Sermons

But God, Had Different Plans!

Sun, Jan 10, 2021
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Passage: Acts 10:24-48
Duration:30 mins 17 secs

Message text

But God Had Different Plans
Acts 10:24-48

INTRO: Good morning. As we continue in Acts today our scripture reference will be Acts 10:24-48.

We have all dealt with sales people or perhaps at some time in our life have been in sales. Sometimes being in sales can be extremely rewarding and sometimes very frustrating. I was reading an article on the sales profession recently and as I read through a portion on successful and unsuccessful techniques this story caught my eye. It seems a saleswoman despite her best sales pitch for life-insurance was unable to persuade a couple to sign up for a policy. As she stood up to leave she left her unconvinced clients with these words, "I certainly don't want to frighten you into a decision, please sleep on it tonight, and if you wake up in the morning, let me know what you think."... I suppose the point of the story is that some things need more consideration than others.

In Acts 10 we have the story of a devout man, a centurion. This centurion, Cornelius, had been visited by an Angel and instructed to get in touch with Peter. We all know the story. Cornelius sends messengers to Joppa to ask Peter to come to him. Peter in the meantime has had his own message from God. Peter received the men and then the following day went with them to Caesarea.

Some scholars have suggested that Peter's hospitality to the three messengers in Joppa indicates that he had already worked out God's intent for him to preach to the Gentiles. Others believe that the text doesn’t tell us if Peter fully understands the meaning of his visions yet, he is possibly still giving it some thought.

Luke goes on to tell us in Acts 10:24-26 - “And the morrow after, they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” [KJV]

I. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have ever met anyone whom I consider worthy of my falling at their feet, with the exception of Jesus Christ of course. I do know that in some countries if you meet royalty for example you’re expected to curtsy if you’re a woman or bow if you’re a man.

A. When Cornelius met the apostle Peter, having been told to send for Peter by an Angel, Cornelius fell down before him. However, Peter did not accept such adoration or encourage it in any way. Peter told Cornelius to get up because he too was only a man.
B. Do you remember in Acts 14 when the apostle Paul healed a man with crippled feet? When the crowd saw what had happened they shouted out in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" and they gave Paul and Barnabas new names and the priest from the temple of Zeus was going to offer sacrifices to their gods for Paul and Barnabas.
C. Luke tells us in Acts 14:14-15 – “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,”[NKJV] Paul and Barnabas wouldn’t accept worship because they were only humans. They, like Peter, knew where to draw the line.
D. Today we have godly men and women within the Lord’s church throughout the world who are worthy of respect. Some are worthy of respect because of their spiritual maturity, some because of their Biblical knowledge and some because of their good deeds. We should never put them up on a pedestal for everyone else to admire and praise though.
E. Peter was a man who had all these things I just mentioned, but he knew where to draw the line. Peter understood that he was an apostle of Christ and he also remembered where he came from. Do you recall where Peter came from? He was a humble fisherman who became a humble servant for Christ, but he was still a human being. He wouldn’t allow anybody to place him higher than anybody else.
F. He would have remembered Jesus’ own words in Mark 10:45 when Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...”

II. There’s nothing wrong with receiving encouragement from one another. Nothing wrong with that. There’s something seriously wrong when you accept that praise without giving God the credit for it. Perhaps that’s one reason why some preachers and teachers of God’s word become proud. Week after week they preach a sermon or teach a Bible class and people tell them how wonderful they are. It goes to their head and they cling to every single word of praise that someone tells them. Then they repeat those words to others. They end up wanting everyone to know just how wonderful they are.

A. You don’t have to be a preacher or teacher either, you could be someone who does good deeds and you end up wanting to tell everyone what you have been doing. You’re looking forward to hearing praise about yourself.
B. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5 - “...Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
C. Peter understood what it meant to be humble, that’s why he would not accept any bowing down from Cornelius. He also recognized that if Cornelius and his household were going to receive him, he wanted them to remember that he was simply a servant, sent to them by God.

III. Luke goes on to inform us what happened when Peter went inside Cornelius’ house. Acts 10:27-33 - “And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. "Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?'' And Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, "and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 'Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.' "So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.'' [NKJ]

A. I believe that now Peter has completely understood the meaning behind the visions.
B. You know I love those two little words there, ‘but God’ because it tells me that God is always one step ahead of our thinking. When you study the Bible notice how often man is proceeding one way and then you see the words ‘but God’
C. Paul says in Romans 5:7-8 - “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [NKJ] Paul says, you may have a good friend that might dare to die for you, but God proved that He loves you because Christ died for you.

IV. When Paul is writing to the church at Philippi, he tells them about Epaphroditus almost dying. {e-paf-row-di-tus]

A. He says in Philippians 2:27 - “For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” [NKJ] Paul says, you know Epaphroditus almost died, but God had different plans for him.
B. Peter in effect says in Acts 10 that “I shouldn’t even be here with you because you are Gentiles, but God has different plans”. This God-fearing centurion named Cornelius, his family and friends opened their hearts to receive the Lord’s commands from Peter.

V. Peter was taught a powerful lesson from God. A lesson that God had been showing His people for generations. Amos 9:7 - "Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?" declares the Lord. "Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?” [para]

A. In Micah 6:8 - “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. [para]
B. The lesson which Peter learned was that acceptability to God did not depend on nationality or descent, but upon character. In other words, you don’t need to become a Jew to please God.
C. Peter acknowledged that lesson when he says in Acts 10:34-35 - “... In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. "But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” [NKJ] Imagine the impact the words of Peter had on those that accompanied him to the home of Cornelius.

VI. Make no mistake about it, there is no such thing as a superior race in God’s eyes. Galatians 3:26-28 - “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A. Paul might have added, it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, from America, England, Mexico, Ghana or Botswana. It does not matter if you are slow of tongue or quick of wit, had a past of many sins or of few, we are all one in Christ. Do you remember in Matthew 16 when Jesus asked the disciples who the people thought Jesus was and then Jesus asks Peter who he thought Jesus was and Peter said that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God?
B. Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 - “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.''
C. Notice that Jesus says, ‘I will give you the keys’, plural. We all know what keys are used for, they are either used for locking or opening something up. In this case these keys were to be used to open the way back to the Father.
D. In Acts 2 when Peter first preached, he used one of those keys to open the way back to the Father for the Jews. What we’re about to see happening in Acts 10 is Peter using the other key to open the way back to the Father for the Gentiles.

VII. Acts 10:36-43 - “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ He is Lord of all "that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. "And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. "Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, "not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. "And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. "To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."

A. Peter never got tired of preaching the gospel, he began his sermon by preaching the simple gospel message he had already proclaimed to so many Jews. Peter says that first, the Jews had learned that Jesus was the means of man obtaining peace with God. For that to happen, Jesus had to be Lord, and master.
B. “... that word you know...” This is interesting because when you read the text, it comes across as if Peter presumed they had already heard of the preaching of Jesus which had spread through Judea and Galilee, beginning with the message of John the Baptist. Cornelius and his assembled friends were far from being raw pagans.
C. Peter presumed that they knew that Jesus was God's anointed and had performed numerous acts of kindness and healing. He tells Cornelius and those listening that he and the other apostles stood as witnesses of the good Jesus did and the terrible trial the Jewish leaders put Him through, followed by His death on the cross.
D. He goes on to tell them that they could also testify that God raised Him up and made Him known to certain witnesses, some of whom even ate with him. Then finally he tells those listening that the apostles were given a commission to testify that Jesus would ultimately judge both the living and dead. Peter says, the prophets had referred to the coming Messiah through whom, those believing on His name, could receive the remission of their sins.
E. This is the heart of Christianity. The facts Peter tells here are the cornerstone and foundation of all faith and doctrine in Christ. This is the essential theme that both launched and sustained the triumph of Christianity over the pagan religions of antiquity. The apostles did not preach what they had merely heard, but what they had heard and seen. One scholar put it this way: "This constant reference to eyewitnesses is an indication of the historical character of Christianity, and of the importance of Christian evidences."

VIII. Have you ever been trying to have a conversation with someone but you get interrupted? That’s what Luke records happened next. Peter is in the midst of a sermon when something truly miraculous happens. Acts 10:44-46 - “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”

A. Luke says that Peter was in full flow with his sermon when suddenly these Gentiles, who had never gotten rid of their uncleanness through circumcision and sacrifice, were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
B. There is no doubt that this event happened, because of the evidence. They spoke in tongues and magnified the name of God. Remember that the Jews thought that no one else was acceptable to God unless they were a Jew? This event clearly shows us that God has other plans.
C. This shows us that the Gentiles could now enter the church through baptism without first submitting to the requirements of the Law of Moses. You don’t have to wonder what this event means.
D. Peter understood full well what this event meant, that’s why he says in Acts 10:47-48 - "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?'' And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.”
E. In other words, Peter drew the obvious conclusion and asked how anyone could forbid these Gentiles the opportunity to obey Christ by putting Christ on in baptism. Notice when God gives a command people need to obey it. Luke says after the entire group had obeyed the Lord, they asked Peter and his companions to stay for a few days.

IX. I have heard many people who claim that Holy Spirit baptism is still happening today, and they use the events of Cornelius’ household as proof. I believe that Holy Spirit baptism as described in Acts was an experience unique to the first century.

A. Let me try and explain why. Like any good Bible student should do, we need to ask the question what was its purpose?
B. Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Joel in Joel 2:28-29 - foretold of a time when the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon “all flesh” or ”all people” “all mankind”, as some translations have it.
C. The expression “all flesh” is not referring to every individual human being. But the phrase “all flesh” embodies the two major segments of humanity, from that ancient vantage point. In other words, the Jews and the Gentiles.
D. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy, as recorded in Acts 2:16ff. When he did that, Peter was revealing that the prophecy was beginning to enjoy its fulfillment that very day. Since, however, only the apostles, all of whom were Jews, received this outpouring of the Spirit on that occasion, we need to look for a further pouring of the Spirit to fulfill Joel’s prophecy. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is metaphorically designated as a “baptism” because it involved an overwhelming, miraculous bestowal of divine power.
E. The final demonstration of “Holy Spirit baptism” occurred here in Acts 10. When Peter and his Jewish brothers visited the family of Cornelius in the city of Caesarea. The Spirit of God was “poured out” according to Acts 10:45 on Cornelius, his family, and near friends at that time, the Gentiles.
F. Later in Jerusalem when Peter is explaining the situation to other Jews, he tells them in Acts 11:15-17 - "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. "Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"
G. Peter defended the acceptance of the Gentiles to the Jewish Christians and he identified this experience with the events that occurred “at the beginning.” In other words, he says what happened to those gathered on Pentecost, happened to Cornelius’ household. Peter reminds them of John’s prophecy of a “baptism” in the Spirit; which Peter calls “the same gift” in Acts 11:17. Both the apostles on Pentecost, and the Gentiles during this incident, were empowered to speak with languages they previously had not known.

X. Let’s get back to the question, what was its purpose? Why did the apostles receive the Holy Spirit? The purpose for which the apostles received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was unique.

A. Remember the Lord promised His apostles that they would receive an unparalleled measure of the Spirit’s power to guide them in teaching the gospel. The Spirit would bring to their memory the things they had learned from the Savior according to John 14:26. He would guide them into all truth and declare unto them things to come according to John 16:13.
B. The Lord promised they would be able to proclaim his message, unfettered by the need of personal preparation; rather, gospel truth would be “given” to them as they required it according to Matthew 10:19-20. That is why the apostles received Holy Spirit baptism.
C. Why then did Cornelius’ household receive the Holy Spirit? First of all, it’s important for us to understand that the baptism of the Spirit at Cornelius’ house was different in design from the Holy Spirit baptism which the apostle’s received. The only thing which was the same was that they spoke in foreign languages.
D. There is no Biblical evidence that Cornelius or his household had the teaching powers like the apostles did. There’s no Biblical evidence to suggest that they could lay their hands upon other people, and pass on spiritual gifts like the apostles could. The purpose for Cornelius being granted the Spirit was to demonstrate to the Jews that God desired the gospel to be offered to the Gentiles.
E. This was evidenced by the fact that even Peter initially resisted the idea that the Gentiles could become Christians as we saw in Acts 10:14ff. This was also evident in the fact that the Jews of Jerusalem, when they learned of the matter, criticized Peter. We find that in Acts 11:2-3 - “And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
F. It was the miraculous demonstration of the Spirit upon Cornelius and his associates that turned the tide. The effect of this divine act of Gentile acceptance remains intact to this very day. There is no need for a modern, supernatural outpouring of the Spirit to accomplish the same purposes.
G. The divine manifestation of the Holy Spirit falling on those Gentiles of Cornelius' household was not for the purpose of saving them, in any sense, but for the purpose of convincing the apostle Peter and his companions of the propriety of welcoming the Gentiles into the church of God upon the same conditions as everyone else.
H. This is clearly evident in the next words of Peter in Acts 10:47-48 - "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?'' And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.”
I. I note that an angel of God told Cornelius that Peter would tell him words whereby he would be saved (Acts 11:14), and that in all of the words spoken by Peter there was but one commandment, that of requiring them to be baptized.

CONCLUSION: Holy Spirit baptism is not necessary to one’s salvation today, nor is it a demonstration of our salvation. It was a phenomenon of the first century, unique to those circumstances. When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians in A.D. 62 he confirmed that there was but “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5. Clearly he’s talking about “water” baptism, the very practice that was to continue “to the end of the age” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20. The Jews didn’t think that anyone else was acceptable to God unless they had been circumcised in the flesh and been converted to Judaism.

Aren’t we glad like our sermon title says; ‘But God’ had different plans? Aren’t we glad that God shows no favoritism between nations? I for one am very glad. Today we receive the “gift” of the Holy Spirit through water baptism. Acts 2:38.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.

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Reference Sermon
Mike Glover

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