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Biblical Illustrator Acts 10

Biblical Illustrator Acts 10

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 13, 2011
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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR ACTS 10CHAPTER X.Vebs. 1-48. There was a certain man In Csesarea called Cornelius, a eentnrlon. — Feter^i vision: — The record of the advance of the young Church gives in quick fluccession three typical conversions : first, that of the eunuch, a foreigner, but aproselyte to the Jewish faith ; secondly, that of Saul, born and bred a Jew; thirdly,this of Cornelius, a Gentile seeker after God. Within the range of these ex-periences the whole world was compassed. The highest apostolic sanction for anunfettered gospel was the need of the hour. I. The vision of the Eoman (vers. 1-8).The home of Cornelius lay thirty miles north of Joppa. Built by Herod the Greatin honour of CsBsar Augustus, the seat of the Eoman rule in the land of the Jews,a city of splendour, with spacious artificial haven, having a temple erected to theemperor that held his statue as Olympian Zeus, and lying, as it did, within thesacred territory, yet a centre of Grecian influence and plagued by the corruptionsof a pagan worship, Csesarea afforded every possible phase of contrast to the age-longintolerance of Peter's countrymen. Rome's wide empire flashed before the eye of this true-born Italian, nor could he dream that faith in a azarene peasant wouldgive the Cornelian name its truest honour. Yet he was one of those rare souls of whom not a few have illuminated the darkness of heathenism, whom heart-hungerleads to the truth. He was a "devout" man. He "feared" God. The secondword is simply a closer definition of his religious character. His "fear" was nota superstitious dread of the wrath of God, but a brave man's dread of failing to dothe will of God. Furthermore, his piety had power in it, and this, mingled withpeace, won over to his faith " all his house." o man's reUgion can, withoutgreat hurt, fail to set forth the two sides of the character of his God. In the m;inwho orders his household in the fear of God "mercy and truth are met together,righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Cornelius, constant in alms-giving and prayer, draws near to the kingdom of God's Son. The kingdom isabout to be entered. The order is, " ow send." The time had come. The out-lying Gentile world had grown sick at heart. The " middle wall of partition " wasfalling to the ground. Cornelius, for the pagan world, was to learn that the Crosswas the centre of the circle, and Peter, for the Jewish world, that the circle was asbig as the globe. The Divine direction is very exact. Both of the apostles' namesare given. Whether Cornelius knew it or not, Philip, a resident of Csesarea, mighthave been called to his side within an hour. But Philip was not the man for theoccasion. Of all men Peter was best fitted to preach Jesus to Cornelius, of all menthe one most needing the results of his preaching. " He will tell thee what thou
 
oughtest to do." These words emphasise two important truths: 1. They point tothe value of human agency in the salvation of men. The value of humantestimony to a historic fact was never lost sight of in the foundation of the Church.The answer to Hume and Strauss may be found in the meeting of these men. Aman not a myth has entered our world, and God has committed to men first of all,not to books, nor papers, nor tracts, the publishing of the gospel. The true witnessCHAP. X.] THE ACTS. 99of true men is the snrest vay of redeeming China to God. A shipload of Bibles sen%to Africa will, unaided, amount to little. Ten holy men turned loose wiU leaven itfor the twentieth century. The man and the book together are invincible. 2. Theypoint to Jesus as the consummate revelation of God. When He can be found allelse is insufficient. And it was because He could be found that Cornelius was not,could not be, allowed to remain where he was. His devoutness was not enough.o one dare teach that faith in specific doctrines of Christianity is superfluous.The opening words of Peter's sermon cannot be bent to prove that all religions areof equal value or that faith in the Eedeemer is needless. H. The vision of theJew (vers. 9-20). God's providences make a perfect fit. The messengers reachedthe tanner's door not an hour too soon, not a moment behind time. Was the manon the house-top ready? A great thing was about to happen. A huge prejudicehad come to its death. Let us pause to scan the past life of the fisherman. Hehad been in part prepared for the nearing duty. A more scrupulous Jew would nothave entered a tanner's house. Peter lodged there. He had not been without muchprevious training. He had been taught, tried, had fallen, had been forgiven andrestored to honour. Yet he was not ready for a world-wide need. The words of Jesus never took the place of the educating activities of after life. Peter had beencalled to be a "fisher of men" (Matt. iv. 19). He had heard the centurioncommended (Luke vii. 7). He had learned how meats defile, and how they do not(Mark vii. 18). ear the tragic close of his Lord's life he had seen that certainGreeks sought Him (John xii. 20), and that in them the Gentile world waswelcomed. Yet he was not ready. Like his feUows, he saw in the direction of hisprejudices. "It required the surgery of events to insert a new truth into theirminds." Yet he was God's best man for this hour, for, as Bruce has well said,"Everything may be hoped of men who could leave all for Christ's society."To learn that spirit is more than form, and that God is not partial, was a greatlesson. Through the opening in heaven a " great sheet " was let down, held " byfour rope-ends " (Alford), or " attached with four ends, namely, to the edges of theopening which had taken place in heaven " (Meyer). In it were all kinds of animals without exception, clean and unclean. From these Peter was told to
 
choose. With old-time bluntness he refuses. He knows not who speaks, but callshim "Lord." What did it mean? Little wonder that he was "perplexed."The most outward mark of difference between Jew and Gentile had been set atnaught. He knew why these regulations had existed (see Lev. xi. and Deut. xvi.).The descendants of Abraham were not alone in making distinctions of animals.Yet none others were so thorough as those of the Jews. " The ordinance of Moseswas for the whole nation. It was not, like the Egyptian law, intended for priest'salone ; nor like the Hindu law, binding only on the twice-born Brahman ; nor likethe Parsee law, to be apprehended and obeyed only by those disciplined in spiritualmatters. It was a law for the people, for every man, woman, and child of the racechosen to be a 'kingdom of priests, an holy nation' (Exod, xix. 6)." He" thought " on. Was the *' hedge " between races to be destroyed ? Possibly.Was the vision meant for his own enlargement of privilege? Surely not. Thesight, the order, shocked his sanitary creed, his patriotic sentiment, his con-science. It was hard for a Jew to yield even to a command from the skies. His" thought " may have taken in the city spread below. (R. T. Stevenson.) Peter'svision: — Jesus Christ is the focus of all good tendencies in history. His light,lighting every man that cometh into the world, is their origin ; His triumph is theconclusion toward which they move. The story of Cornelius and Peter shows thebringing together in Christ of two great religious elements — that of devoutpaganismand that of faithful Judaism. Both make sacrifices, for in Judaism as well as inpaganism there is somewhat that is to be left behind. Yet in both there waaimperfection. Cornelius had yet to put on the gospel life, Peter had yet torenounce the imperfect Jewish life. Both needed advancement more closelytoward Christ, where they could meet as one. I. Cornelius, the Gentile, is one of the noblest figures of pre-Christian hfe that we have. It has often been pointedout that the Roman centurions are always well spoken of in the ew Testament.But Cornelius is more plainly set before us than either of the others. 1. As a manCornelius is deserving of our admiration. We see in him a high religious longing,He was not a dabbler in speculation, such as he might have been if he had been aGreek, or a Eoman of a hundred years later. He was one of the sort of menArchdeacon Farrar has called, " seekers after God " : men like Socrates, Seneca,Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius ; men to whom the utmost heathenism could ofie^100 TEE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR. [chap. x.in the way of religioueness was tmsatisfying (as God meant it to be) to the wants of the soul. The quantity of religiousness offered by the Eoman religion was not atfault ; there was an abundance of theory to appeal to the mind, plenty of super-

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