There is a distinct difference between gossip and testifying. In the Christian world, gossip is sin and testimony is a truthful declaration. As we pick up our reading in Acts 10 today, we see Cornelius providing two of his personal servants and a trusted bodyguard … (devout soldier) with everything that happened to him, from the vision to the instruction of the angel from God.
Ac 10:5 “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.
It was most likely that his choice of men was because he trusted them. It’s possible they were God fearing men like he was, though the soldier might have been committed to the Roman Empire’s political dogma. Whichever it was, he needed trustworthy men because “religion” within the Empire was questionable if not sanctioned by Rome. In obedience to the angel, he sends this small party to Joppa to collect Peter who was enjoying Simon the Tanner’s hospitality. Now the story changes venues to Simon’s house and Peter.
Ac 10:9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven
1) The setting of the encounter between Peter and Cornelius has an important message for the Christian Church of our day. Remember Peter was a Jew and although Christian, his allegiance to the practices of Judaism was still strong. Cornelius was a Gentile. Yes he was a God fearer. He followed the God of Israel, but he was a Gentile. His culture was different to the Jew’s. Later, once he comes to faith and a report reaches “Mother Body” of Christianity in Jerusalem, there is great concern to the point of a disastrous schism in Christianity. Please keep this thought in your mind as we pursue this story because it has a huge impact on the Church of today. Some want us Christians to incorporate aspects of Judaism into our culture and practice. These are part of “works” which we considered yesterday. Salvation is always by grace through faith never by works of any sort.
2) Whilst Cornelius’ “collection” party were traveling, so Peter was praying.
Ac 10:9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.
We don’t have coincidence in Christianity. Everything is ordered by God, following the pattern of His will for the planet in general and His people in specific. The group are traveling … Peter is praying. The group have come to collect Peter … Peter is conducting prayer.
(1) Up on the roof top in the east was the coolest place to be. Many householders would retire there for relaxation.
(2) It seems as though the three prayer times each day ran parallel to the sacrifices at the temple each day. Peter’s prayer time was known as “the sixth hour”, which as the verse says was noon (midday). Adhering to this prayer time was not a formality. It was using the set times for Christian prayer. Christians in general do not pray enough. Each of us needs to set apart a specific prayer time each day for focused praying. Often we hear (and even say) “I talk to God all day.” This is good but it is not a special prayer time where we are able to present our prayer list of praise, adoration, seeking pardon and bringing our petition and requests before the Throne of Grace and Mercy. Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Could we offer 30 minutes instead of 3 minutes in prayer?
3) We cannot say how long Peter spent in prayer. He might have, like Cornelius been fasting. (KJV of Acts 10:30). We read:
Ac 10:10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
In some way he must have broken his prayer / fast time to ask for food. Whilst this was being made, he slipped into a trance. Although the same supernatural source, the object was different to the one Cornelius had. Fasting has a place within the Church, but ought not to be forced upon people. When one fasts, it could be for an hour or a day or night and at times even longer with periods where one would take refreshments. The idea of fasting needs to be understood in Gospel terms. You abstain from all things that would distract from concentrated prayer. But the main issue when it comes to fasting is that it is personal to an individual, a husband and wife, a family or a group of friends or even a Church, but it cannot be imposed because then it becomes a ritual, work or legalism.
4) In some strange way, the senses and the spiritual are connected. In this trance:
Ac 10:11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air.
He is hungry awaiting food. The trance does not remove the feeling of hunger. More, Peter is a Jew and as a Jew he is restricted from eating many things Gentiles ate. In the Books of Moses (The Torah), there were “clean” and “unclean” foods. Food not permitted in any form were animals (and animal products) that did not chew the cud and did not have cloven hoofs such as pigs and horses; fish without fins and scales; blood of any animal; shellfish like clams, oysters, shrimp and crabs. There was also a rule prohibiting mixing dairy products with meat and poultry. Generally, cows, sheep and deer (had divided hooves and chewed the cud) could be eaten. A basic Israelite diet would be bread, wine, olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fish and meat. One may easily picture Peter’s horror in seeing this large sheet coming down from heaven with every variety of animals on it … clean and unclean alike. Remember he is Jewish and although Christian, the Law was firmly entrenched in his mind and religion. The stage is set for us to learn of Peter’s second greatest momentous event. The first was salvation. The second will be that God admits people from all ethnicities into His Kingdom, not just Jews.
Father, prepare our hearts for Your Word to change us. Amen.