Monthly Archives: February 2012
Understanding How to Be Led By the Spirit of God! How the Holy Spirit Led the Early Church in Acts 11! Part 13
(ver 1.1) This is now Part 13 in a series of very important basic Christian Bible lessons on the subject of Being Led by the Spirit of God. My foundational scripture verse for the entire series is “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14). We have covered a tremendous amount of new information that will not be repeated so if you have not read this series from the beginning I would suggest that you go and start with “Part 1” first. The last two lessons have been focused on what God reveals about the early church’s growth and expansion in Acts 10 to include the Gentile people of the earth. Chapter 10 of Acts was an awesome chapter of spiritual information, divine guidance and church growth and I believe that we have learned a lot from it. I view the early church to be in the group called “the children of God” and therefore according to Romans 8:14 they are being led by God in everything that they are observed to be doing. Today’s lesson will be more about the events in chapter 10 because chapter 11 is a further overview and explanation of what happened in chapter 10. This will be the third time that God describes the same events. Any time God repeats Himself twice it is critical that you fully understand the importance of what is being spoken. However, any time God says the same thing three times then it has just exponentially grown to a factor that is way beyond critical to know. So today I’m going to go through chapter 11 and see what God is doing and saying to us in the modern church.
One of the key realizations to what I have observed in studying Acts 10 and 11 is God’s focused purpose and plan to increase the church’s spirituality level. God of course began this process by raining down His Spirit upon the Jewish church in Acts 2 and then we saw this continue as God’s Spirit fell on the Gentiles in Acts 10. But that was only the beginning of a longer spiritual process. I equate this beginning act of God to be similar to a garden planting analogy where God has planted His seed in us His church garden. God then expects this seed in us to grow and to increase and eventually to produce real spiritual fruit. Therefore the God seed planting was only the beginning of the process for the expected final outcome. We are God’s plants today that are created to produce God’s fruits of righteousness in the world. Jesus taught us that we can only do this if we become the branches that remain in Him our Vine source of life (John 15:5).
As we continue to go through chapter 11 I pray that this spiritual plant and garden growth process will become clearer to your understanding also. I have become totally convinced from this study that in order to be led by the Spirit of God that it requires God’s people to grow to understand what spiritual things are and how they work. The more you know the more you grow. People today want to be led by God, yet many do not want to make the effort to grow or increase spiritually. The Bible says that God is clearly a Spirit (John 4:24). Furthermore, God reveals to us in His Word that His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts, but they are higher than ours as the heavens are above the earth (Isa 55:9). Since God’s intelligence is on a level that is so far above ours what is it going to take for Him to communicate intelligently with you? God can only come down to your human level of ignorance and lack of spiritual understanding so far. Let me show you a statement that Jesus said to a teacher of Israel:
Joh 3:12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
Jesus is unscrambling and differentiating between two dimensional realms of reality within this statement. This God statement clearly causes new revelation to come to us, illuminating spiritual things to be higher and much more complex than the natural things of the earth. Jesus said I cannot tell you about heavenly things because you do not yet still understand these basic natural earthly things that I tell you. There is an implied necessary Christian growth process hidden in this statement. Jesus said you are basically incapable of hearing about any real complex spiritual things at this point in time. This would imply the need for something to occur in the man that was hearing in order for Jesus to be able to communicate the higher heavenly things to him. Is this too complicated for you? The thing that is required is called spiritual maturity or spiritual growth and this is combined with new increased spiritual knowledge and understanding of the God kind of things. All of these are contributing factors to being successfully led by the Spirit of God.
What Jesus was teaching us in John 3:12, is that we all need to develop spiritually in order to see something above our current natural capacity level to understand. You are going to have to rise up or grow closer to His spiritual level if you expect Him to give you something really useful. Think of it like this, what if a three or four year old human child wanted to talk to a great intellectual man like Albert Einstein and ask him for help to understand the theory of relativity. First the child would not even know what to ask of him and then there is the root of the child’s challenge called immaturity and ignorance that causes every complex statement revealed by Albert to be missed completely. What exactly do you think the child and Albert have to talk about? Sure Albert could come down to communicate on a certain elementary level about many things with the child. But, the deep things that Albert knew could never be transferred to the child no matter how much Albert would have loved to give them his vast knowledge because of the child’s inability to communicate on the Albert level. This is exactly the way it is with most Christians today and them asking God to help guide them. God will do the best at speaking to you on your level, but He would prefer that you came up higher to know Him better so that He can speak to you of the deeper complex things that He holds inside of Himself. Let me show you something else that Jesus said to us:
Mat 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
You can clearly see that God says there are hidden things that come only from Him. These hidden things were given to us the “babes” in this statement. The people in the church are these “babes”. The wise ones that the things were hidden from are those like Satan, the angels of Satan and the people of the earth that follow him in darkness. Look up the definition of the word “babe” in this verse in the Strong’s dictionary. The Greek word translated as “babes” literally means an infant as in a non-speaking baby. That definition of “babes” has spiritual meaning hidden in it that goes very deep. This kind of a natural child is unable to communicate intelligently other than simple crying or laughing. These types of infants can only drink milk to grow. This natural reality corresponds to a spiritual reality that is on a very elementary level of spiritual knowledge, understanding and ability. This non-speaking spiritual baby level is where all Christians begin their life in Christ. In the eyes of God we in the church are just spiritual non-speaking children and God desires us to grow into speaking mature children. Spiritual growth is one of the greatest desired expectations of the heart of God for His children. However, the only way this is possible is if we continue to abide in Him and to listen. It goes back to what I said earlier about being a branch that is connected to Jesus the Vine.
Being a baby is exactly where we all start out naturally in this world, but this is also how we all start out spiritually when we are born again (John 3:3). To be born again is a “spiritual birth” process that replicates the natural birth process but in the unseen spiritual realm. This spiritual birth process results in a new spiritual baby being born into the spiritual family of God. This stated new spiritual baby can exist in the body of a fully grown mature natural man or woman. The external age of the human body is always independent from the internal age of the spiritual child (2 Cor 4:16). The body that is visible never reflects the condition or the age of the hidden internal spirit. Being a spiritual baby is exactly like being a natural baby. Like natural babies, spiritual babies need help to survive and to grow or they will die. Read this statement that Paul makes to the church at Corinth about the spiritual growth process:
1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
Paul tells the church in Corinth I cannot speak to you yet about spiritual things because you are still spiritual babies in Christ. This word for “babes” is the exact same Greek word that Jesus spoke in Matthew 11:25. This was clearly written to church people that were fully grown enough that could read and write, but yet they knew nothing about the spiritual things of God. God says you need to grow spiritually to be able to see the real complex spiritual subjects found in the Bible and in God. The complex subjects are only available to be understood after personal spiritual growth has occurred. Paul was telling the church I cannot communicate to you closer to God’s level because you are still non-speaking children in Christ. Those are pretty strong words aren’t they? Let’s read the next verse in 1 Corinthians:
1Co 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
God teaches us how spiritual growth occurs by using the very simple human concepts found in the natural baby growth cycle. If you do not understand natural baby things then you will never understand spiritual baby things as we have already seen by what Jesus was teaching us in John 3:12. If you read Romans 1:20 you will begin to see God telling us that His invisible spiritual qualities are clearly understood by the things that were created by Him in this world. You should be able to read 1 Corinthians 3:1 and 2 and see that God expects His spiritual babies to grow to eat meat. Meat symbolically represents the complex higher spiritual subjects of God. But in order to eat meat you must first drink the milk of the Word of God basics to grow. These concepts are critical and I pray that you are grasping them or you will never be led by the Spirit of God fully. Let’s read another witness of the truth in the Word of God:
Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Heb 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
God reveals to us in these two verses that there are both simplistic milk subjects found in the Bible for spiritual babies and then there are also advanced meat subjects found in the Bible for the mature spiritual Christians. Clearly babies cannot take the really deep complex subjects because they do not understand even the simple milk subjects. That is what God is saying to the reader. Every complex meat truth found in the Bible is built upon several dependent layers of simpler milk truths that are necessary first to be understood. Hebrews 5:12 informs us that this understanding only comes from being taught. It is very much like learning to add and subtract as a school child using simple math concepts before you ever try to learn the algebra and calculus more complex math concepts. If you do not yet understand the simple it is impossible to grasp the complex. My Bible studies are normally intended for meat eating mature spiritual Christians. I recently had one person unsubscribe to my Bible study and I can only guess that it was because they did not like or could not take the meat that I was trying to feed them. That is OK, with me I’m not sent to teach everyone, if you cannot handle what I write you probably just need to go drink some more milk for a while and then come back later and try to eat the more complex topics from God. Don’t choke as a baby Christian trying to swallow spiritual meat when you have not yet developed any spiritual teeth to chew it. So while I lost one subscriber recently God blessed me and replaced them with 5 new subscribers. Praise God!
What I have just tried to describe to you is the spiritual growth process in a concise nutshell. God uses these things to teach each of us in the same way. This is exactly what I see happening to the church in the first 10 chapters of Acts. God was teaching the early church babies new spiritual things that were so much deeper than anything that they had ever seen or understood before. God is guiding them and giving them limited steps containing new ways to view the old scriptures to help them see God’s Word more through the spiritual eyes of God. Now with this new spiritual knowledge growing in them God can increasingly guide them by His Spirit to do even greater things with this new knowledge. That was my introduction so let’s get into the reality of chapter 11:
Act 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
This is an awesome verse. It helps to clarify many things we saw in Acts 10 by explaining to us that it was the Word of God that made everything else that happened possible. When the angel told Cornelius in the beginning of Acts 10 to go and get Peter it was for the sole purpose of Peter bringing the Word of God to Cornelius. This is the designed process from God and it is described to us in Romans 10:14. Peter came and Peter preached the Word of God and because Cornelius and his house received and believed the Word of God, the Spirit of God fell on them and they spoke with other tongues and praised God. Being saved, being filled with the Spirit of God or whatever you receive from God begins with you first receiving the Word of God that is spoken to you by a preacher sent from God. The Word of God is the foundational basis for everything else that you need, spiritual, mental, emotional or physical. After hearing the Word of God, you must believe it and then you must receive what was spoken to you. This is called receiving the Grace of God by your faith. I’m not going to teach you about faith and what it is and how it works, so if you do not understand this subject I have an in-depth lesson series called “Understanding Bible Faith” that you should go and check out.
Notice however what is happening here in verse 1, the brethren that are mentioned here are the saved Jews of the natural circumcision in Jerusalem. These are the men that were circumcised in their flesh by the hands of other men according the Law of Moses but they were also now circumcised by the hands of God in their spirits and they have not yet fully comprehended which one is the most important. They do not yet understand that the first natural was only given to teach them about the greater spiritual circumcision that occurred by the Hand of God. The fact is that the circumcision of the heart was just being revealed to the church and this means that they had not fully embraced the truth nor did they completely understand it. This was simply because they were all still babes in Christ growing up in the Lord.
Act 11:2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
Here we have a potential firestorm division occurring in the church. This is a golden opportunity for the new baby believers of Jerusalem to depart the unity of the church body to create a new independent branch of believers called the Southern Jewish Church. Ok, that was a really bad joke on my part, but you understand what I meant. It is always man’s solution to create a new denomination when differences arise and it is always God’s proposed solution to resolve the conflict with new knowledge. The saved Jews in Jerusalem had heard about the Gentiles and they were not very happy Christians. In fact they were being very carnal, very jealous, very arrogant and very prideful types of Christians. It sounds a lot like some that I know of in the world today. It is very much like they felt themselves to be better or superior than those Gentiles because of something they had in their flesh that they could see. This is a dangerous approach to take before your fall and you will fall unless you change and release this attitude. Pride is always followed by the destruction of the individual (Prov 16:18). Any introduction of new Godly revelation to the people of God brings the opportunity to grow spiritually. It is also a potential opportunity to fail by rejecting it and remaining ignorant. Therefore, do not ever put yourself into a strict religious box of not being able to change, learn or grow from God’s new revelations. The Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 11 are about to reach a decision point as we continue to read through the chapter. They are going to be faced with some radical new spiritual information that is over their current spiritual level to understand it fully and they will have to make a choice to accept it or reject it. They will eventually learn that spiritual things will always take precedence over the natural external things but this is just a part of the normal growth process. We are about to explore the root of the problem being revealed to the early church:
Act 11:3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
Why is it important for a Jew not to eat with a Gentile? Why does this natural external action of Peter so concern the Jewish men at Jerusalem? That is an incredible thoughtful valid question that people today do not even consider or try to understand how to answer. People in the modern world eat with anybody, anytime, in anyplace without giving it considerable thought to the consequences of their actions. What did I just say? Are there really consequences for eating with people? You see because of your ignorance you do not know where I am probably going next but we are going to explore briefly some Old Testament Law that these Jews in Jerusalem understood better than you did:
Exo 12:43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
Exo 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
Exo 29:33 And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy.
To an informed Old Covenant person, eating a meal with a Gentile was them making a covenant with a people that were not currently in covenant with their God. The Jews learned that the Passover meal was a covenant meal that was given to them while they were still in bondage in Egypt. Eating the Passover meal and placing the blood of the lamb on the doorpost allowed everyone in their house to live while the death angel took the firstborn of all that did not eat of the lamb and where the blood was not found on the doorway. God gives us these natural symbolic types to reveal the spiritual truths that have occurred in us in the church. In Exodus, God was telling the natural Jews that in order for a Gentile to participate with them in eating the meal, they must first be circumcised in their flesh. Did you not just read this? This was the Law of God that was being misapplied to the church in the minds of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem based upon their spiritual ignorance.
What I am saying is that eating with a Gentile was in effect the people of God joining themselves with their enemies. The sign of the circumcision was an external confirmation that they were in covenant with the same God you were in covenant with. However, that external sign of the covenant is now foolishness no matter who you are. The principle that was being taught to us is that you do not make covenant with anyone that is not in covenant with your God. That was the natural principle being taught to the Jewish people and that principle is still in effect in the spiritual realm today with the church (1 Cor 6:15). When you make covenant with a person not saved, the only advantage gained was given to the enemy that you covenanted with. Once you let your enemies into your house where you live you have just opened up your life to them for your complete destruction. What I just described to you has more spiritual relevance than what you probably understand right now, but I do not have the time to go there today. However, this was probably the driving reason behind the Jewish concern in Jerusalem extended to Peter. They were just in a state of shock that Peter had gone into a Gentile’s house and made covenant with them without them being circumcised in their flesh. They were in effect thinking very naturally and saying to Peter “What were you thinking?” “Why are you eating with these uncircumcised godless men?”
The natural Jewish believers were obviously not seeing things correctly through the eyes of God yet. They did not understand that Peter was being led by the Spirit of God in what he did and they for sure did not believe that the uncircumcised Gentiles were able to hear from God to do what they did. This is a grave mistake of people today that call themselves Christians. I saw a comment recently on Facebook from a Christian lady that is usually very sound in what she says. However she obviously got into the flesh with this statement and showed her spiritual immaturity. She was basically putting down people today that say they hear from God. I personally have more concern for people who do not hear from God than I do for those that say they heard from God. My Facebook friend even tried to justify her statement by using unfounded statements about Moses. She believed that even Moses never heard from God that much. I found her logic more than a little amusing. Moses after all wrote the first 5 books of the Bible and many of the Psalms so Moses obviously heard from God a lot. Do not get me wrong, there are people on the internet that say they hear from God and clearly they do not based upon what they say. If what is spoken contradicts the Written Word of God, then it is not from God. This is always an example of the real being counterfeited with the false. The presence of the false however proves that there is a real by implied antithesis. People in the world never counterfeit anything that does not already exist and is valuable or the counterfeit would have no value to anyone to deceive them. Satan will always introduce the fakes to discredit or distract form the genuine. God is speaking today in the world to His people and do not believe that He is not.
Act 11:5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
Act 11:6 Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Act 11:7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
Act 11:8 But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
Act 11:9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
Act 11:10 And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
Act 11:11 And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
Act 11:12 And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house:
Act 11:13 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;
Act 11:14 Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
Act 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
Act 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Starting in Verse 5 and continuing through verse 16 in Acts 11 is now Peter’s account of what just happened in Acts 10 as it is replayed for the saved Jewish believers in Jerusalem. You might recall we got Cornelius’ account of the events at the end of chapter 10 telling Peter and now we are seeing Peter tell his side of the story to the other natural circumcised believers. You did notice that I said the “other” natural circumcised believers, yes? What is happening here? Why didn’t God speak to these believers directly like He did with Peter? Recall that Peter was dealt with on a personal spiritual level by God directly in Chapter 10. These Jewish men in chapter 11 were not. Why that was and what we can learn from it will now become more apparent. Revelation is never given to everyone in the church. Visions from God are never given to everyone in the church. Angels are never sent to everyone in the church. On and on I could go. These are all examples of divine sovereign choices of God and they are designed to help the whole body by allowing the one given the message to go and tell the others. That is exactly what is happening here in Acts 11. Peter was sent by God with the message from God to the natural Jewish believers in Jerusalem so they could hear what God has done.
Peter’s vision from God was not just for Peter’s personal benefit; it was for everyone else’s benefit in the church also that will hear it. Do you understand what I am saying? If Peter did not spread the message, the message would have died with Peter. God never gives one man any kind of revelation that is not intended for him to share with everyone else. I already tried to cover the difference between natural circumcision and God’s spiritual circumcision and I hope that you understand the differences. You can clearly see that this new spiritual way of thinking was causing a great division to occur in the church and if God does not deal with it then we would have the beginning of a new church denomination like I said before. Uh oh? God is actually working very hard to reverse the cause for the division by doing spectacular things like sending angels and giving visions, but the people in the church are still going to have to cooperate, believe and accept.
Act 11:17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God.
I love this verse! It is so awesome! What did Peter just tell these Jewish believers? This is the best advice that people today can still get a hold of if they humbled themselves and tried. Peter just said “I’m not stupid, it is not my place to tell God what to do”. Do you ever try to tell God what to do? I see it on the internet every day. I’ve seen it in churches repeatedly. People speaking against what they do not agree with and they call the others not in their group false teachers and liars. They do not understand that God could have given someone else a new revelation and this was also for them but they have rejected it because it was new. I’m not going to go through everything that Peter said to the Jews verse by verse, but I do want to point out the key factors again for emphasis:
- Peter says “I was praying” in verse 5.
- Peter says “I was in a trance and I saw a vision” in verse 5.
- Peter described the vision and says he then heard a voice say “arise slay and eat” in verse 7.
- Peter says back to the Lord “No Lord nothing unclean has entered into my mouth” in verse 8.
- Peter then says that God answers back to him “Do not call unclean that which I have cleansed” in verse 9.
- Peter then says that all of this happened three times in verse 10.
- Peter then says the Spirit of God spoke to him again and said “These men that I have sent, go with them doubting nothing” in verse 12.
Let’s just stop right here and analyze the facts given to us. How many times did God speak and how many times did Peter speak to God in this conversation? Peter prayed so that is the first time where the spiritual conversation begins with God. The vision then begins, so God is now speaking back to Peter in a trance. We have one for Peter and one for God. Now the voice of God tells Peter “Kill and eat” and Peter says “no”. That gives me a count of two for God and two for Peter. God then answered back “Do not call unclean what I have cleaned”. My count is now three for God and two for Peter because Peter had no reply. What God was pointing out to Peter was “you don’t know what I have done or what I can do”. God was in effect teaching the man Peter during this whole vision. Peter then tell us that this happens three times. According to my calculation that would give us a subtotal of God speaking seven times and Peter speaking back to God four times. However, Peter then says God told Him to go with the men and that makes the count, God speaking 8 times and Peter speaking 4 times. Did this not say that God just spoke to Peter 8 times in one conversation? I mean can you count? How many people today is there that do not understand that God still does this for everyone since He is no respecter of persons? Does God still speak? You bet He does! Does God speak a lot? You bet He does, if you are listening. Let’s talk briefly about verses 15 and 16:
Act 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
Act 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Here is further confirmation for what I was teaching you in the last lesson. God is revealing how things work in the spiritual realm by revealing to us little clues found within the natural realm. While Peter was preaching at Cornelius’ house the Word of God, the Holy Spirit was poured out exactly like He was in Acts 2 on the Jewish believers. We learned in chapter 10 this taught Peter that God was no respecter of persons. But, Peter also tells us when this was happening that he suddenly remembered something that Jesus had said to him. Do you think this was a coincidence or do you think this was also God speaking to him? I personally know it was the Spirit of God speaking to Peter. This is simply one way that God communicates with people and people do not understand it is God unless you learn to see what is said. The Spirit of God inside of Peter was giving Peter the thoughts to preach the message to Cornelius all along. God just revealed one thought of the many others that were implied. What was this thought that Peter just had? The thought was a memory recall of some of the words that Jesus spoke to him in the past. I have called this concept God drawing water out from a well. The thought was the water, God was the drawing out Spirit, and the well where the water was found is Peter’s spirit. The only reason water existed in the well was because it was placed there by Jesus’ teachings. This is not really rocket science kind of technical stuff here, but yet it is very profound if you get a hold of it. Jesus taught us “From the abundance of your heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34). Therefore put God’s Words into your heart if you want to get any of God’s Words to come out from your heart.
Do you understand what Jesus was teaching Peter and the other disciples from this thought in Acts 11:16 and how it applies to what is happening now with Cornelius? In other words why is God causing Peter to remember these words at this exact moment? Why is it relevant? Notice what Jesus was contrasting in the thought. Jesus was speaking of natural things like John and his water baptism to teach them of new coming spiritual things. Also understand that Jesus’ statement was a future prophetical reference to an event that had not yet occurred when it was spoken. If you research your Bible you will find that this statement was made by Jesus in Acts 1:5 right as He was about to ascend back to heaven. The Spirit of God was now revealing to Peter that this is the time of fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus told them that John had used water to baptize, but now God will use the Holy Spirit to do the exact same thing in the spiritual realm. It is again an example of how external things are being represented to reveal internal invisible things. If you learn nothing else from me today I pray that you begin to understand the differences between natural things and spiritual things. Learn today that spiritual things are always greater than the parallel natural things. Learn how natural things are nothing but physical pointers to the hidden spiritual things from God. So we have had Peter describe the intimate workings of the Holy Spirit during the process to the Jews in Jerusalem and we are now at the time for their decision. Do they accept it or do they reject it?
Act 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Here is the model example of the appropriate Christian reactive response to any new revelation. These Jewish men in Jerusalem just showed you what you should be doing today. Peter has just preached to the natural Jewish believers in Jerusalem a message that came from God and they believed it and accepted it. There are literally too many other possible human reactions for me to list what could have happened. Instead of focusing on what did not happen, just notice that they kept their mouths shut except to praise their God. That is probably one of the greatest lessons to learn from what is happening in these two chapters. When and if you do not fully agree, fully understand, or fully embrace what is happening it is wisest to hold your peace and just praise God. Don’t fight against God, observe what He is doing and go with it. How could these men at Jerusalem do this? It is because they knew their God and they knew Peter. They had to have a certain level of trust for this man of God that he was not misleading them. They also knew that he was the one that got them saved in the first place by preaching in Acts 2. So we have many factors contributing to trust and their spiritual growth.
Act 11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
You can clearly see the problem that God was addressing in the church in this verse. Those that were being scattered from Jerusalem’s persecution were only going to other cities preaching to the natural Jews. God was revealing to the early church that it’s much bigger than that, guys! You people are missing the largest harvest fields and only focusing on the select ones that you think are good. It goes back to a truth that God revealed in the O.T. that says “God does not see as men see, for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). If people would only see things in the Bible like God sees them, there would be no divisions, debates or arguments in the church today and we could all reach a lot more people to get them saved.
This lesson is already long enough. Let’s just recap what else is revealed in this chapter to bring it to a close.
- Verse 20 says the Gentiles are now being actively preached to and converted.
- Verse 21 says the number of the Gentiles being added to the church is very significant.
- God also says in verse 21 that these Gentiles did two things to be saved. They believed the message and they turned to God for their salvation.
- Verse 21 also says the hand of the Lord was with them, proving God was leading them in what was happening.
- Verse 22 says the news of the church growth was spreading through the church and reached back to the church in Jerusalem.
- Verse 22 then says the brethren in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to preach and teach them. This was God again sending a man with a message to help them grow spiritually. I told you a mature Christian was always necessary to keep a new born spiritual baby alive.
- Verse 23 says Barnabas saw the Grace of God and was glad and he began to exhort them. Exhortation is a comforting and an encouraging word sent from God telling them to continue in the Lord. Meaning they have the opportunity to turn back or walk away.
- Verse 24 describes God’s messenger Barnabas as being a good man that was full of the Holy Ghost. Two things I learn from this. To be a good teacher of God you need to be full of the Spirit of God. Finally a mature teacher needs to be sent by God.
- Verse 24 says many people were added to the church as a result of sending Barnabas.
- Verse 25 does not give us a time frame of how long Barnabas was present in Antioch but it says he left there for Tarsus to seek for Saul. I take this as God guiding him because of Romans 8:14. Galatians 2:9 teaches us that Barnabas becomes an apostle to the Gentiles with Paul.
- Verse 26 is one of my favorites. It gives us the reason for seeking Paul. Paul is brought back to Antioch to help and this verse says they stayed there for a year and taught many people. Verse 26 also reveals this is where people in the church were first called “Christians”.
- Verse 27 says Jerusalem sent prophets to Antioch. This proves God is still working to bring messages through men to other men.
- Verse 28 is a warning from the Spirit of God spoken by the prophet sent to Antioch. He tells them of a great famine that would come upon the world.
- Verse 29 the church at Antioch gathers supplies to give to help those in Judea.
- Verse 30 says Barnabas and Paul leave Antioch to take the relief to the church elders.
We could literally write a book about all of the things revealed in these few verses. If you meditate on the verses long enough you will see what I mean. There are many lessons that can be transferred to the days that we live in. There is God leading the church individually and corporately to grow and increase in significant numbers. There is God leading and teaching individuals to grow up spiritually. There is God bringing warnings of coming events and helping to prepare them through a prophet. There are times of famine now in many parts of our world. People have physical needs and these should be taken to the elders in the church to be distributed to those in need. I believe that the church’s number one goal is to add to the number of believers to help the body grow. But, then the number two goal is to help those that are new in the church to grow spiritually so they do not fall away and they can become teachers also. I finally see the last goal of the church as being to help the physical needs of the people. This was God’s stated order of mention in chapter 11. I see God’s emphasis in Acts 11 being spiritual first and then physical. However, the famine did occur after a year from when Paul was sent into Antioch so the emphasis might have changed if the circumstances were different. Nevertheless, I want to say that I can see God was working in Acts 11 to supply both their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. Both are necessary components to continued growth. We saw great examples f God sending teachers to the new church members. We can easily confirm that God wants to save you first, but then He wants you to grow spiritually so that He can continue to lead you in the process to help others get into the same process and the spiritual life cycles continues and repeats. The spiritual cycles of spiritual church population growth duplicates the natural human cycles of population growth. The spiritual cycle of development and maturity parallels the natural human cycle of development and maturity. Just as math students in the natural can become math teachers to others as they grow, so it is with Bible students in the spiritual dimension. Non-speaking baby Christians after spiritual development and maturity should all become speaking Christians (AKA Bible teachers) for others.
While you may not fully understand how much you have learned today or how it applies to you being led by the Spirit of God, I will tell you that what you have learned has gone much further than you realize. Someday soon you will become a teacher and then these lessons will be in you to help others. God will draw them out when it is time and you will speak the oracles of God with wisdom. God Bless you until next time and I greatly appreciate your effort to study the Word of God with me.
Agapegeek Website Updates!
(Ver 1.1) This website is in the process of being updated and theoretically improved to increase the usability and features. I appreciate your love and patience during this time of transition. If you have any suggestions or comments I always welcome them. If you observe any problems or experience anything that is not user friendly I would greatly appreciate your help in notifying me of it. God Bless you and thanks for all that you do for Christ. Keep studying the Word of God, He is coming back SOON! I will also have a new Bible lesson to post very soon.
Understanding How to Be Led By the Spirit of God! How the Holy Spirit Led the Early Church in Acts 10! Part 12
(ver 1.1) This is now Part 12 in a series of very important basic Christian Bible lessons on the subject of Being Led by the Spirit of God. These lessons contain critical spiritual information, instructions, and corrections that are essential and necessary for the spiritual growth of every Christian and they directly apply to all of us in the modern church because we are all in the same body of Christ serving the same God in the same ways as those in the book of Acts. My foundational scripture verse for the entire series is “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14). That verse informs us that it is more than just a good idea, more than optimal, more than important, or more than just advantageous to be led by the Spirit of God over those that are not led. Romans 8:14 actually tells us that it is an essential requirement to be led by God or you cannot even be called His child. Jesus stipulated that “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). But commandments from God are more than just reading and obeying the written Laws of Moses. There will always be the written Word of God that we must learn, but there is also an implied direction to hear His current spoken words also. What was written to us thousands of years ago in the Bible still definitely applies and is very relevant, but I believe that what we may need to know is more specific for the right now. How do we grow and what do we still need to learn today, is there anything that we need to change, who do we need to speak with today or to witness to, who do we need to pray for today, where do I need to go today and on and on we could go. Personal direction from God can only come from hearing the Holy Spirit speak on an individual intimate level. That is why I’m teaching about how you can hear from God in the right now.
I believe that it is so very important for us to know this subject in great detail. Learn how God speaks, learn when God speaks and learn why God speaks and then expect Him to speak to you. If you are not expecting, then you are not listening. We have covered a tremendous amount of information that will not be repeated so if you have not read this series from the beginning I would suggest that you go and start with “Part 1” first. In recent lessons, I have been moving through the book of Acts and observing the patterns and revelations of how God led the early church to grow and increase in great numbers. I believe that these are great teachings for the end-time church to go up and out on so that we can learn how to reach as many people as we can in the shortest amount of time. The Bible speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit of God as being like rain (James 5:7, Zec 10:1, Joel 2:23). The Bible also speaks of the Word of God coming down from heaven like rain (Isa 55:10-11). God called for the former and the later rain to fall in their respective seasons upon His people to produce a healthy fruitful spiritual crop. Two things happened in the Book of Acts former rain that stands out above all other facts to me. The Spirit of God was poured out on the Church and as a result God gave them such profound new revelation of His precious Holy written Word that it was unprecedented and beyond comparison. As a result of the Spirit of God being poured out like never before on everyone in the church and the knowledge of God increasing so profoundly, the church grew tremendously. It was a classic cause and effect reality from God. We are now living very near the time of the harvest and therefore we are abiding in the time of the later rain. We are currently writing the final chapters to the book of Acts today by what we do for God. I believe that what happened in the early church rain is what is reoccurring now in the later rain. This is the heavenly rainy season that we live in right now. Learn to get into the rain of God and see if He will not pour out on you a blessing that you cannot even contain. The revelation of God is increasing today like never before. We are to use this information to help the church to grow, to overcome and to unite in His purpose. Get involved in what God is doing and make sure you are standing under the spiritual rain cloud that is being poured out on the church today.
In the last lesson I was teaching on Acts chapter 10 and we did not get through the entire chapter. Let’s briefly review what we saw that was happening. I personally believe that chapter 10 of Acts is the most important chapter we have observed on this subject of being led. The chapter begins with Cornelius a Gentile man praying and suddenly seeing an angel sent from God. In this vision, the angel gives him a message from God and tells him to go and find Peter in another city in order to hear another message from God. That right there is a very strange request from God. I guess the angel was not told the real message. What I believe is happening is that God is revealing to us that we are living in the church age. The church was given the delegated authority and responsibility to go and preach to those on the earth to get them saved (Mark 16:15). There is coming a time in Revelation 14:6 where the angels will preach to the people on the earth because the church will already be in heaven. Therefore, I believe the angel in Acts 10 is pointing Cornelius to a church member to hear the Gospel. The angel tells Cornelius where Peter can be found and he sends three men to the city of Joppa where Peter is staying.
While the men are on the trip to find Peter, Peter is also said to be praying at the exact precise time and he also has a vision from God that is very disturbingly strange. Peter falls into a trance and sees a vision of a sheet being lowered from heaven with every kind of animal clean and unclean on it. Peter is then commanded by God to kill and eat, but Peter knows this will be an offense to his current understanding of the written Law of Moses and he refuses. Because of Peter’s refusal to participate, Peter sees the same vision three times and that is another interesting concept that visions may reoccur, but do not think that they must reoccur. I believe it is wiser to participate and obey the first time that God says something to you. Peter is still contemplating the meaning of the vision when all of the sudden the Spirit of God speaks to him in his spirit and tells him the men sent by God are here to see him. At this point in time Peter does not know what the vision means nor does he understand who the men are and why they are here to see him. So Peter goes down and meets with the men to find out what is going on.
What we have just observed is a divinely choreographed and well-orchestrated plan of God that has been unfolding in progressive steps and stages. This is a great example of the wisdom of God in manifestation. Every participant is given only very limited quantities of information to accomplish a single step of the greater unknown divine goal. No one at this point in time knows what God is doing or why they are doing it with Him. This is clearly an example of the people of God being led blindly by faith where God is the only one that understands fully what is happening and why. Of course if God knows what He is doing then we should not really care what He is telling us to do or even ask why. What is going on will always become apparent to us soon enough if we continue to obey. This is just called being a willing servant of God that walks by faith. We can clearly see how the factor of human obedience plays a significant role when yielding to a higher degree of wisdom than we possess. It is also based upon a factor that is called “TRUST” like a child trusts their parents to catch them when they jump into their arms. There is a further implied unstated factor of humility where we must acknowledge internally that we need to be led by God. The success of the whole plan of God is completely dependent upon the faithful participation of each individual involved being led and all of these qualities that I just mentioned play key roles in the successful outcome. If any one man in this chapter drops the ball and does not do or complete what God has instructed them to do, God would have needed to find some new church members to replace them to get the job done and thus the church would have not grown as fast or as efficiently.
THE PURPOSE OF GOD’S LEADING
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (NASB)
Here is a good time to confirm why God wants to lead us again. If you are being led by God it is not for your demise, harm, hurt or destruction. Jeremiah 29:11 teaches us that God is always working for your greater good and for a greater purpose than what might be apparent at the time. You should be able to recognize that in Acts 10 as we continue through the lesson to the fulfillment of the plan of God. In this chapter nothing but positive things happen to everyone participating. The Bible clearly informs us that God is FOR US and not against us (Romans 8:31). There are three different perspectives that we can use to see what is written in this verse in Jeremiah 29. First, it can be viewed corporately as a universal statement directed at everyone. Second it can be viewed from the perspective that it was written to others like natural Israel only. Finally it could be viewed as a verse that was written to ME personally. There are ways to reason away any one of the these three possibilities using human logic. However, because the verse does not say who it is written to using a noun qualification, I take it to be a verse that includes all of the above possibilities concurrently. The translators also thought this way because they used the personal pronoun as “you” being “me” the reader to state the truth. I take this verse as a direct quote from God spoken to me.
I can understand that this verse was originally written to the natural nation of Israel. But, I then can begin to expand my vision to view it to be a universal truth that crosses over from the natural realm into the spiritual realm to include everyone. Therefore, it is simple to me if I take the truth in this verse to be for me personally. You of course need to make up your own mind if it is for you and do with it whatever you like. If you can come to the realization that it is for you also, then you need to do something else. You need to believe that God has a good plan specifically for you like I believe God has a good plan specifically for me? Your plan is not my plan, and my plan is not your plan. They are both unique and separate while still being equally good for each. If you can believe that, then you have a strong basis of faith with the scriptures to stand upon when you pray and ask God what is your plan for me. Knowing this revelation will give you confidence that when God leads you it is for a positive outcome and for a greater good purpose.
Since I believe that this verse in Jeremiah 29:11 is universally true and for me as an individual I can conclude three new things from it that applies to why God was leading the early church in Acts 10. First, God is ultimately interested in the good plan for growing the church as the single whole body of Christ on the earth. This is what I will call a “ONE” church body approach to understanding the scriptures. Since I believed that Jeremiah 29:11 was for individuals and I view the body of Christ as an individual corporate body I believe God’s good plan must include us all as one group. I’m not going to teach you about the church being one body found in the scriptures today so if you do not understand that truth then you should do a separate study on the subject. Second, I believe that in order for God to grow the church that God must also be interested in helping all of the members in the church to grow up spiritually to learn how to be led by Him. What we have again is an approach that if one part of the body is ill, then the entire body is ill. You cannot cut off one part of your body and still be a whole person. Again I can see how God’s GOOD plans for the church are both individualized and simultaneously incorporated for the good of everyone for a unified positive purpose and outcome. I hope that you understand these concepts, because I do not have time to go into them in great detail. Last but not least I believe that God is interested in blessing you in the natural realm so that you can become a blessing to others on the earth in the natural realm to get them saved. Here is where church growth corresponds to human growth cycles. When a natural child is born into the world they are very small, weak and need assistance to survive. As their body develops they are increased in mass, strength and ability. These concepts can be transferred to the body of Christ. I believe that our church body is in a growth cycle right now and we are reaching out to those that are not a part of the body to help them to be added to the body of Christ. This is only possible while we are all still in the natural realm. If you die or they die then it is too late for each of you to participate in the increase to the body of believers. I can see all three of these things occurring in Acts 10 and I hope that you will also agree with me on them.
WHAT IS A GOOD PLAN FROM GOD?
Jeremiah 29:11 informs us that God has good plans for His people. What exactly is a plan? And what makes one plan good and another one not good? One definition of the word plan is a design or a scheme of arrangement. We might be able to view a plan as a set of project specifications. This is a concept that transfers to many things in the natural to be easily understood. A cook uses a recipe to create an edible delicacy which is tasty. A seamstress uses a pattern to create a dress that will knock your socks off when you see it worn. An architect creates a plan called a blueprint design with architectural diagrams to build a great building that we can live and work in. These are all designed stepped approaches to the creation of things in the world. These are all good planned approaches that benefit people in some way. No plan that I have just mentioned was intended for anyone’s harm or demise. However, you can clearly see how that any plan can be changed or modified to become evil. Good and evil are basic concepts found in the Bible. The Bible tells us that God is good and that Satan is evil. We should be able to conclude that God’s plans are for our good and Satan’s plans are for our hurt. This is really not that complicated, but Satan has used people’s human reasoning to try shift all plans to God’s control and that is a great error in judgment.
Does every plan on the earth automatically come to pass exactly as planned? If you have ever been a project manager you know that they do not. Rarely does a plan occur without a problem. Now, consider what if it is God’s plan for your personal life? Does that mean God’s plans for you will automatically come to pass just because God is omnipotent and controls everything that happens to you? Again, it certainly does not! If that was true it would be totally unnecessary to be led by the Spirit of God and we could just all sit back and let Him do everything. The requirement to be led by the Spirit of God dictates that every plan of God does not automatically transpire. All of this means that you need to first learn what the plan of God is or at the minimum learn what part of the plan that God wants you to do and then follow God’s instructions to fulfill it. What I am doing is attempting to go through some side trips that are informative enough to try to help you understand why things occur. Every plan is not good and every good plan does not always come to full fruition.
I have studied the Gospels and I have tried to observe what Jesus said and did in person for humanity in order to better understand what God in heaven wants to do for humanity today. I never did see Jesus kill someone, rob someone, hurt someone or do any evil to anyone. The Bible clearly says in Acts 10:38 that Jesus went about doing “GOOD” to all those oppressed of the devil. If Jesus wanted “good” for us on the earth when He was here physically then it is still the same today. This also teaches us that God is not the author of the evil and that Satan is the one doing evil to us. Read the Gospels and see that when people were hungry Jesus cared enough to feed them. When people were sick, blind or crippled many got healed and delivered. When people were in their ignorance Jesus spent vast amounts of time teaching them. Jesus even raised many from the dead. These were all examples of doing good things for people. How can you see anything but good coming from God since the Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever? (Heb 13:8)
So why do bad things still happen to the good church members in Acts and to the people on the earth still today? We clearly saw Stephen being stoned and others being thrown into prison in Acts. There was definite persecution being leveled on the church by the Jews. I believe that there are possibly multiple reasons for bad things happening in the world to good church members. First the existence of evil in the world remains ever present and it will not be taken away until the time has been fulfilled. Understand that the world that we currently live in had a set beginning which requires a set ending by definition. Satan the initiator of all evil now understands the concept of the timed ending and he knows that his time left is growing rapidly shorter so he is intentionally stepping up the evil in the world and he is not trying to reduce it. Second, the whole concept of being led by the Spirit of God was a brand new idea that had just been initiated by God in all of the church in Acts 2. Previously in the Old Testament God would lead one man and they would hold the responsibility to lead everyone else. Today in the church we have a radical new concept where God says that He will lead everyone individually, corporately and simultaneously.
Being led by God is not an automatic spiritual skill that everyone understands when they become a Christian. In fact it is actually the opposite. Being led by the Spirit of God is an acquired spiritual ability or we could also say a learned spiritual skill as we can clearly see in the experiences of those in Acts 10. Normally humans are led by their senses, their experiences and their human reasoning. All of these are enemies to how God leads us by our spirit and we have to make the transition from these natural ways to be successfully led by the Spirit of God. No one in the book of Acts is yet an expert at being led by the Spirit of God. Everyone is still growing up spiritually as God teaches each of them. Keep in mind at this time there is still no New Testament Bibles that exist. Everything being taught by the church is from the Old Testament and these are concealed words about a hidden Jesus and the many other spiritual things that were just being revealed and taught for the first time by God. So the people in Acts are like the people today. We are all still learning to be led by God and we all still growing spiritually as we hear from Him. Like those in Acts we are all still imperfect men and women with faults, weaknesses, emotions, sense feelings, and the same oppositions, persecutions and distractions as they faced. Therefore, between the continued presences of evil in the world working with the fallible human condition of men in the world both continue to contribute to why bad things still happen to Christians.
What we have seen so far in Acts 10 is God’s usage of at least 4 or 5 different communication methods over the course of several days to accomplish the greater plan of God while simultaneously teaching the church how God operates to lead them. I have noticed that God is intelligent enough to multi-task and He is more than able to accomplish several stated goals with a single threaded process. This is one of the greatest examples in the Book of Acts that I have seen so far of how the Sovereign God works in conjunction with the imperfect people on the earth that have the freewill option and choice to listen, hear, understand, choose and to obey Him. We have clearly seen that God gives us all limited instructions in progressively sequenced steps to cause every participant to walk by faith and not by their own individual sight, knowledge or understanding. I call this God’s modus operandi or method of operation. It is how God operated with the early church and it is how God operates with us still today.
Think about the story in Acts 10. If God would have told Cornelius everything from the beginning using the angel there would have been no need for any messengers to go get Peter. There would have been no need for a Peter the preacher at all. If God would have told Peter everything that was happening, then he would have also not needed to go down and talk to the men from Caesarea or go and preach to Cornelius. Cornelius would have not needed a Peter and Peter would have not needed a Cornelius. These are clear examples of how the individual people in the church should be working together in unison to accomplish the greater goal of God. In other words no church member is an island that can stand alone in their own personal ministry isolation. God does not call any church member to live in solitary confinement. God called no Christian to be a Robinson Crusoe type of believer living in a monastery. If you think you can live a full Christian life like that then you are deceived. If you think no one else needs your participation then you are deceived. These are some of the greatest examples of God using ordinary people like you and me in the church.
WHY GOD LED THE CHRUCH IN ACTS 10
As you continue reading in the chapter we will finally begin to discover why God is doing what He has been doing. We will finally understand that everything that has occurred in Acts 10 is God causing the church to grow, expand and include the people of every nation and not just the people of natural Israel as it was found to be in the first 9 chapters of Acts. God is about to shake up the box of their religious beliefs and their understanding of God’s character and turn it all upside down. I guess technically I should say that God is turning things right side up, but you know what I mean. Read some verses found in the prophet Isaiah:
Isa 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
Isa 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
Isa 42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
Isa 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
Isa 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
If you search the Bible you will see that there are several prophecies in the O.T. like these that reveal salvation belongs to all nations through Jesus Christ. Here in Isaiah God says Jesus will be a light to the Gentiles and that His salvation will be displayed to the ends of the earth. God says this will be something brand new. What is a Gentile? From a natural O.T. Bible perspective a Gentile was anyone that was not of the circumcision of the flesh first given to Abraham. Every male descendant from Abraham on was circumcised as an outward sign of their covenant with God. This event usually occurred 8 days after a male child was born (Php 3:5) and it resulted in a cutting of their flesh, the shedding of some of the child’s blood, and it also hurt and was physically painful. Therefore a Gentile to the Jewish men in Acts 10 were any men that did not possess this physical mark in their flesh. Now a new problem is being revealed to those in the church in Acts 10. God is going to give them a totally new spiritual definition to an old natural understanding of what exactly circumcision was. God is revealing something so radical to them that it is very difficult for many of them to even accept. Here is a part of the new revelation that God would later write to the church at Rome:
Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
You see these are verses that people today ignore because they do not understand what they say or mean. God is teaching the church that the outward mark of the flesh is not what makes a man a Jew anymore. God is revealing that the outward circumcision was only given to teach them all about a new inward circumcision of the heart that makes us all a brand new kind of Jew. Uh oh? What did I just say? Do you see why people still struggle with this revelation? We will discover that the early church had this same difficulty when we get to chapter 11. There was a huge movement in the early church by some Jewish believers to try to get all the new Gentile believers that came into the church to be circumcised like they were in their flesh. These Jewish Christians were thinking carnally and naturally that in order to be fully saved it required everyone to do something externally to keep the law of God. What God was doing is revealing that the natural things that He implemented under the law with Abraham only pointed them to the real spiritual things that ONLY God could do in the spiritual realm. The Bible says that no one will ever be justified by the works of the law (Gal 2:16). The circumcision of the heart (spirit) first started happening in the beginning of the church age as men received the Spirit of God. This same circumcision of the heart that only the natural Jews had received is now being expanded in Acts 10 to include all of the Gentiles that believe on Christ also. You cannot see or even understand the spiritual things of God and how they work without first understanding the natural things and how they worked. This is why God does the natural first to teach us about the spiritual works of God. This is really not that complicated yet many Christians still stumble over it constantly.
THE CONCLUSION TO ACTS 10
These were just cleverly designed ways of God to say behold I do a brand new thing and it is now open to everyone that wants to participate. The early church did not really fully understand these verses were even in their Bible. That is why God is revealing them to the church in Acts 10 and His written word can be used to confirm what He said to them. Always remember that what God tells you by His Spirit will never conflict or contradict with what God has said to you in His written Word. God is giving the church new revelation knowledge of the old prophecies in Isaiah. Revelation knowledge is never a modification to the words that were written on the page, it is always just an adjustment to our spiritual eyesight that increases our understanding of what the words meant in the first place. Let’s complete the study of the verses in Acts 10:
Act 10:28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful 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.
Here is a very classic example of how people can believe they understood what the Bible said and totally miss the real meaning until God reveals it to them. There was a strict literal natural interpretation of the law that said that no Jew could associate with a non-Jew. We could read this in the Gospels when the woman at the well was shocked that Jesus was talking to her a Samaritan (John 4:9). The natural Jewish religious leaders took this law to an extreme and fell into great error with it. Jesus understood what it said and knew it did not mean what they thought it meant. Taking any truth to an extreme is one of the greatest dangers to believing a lie. Peter in the presence of Cornelius begins to understand the vision from God. The new revelation from God was being taught that these uncircumcised men in Cornelius’ house were chosen by God and they were not the kind of men that God was saying not to associate with in the law. This was really an incredible new way to look at an old written rule. What God is doing is differentiating between natural truths and spiritual truths, natural laws and spiritual laws, and natural people and spiritual people. The natural Jews looked at this law as meaning one thing and now the church is being taught to see it with a completely new way of thinking spiritually. This quite literally proves that what we sometimes thought to be the truth is not always the truth in reality.
Act 10:30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
Cornelius begins to recount to Peter what God had done and what was told to him by the angel. God is now connecting the dots to allow everyone to see the bigger picture plan of God. Notice again that there was a span of 4 days that these events have transpired on. As you read down you will see Cornelius explaining what the angel said to him and how he was instructed to go to Joppa to get Peter to hear the message. This is now the second time we are told what God is doing in this chapter. Whenever God tells you something more than once it means it is very important and you better learn what is going on. It is a lot like when Jesus said “Verily, Verily”. Anytime there is repetition there is intended importance and emphasis.
Act 10:33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
I like the term “immediately”. Immediately denotes the factor of timing to be potentially critical to the entire process. If timing did not matter, God would not have told you about it. I believe that many times if there is a delay in doing what God has said we might just miss what is happening in God’s plan. Of course God could change the course of timings and if Cornelius delayed sending men to Joppa there could have been a delay of Peter praying and getting the vision. However you may remember that Peter just so happened to be hungry when he was praying so the timing of events appears to be critical for the whole process. Both Cornelius and Peter prayed at the exact set precise time for each to accomplish the plan. The angel appears to Cornelius at the specific set time needed. The men are sent to Joppa and they travel a set specific time that corresponds with Peter’s prayer time. God gave Peter a vision about food and eating a meal at the precise time he was hungry. The men from Cornelius just so happen to show up where Peter is at after a day’s journey and their arrival corresponds exactly after the vision was just completed. God just so happens to tell Peter they are there and on and on I could go. I feel that timing was an essential factor to getting the plan of God to happen in the exact order and sequence of events. If any participant delayed and did not do what they were supposed to do, would the plan of God still have fallen into place so precisely? That is a very interesting concept to consider. It sounds like to me we need to become aware of God’s timing and try to follow Him very closely. For example, if God tells you to wait five minutes before doing something, it is probably best to do it. You do not know what will happen if you do not do it and that is the risk of being disobedient. If God leads you only for your good, not being led by God could result in something evil happening to you. If God tells you now to do something and you do not, you also just might be missing out on the blessing that God was awaiting to give you. Keep reading in this chapter and see the blessings of God that are being poured out as a result of everyone being led by the Spirit of God. In Acts 10:34 through verse 44 is Peter’s sermon to the house of Cornelius. I will not go over the sermon, because it is basically the Gospel of Jesus foretold through the prophets.
Here is a good time to re-emphasize a point that I tried to make earlier in this series. At no time does it say that Peter thought about or prepared what to say or to preach to Cornelius’ house before getting to them. At no time does it say that Peter stopped to review his notes, read anything or to even make notes. I’ll shock you a little more here and say that Peter does not stop and pray to ask God what to do either. What comes out of Peter’s mouth is the spontaneous response from what God has already previously deposited in his heart through the teachings of Jesus and the experiences that he has had up until this point in time. Do you understand this? You probably do not yet understand fully what I am saying. A preacher should always prepare to preach by diligent study and prayer, but a preacher should never have a set written statement to read from for anyone. Doing this puts God in a human box of constraints and limitations and denies that God has the ability to speak to you directly to give the people a fresh new Word from heaven. What I am trying to say is that God brought to Peter’s remembrance what was necessary to preach to Cornelius at a flashed instance of spontaneity. It is a classic well and water analogous concept. The preacher is the well that has the deposits of God’s water (word) within his spirit. The spirit of man is like the well of water. This is exactly what Jesus was teaching the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus said the water that I give will cause a man to never thirst again and she said to Him give me this drink. God places good deposits in our spirit by us hearing His word over and over and us meditating on it. The Spirit of God will draw out this water from the well to give to others when it is needed at that precise moment. Jesus taught Peter this concept when he was here on the earth. Read this verse and see if you can apply it to what is happening in Cornelius’ house:
Luk 12:11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Luk 12:12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
Jesus taught them not to think beforehand or plan what they will say, because He clearly said that the Holy Spirit that will be in them will tell them what to say. This again is a major faith proposition for the preacher to trust God to give him what is needed when it is needed. Wow, that is a tough concept for many to understand. But this allows God to flow and to change to be spontaneous to fit the ever fluid changing situation of humanity. I have been in church services and seen where the pastor has started out with his written prepared sermon outline notes and all of sudden he went off on a topic that the Spirit of God brings to him and this was a right now fresh word for someone in the audience that needed to be there to hear it and to be ministered to. There is no way that the preacher would have known this and been able to prepare for it. Yes God could have told him, but that would allow the preacher to walk by sight and not by faith. Let’s try to finish Acts 10 today. What I want to show you next is what happened as Peter was preaching:
Act 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
This was the same outpouring of the former rain sent down from God in heaven. The Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles almost in the exact same way as He was given to the natural Jews in Acts 2. If you read Peter’s sermon he makes this revealed statement “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons”. What Peter was referring to was that it was not the external circumcision of the flesh that determined what the internal man could receive from God. To perceive is an inward increase in spiritual understanding. It was the revelation that God was revealing to Peter through the leading, the vision, the angel, the men in house of Cornelius and the other works that we have witnessed. All of this was the greater plan of God for the church from the beginning, but it has taken God almost 10 chapters of Acts to get it implemented.
Act 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Act 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
Here we have the beginning of a new church controversy. The Jews that came with Peter, all being of the circumcision were blown away by what God has just done to those men that were never circumcised in their flesh. They all learned a great lesson with the house of Cornelius and all were blessed by what has just occurred. Notice that what is happening is almost a complete repeat of what happened to the natural Jews in Acts 2. The Spirit of God falls from heaven and they received and were all heard speaking in tongues and praising God. This is awesome information for us today. It means what they experienced is what we can still experience. In other words this was not a onetime event in Acts 2, it was a church age event that can occur over and over. Let’s review the sequence of events one more time:
- Cornelius Prays to God in Caesarea.
- Cornelius has an open vision of the angel.
- Angel was sent from God with instructions to go get Peter in Joppa for a message from God.
- Cornelius sends three men to Joppa to get Peter and takes over a day to get there.
- Peter was praying in Joppa at the precise time when the men neared the house.
- Peter was hungry while he prayed.
- God gives Peter a closed vision three times that needed interpretation to be understood about eating unclean animals.
- The Spirit of God speaks to Peter after the vision and tells him men sent by God are here to see him.
- Peter goes to Cornelius house and preaches the Gospel.
- While Peter is preaching the Spirit of God is poured out on the Gentiles and Jewish believers witness it and are amazed and perplexed.
- As a result God adds to the church the Gentile people.
Notice what is happening. God is never revealed to do the exact same thing twice in this entire process (with the exception that Peter was given the same vision three times because of his refusal to participate) proving God’s ways are not always our ways of doing things. People like to do things out of repetition or habit, but that is obviously not God’s way of doing things. God uses at least 5 different displayed methods to lead His people in one process plan. Everyone involved is required to walk by faith. Everyone involved benefits, learns, grows spiritually and the entire church of God also grows and increases in numbers. These are fundamental facts that are essential to grasp. These are some of the key ways that God will lead you and me to work together today. I go many times to listen to a man of God and will hear something new from them that helps me learn something else new from God. God will use one preacher to say one thing to someone and another preacher to say something else to the same person and all of this causes us all to grow together. If at anytime the people in Acts 10 wanted to isolate themselves and not participate with the plan of God it would have not been accomplished. Sometimes God’s plan will require you stretching out beyond your four walls to go to someone else to hear the complete message from God or give them a message from God. Begin today by praying and see what the Spirit of God says for you to do. If we are not praying we are probably not hearing from God as we should and getting directions that we need for today. Thanks for studying the Bible with me on this important subject and hopefully we can move to another chapter in the next lesson since we have spent so much time in this great chapter. Stay hungry and thirsty for more of God and God will bless you with more of Him.
If you wold like to cotinue reading in this series you may go to “Part 13“.