The Speaking Spirit

Posted: October 21, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 10:1-23, “The Speaking Spirit”

An old TV commercial series from the 70’s-80’s used to advertise an investment/stock trading firm named EF Hutton. The scene would normally have a couple of people talking in a crowded room with no one paying attention to them, but when one of the men said the name of the company, everyone else would stop what they were doing & get close to eavesdrop, with the tagline: “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” The commercial may have been a bit overdramatic regarding a stock brokerage, but it made a good point: some voices carry more weight than others, and they need to be carefully heard.

If that’s true among men, how much more is it true with our God? No one’s voice carries more weight than that of the Creator of heaven and earth, and when He speaks we need to listen! The commands God gives are to be followed, and the teaching He gives is to be believed. God didn’t give us the Bible just so we could have nice decorated books in our homes; He gave it so that it would be read, believed, and obeyed, that we could be equipped to glorify God.

Question: can God speak in other ways beyond the Bible? Yes…He is God, is He not? He has done so in the past, and our God does not change. God will never contradict what He has already said in the Bible (because God cannot contradict Himself), but He can & does speak to His people today. Most often it’s through a still small voice, His leading during our times of prayer; other times it is more dramatic, such as through visions or other miraculous gifts. This is the plain teaching of Scripture, and exactly what is on display at the beginning of Acts 10 with Cornelius and Peter. God the Holy Spirit spoke to them, and they had the responsibility to hear His voice and obey.

Contextually, the gospel had been spreading throughout Judea and Samaria. Just as Jesus said it would (Acts 1:8), it had begun in Jerusalem, but due to the persecution of the saints, Christians took the gospel with them as they sought safer places of refuge. As it went to the greater regions of Judea and Samaria, the apostle Peter was a witness to both. He (along with John) had been called to help Philip in Samaria to pray for & witness the Samaritan’s baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Peter continued travelling around Judea ministering to the saints where he found them. Most recently, he had gone northwest from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean cost performing incredible miracles of healing, following in the footsteps of Jesus. Just like Jesus taught of the kingdom, so did Peter. Just like Jesus healed the lame and raised the dead, so did Peter. All glory and honor went to Jesus; Peter was just a servant being obedient to the opportunities given him by the Lord. (And Peter would continue in this same vein!)

As Acts 9 closed, it ended with Peter in the coastal city of Joppa, at the home of Simon the tanner (a leather worker). Peter remained with Simon “many days,” during which time the Lord was certainly preparing him for what was next to come. Just as tanners like Simon dealt with unclean animals, Simon Peter was about to deal with people he normally considered unclean. The key point for Peter to learn: once these people met Jesus, they would no longer be unclean. Jesus changes everything!

But before Peter could witness the transformation of others, his own heart required a bit of transformation of its own. God graciously did this work through a vision given to Peter – but Peter didn’t receive the only vision. Far away in Caesarea, another man received a vision as well. Both men were to have the Spirit speak to them, reminding them of the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Two men – two visions – one gospel, one glorious God of grace! Praise God that God the Holy Spirit spoke to each of them, giving them the chance to know and experience His grace.

The Spirit still speaks. Are you listening?

Acts 10:1–23

  • Cornelius’ Vision (1-8): God sees

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

  1. From Chapter 9, the scene changed from Joppa to Caesarea, approximately 35 miles north-northeast. There, the reader is introduced to a Roman soldier named Cornelius. He was a “centurion” (interestingly, a position always shown in a positive light in the New Testament), which meant that he was a commander of 100 men. (centurion ~ century ~ 100) The particular unit he served was “the Italian Regiment,” surely a name that would have been known to Luke’s readers, which some scholars have linked to a group of freedmen skilled in archery known to be in the area. The unit’s name matters less than its size – it was a Roman “cohort,” or a group of around 600 men. All of this is mentioned by Luke to demonstrate that Cornelius was a Roman of considerable authority and influence. He was known by Roman, Greek, and Jew alike – quite the contrast to the Galilean fisherman staying at the home of Simon the tanner.
  2. Cornelius was a powerful Roman, but he was a “good” Roman. Unlike other military leaders who abused their authority, Cornelius was as “devout” as a Gentile could get. Although scholars debate what kind of label best fits Cornelius, he was at least some type of “God fearer.” He was not a full-fledged proselyte, meaning that he had not formally converted from Roman paganism to Judaism, but it is unclear if he ever went to the Jerusalem temple or to the synagogue in Caesarea. Whatever the details, this much is clear: he “feared” the one true God. Cornelius worshipped God – he revered God – he respected God. Cornelius recognized God’s truth, power, and authority, seeing Him as the Almighty Creator worthy of worship and obedience simply because of who God is. People obey police officers not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because they fear receiving traffic tickets and jailtime. Likewise, we fear God – not in a “run and hide, horror-movie” kind of fear, but in a righteous God-is-holy kind of fear. God is worthy of our obedience & worship…He is worthy of our fear. (And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! Prov 9:10)
  3. How was Cornelius’ devotion and fear of God seen? Through his faith and his actions. He “gave alms generously…and prayed to God always.” He prayed & he gave. His was not a Sunday-morning-only faith where Cornelius walked into church (so to speak), put on his “church face,” spoke all the right words, fit in with the other church crowd, and then went back home to live the other 99% of his time as a pagan; Cornelius’ faith was true. It was pure – it was consistent. Cornelius’ prayers were habitual, embodying what Paul later wrote to the Thessalonians as “praying without ceasing,” (1 Ths 5:17). Cornelius’ giving was generous, going beyond the mere appearance of dropping a “fiver” in the offering plate or (on the other extreme) giving to the causes that would allow his name to be written on the side of a building (or pew). He gave alms to the people who needed it the most. As a centurion, he was likely wealthy – he used his wealth and his authority to comfort the people who had none.
  4. Bottom line: Cornelius was a deeply and sincerely faithful guy! He may have been a Roman Gentile, but his faith was deeper than many of the Jews around him. He loved the Lord God in his heart, and he loved his neighbor as himself. The only thing missing (crucially!) was the knowledge of Jesus. Although Cornelius was a religious man, he was still lost. He may have been “good” in the eyes of his neighbors, but he was still sinful in the eyes of God. God loved him, and would soon remedy this, but the fact remains that it needed to be remedied! Cornelius’ religion, as sincere as it was, did not save him. Religion doesn’t save anyone.
    1. The most common heresy today is that religion saves. The type of religion doesn’t matter; only a person’s heart & intentions. People think, “I’m a good person. I give gifts to the poor, I pray the best I can, I try to be kind to others and not harm them. I even believe in God (or at least some kind of god). Surely God will see my heart and let me into heaven!” Beloved, that is a false gospel…it’s heresy straight from the pit of hell. Religion does not and cannot save. “Religion” implies actions, and actions are important (just like they were with Cornelius), but our actions cannot save. Our good deeds cannot erase all of the bad deeds we’ve already done. Our good thoughts cannot undo our moments of hatred and envy. Our prayers cannot erase all our previous sinful pride and rebellion. All of our sin must be answered, and it can only be answered through punishment (death). Herein is the good news: Jesus took our punishment! When Jesus died on the cross, He died for all your bad deeds, your bad thoughts, your sinful pride, rebellion, and more. Jesus died for it all, satisfying the wrath of God that was due toward you & me. Now He offers salvation…receive it!
  5. All of this was yet to be revealed to Cornelius. At the moment, all he knew is that he worshipped and feared the true God, and he tried to serve God the best way he knew how. Thankfully, God knew what Cornelius didn’t, and God reached out to Cornelius in grace.

3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” …

  1. At 3:00pm, Cornelius was apparently praying (like other Jews of the day), and that’s when he had a vision, and saw an angel. The NKJV rather sanitizes the account, making it seem as if Cornelius casually looked up at the angel and then gradually grew afraid…that’s not likely the case. The ESV translates it: “he stared at him in terror”…likely far more accurate! The word for “observed” refers to intent staring, to fix one’s eyes upon something. Imagine being in Cornelius’ place: there you are, in your daily afternoon prayers – perhaps on your knees in your home. Suddenly, a presence fills the room, your eyes get wider & wider until you realize you are looking at a heavenly angel, direct from the glorious throne room of God. That you would be “afraid” is a vast understatement! It’s one thing to fear God in devoted worship; it is something else to gaze directly upon His glory. Those who did, declared woe upon themselves knowing that no one is able to see God and live (Exo 33:20). It can be dialed back a touch when viewing an angel of God, but only by the smallest amount. The Biblical record shows that people who see angels routinely feared for their lives, and Cornelius was no different. He was emphatically afraid, and responded to the angel in the most respectful terms: “What is it, lord?” Although the word used for “lord” can (and often does) refer to Almighty God as the ultimate Lord of lords, it can also be used for “sir,” or a title of great honor and respect. Considering that Cornelius feared the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is unlikely he would have addressed the angel as the Lord God (unless he believed he spoke to the ancient Angel of the Lord) – this was most likely the simple, yet respectful, “sir.” “What do you need, sir? I am here, and listening.”
  2. In all of Cornelius’ fear, don’t miss the best part: the angel knew his name. Cornelius was praying when he not only saw the angel, but heard the angel – and the angel addressed him by name. So what? So if an angel of God knew his name, GOD knew his name! Remember Cornelius was a Gentile. A devout, sincerely religious Gentile perhaps, but a Gentile nonetheless. Cornelius was outside the covenant of God, and due to his sins, he was a rebellious enemy against God (even though Cornelius was doing his human best to live differently). Cornelius had no right to be known by God, no expectation to be known by God, but God knew God knew his name – and God knew far more.

… So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.”

  1. God not only knew Cornelius’ name; God knew Cornelius. God knew his actions and his heart. Although Cornelius’ devout religious acts did not purchase him any salvation or heavenly favor, God was still well aware of them. God knew the prayers of this devout Gentile – God saw every generous gift given by this Roman centurion. He knew that Cornelius was a man that feared God and was seeking God. That was not something God wanted to punish; it was something God wanted to reward. Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Cornelius feared the true God, but he did not yet know God in truth because he did not yet know of Jesus. That wasn’t his fault; it was just the fact. But again, that was something God could remedy. God knew that Cornelius had a heart of faith, and that Cornelius was seeking to know God in truth. To that, God would not turn away!
    1. Jesus doesn’t turn away those to run to Him in faith! Unlike Cornelius, you cannot say you have never heard of Jesus. Even if you had been ignorant of Jesus to this point in your life, already this day you’ve sung of Him, prayed to Him, heard His word, and heard His gospel. You’ve forever lost any excuse of ignorance of Christ. But the good news is that you can turn to Him today! When you go to Jesus in true faith, you don’t have to guess whether or not He will choose to save you; if you go to Him in faith, He will save, because He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him! He rewarded the Roman Gentile Cornelius; He will reward you, too.
  2. God knew Cornelius, and God had a plan for Cornelius. God didn’t tell Cornelius the whole plan at first; He gave Cornelius a single task to help him get started in faith. The centurion was to send some of his servants to Joppa and ask for Peter. And since they didn’t know where Peter would be in the large city, God even gave the angel an address to pass on to Cornelius. Ultimately, the plan of God was to allow Cornelius to hear of Jesus, but God wanted him to hear it from Peter (and God wanted Peter to see it done). But God didn’t share any of that just yet…He just gave Cornelius the very beginning step. And this was a step of faith! Remember that Joppa was roughly 35 miles south of Caesarea. That’s a long way to send his servants on a blind mission to pick up some stranger, to bring him back home for some unknown message simply on the word of an angel.
    1. God might call us to some unusual things – things that don’t make a lot of sense in the moment. What do you do? Obey! Trust that God knows what He’s doing, and knows why He commands what He’s commanding. What you don’t understand now might be very clear later. But you’ll never know unless you step out in faith. Consider for a moment what would have happened if Cornelius had done the “sensible” thing and ignored the vision. He could have written it off to an overactive imagination – an overzealous time of prayer – perhaps a dream, or some sort of illness. After all, sending servants off to go track down some stranger in a city 35 miles away was foolish. What would other people think of him as a leader, if he commissioned his servants to do something like that? Many people today might have had a similar reaction (perhaps many of us!). If that had been Cornelius, he would have missed out on the gospel – perhaps missing his only opportunity to be saved. How tragic it would have been for Cornelius to have done the “sensible” thing! Of course, the only real course of action that makes any ‘sense’ is to obey the word of God! What God calls you to do, do! Don’t hold back…step out in faith, and trust the Living God whom you serve!

7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

  1. Cornelius didn’t hesitate. He responded with full, immediate obedience. He told them what had happened to him, setting it forth in great detail, holding back nothing. (Even the most incredible parts!) With those instructions, he sent off his servants to find this Simon Peter and to hear what Peter had to say.
  2. BTW: Note that Cornelius’ faith had influenced those who were with him. In verse 2, Luke wrote that Cornelius “feared God with all his household,” and that apparently included more than the members of his family, but also those who served under his command. His own worship of God inspired those who were with him to worship God as well. Would we all have a contagious faith!

That’s the account of one vision in Judea, but it wasn’t the only vision that was to be had that week. Just as God reached out to a yet-unsaved Gentile through supernatural means, so would He reach out to saved believer in Christ through similar methods. 

  • Peter’s Vision (9-23): God saves

9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance

  1. The following day, Peter also prayed, this time at noon. Typically, Jews prayed twice per day (morning & evening), but it wasn’t unusual for some Jews to pray three times per day (Daniel 6:10). Interestingly, the vision to Peter did not occur at the same time as Cornelius, or even at the very next “scheduled” time of prayer (morning). Instead, God waited until noon…which was exactly the right (God doesn’t work according to our schedule; He works according to His own!)
  2. Noontime prayer, Peter was ready for lunch, probably smelled the food being prepared, and it sent him into a “” Be careful not to get the wrong idea. This wasn’t an occult practice or other demonic experience. This wasn’t drug-induced or a physical hallucination. This was an astonishing vision! (ἔκστασις ~ “ecstasy”). (NIDNTT) “The behavior of a person who is no longer controlled by his normal reason. ἔκστασις means basically that a person has been brought out of his normal routine and outlook by the experience of a power or experience outside him.” This isn’t to say that Peter was temporarily insane; just that what happened to him didn’t normally happen to him. Trances were not everyday occurrences to Peter. Just because he was an apostle didn’t mean he experience daily miracles (other than the miracle of being saved). But in this particular case, it was like he was outside himself. Paul later had a similar experience of which he wrote to the Corinthians in which he saw heaven, but whether he was in the body or out of the body, he did not know (2 Cor 12:2). As with Peter, this wasn’t normative. They can happen, but they don’t often happen.
    1. Be careful of TV preachers and others who claim all kinds of these kinds of experiences for themselves. Paul was reluctant to write of his vision at all (2 Cor 12:1), and we wouldn’t have known of Peter’s vision apart from the fact that it was necessary to tell how God took the gospel to the Gentiles. People who boast in these experiences are really boasting of themselves…which indicates that what they claim to have experienced wasn’t likely of God.
  3. Peter did have a true vision. What was it he saw? 

11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

  1. Peter saw a massive sheet lowered from heaven full of non-kosher animals. As a practicing Jew, Peter followed the dietary rules of the Hebrews, laid out in Leviticus 11 (among other passages). There, God gave Moses and the Hebrews very specific guidelines on what animals could be eaten, and which ones were considered unclean. Although sometimes the distinction was based on health reasons (such as the restriction on pork, as undercooked pork can be dangerous), other times it appears to be purely random. Typically, the mammals allowed to be eaten were naturally herbivores, whereas the carnivores were considered unclean. For all the variation in the list of animals, observant Jews knew them well because violating the command meant that they themselves would be considered unclean, and they would have to be purified before they would be allowed to worship.
  2. With that in mind, Peter was commanded by “a voice” (presumably God, based on verse 15) to “rise…kill and eat.” Whatever was included in the sheet, the Jewish Christian Peter was directly commanded to touch these unclean animals, shed their blood, and consume them as food. He was told to go from kosher to Cajun in an instant: eat the pork, the shellfish, and whatever else was included in the sheet (unclean birds, bugs, and beasts). It’s no wonder Peter reacted in shock the way he did! 

14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

  1. Again, at first glance, Peter’s objection is reasonable. All his life he had been told that certain foods were abominations, strictly forbidden for the children of Israel. The command in Scripture was clear: God was holy, so His people were to be holy – they were to be consecrated unto God, not defiling themselves with unclean foods (Lev 11:44). In his objection, Peter truly believed he was being faithful unto God. How could he think of defiling himself in such a way?
  2. Upon further reflection, think about what Peter was doing: he was arguing with God! The Lord had given him a direct command, and Peter said “no.” Of course, it wasn’t the first time! Moments after declaring by faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt 16:16), Peter attempted to chastise Jesus for prophesying of the cross (Mt 16:22). On the night of the Last Supper, when Jesus got ready to wash the disciples’ feet, Peter flat out denied Jesus the opportunity until Jesus said that unless Peter allowed it, Peter would have no part with him (Jn 13:8). That same night, Peter argued with Jesus again regarding the prophecy of Peter’s denial (Lk 22:33). Peter had a sad habit of arguing with the Lord!
    1. Peter isn’t the only one. We, too, have the same sad habit! How often does God command us something in His word, and we say “no”? How many times have we shut our hearts to the leading of the Holy Spirit? That’s just as much an argument with God as Peter’s. How arrogant we can be, to think that we know better than the Lord of all Creation!
  3. Peter should have said “yes” to the Lord, but it brings up an important question: Had God changed His mind? In Peter’s vision, was God contradicting what God had already proclaimed through Moses in Leviticus 11? God had not changed His mind, nor was He contradicting His written word. To be sure, the issue of ritual purity had already been addressed by Jesus when addressing some objections from the Pharisees of their complaints that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands in the same manner as other Jewish traditions. To them, Jesus replied that it wasn’t what went into a person’s mouth that defiled him, but what came out of it: Matthew 15:18–20, “(18) But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (20) These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” True uncleanness is uncleanness of the heart; not the diet. What is in a person’s heart can be far more defiling than what’s on his plate. Even so, Peter’s vision was not God changing the guidelines for the covenant nation of Israel, nor was it a contradiction with anything that God inspired to be written as Scripture. How so? Because no matter what was in the sheet lowered from heaven, it was lowered from heaven, given to him by God: God had made it clean. It may have been originally been impure and an abomination, but with the grace and word of God, God cleansed it. Everything in that sheet was fundamentally changed, due to the grace of God. If Peter had picked up one of those animals in the wilderness apart from God, it would have remained impure, but when those animals came from the Lord, they were totally pure. God cleansed them.
    1. God can make anything (anyone) clean! Our background doesn’t matter – our family histories are irrelevant – no matter how sinful, how evil, how perverted and impure we were in our past, God can cleanse us all! The grace of God, extended through Jesus Christ, purifies us totally, completely, from the inside-out. Through Christ we become new creations – through Christ, we are born-again – through Christ, we are clean! To Israel, God invited them to receive of His grace: Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” That same invitation is for us! Have you been cleansed? Have you been transformed? God can do it! He does it every single day, to the praise of His glory!
    2. Consider it, too, as a born-again believer in Jesus. Have you called what God has cleansed, unclean? Have you doubted the work of Jesus in your own life, thinking there was no way He could have cleansed you? You know you have no hope without Jesus, you surrendered your life to Him, but you also messed up…bad. You think you sinned so terribly that there’s no way Jesus could still save you. Beloved, Jesus cleanses! Anyone who is in Jesus is new; it doesn’t mean that everyone is perfect. Christians still struggle & fall, but one fall into sin doesn’t mean a loss of salvation. It doesn’t mean that Jesus hasn’t cleansed us from death. To be sure, a habitual lifestyle of sin is a flashing red siren and warning that someone’s profession of faith may very well be false, and that person is in need of true repentance and surrender to Christ – it’s crucially important for that person to examine his/her own faith very carefully. But if we are in Christ, then we are cleansed by Christ. We are forgiven – not just for our sins of the past, but of the present & the future. Jesus’ death at the cross paid for all of our sins for all of our lives. Yes, our fellowship with God will be broken from time to time (which is restored by confession and repentance, 1 Jn 1:9), but our ultimate cleansing from death will not be undone.
    3. As for Peter, the vision was preparation for what was soon to follow: Gentiles would receive the gospel of Jesus, and they too would be cleansed by Christ. Although Peter didn’t yet know it, the danger for him would be continue calling unclean what God had cleansed. The danger remains for us today. Sometimes it seems that there is a fine line between judging heresy and judging fellow believers, between essential and non-essential doctrine. We can come to different conclusions about certain Scriptures without judging one another as unsaved heretics. There’s a big leap between the two! It doesn’t mean that everyone’s own opinion is right (it’s not!), but when it comes to non-essential doctrine (gifts, end-times, predestination, freewill, etc.) it doesn’t mean that they are unsaved & thus uncleansed.
  4. The vision was repeated two more times as confirmation and for emphasis. Sadly, it also meant that Peter argued with the Lord two additional times as well. It’s tough to blame Peter…sometimes it takes all of us a while to get it!

17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.

  1. Cornelius’ men arrived while Peter was still on the rooftop. The men had followed Cornelius’ instructions to the letter, asking for the house of Simon the tanner by the sea, and once arriving, asking for Simon, surnamed Peter. They had left the day before, spent the night on the road, and arrived at the house just past noon the next day, right as Peter’s vision was concluding & while he thought the whole thing through. Suddenly, it’s clear why God waited until that moment to give Peter the vision! God’s timing is wonderful! 

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”

  1. Peter didn’t hear the men arrive, even though he was only a few feet (yards?) away from them on the flat rooftop as they asked for him by name. He was too caught up in his consideration of the vision.
  2. That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to him, getting Peter’s attention, and giving personal, comforting instruction to him. We can imagine how it might have been somewhat unsettling for Peter to have three Romans show up (one being a solider), asking for Peter by name – especially having found him far from anywhere that Peter would have normally been found. After all, it’s not as if Peter made a call from a cell phone & had the Roman version of the NSA track his location. Anyone asking for Peter by name at the house of Simon the tanner in Joppa would have been unusual; the fact that it was three Romans was even more so. The words of the Holy Spirit would have been especially welcome & comforting to Peter! He could proceed, being assured that all of this was from God, and God’s plan was in motion.
    1. Keep in mind that the Spirit is not recorded here as promising Peter that he wouldn’t be arrested or face any sort of trial. Peter’s simply told that God the Holy Spirit had sent the men. This was God’s plan; it wasn’t necessarily a promise of ease. Thankfully, it would turn out easy for Peter this time, but that wasn’t a guarantee. Even so, it was still a comfort. The assurance is that something is according to the will of God. That alone, is enough!
  3. Again, don’t miss the fact that the Holy Spirit spoke. This was something seen in Philip’s previous encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29). Although many well-meaning Bible teachers claim that the Holy Spirit never speaks or calls attention to Himself, that’s plainly not the Biblical record. Although the Holy Spirit does primarily testify of Christ, He is not silent. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd Person of the Trinity, just as much God as the Father and the Son. Should the Spirit wish to speak, the Spirit is fully capable of doing so and has every right to do so. (We need to beware putting limits upon God that the Scripture does not!)

21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

  1. Peter had known to go downstairs and greet the men – he even knew he was supposed to go and travel with the men, yet he still asked the reason for their arrival. Why? Simple: Peter knew he was supposed to go; he didn’t know the reason why he was supposed to go. It’s not that he was unwilling; he was rightly curious. His willingness to go was demonstrated by his arrival downstairs at the door.
    1. Don’t use your questions as an excuse for disobedience!
  2. The men told him their story, and it was easy to be believed in light of everything the Holy Spirit had already revealed. Peter invited them in, invited them to supper, and invited them to stay the night. Generous hospitality?
  3. It had taken the men nearly two days to arrive, so by the time they got done eating it was too late to begin the journey. They started up the next day, Peter taking several other Christians from Joppa with him. They would serve as other witnesses…something which was greatly needed, considering what awaited them in Caesarea. What they were about to see would rock the Jerusalem church as they witnessed a new phase opening in the Great Commission!
  4. Bottom line: like Cornelius, Peter was fully obedient. In his vision, Peter argued with the Lord, but when given the chance outside his vision, Peter acted. What the Holy Spirit commanded him to do, he did. The opportunity God opened to him, he followed. Like Cornelius, Peter also received only a small portion of information of what lay ahead. There was a massive hint of it within Peter’s vision, but he could not have truly known what to expect until he saw it with his own eyes. In order for him to understand, Peter had to take a step of faith. He had seen a vision from God, heard the command from the Holy Spirit, but that wasn’t enough. Now he needed to follow through in obedience…and he did.

Conclusion:

Two men of two vastly different backgrounds were given two visions – both from the same God, both leading to the same end: the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Cornelius had a vision confirming God saw him, and Peter had a vision confirming that God can save anyone. The Spirit spoke to both of them, leading them step-by-step towards the fulfillment of His plan for them. They each listened to the Spirit, and they obeyed His voice and command.

Listen to the Spirit! But do more than listen, obey! We dare not be hearers only; we need to follow through on what the Lord gives us to do. That means we trust Him. We step out in faith on the tasks and opportunities He gives us, and we follow them through to the next step. We might not understand everything all at once, but we faithfully follow the Lord Jesus who understands all. It’s His plan, and He can be trusted!

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