Script for the July 1st episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.

Introduction

Welcome to the July 1st episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.

Today’s reading is Job 20-21 and Acts 10, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.

If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at mattellis1997@gmail.com. I may answer it on the next podcast.

Acts 10

The book of Acts begins with Jesus saying His final words before ascending to Heaven. In one of His last statements, Jesus told His followers to be witnesses of Him. They were to tell others what they had seen and heard. They were to begin locally and move farther and farther out until they had told the whole world.

Acts 1:8 (CSB): “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This verse has served as something of an outline for the book of Acts. The 120 disciples were huddled in an upstairs room in Jerusalem in Acts 1.

Then, the Word naturally fanned out to Judea because it was the region around Jerusalem.

Then, in Acts 8:1, we read that the Gospel had made its way to Samaria.

Acts 8:1 “… On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.”

Then, we read in Acts 8:5 that Philip, one of the deacons in the church in Jerusalem, traveled to Samaria and preached the Gospel. Later in the chapter, we read that the church in Jerusalem sent Peter and John, who agreed that God was saving people in Samaria. So it wasn’t just that the Gospel was known in Samaria; individual Samaritans were being saved.

When we get to Acts 10, we are in the final concentric circle mentioned in Acts 1:8. The people beyond Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria were Gentiles. So it is in Acts 10 that we read of a prominent Gentile being saved. The “ends of the earth” are beginning to hear about Jesus as Gentiles are trusting in Him as their Lord and Savior.

In Acts 10:1, we are introduced to the man who represented the Gentiles. His salvation will make clear that the Gospel is available to the world.

Acts 10:1 (CSB): “There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment.”

Cornelius was a centurion, which meant that he was a Roman officer in command of about 100 soldiers. He was residing in Caesarea Maritima, or Caesarea by the Sea. It was located about 37 miles north of Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea.

We’re told that Cornelius was a very good man.

Acts 10:2 (CSB): “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.”

We may be tempted to say that Cornelius was saved at this point. But he was not. He’s lost. How do we know that he is not yet bound for Heaven? Just listen to a portion of Peter’s account of God’s vision to Cornelius.

Acts 11:14 (CSB): “He will speak a message to you by which you and all your household will be saved.”

So, Cornelius wasn’t saved until Peter showed up at his house and shared the Gospel. That didn’t happen until later (verse 24).

The fact that Cornelius wasn’t yet saved causes us to sit back and reflect when we read verses 3-4. We are told in the following verses that God had heard Cornelius’ prayers and was responding to them. Yet, Cornelius wasn’t yet saved. God was listening to the prayers of a lost man.

Acts 10:3-4 (CSB): “About three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, ‘Cornelius.’ Staring at him in awe, he said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ The angel told him, ‘Your prayers and your acts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God.’”

What are we to make of this? Does God listen to the prayers of unbelievers?

The short answer is that God generally doesn’t listen to the prayers of unbelievers. He hears the words, but He has no covenantal obligation to effectually hear and answer.

Some might quote John 9:31, which says, “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners…” Yet, if you look more closely at the context of John 9, you will realize that an unsaved man said that. He said those words but wasn’t saved until verses 35-38. So, the words he said aren’t to be taken as a theological truth.

What we see in Acts 10 is God’s common grace. That simply means that God is so gracious and loving that He often expresses His kindness to unbelievers. He extends grace to someone simply because He delights to do so.

So, does God hear the prayers of sinners? A careful look at Scripture would lead us to answer this way: “Most of the time, God refuses to effectually hear the prayer of unbelievers. Yet, there might be rare occasions when God chooses to graciously listen to the prayers of unbelievers and answer them simply to illustrate His goodness.”

Getting back to our story in Acts 10, we are told that the angel in Cornelius’ vision told him to locate Peter in Joppa and have him come to Caesarea Maritima.

Cornelius shared the details of his vision with two of his servants and a soldier who was also serious about following the Lord. The fact that he told them about his vision rather than simply demanding that they go get Peter seems to show that he respected those who worked for him. He didn’t demand mindless compliance; he respected them enough to tell them why he was sending them. I can only imagine that his leadership was a joy to serve under.

As Peter was waiting on the rooftop for the meal to be cooked, God gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from Heaven with all sorts of animals. The Lord told him, “Get up, kill, and eat.”

Peter resisted. He explained to the Lord that he had never eaten anything “impure and ritually unclean.” Peter was acting as if the Lord was less holy than him. He acted as if the Lord was tempting him to sin.

In Peter’s mind, he couldn’t imagine violating the Old Testament dietary laws. He had strived to live by them and was shocked that God was now telling him to violate those laws.

Peter thought God was calling for disobedience to the Old Testament dietary laws. Instead, God was laying those laws aside. They didn’t apply anymore.

But there was something else that God was illustrating in this vision. But that other meaning, which is primarily what God was illustrating, will take a bit to soak in. We’ll discover it in just a few moments.

When Peter refused to eat the animals in his vision, the Lord said something very important.

Acts 10:15 (CSB): “Again, a second time, the voice said to him, ‘What God has made clean, do not call impure.’”

So God told Peter that there were food items that he (Peter) thought were unclean, but God had pronounced them clean. This would lead Peter to believe that he needed to do a self-check. He needed to ask himself: “What other things would I declare ‘unclean’ that God would say is clean?”

Acts 10:17-18 (CSB): “While Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, right away the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon’s house, stood at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon, who was also named Peter, was lodging there.”

As Peter was wondering what God meant by declaring “clean” what Peter thought was “unclean,” some “unclean” Gentiles knocked on the door downstairs. The reader is becoming aware of what God was really saying in the rooftop vision as the awareness was also coming to Peter.

Peter went downstairs with the Holy Spirit’s prompting and asked the men what they wanted. They recounted Cornelius’ vision of an angel, saying to get Peter to go to Caesarea and listen to whatever message he gave.

I suspect that Peter probably understood exactly what God was illustrating in that vision of the blanket and animals by this point. Why? Because he, a “clean” Jew, invited “unclean” Gentiles into his Jewish dwelling, not to mention that they were part of the occupying army. This is something that no self-respecting Jew would ever do.

Acts 10:23 (CSB): “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.”

The next day, Peter left Joppa and took the 37-mile road trip with the three men and six of his companions. Cornelius was waiting on him. He had gathered a large crowd of relatives and friends who were ready to hear whatever Peter would tell them.

When Cornelius first saw Peter, he fell down to worship. But Peter’s humility and love for the Lord and others caused him to immediately respond. He quickly pulled Cornelius up and told him that he was a man just like him. In other words, he should not be worshipped.

Peter started his message to the group by acknowledging that ordinarily, Jews wouldn’t mingle with Gentiles. Yet, the Lord had revealed to him in a vision that he “must not call any person impure or unclean.”

Cornelius shared the contents of his vision with Peter. He and his group were ready “to hear everything (Peter) had been commanded by the Lord.”

Acts 10:34-36 (CSB): “Peter began to speak: ‘Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.”

After hearing Cornelius, Peter acknowledged that the Lord had clearly broken down the dividing wall between Jew and Greek. Paul would later acknowledge in Galatians 3:27-29 that when people are kneeling at the foot of the cross, there is no dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. We’re on equal footing.

In verses 37-41, Peter appealed to the gathered crowd’s memory of Jesus. They knew of the events that took place in Jerusalem and Galilee, where Jesus was baptized, engaged in ministry, and then died and rose again. Peter acknowledged that he was an eyewitness to what he was talking about.

Then, Peter drove the point home that Jesus was going to judge every single person one day. So, everyone had better be ready. The only way to be ready was to trust in Him and be forgiven of their sins.

Acts 10:42-43 (CSB): “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.”

This is the application of the Gospel. Knowing that Jesus died and rose again to pay the sin debt of every single person who will trust in Him isn’t enough. We have got to actually place our trust in Him. We have to stop trusting in ourselves and our supposed “good deeds” and transfer our trust to Him, who will pay our sin debt to a holy God.

Acts 10:44-46 (CSB): “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and declaring the greatness of God…”

Did you notice that Cornelius and the new believers in the room spoke in tongues? This is what happened in Acts 2. But the purpose of Acts 2 was to get the Gospel out to people who didn’t know the language that the disciples spoke. So, the Lord gave the disciples the supernatural ability to speak in another language to get the Gospel out.

With that being the case, what was the purpose of Cornelius and his group speaking in tongues? The answer is that it simply demonstrated to Peter and the Jews in the room that God had given the same experience to the Gentiles that the Jews had experienced in Acts 2. The Gospel had torn down the dividing wall, and they had all experienced Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the same way.

Consequently, there is only one more instance of someone speaking in tongues in the rest of Acts. It happened in Acts 19, and we’ll talk about it when we get to that chapter. But the general theme seemed to be that the gift of languages was for the early days of the church and became unnecessary as the church grew.

Peter instructed that these new Gentile believers should be baptized. They needed to take the first step of obedience after they trusted in Jesus and “go public” with their faith by being immersed in water in the name of Jesus.

After their baptism, the new believers asked Peter to stay on a little while longer. We assume that they wanted instruction on how it was that they were to think and live as new believers in Jesus.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, there is racism and allegations of racism all around us. We aren’t naïve, and so we know that there has been plenty of legitimate signs of racism within the Christian community. But a simple reading of Your Word makes it clear that those manifestations of racism do not align with the truth of Your Word. You have told us that You made all of us in Your image. We all come from Adam and Eve and then from Noah and his wife. Further, the Gospel brings us even closer together.

So help us never to be guilty of looking down our nose at someone else because of anything that makes them different from us. Help us, instead, to operate from a legitimate Christian worldview by seeing others as people worthy of our love and respect. And enable us always to be ready to share the eternity-altering Gospel with those who need to hear it.

We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Closing

I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.

The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you next time!