And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides. (Acts 9:43 – 10:8)
In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment.
He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.
One afternoon about three o'clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. "Cornelius!" the angel said.
Cornelius stared at him in terror. "What is it, sir?" he asked the angel. And the angel replied, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!
Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter.
He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore."
As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants.
He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
The next day as Cornelius's messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon,
and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. (Acts 9:42-10:11)
The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon's house. Standing outside the gate,
they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.
Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, "Three men have come looking for you.
Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don't worry, for I have sent them."
So Peter went down and said, "I'm the man you are looking for. Why have you come?"
They said, "We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer . . . A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” (10:16-10:22)
Cornelius replied, "Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me.
He told me, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God!
Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.'
So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” (10:30-33)
Then Peter replied, "I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. (10:34-35)
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. (10:44)
Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days. (10:48)
When Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him.
"You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!" they said.
Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. (11:2-4)
"I was in the town of Joppa," he said, "and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. ‘ (11:5)
"But the voice from heaven spoke again: 'Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.'
This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.
"Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying.
The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us.
He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, 'Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter.
He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!'
"As I began to speak," Peter continued, "the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as He fell on us at the beginning. (11:9-15)
And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God's way?"
When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. (11:17-18)
I am sure you noticed the portions I emboldened when I first gave you the whole passage from the end of Acts 9 to the end of Acts 11. It is inescapable isn’t it? The Holy Spirit of God engineered this whole thing on multiple levels from start to finish. God knew the degree to which each of these groups of people were entrenched in their cultural viewpoint for centuries. Something very remarkable had to happen to bring them all out of their cultural blindness. Thus God engineered the whole thing across all groups. He begins with Cornelius, a Roman army officer. The Romans were totally self sufficient and had no need for anything Jewish. They considered the Jews a thorn in their side. Those posted to Palestine were exasperated by the Jewish cultural perspectives and their apparent disdain for Rome. Yet here was a man who was a devout God-fearing man. This term as it is used through Luke’s account in Acts signifies Gentiles who have embraced the Jewish God YHWH. It is a not a term used to indicate a Roman who embraces the Roman deities but one who has leanings toward YHWH. It was going take a miracle to pull Peter from his prejudices across the cultural boundary to the Gentiles. At the same time God is communicating with Cornelius, a Roman army officer, at the very moment He is bringing Cornelius’ men to Peter, Peter is given this vision three times (significant to Jews) at the very moment Cornelius’ men are at the door.
Notice the repetition throughout this story of how it all started. Luke tells us from the very beginning that Peter is staying with Simon the tanner in Joppa. Clearly everyone knows him. It reminds me of the Ananias story as Saul is prepared for his service. He is told to go to Saul on Straight Street. He is given the address by the Holy Spirit. Similarly here Cornelius is told exactly where to go to reach the one they are looking for. This is the Holy Spirit at work to the nth degree. At the perfect moment before Cornelius’ men arrive Peter has this shocking vision of unmentionable non-kosher things THREE TIMES. At that moment Cornelius’ messengers arrive at the very house Peter is staying and tell him they are looking for him. Everyone in this story gives the message that God told them to go. Not only does He tells them where but He tells them what Peter has just seen. Now you have to admit that is a powerful statement of God’s involvement in all this.
In Luke’s telling of this story it is impressed upon us at every turn that the Spirit of God was behind these happenings. Notice how the involvement of the Holy Spirit is highlighted every step of the way. It is very clear to all concerned that God is behind what is happening. A Roman soldier knows it. His three messengers know it. All Cornelius' household know it. Peter knows it and I am sure all in the household of Simon the tanner. The Apostles and all the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were told what happened. And I am sure the Gentile believers came to know about it as well. How could they not? The Jewish believers in Jerusalem begin with criticism but after hearing the story they stopped objecting and began praising God. Oh I am sure they heard the full story of everything that happened but noticed in the shortened version of the story told to us through Luke’s account what is highlighted is how the Holy Spirit initiated it. Isn’t that the whole point of the story? The essential message of this story is that it was God-inspired, God-initiated, God-implemented, God-ordained and God-sustained throughout. Each person who is told or tells the story keeps repeating the fact that it was God who initiated it and God who sealed it in His Holy Spirit. Now how can you argue against that?
It is little wonder that when others get to hear, no matter whether they have been primed and ready beforehand or hearing the story for the first time, they acknowledge that God was behind it. We have had that experience as we have told our story of how God started the process with us and how He has continued His involvement with us. People who hear acknowledge that was God. It is inescapable. Christians and non-Christians alike acknowledge God’s hand on it all. Peter and Cornelius had the same experience. The fact that God’s fingerprints or whole hand was all over the events as they unfolded made it is easy for those who heard to acknowledge. As soon as they know that God led Cornelius to Simon’s house to find Peter at the same time God told Peter Cornelius’ men were coming they are prepared to received what comes next along with the implications.
And in this case the implications are huge.
Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right. Max Lucado
What happened in my life may not have been Plan A but God can take Plan B & make it better than Plan A ever would have been. Joyce Meyer
The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time. Carl Henry
When God is involved the timing is always impeccable. Ian