Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 19
In the last program, we had just finished one of the turning points in the Book of Acts and that was the conversion of Saul in Chapter 9. Remember. the Book of Acts is a transitional book. We start the book with just an extension of the Jewish program right after the Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus. Peter and the eleven are still appealing to the Nation of Israel to repent of the worst sin they had ever committed, and that was killing their Messiah. Those are the words Peter uses, “You killed Him, you murdered Him. Repent and God would yet pick up where He left off, He would send The King, and then you can have the Kingdom.” And then we came to the stoning of Stephen who also had been appealing to the Nation of Israel, “Just realize and believe that the One that you killed was indeed The Messiah, The Christ. The Son of the living God.” But what did Israel do? They stoned him and laid their clothes at the feet of Saul of Tarsus.
And that introduces us to Saul of Tarsus. He was a Jew, a Pharisee of the Pharisees who hated the very name of Jesus of Nazareth, not because he was a blasphemer per se, but because of his religious convictions. Saul of Tarsus honestly thought he was doing God a favor in trying to stamp out these early Jewish believers who believed that Jesus was The Messiah. So at the height of Saul’s rebellion, we find him in Gentile territory in Damascus, not going to put Gentiles under arrest, but rather Jews. So he’s planning on going to the synagogues to bring back the believing Jews to Jerusalem so that they might be put in prison or put to death, because they were following Who Saul thought was an impostor.
Just outside of this Gentile city of Damascus, on Gentile ground (not on Jewish ground as the Twelve were called), we find God in Grace reaches down and saves this man. I call him a raging bull for his religion. God immediately informs him that He is going to send him to the Gentiles, and that is the first indication we have in the Book of Acts, that God is going to bring the Gentiles into the picture. Not that it was something new because the Old Testament was full of it: that Israel’s Messiah was to be a Light unto the Gentiles, but only through Israel. But now since Israel has had these seven years of constantly rejecting Peter and the eleven and their appeal, God, you might say, gives up on the Nation of Israel, and sets them aside. In just a few years after all this takes place, we know that the Roman armies destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, and the Jewish people go into a dispersion that has lasted until our generation. They have been coming back into the land of Israel since the early 1900’s. In 1948 they became a sovereign state again, and everything that has been taking place now for the past 40 years has been getting ready for the fulfillment of the prophetic word.
I always emphasize that there is no prophecy directed to the Church, rather all prophecy is directed to the Nation of Israel. And so as yet, God is not dealing with the nation. We are not seeing prophecy per se being fulfilled, we are merely seeing the stage set, all the props are being put into place, all the players are getting ready. The curtain will rise at the signing of that seven-year treaty by the Anti-christ and the Nation of Israel. Then the seven-year period of Tribulation, in which God will again be dealing prophetically with the Nation of Israel.
Now coming through the Book of Acts transitionally, we saw Saul converted and how God took him out of Damascus. I feel He took him down to Mount Sinai, the same mountain where He gave Moses the Law. And for three years in a private solitary seminary training, if you want to call it that, God revealed to Paul the `Mysteries,’ and these mysteries become that whole sphere of Grace doctrine. I have emphasized ever since I started in the Book of Genesis that you will find nothing of the Church in the Old Testament. You will find nothing of the Body of Christ in the Four Gospels, but rather it is strictly a Pauline revelation given to him by our resurrected Lord. Paul is constantly appealing to us on that behalf. It was to him that these revelations of Grace doctrines were revealed. Until that time they had been kept secret, hidden in the mind of God. In the Book of Genesis, at the time of Abraham one of the names of Deity was that He is the eternal Sovereign Creator God, but also a God Who could hide things if He wanted to. I’ve used Deuteronomy 29:29 so often. Through Moses God said:
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,…”
So you will see this all the way up through Scripture, that God has kept things secret, but when He reveals them He expects the human race to believe it whether it be Jew or Gentile. That’s enough of a short review. Now we come to Chapter 10 to Peter. We will only touch on Peter here in Chapter 10 and a little in Chapters 11, 12 and 15, and then Peter fades off the scene in the Book of Acts never to be heard from again. It’s going to be filled with the Apostle Paul and his dealing with the Gentiles with the doctrines of Grace. Now of course Peter is going to write his little epistles at the back of our Bible, but remember they are written just shortly before Peter and Paul are both martyred. That occurs shortly before the Romans destroy the Temple in 70 A.D. Saul has been converted as the head of the Gentile converts as I showed you in I Timothy. Paul maintained that he was the leader of sinners saved by Grace to be the pattern or example to those who become believers, but here in Chapter 10 Peter comes into the scene:
“THERE was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, “
He was a Gentile, a Roman officer in charge of 100 men. He was going to be sovereignly touched by the Grace of God, because the Apostle to the Gentiles had just been saved and so Gentiles can now be placed into the Body of Christ. You will see Gentiles coming on the scene more and more. There is a particular reason for Peter going up to Cornelius’ house other than just the Salvation of that household, although that was important. Remember, God always has the big picture; we only see the little one. But the big picture here is that God is going to prepare not just the house of Cornelius, but He is going to prepare Peter for an event that will take place twelve years down the road. The Scriptures don’t bring it out here and we won’t catch it until we get to Acts Chapter 15. Now in the next verses we find Cornelius being approached by an angel, but in verse 2 let’s see what kind of a man Cornelius was.
“A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.”
But Cornelius was lost. That might shock people, but he’s lost. Religious yes, even praying to the right God. He is not praying to one of the Roman Gods, but praying to God. You might say, “Well, how do you know that?” Well let’s go over to Chapter 11. In this chapter Peter has already been up to Caesarea, back down to Jerusalem, and is sharing all the events with his fellow Jews who are believers. While sharing with them, look what he says:
“And the Spirit bade me go (I’ve always said that Peter never would have gone up there on his own, but God made it so evident he didn’t dare say no) with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, `Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter (now here in verse 14 is the indication they were lost); Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house (the next word is future) shall be saved.'”
So Cornelius in spite of his praying, giving, believing in God was lost. Do you see that? Now what’s the lesson there? It’s the same way today. Our churches are full of people like Cornelius. They are devout, sincere, they pray, they give but they are lost. It’s a sad story, but so true. In fact, I’ve said over and over that the hardest person for God to bring to a place of Salvation is this kind of person. They are so good and religious, and see no need of any salvation, but they need it, and so did Cornelius. Now let’s go on:
“He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day (about 3 o’clock in the afternoon) an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, `Cornelius.’ And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, `What is it, Lord (How many times back in the Old Testament pagan people would refer to the God of Abraham as Lord, but they didn’t know him as Lord. It was just a term. And it’s the same way here. Cornelius couldn’t call him Lord by virtue of a personal experience or relationship with Him. It was just a term)?’ And he said unto him, `Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.'”
Because most of you know this story even better than I do, let’s go to Peter down at Joppa. Remember Israel is small and Caesarea to Joppa probably is no more than 60 miles.
“And when he (Cornelius) had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour (that’s noon time): And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they (I imagine the women of the house) made ready,(the food), he fell into a trance (now God is going to work here supernaturally, because this is a supernatural situation), And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth. Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.”
Now in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 11, God had defined which type of animals, fowl, and fish the Jews could eat that were clean. But this sheet doesn’t just include the clean animals, it’s everything, the clean and unclean together. Now read on.
“And there came a voice to him, `Rise, Peter, kill, and eat.’ But Peter said, `Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.'”
Why does Peter say that? He’s under the Law. Most people might miss that. We know that I put a vast chasm between Law and Grace. Hopefully I’m being known for it. You cannot mix Law and Grace in the Church Age. But Peter is still practicing the Law, and it will surprise you how many people won’t admit that. Is Peter mixing Law and Grace? No! He hasn’t been told to stop Temple worship. Peter hasn’t been told that he is no longer under the Law, but rather Grace. Peter is simply like the followers of Christ in His earthly ministry. He’s a Jew who believed that Jesus was The Christ. Peter had no doubt repented of his sins and been baptized. He was the typical Jewish believer. He is not yet aware of the doctrines of Grace, but he is very much aware of the Law as indicated here:
“And the voice spake unto him again the second time, `What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.’ This was done thrice (or three times): and the vessel was received up again into heaven. Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,”
Our God is a God of perfect timing! Just as the men who had made the journey from Caesarea to Joppa are at the gate asking for Simon Peter, Peter has just come through this vision of the sheet. And it all comes together just at the right moment. Now verse 19:
“While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, `Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.'”
I have asked my classes over the years, if it had not been for such a supernatural environment, the trance, the men at the gate, the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking, do you think Peter would have gone to Caesarea? No way. Because as far as Peter was concerned, Gentiles were still dogs, and God could have nothing to do with them. I always remind people what we have learned before. Come back to the Book of Matthew. You see Peter was not some stubborn Jew that should have known better. Peter was a Jew who knew what was expected. Peter was not way out in left field, he was being absolutely in accord with the program thus far. In Matthew Chapter 10 we have the very onset of Christ’s earthly ministry. In verse 2,3, and 4 He has chosen the Twelve, up there around Galilee. And now Jesus gives them their marching orders.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, `Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”
Is that plain language? You bet it’s plain. Now come over to the other account that is so clear, where He deals with the woman at Canaan in Chapter 15. Here we have a Gentile lady who also wanted the Lord to do something for her. So she approaches Jesus during His earthly ministry in verse 22.
“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, `Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.’ But he (Jesus) answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, `Send her away, for she crieth after us.'”
Now that was the Twelve. But what are the Twelve aware of? What Jesus had told them back in Chapter 10. “You are to have nothing to do with Gentiles, go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” They are under God’s control, they’re not being bigoted Jews, and the whole purpose as I have stressed since we started in Genesis is in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Israel was to be a nation of people, established in an area of land in which God Himself would come and be their King. And that was only for the Jew. And then Israel could go out and evangelize the nations, but not until that happened. They were to be a Kingdom of Priests. So these Jews are correct in their mentality that they were to have nothing to do with Gentiles. Now back to Acts Chapter 10. I really want you to understand that if it hadn’t been for God really putting the pressure and the proof on Peter that this is where he was supposed to go, then Peter would have never gone. He would have been more rebellious than Jonah ever thought about being. And you know what Jonah thought. “How in the world can I ever go to those Gentiles? They are our enemies.” But God was in control and had something else on His mind. And so here God tells Peter, “Go with these men.”They start for Caesarea.
“Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” In Chapter 11 we will find that there were six believing Jewish brethren that went with Peter, and that makes a total of seven – God’s perfect number. See, everything fits.
“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.” What does that tell you about Cornelius? He’s pagan, you don’t worship a fellow man, but he tried to.
“But Peter took him up, saying, `Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together (Gentiles). And he (Peter) said unto them (now watch this), `Ye know (these Romans knew the Jewish customs) how that it is an unlawful (what is Peter coming back to? The Law) thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.'”
When did God show him? In the vision he had with the sheet of the clean and unclean animals. And then Peter understood. He’s not talking about eating food, He’s talking about the human race. Now you remember the Apostle to the Gentiles was saved in Chapter 9, and so now the gates are being opened to Gentiles. And when we get into Chapter 11 it’s going to get wider. And then all of a sudden in Chapter 13, Paul and Barnabas go out on their missionary journeys. And for the most part they go to Gentiles; most Jews reject them. So keep all these things in your mind. Peter was uncomfortable going into the house of Cornelius, because it was unlawful for a Jew to go into a Gentile’s house But Peter says, God has shown me I cannot call anybody common or unclean.