called clean cannot be called unclean.

As believers, we are called “clean” by God, just as Peter and just as we’ll see next time with Cornelius.

If you are in Christ, God has declared that you are clean.  There are times when we may begin to doubt things, especially as we often are reminded of our past sins.  We can even begin to dwell on them and even begin to think that God is still holding them against us.  If you are in Christ today, God has declared all your past sins as forgiven.

I want to go so far as to say that it is sinful to continually dwell on your past sins and doubt whether or not God has forgiven you.  If you are striving for holiness and loving Christ daily then you should not be consumed with guilt over your past…remember, what God has called clean do not call unclean.

Romans 8:1 (ESV)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)
18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (ESV)
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

Are you “in Christ”?  That’s the question.  Probably, not everyone sitting here today is.  If you are, God has declared you forgiven of your sin and clean.  If you are not you are still in your sin and the wrath of God abides upon you.  Make sure today.

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