Closing the Space Between Us (Part 1)
Sermon Title: “Closing the Space Between Us (Part 1)”
Sermon Series: Acts: Kingdom Vision 20/20
Text: Acts 10:1-33
Speaker: Pastor Damian Mericka
- Introduction: The Space Between Gentiles and God (Acts 10:1-2)
This story of the Gentile Cornelius coming to place faith in Christ stands out among the narrative of Acts as a whole, not necessarily because of his faith but his inclusion into the predominately Jewish populated church. Even though Samaritans and The Ethiopian Eunuch were now a part of the Kingdom of God, they still worshiped separately. Jewish believers were still worshipping in Jewish Synagogues facing the direction of Jerusalem and Samaritan Synagogues faced Mount Gerizim.
Jesus addressed this concern and showed Himself to be the bridge between Jews and Samaritans in John 4:19-26. There was a greater level of intimacy between God and His Creation that was about to be bridged through Jesus. Even greater than closing the distance between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus would also close the space between them and Gentiles.
This promise came with the calling of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and found satisfaction in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:13-14; 23-29). With the present Temple structure, Gentiles were the furthest out, then women, then Jews, then priests, then the High Priest. Ultimately God would need to step into each station to meet us where we are at to bring us into Himself.
This also coincides with Jesus Mission in Acts 1:8-11. Jerusalem-> Judea -> Samaria -> Gentiles
The Spirit is already preparing the Gentile regions for the Gospel. Luke introduces us to Cornelius, a Gentile who led his whole household to the point they could go no further toward God. And they worshiped with their resources and prayed continually to God.
He was also a centurion of the Italian Cohort for Rome. He oversaw 100 soldiers, earning this position only by the testing that comes by experience. Centurions were notorious for personal resolve to stand their post until the very end. His Cohort may have been an auxiliary component to provide quick relief to issues in Judea needing a firm sword to resolve.
See -> Psalm 141:1-2.
Where Jews and Samaritans were concerned about synagogues and the direction they faced (denominational arguments) Jesus is bringing a Kingdom focus that looks to people not buildings.
Going Deeper: 1) What was the difference between the Jewish and Samaritan Synagogues? What was the Biblical hope for Gentiles- and for all people? Who was Cornelius and what kind of man was he?
- A Vision of Preparation: Cornelius (Gentiles) (Acts 10:3-8)
God heard Cornelius’ prayers. Did you note that? God noticed his acts of kindness and devotion to love people as God does. And God hears his prayers!
But why a Roman soldier? Someone whose very sword may have spilled Jewish blood in battles gone by!
In a vision (while praying) an angel from God comes to him with affirmation that God has seen actions and heard his prayers- and gives him instruction to send men to Joppa in pursuit of Peter, staying with Simon the Tanner. Immediately he sends two of his servants and a devout soldier to fulfill the direction from the Angel.
Cornelius would understand rank in God’s Kingdom and complies with these Divine orders without hesitation! To Joppa these men go in pursuit of Peter.
Cornelius obeys God.
Going Deeper: 2) What was Cornelius doing when God spoke to him? How did God speak to him and what did he say? What was Cornelius’ response?
III. A Vision of Preparation: Peter (Jews) (Acts 10:9-23)
We then find Peter on the roof of Simon the Tanner’s home praying. Awaiting his dinner, he fell into a trance where a vision of extraordinary meaning unfolds before him!
A great sheet descends from heaven in front of Peter containing all sorts of life- animals, reptiles, and birds. (Vv.9-12)
Note -> Genesis 6:19-20. The categorizing found in the sheet of Peter’s Vision reflects the categorizing for those brought into the ark to survive the coming judgment!
And then a voice saying “Rise, kill and eat!” (v.13)
In this command Peter resists due to the unclean state of the animals (See Leviticus 20:25-26). Notice that God does not say they are clean, but that He has made them clean! (Matthew 5:17)
This happened three times before the sheet was taken back up to heaven. Peter then does not reflect on the source of the vision, but its meaning and consequent application. What is God doing? (Vv. 14-16)
In the meantime, Cornelius’ men seek out and find Simon’s home. In another voice the Spirit now speaks to Peter with direction. The men affirming what the Spirit spoke to Peter they stay the night with Simon and head out from Joppa in the morning. (Vv.17-23)
Peter obeys God.
Going Deeper: 3) What was Peter doing when God spoke to him? How did God speak to him? What stood out to you about this vision? Has God ever changed your heart / attitude towards someone or something before? Share the experience.
- A Divine Appointment with Human Responsibility (Acts 10:24-33)
Joppa. A city redeemed.
Note -> Jonah 1:3.
Why didn’t the angel just share the Gospel with Cornelius? (See Revelation 14:6) Why was God investing in Peter to do it? Because God not only desires our hearts to love Him, but to love each other (Jonah 2:1-10). As our Father, God wants His kids to love each other.
A family divided is a grief to a parent’s heart.
God is about transforming hearts- especially that of His own children. Peter’s heart was being transformed through this as an invitation for the Church to embrace this as well. We are all family in Christ!
Note Acts 10:28 -> Peter states that it was “unlawful” for him to be there; no where is that found in the Scripture. That was the Jewish interpretation and application. God is bringing down the walls of hostility and prejudice in the Jewish heart toward Gentiles.
This whole scenario is a beautiful illustration of the mystery of Sovereign / Human Choice woven together into Acts 10:33. We are all present, ready to hear, ready to receive, ready to obey.
Going Deeper: 4) Why did God want Peter to share the Gospel to Cornelius? What is unique about Joppa? Why is simply sharing the Gospel not enough with God- why does He want us to love like He does those He sends us to share the Gospel with? Do you love those you share the Gospel with? Is Joppa a place of obedience or running away from God for you?
- The Role of Prayer in Kingdom Focus
In all of this, we find it begins with two people praying- consistently, regularly, passionately.
The New Testament Church was devoted to prayer. God’s Kingdom came in great stride and power through their prayers. In this we find our invitation today- Kingdom work begins and is greatly accomplished through our prayers.
What does prayer look like? It can consist of giving thanks, being silent in His presence, reading His Word, listening to the Spirit, confession, singing, intercession, requests, praying in tongues. This was more than a casual few minutes but hours of devotional commitment.
Will you invest one hour a day this week for prayer?
Going Deeper: 5) What role does prayer play in your life? How can you shape it out to be more? Will you take the invitation to commit one hour a day this week for prayer?