February 23, 2014
INTRODUCTION – There are 2.18 billion Christians around the world, up from about 600 million in 1910, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. 7.3 billion today. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).
What about in our region? 5%?
How are we going to reach all these people? Typically we only think of individuals reaching individuals. And when we look through that lens – – reaching the world for Christ looks pretty bleak.
But two weeks ago when we looked at Peter’s ministry in Lydda and Sharon we discovered that through the healing of a well known paralytic, “all who lived at Lydda and Sharon …turned to the Lord” vs. 35 tells us. and then at Joppa – through the raising from the dead of a very well known and much loved lady named Tabitha – “many believed in the Lord” vs. 42 tells us .
Today the longest story in the book of Acts – the story of Cornelius and Peter. Read it.
vs. 24 b, 27, 44-48! A Gentile man of influence
Do any of you know people of influence in our region who do not know the Lord, but if they were to turn to the Lord – many would be impacted by it?
There are men and women of influence, whose change of heart is going to be crucial for Reach the Beach to really be successful and reach the largest possible number of unbelievers. And for a significant move of God in our region.
Necessary ingredients to reach such folk? 6 things
I. The Role of Prayer (Cornelius & Peter) – – Twas Cornelius’s prayers that kicked this whole story off. When God decided it was time to decisively break this barrier between believing Jews and unbelieving Gentiles, it is no coincidence that He chose to use two men who were known intercessors.
Peter’s convictions about having nothing to do with Gentiles were so strong and deeply rooted – it took his own vision from God in a set apart time of prayer – – as well as having 3 Gentile men show up from 33 miles away – – to help him get in the saddle with what God was up to in this time in his life.
prayer as the posture of receiving orders and corrections – – instead of just always asking, asking, asking – –
prayer in an isolated designated place – Cornelius big house; peter roof top designated time of day – 9th hour = 3:00 p.m. ; 6th hour = noon
first time we have seen this? (Ananias )
II. The Role of Visions & Patterns (Cornelius & Peter) We discussed visions in the book of acts at length back when we were studying Saul and Ananias’s story 3 x’s for Peter was a pattern – – Peter denied 3 x’s; “do you love Me” 3x’s; and now vision 3 x’s (vs. 16); and then 3 men showed up at his door (vs. 19) from Caesarea. God knows how to get our attention if we want to hear His voice and do His will. If you have ever thought you were kind of crazy because you often see things that seem like a sign from God – – here is an example of how God used such with Peter.
III. The Role of Revelation & Response – Cornelius in response to his vision from God – acted! He sent men 33 miles to Peter; and Peter in response to his vision (vs. 9-16) from God and specific instructions from the H.S. (vs. 19,20) gave these Gentile strangers lodging; then went with them to Caesarea (33 miles); then entered Cornelius’s home; then interacted with Cornelius and all his relatives and friends for some time; and finally changed his mind about God’s view of Jews relating to
Gentiles and God’s heart for Gentiles (vs. 34,35)
These are days where we need to be keeping journals, paying more attention to dreams, tending our gardens in prayer with more diligence and faithfulness – – because God is moving and when He speaks, if we want Him to continue to speak to us, we need to act on what He has said.
John 14:21 “He has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
IV. The Role of Christ centered preaching Peace comes through Jesus (vs. 36) He is Lord of all (vs. 36) His relationship to God the Father and to God the Holy Spirit (vs. 38) His ministry of good works and healing (vs. 38) His crucifixion and resurrection (vs. 39,40) His post resurrection appearances to disciples (40, 41) His role as Judge of the living and the dead (42) Forgiveness comes through Him as prophesied by the prophets (vs. 43)
Very likely this is a condensed version of what Peter said since he was there for a while.
V. The Role of the Holy Spirit on brand new believers Vs. 44 “fell upon all”; like with Acts 2 – H.S. just showed up and did His thing – – no minister facilitating or laying on hands or asking for the gift of tongues… Sometimes that will happen while we preach or pray as a group. Sometimes He will lead us to lay hands on people such as in 8:17 & 19:1-7
Key thing is our work is not done when someone receives Christ. God was always concerned in the book of Acts that people visibly and definitely received the baptism of the H.S., which often resulted in speaking in tongues.
personal gift of tongues as contrasted with public gift;
VI. The Role of Theology Adjustments – Even though Peter not only was one of the 12, but also one of the 3 closest disciples to Jesus – who got to get in on some things that the other 9 didn’t
– like the Transfiguration
– he still had some wrong thinking that had to be corrected
– even after God has used him mightily in leading the church, winning the lost and healing the sick.
Why did Peter consider it “unlawful for him to keep company with Gentiles”? 1. As soon as Peter entered Cornelius’ house, before he even inquired as to what they wanted, he let them know that it was “…unlawful…for a man who is a jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; …” 10:28
2. What did Peter mean by such a statement? In what sense was it unlawful? Was there a prohibition against this in Israel’s law? �
The Jews were not to eat the “unclean” meats that Gentiles ate. “You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean..” Leviticus 20:25
The Jews were not to make covenants with Gentiles. “ ….You shall make no covenant with them” Deuteronomy 7:2
The Jews were not to intermarry with Gentiles. “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them…”Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 9:2
3. So, there was certainly a line of separation that existed between Israel and the heathen nations. This was designed to protect Israel from learning the ways of the heathen, and to draw a clear contrast for the nations to see clearly the true God of Israel.
4. But, there was no explicit law stating that the Jews could not interact with Gentiles. In fact, they were not prohibited from doing business with them, and they were to treat them kindly if they came in their midst. Leviticus 19:33-34
5. So, why did Peter consider it unlawful to even meet with these Gentiles? I believe there were several factors at work:
It was definitely culturally taboo for a law-observing, orthodox Jew to socialize with uncircumcised Gentiles. Even though it may not have explicitly stated this in the law, they felt that it violated the spirit of the law to interact socially with Gentiles.
Second, Perhaps Peter remembered the first commission he ever received from Christ in Matthew 10:5 which clearly said, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles…”
Christ himself focused on the Jews during His earthly ministry. He made it clear in Matthew 15:24, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Jesus’ Ministry According to the Bible A. Is limited to Israel
1. Mt 15:21-26 = Mk 7:24-27. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
2. Mt 10:5-6. Jesus sent the twelve disciples to the lost sheep of Israel only.
3. Jesus’ ministry on earth, and that of his disciples while he was here, was confined mostly within the bounds of Israel, and they ministered almost exclusively to Jews. Note particularly verses such as Lk 13:16 & 19:9-10.
B. Is to the whole world
1. Even in the Matthew references above (#’s 1, 2) Jesus ministers to the Canaanite woman and her daughter (Mt 15:28 = Mk 7:29-30), he tells his disciples that they will witness before Gentiles (Mt 10:18). Moreover, though his ministry was primarily to Jews it was not confined solely to them. Jesus did journey into the Gentile areas of Tyre, Sidon, and the Decapolis (a mostly Gentile area); spent time in the half Jew, half Gentile province of Samaria (Mk 7:24, 31; Lk 9:52; Jn 4:4-5); and he did minister to non-Jews (more details on all of this below). Obviously then Jesus’ words in Mt 10:6 & 15:24, while true, are not to be taken in an absolute sense such that they exclude any possibility of Jesus’ ministry also being to a larger target group.
2. Jesus spoke positively of, healed, and preached to some Samaritans (who were half Jew and half Gentile) – Lk 9:51-56; 10:29-37; 17:11-19; Jn 4:1-42.
3. He sent his twelve disciples to a Samaritan village to prepare things for his visit there (Lk 9:52). He sent the Gadarene demoniac to preach in the Decapolis (Mk 5:18-20).
4. He healed Gentiles and taught at least a few Greeks – Mt 4:23-25; 8:5-13 = Lk 7:2-10; Mt 15:27-28 = Mk 7:28-30; Jn 12:20-22. The Gadarene demoniac, whom Jesus healed, was probably also a Gentile, as he resided in an area where pigs were raised and came from the mostly heathen area known as the Decapolis – Mt 8:28-34 = Mk 5:1-20.
5. Of the few compliments he gave (I could only find seven), three were to non-Jews – Mt 8:10 = Lk 7:9; Mt 15:28; Lk 17:17-19. Cf Mt 11:7-11 = Lk 7:24-28; Mt 18:4; 26:10,13; Jn 1:47.
6. He often accused the Jews of having less faith than the Gentiles, and spoke of God’s special care for the Gentiles – Mt 3:9 (the words of John the Baptist); Mt 10:15; Mt 11:21-24 = Lk 10:12-15; Mt 12:41-42 = Lk 11:30-32; Mt 21:42-43; Lk 4:25-30.
7. He cleansed the temple at least partially for the sake of the Gentiles – Mk 11:17. Cf Is 56:6-7; Jer 7:11.
8. According to Jesus’ own words, his mission is universal: a. His death is meant to accomplish the redemption of all mankind – Mt 20:28 = Mk 10:45; Jn 3:16; 4:42; 12:32; etc.
b. His gospel message was to be preached to all mankind – Mt 10:18; 24:14; 28:18-20; Mk 13:10; 14:9; 16:15; Lk 4:25-30; 24:47; Jn 17:20-21: Acts 1:8.
c. His kingdom includes people of all nations – Mt 8:11-12; 21:43; 25:31-32; Lk 13:28-30; Jn 10:16; 11:52.
9. The genealogy of Jesus includes two Gentile woman, Rahab and Ruth (Mt 1:5). Also the magi from the east played a major part at the birth of the new born king (Mt 2:1-12). Thus both his lineage and the signs accompanying his birth intimate that his future ministry would impact all nations. According to Old Testament prophecy, the mission of the Christ was to be universal – Gn 12:3; Is 2:2; 9:1; 40:5; 42:1,4 = Mt 12:18,21; 49:6; 60:1-3; Mc 4:1-5; 5:4; Zc 9:9-10; etc.
So Peter had a huge blindspot that had to be exposed and corrected for him to be able to be fully used of God to all peoples in all situations. That’s why Jesus prayed in John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” That’s why paul prayed day and night for the churches he ministered to that God would open their spiritual eyes to things he knew they were blind to. And why he exhorted them to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within in you..”
So what are the ungodly beliefs that are keeping we locf’ers from being the effective laborers for the harvest and fishers of men He wants and expects us to be? 1. I don’t have the gift of evangelism; perhaps most of us don’t, but our call to evangelize is crystal clear and never meant for the experts
2. People aren’t responsive – Jesus said the fields are white for havest.
3. Friendship evangelism is the way of God – – where do you see that in the first 10 chapters of acts?