GOD IN NOT ONE TO SHOW PARTIALITY – ALL SAINTS IN ONE FAMILY (THE CHURCH) – GOD IS NOT PREJUDICED – BUT PRIDEFUL MAN IS
From Adam and Eve, to all who lived before Abraham and the Jewish nation, even in the dispensation of the law (Moses), God loved the whole world; "red and yellow, black and white they are (all) precious in His sight." "And with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Rev. 5:9) God wants to break down all the sinful, prideful walls of racism, chauvinism, feminism, intellectualism and social and economic barriers. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) But mankind errs (sins) by either wanting to come together apart from Christ as seen in the tower of Babel and in the end times – one world religion and one world government (Rev. 17); or in prideful superiority exalting themselves over other races, the other gender, and other classes (economic, heritage, etc.). But our Lord prayed passionately: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me." (John 17:20-21)
We see in this passage how Peter, a Jew by birth and training, had to repent of his prideful prejudices against Gentiles as he had already had to do with Samaritans (half-Jews ; Acts 8:14-17). Here in Acts 10 God gave him a special grace through the vision of the sheet (a picture of the church) with clean and unclean animals in it (a picture of Jews and Gentiles together in Christ in the church). To Peter's credit he had already humbled himself and taken up residence with a tanner, and as we saw last week Jews would have nothing to do with tanners because they dealt with the skin of dead animals, making leather, and were ceremonially unclean. So he has overcome some of his prejudices already but going to the Gentiles was a huge hurdle to overcome.
When Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:18-19), some commentators say that this meant that Peter would open the door to the gospel according to Jesus' command in Acts 1:8: in Jerusalem (Peter preaching in Acts 2), in Judea and Samaria (Peter laying hands on the Samaritan believers to receive the Holy Spirit – Acts 8) and now to the ends of the earth (Peter preaching the gospel to Cornelius a Gentile, and his household and seeing them baptized in the Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, and then baptizing them in water as an outward sign of the inward reality of salvation here in Acts 10).
There are three key points of application and/or principles for us to learn from this: 1) all prideful prejudice is sinful; racial, gender, social; 2) we see how God prepares both the seeker to receive Christ (Cornelius through prevenient grace; the vision he received; Eph. 2:8-9) and how He prepares/calls the messenger (Peter or you and me) to share Jesus with the seeker (Rom. 10:14-15; Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20) and 3) that when we exalt Jesus Christ, the Spirit comes (Acts 10:34-48). As we exalt Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit inspires us and influences those hearing about the glory of Christ. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes… He will glorify Me." (John 16:14)
Last week we looked at the sin of prejudice so I will just briefly comment on that. ["The word prejudice is most commonly used to refer to preconceived judgments toward people or a person because of race, social class, gender, ethnicity, homelessness, age, disability, obesity, religion, marital status, or other personal characteristics. It also means beliefs without knowledge of the facts and may include "any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence." Wikipedia] This is what Jesus commands us not to do in Matthew 7 – to pridefully judge a person. Confession of this sin does not mean we simply admit to it; yes I admit I dislike, or prejudge _________. Confession means we agree with what God says about the sin. "I admit I pridefully prejudge this person or group as being inferior to me or more sinful than I am and I know God hates pride in any form, so I repent." "These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren." (See Prov. 6:16-19) Notice that pride tops the list of the seven things God hates.
This week I want to focus on point two and next week we will look at the third point of application; 2) how God prepares both the seeker to receive Christ (Cornelius through prevenient grace; the vision he received; Eph. 2:8-9) and how He prepares/calls the messenger (Peter or you and me) to share Jesus with the seeker (Rom. 10:14-15; Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20)
Cornelius the seeker: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) Scripture tells us that every person in the world has both knowledge of God and a knowledge of their sin in relationship to God: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:18-20) "Even Gentiles, who do not have God's written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God's law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim-that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone's secret life." (Rom. 2:14-16) "The true light (Jesus) that gives light to every man was coming into the world." (John 1:9) As people respond to the light – both the general revelation of God from the created cosmos (Rom. 1:18-20; Psalm 19) and the internal revelation of conscience (Rom. 2:14-16) as Cornelius did, God gives them more light: "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6) We see Cornelius "seeking God" (Jer. 29:13) through prayer and acts, and God "hearing" his prayer and raising up Peter to tell him about Jesus. Who may be the Cornelius in your life?
Peter the messenger: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Rom. 10:14-15) It is clear from Acts 11:14 that Cornelius was not saved until Peter preached Jesus to him. Verse 34 which says, "all who fear God and do right are welcome by Him or accepted by Him" does not mean that person is saved through good works. The thief on the cross feared God, had a seeking heart and even prayed (asked Jesus to remember him) but he had not done any good works except to believe. "Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:29) Like Peter, we may be surprised when God prompts us to share the gospel with a person we would not expect to be open or with someone we do not like, but may we be open and obedient to the Spirit as Peter was.
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I (Isaiah) said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah "heard" God asking for people to volunteer for His work of salvation and he signed up. Every believer in Christ is "called" by God to be a messenger of His saving grace through Jesus Christ. Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 apply to all believers. In Romans 10:14-15 (see above) the Spirit through Paul "calls" us all to have beautiful feet as we bring the good news of Jesus to the seekers in our life. There are many good tracts available to share the gospel but I have prepared a very simple one for you to personalize if you want to use it. (See Attachment) I encourage you to have beautiful feet
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) What is the difference between admitting we are prejudiced and confessing it as a sin? What is the sin behind prejudice and what does God say about it? Ask God to convict you of any prideful prejudice.
2) How about those who have never heard about Jesus? Is it fair for God to send them to hell? What do we know from Romans 1 and 2 (see above) that helps us answer this question?
3) How does God's prevenient grace and man's faith (seeking God) fit together for salvation as seen in the life of Cornelius? Please read Ephesians 2:8-9 for your discussion on this.
4) What does Jesus (Matt. 18:18-20; Acts 1:8), the Holy Spirit through Paul (Romans 10:14-15) and the example of Isaiah say to all believers in Christ? What part does prayer (for the seeker and the messenger) seem to play in this divine appointment? Do you pray for divine appointments? Would you pray about sharing the attached tract or another one you may have with at least one person this week?