Today we went through to Klapmuts near Paarl to visit a friend who had been my Rector’s Warden for many years. Our friendship stretches for over thirty years and it was good to see him again. We met at a restaurant that is called The Pot Belly. I checked through the menu and settled for the Pulled Pork Wrap. It was delicious. Many people are vegetarian and that’s okay. Others don’t eat tripe, venison, trotters or kidney and that’s okay. Some don’t eat pork for a host of reasons … even citing Old Testament passages to prove their belief. For me, I don’t see any Biblical prohibition on the eating of pork meat. I actually enjoy pork. Now for a few Notes I want to look at Peter’s Acts chapters 10 and 11 experience. Although eating pork is not the center of the teaching, together with other meats it is used by God to teach Peter a fundamental lesson he forgot when Jesus gave the disciples their evangelistic marching orders. Look at the following two passages …
Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Ac 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In the Matthew passage Jesus instructs the apostles (and all believers) to take the Gospel to all nations. The Acts passage is an instruction to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, then all Judea, including all Samaria and to the ends of the earth! Jesus is not saying “to the Jews” in these nations because although Jews were wide spread they were not spread to the ends of the earth or to all nations. Jesus was instructing them and us to go to every human being throughout the whole world in their time and in our time and until He returns. Peter forgot this and the Lord Jesus is going to change his heart and mind about non-Jews (Gentiles) and the Gospel Invitation. Now before Peter falls into a trance (10:10 and 11:5) and sees a large sheet coming down from heaven (10:11 and 11:5), the all-knowing God who planned all things on earth before creation, brings His instrument to teach Peter, into play.
1) Cornelius the Centurion.
Ac 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.
Cornelius was a commander (Centurion) of 100 soldiers (Centuria). This was the smallest unit of a Roman legion. They were the backbone of the Legion because they enforced discipline. All Centurions (Commanders) came from Commoners (Plebeian) and worked their way up through the ranks from being a private. Cornelius was a man of order, discipline and integrity as a military man. Before we skip past this issue, such a character is what we need in the Lord’s Army today.
Ac 10:2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
2) Cornelius was a family man.
Ac 10:2 He and all his family
It is significant that the Holy Spirit placed this into the Bible. Surely it is to force us to stop and consider what our family is like, made up of, where we are going in life, what world view have we adopted? Note that it speaks of him and all his family. This would include the wife, children, possibly extended family such as parents and siblings … and employees (slaves). Would this not be glorious if our household, us as parents, our parents, our children and children-in-law, their children, the domestic worker and the gardener were all devout and God-fearing? What are we doing in prayer and practice to bring this to be under God’s grace?
3) Cornelius and all his family were religious people. When we read … “were devout and God-fearing”, we are reminded that they were converts to Judaism. They were devout … devoted to the religious cause of the Jews and they feared the God of the Jews. They were passionate to know God personally and intentionally. That is what devout and God-fearing means!
4) Cornelius was liberal with his money. “He gave generously to those in need”. He was not greedy, self-centered and self-enriching. He had a heart for the poor Jews and demonstrated his love for God in the practical manner of digging deep into his pockets. After tithing and bringing our offering, we ought to remember the “Widows and Orphans”. This means remembering the needy within the community of God to which you belong. It does not need to be money … food, clothing, toiletries, blankets, furniture go a long way.
5) Cornelius had an active prayer life. He “prayed to God regularly”. Nowhere in the Bible are we told how many times to pray within a day or week. God expects us to be in constant prayer, meaning to be in touch with our Lord all the time. Cornelius was like this … regularly would likely mean each time prayers were required in Judaism, he prayed. How often do you pray? A few times a week, daily … may I suggest that as a minimum for Christians, apart from saying grace before meals, we ought to be praying when we awake and before we go to sleep. Now remember that God has a plan for Peter … to show him his error in limiting the Gospel to Jews … but at the same time He has a plan for Cornelius and his family regarding eternal salvation. So before we pick up what happens to Peter an angel visits Cornelius … for we read:
Ac 10:3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
Although we see his religious character coming through, and that God hears prayers and sees deeds, instructions are given as to what he needs to do about “Simon Peter”.
O Lord our God, we are humbled at the life, character, spirituality and serious conviction this man Cornelius had for You, Your purposes and his and his family’s eternal well-being. Help us to be like this. Amen.