While praying on a rooftop in Joppa Peter received an amazing vision. God spoke to him three times in that vision, but afterward he had no idea what Hed been trying to tell him. It had remained a puzzling mystery until the moment he stepped into the home of a Roman soldier. As he stood there looking at their faces and feeling Gods presence in the room, he instantly understood. In fact he finally understood something Jesus tried to teach him years earlier. So this was what He meant when He kept preaching about reaching Gentiles. Hed tried to understand, but it just never made sense before. Now, at last, he could see it, and it was so clear he marveled he hadnt seen it before. Two days earlier when the messengers arrived at the gate he knew God wanted him to trust these strangers and go with them, so he left Joppa and came to Caesarea, and now here he was, only a short distance away from Herod Agrippas palace, in the living room of one of the officers of his palace guard. The sensation he felt at that moment was not unlike the time he stepped out of the boat and walked on water. It was both frightening and exhilarating at the same time. His life could be at risk, and he had to violate his conscience to even be here. After all, Jews werent supposed to be in Gentile homes. But here he was
and amazingly, Jesus was here too. And finally, he understood why.
What happened (Ac 10:1-36) DBS
The gift of obedience (Jas 1:23, 24)
Peter didnt understand Gods revelation until he obeyed Gods instruction. Nor do we. Seeing or hearing a truth isnt the same as understanding it. Even when God speaks a truth directly to us we cant comprehend it. His thoughts are too great for us. But if we obey what He has told us to do, we find His will leads us to a place where we experience truth, where we actually watch it in action, and in that environment He opens our eyes to see as He sees and softens our hearts to feel what He feels
and we finally understand. And then, like Peter, once weve truly seen it we dont know how we ever missed it.
Jas 1:23, 24 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
Mt 10:1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out
Lk 10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.
When He commissioned them they heard the truth, but when they returned they believed the truth.
In front of Peters eyes Jesus had ministered to Gentiles, entered their homes (Mk 7:24), touched lepers, etc. He had constantly been in trouble for violating Jewish ceremonial laws (never the moral laws) because He said ministering Gods love to sick, needy people was more important. In fact, in one event, He even pronounced all foods clean (Mk 7:19). He said, Its not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth that defiles the man (Mt 15:11). And it was Peter himself who had asked Him to explain that parable (Mt 15:15). Yet when presented with a vision of unclean food, three times Peter defiantly refused to obey Gods command to eat (Ac 10:13-16). He had heard a truth, but he hadnt understood it.
What Peter saw
As he stood in Cornelius home Peter finally believed that though God had made a covenant with the people of Israel, He is still the God of all the peoples of the earth; that even though a person does not have a great deal of revelation, if they love the true God, and sincerely try to obey Him, He receives their worship and listens to their prayers; and that God will go to great lengths to teach people about Himself. He now saw at a deeper level that God is a God who wants to save, and is looking all over the earth for people willing to walk in faith with Him. Thats how Abraham came to Him in the first place, and now He was drawing to Himself a household of spiritually hungry Romans right in front of Peters eyes and in that moment Peter had to let go of his sense of cultural separation and superiority that had been taught to him since he was born.
Why God chose Peter
Though Jesus had clearly commanded His disciples to carry the gospel to the Gentiles (Lk 24:46, 47; Ac 1:8) their cultural prejudices were so strong they simply didnt obey Him. They were caught in a dilemma. He said to do one thing but the Law of Moses seemed to say to do another. And if this spiritual obstacle to evangelism was going to be removed it would have to be Peter, or possibly John, who would do it. This was a cultural wall that had to be broken down in the Jewish church, but first it had to be broken down in Peter. Heres a glimpse ahead at how God would use him:
Ac 11:1-18 the apostles and the brethren
Ac 15:6-11, 14-19 the Jerusalem council
Ga 2:11-14 Even Peter wavered under pressure
Obedience before understanding
God isnt trying to make us smart, Hes trying to make us wise. He doesnt show us revelations to satisfy our curiosity, He leads us into situations that will conform us into His image (Ro 8:29). And more than anything else He wants us to love like He loves. Hes preparing sons and daughters wholl carry His heart to the whole world. He wants us to think like He thinks, do what He would do, feel what He feels. So He leads us into very difficult places where we need Him desperately and discover His heart.
Dt 8:2-5 He humbled you and let you be hungry
Prophetic revelation prepares the heart to understand what the eyes are about to see, and what the heart is about to feel. But if I refuse to obey Ill never really understand what Hes shown me.
Peter isnt the only one with cultural prejudices, I have them too, and so do you. Prejudice in all its forms is part of our fallen human nature. All of us tend to reach out to people like ourselves. But God wants to remove our prejudices and teach us to love our enemies. And just like Peter, if well obey Him Hell put us right in the middle of a group of such people, and then let us feel His great love for them. And then we too will say,
Now I truly understand that God is completely just. He does not distinguish between people based on their outward circumstances such as nationality, physical appearance, wealth, or social standing. But in every nation anyone who has genuine faith in the true God and who sincerely tries to obey Him is accepted by Him.
1) Have you ever felt the sting of being excluded because of some form of prejudice? How did you react?
2) Has God shown you a barrier in your own heart toward a certain group of people? Dont feel you have to tell us what group of people that is, but if you can, tell us what you believe God has asked you to do about it.