Acceptance Before God for All People
Acceptance Before God for All People
If you watch news reels or pay any attention at all to events going on in our world you will see many displays of selfishness and hate. Where those seeds get watered in the hearts of people they well up into many horrific actions. It can lead to racism and many other horrific acts, often targeting people because of the color of their skin, their religious background, socio economic status, or all of these. Last week we saw eight people killed by a man targeting Asian women. I don’t know his exact motives, and we will probably never fully know, we certainly won’t understand the reasoning of a person who does that.
It’s heartbreaking to see these things occur. The question many rally to answer is, what is going to heal this disease? More awareness, more education, more interaction, stricter laws. Need to discuss all of those.
But one of the biggest ways to heal this is by seeing what God says and does about these things.
The Bible speaks clearly about the hate that people have and how it can well up into oppression and murder. It condemns prejudice and hate. We also see God made all the nations in his image, and his desire is for them all to know and serve him. No race is excluded. No race is greater than the others.
God accepts all people who turn to him and trust him,
and we should welcome all people to know Jesus.
He accepts them, welcomes them, blesses them. And we want to do the same. And we want to share this gospel with all people!
If this is God’s heart then his followers ought to have their hearts in line with his heart, and that deals racism an ultimate death blow. That’s a death blow to racism. Love what God loves. Hate what he hates. There is no place for hatred, selfishness and pride.
We are going to see this message loud and clear in the conversion of a man named Cornelius. Cornelius is a Gentile. That is a non Jew. This was one of the great racial divides in history. Jews were not to even associate with Gentiles. But God breaks these manmade barriers down and brings people into direct relationship with him and one another. He speaks to Peter (a Jew) and tells him to go and share the love of Jesus with Cornelius. Peter didn’t know what to do with this call, but God shows him his plan of salvation for all people.
In the book of Acts we have seen Peter boldly deal with sickness and death, but how will he deal with racial and religious discrimination? The gospel has gone to the Jews, then to Samaritans (Jewish half breeds), but what about the Gentiles, the full-blooded pagans.
There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. 2 He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. 3 At about three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, “Cornelius!” 4 Looking intently at him, he became afraid and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he told him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, he called two of his household slaves and a devout soldier, who was one of those who attended him. 8 After explaining everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. 9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop at about noon. 10 Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something he went into a visionary state. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object coming down that resembled a large sheet being lowered to the earth by its four corners. 12 In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!” 14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and unclean!” 15 Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven. 17 While Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon’s house, stood at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon, who was also named Peter, was lodging there. 19 While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, “Three men are here looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and accompany them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.” 21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the one you’re looking for. What is the reason you’re here?” 22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and to hear a message from you.” 23 Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. 24 The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. 26 But Peter helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.” 27 While talking with him, he went on in and found that many had come together there. 28 Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean. 29 That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. So I ask, ‘Why did you send for me?'” 30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in a dazzling robe stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your acts of charity have been remembered in God’s sight. 32 Therefore send someone to Joppa and invite Simon here, who is also named Peter. He is lodging in Simon the tanner’s house by the sea.’ 33 Therefore I immediately sent for you, and you did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “In truth, I understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him. 36 He sent the message to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ— He is Lord of all. 37 You know the events that took place throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and curing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. 39 We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem; yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. 40 God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people, and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days. (Acts 10:1-48 CSB)
The passage begins with a man named Cornelius. He is non jew. He is an army commander that supports the reign of Rome. He would command between 300-600. But he knows about Yahweh, the God of the Jews.
This guy sees a vision of an angel and becomes afraid. When a marine is afraid that is significant. Cornelius is a man in authority and under authority, and he does what God tells him to do.
He does what he is told to do. He has been seeking God and now God calls him to do something. And he does it. He sends for Peter. If you seek after God don’t be surprised if he calls you to do something. You should be shocked if he doesn’t call you to do something. You may need to go to someone. You may need to have someone do something for you. You may need to make changes in your life. Don’t seek God and think you can go about your life as is.
33 Therefore I immediately sent for you, and you did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.”
Cornelius is a man known for his good works and charity. But charity and good works are not enough. God desires him to have an encounter with the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. God divinely orchestrates Peter to come tell him about this Jesus.
Is a Jew. God prepares Peter for what he is doing with a vision about food. That’s how you get a point across to guys. Peter is up praying and God has a word for him, too. He sees a net (sail) being let down with all kinds of animals in it and he is called to “Kill and eat.” This shocks Peter because he is a good Jew and doesn’t eat unclean things. He certainly doesn’t associate with unclean people.
So powerful is the work of Jesus that it changes the entire law Peter is used to living under. He can now eat bacon (don’t call it unclean) and don’t be surprised if gentile pigs end up at your dining room table!
“What God has made clean, you must not call common.”
Peter is having his world turned upside down. People he thought he shouldn’t associate with God are calling him into their houses and lives.
-V28 forbidden for a Jew to associate with a foreigner
This is a theme of Scripture. Occurs throughout the Bible. The most unlikely people are being called and used by God.
How many times has this happened. Jesus tells him to leave everything and follow him. Confused Jesus doesn’t conquer Rome. Confused Jesus leaves him. Confused on Jesus’ teaching. Now confused at what God is doing in the world. But Peter always pressed into God. There are times you will experience things you don’t understand. You are going to have things happen to you that you don’t like and that you don’t understand. Nothing … Too many people experience times where God doesn’t align with what they want and they assume God either doesn’t know what he is doing or doesn’t care about them. Peter takes the position God is all knowing and he needs to better understand him.
Church, you may have ideas of people who don’t belong in church. Color of the skin. Maybe it’s tatoos. God is able to break those, and I believe we should be praying for those people to come into the church. To experience the salvation in Jesus.
Some people say this passage is more about the conversion of Peter.
Peter is having to face the reality that much of what he believed in the past is not what God wanted. His racial prejudice. His narrowmindedness of who will receive the gospel. Whose house he would be entering to have dinner and who would be coming into his house. Peter could have said no, but he didn’t.
Don’t be too proud to not go. Don’t be too proud to tell God no and think it is going to be ok. Jonah was in the same city Peter is in now and he told God no he wouldn’t go, and Jonah suffered for it.
Some of you are not experiencing the fruit you would like in life because you are telling God no. He has said to go to someone and you have said no.
God is accepting people through Christ. The spirit comes upon Cornelius in an obvious way to show that God has truly accepted him.
Accepted: welcomed, received, pleasing. Speaking of food, if you order a steak medium rare and it comes out charred and dry like a stick of jerky, you are going to send it back. It is unacceptable. You won’t tolerate that. Only when things are right are they accepted. We all have made mistakes in life that makes us like burned steak before the Lord. Not worthy to be in his presence. But in Jesus we are made clean. Our blemishes wiped away. We are accepted.
God is freeing people in Jesus. Under the reign of Satan. God was with him and he could do this. God is with us. That’s the great commission. But are we following our Savior. How are we doing good to others? Are we praying for those under the power of Satan.
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and curing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him.
God meets those who earnestly seek him. Cornelius was by all accounts a good man, but he still needed to believe in and follow Jesus. God sent Peter to him to explain this. Doing good things is not synonymous with complete surrender to Jesus. Cornelius didn’t receive the empower of the spirit through his good works, but through faith in Jesus.
God doesn’t v34 . ‘To show favoritism. ‘to look only upon a person’s face,‘ proswpolnmptns. ‘to call a sparrow a chicken,’ or ‘to give one’s clansman the best piece of meat.’ People make decisions and judgments about others on superficial reasons. God looks at the heart. He discerns what is going on inside. He is changing both Cornelius and Peter through this event.
You have to see past the skin, past the hair, past the … That’s a person in God’s image. More than that.
Are you on board with this? Have you cut people off? I have had meetings with Christians who have said I can never be around someone who voted for ____. I could never be around someone who ___. Masks and Covid are the number one divisive issues in church. It has torn them apart. Are you willing to go to someone on the other side of the topic. Not just another race. Where have you made judgements about others? Where have you told God you won’t go?
Some of you have made decisions that you just are not going to reach out, to share the gospel with others because it is below you. You have failed the lesson God has for you.
If God is willing to accept someone then so should we. If God is willing to welcome then so should we. Don’t fold your arms and complain when God is arms wide open and smiling. You are going to feel like a chump.
Church, do you know the solutions for the problems in our community are found in Jesus. It’s not in anyone else. Only in him. God is calling us on a mission. I think many have told God no. They won’t do certain things or go to certain people. We need to get on board with what God is doing. We don’t have enough people doing the things we need to be doing. We can’t make excuses. If you can hand out tracts