Unlocking Cities & Nations: The Persecution of the Church & the Promise of the Father

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. More specifically today’s passage is found in the tenth chapter of this New Testament book. ”There was a certain man in Caesarea callex Cornelius, a centurion of the head called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. And when the agnel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devour soldier of them that waited on him continually. And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa” (Acts 10:1-8).

 

            “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: and he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending un to him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was receive up again into heaven” (Acts 10:9-16).

 

            “Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate, and called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodge there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into. His house, and to hear words of thee. Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peer went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the morrow after they enter into Caeserea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends” (Acts 10:17-24).

 

            “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 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. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? 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, and said Cornelius, thy prater is heard, and thine alms are had in rememberance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 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” (Acts 10:25-33).

 

            “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus for Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; afor God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:34-43).

 

            “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 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. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days” (Acts 10:44-48).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will encounter the narrative of the beginning of both the gospel being preached unto the Gentiles as well as the promise of the Holy Ghost being released unto and upon the Gentiles. Up until this point within the book of Acts the gospel had been preached unto the house of Israel and the promise of the Father which was the person and presence of the Holy Ghost had been present unto and among the Jews within Galilee, Judaea, and Jerusalem. In all reality, however, what we witness and behold here in the tenth chapter of the book of Acts actually began earlier in the eighth chapter of this book. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book you will find that a great persecution broke out against the Christians in the city of Jerusalem. After the death of Stephen at the hands of the Jews and the religious leaders of that day we find a great persecution breaking out against the church in the city of Jerusalem as well as the emergence of a man named Saul of Tarsus—a Pharisee who studied under Gamaliel—who wreaked havoc in the church by entering into houses and home dragging men and women out as he committed them unto prison. As a direct result of the persecution which broke out against the church in the city of Jerusalem we find all but the apostles being scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria.

 

            The words which you find in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book are incredibly powerful when you take the time to consider them for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding persecution as being the catalyst that would thrust the church together with the gospel and the person and presence of the Holy Ghost from the city of Jerusalem. Upon being thrust forth and launched out from Jerusalem we find the church essentially being launched out into the waters which were Judaea and Galilee. Up until that point the church had merely cast their net in the shallow waters of the city of Jerusalem as men and women would not only believe on the name of Jesus the Christ and be baptized but would also receive the promise of the Holy Ghost. What’s more is that it would be within the seven chapters of this New Testament book we find and encounter the gospel being preached repeatedly within the city of Jerusalem by the apostles as well as those who believed in and followed the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon coming to the eighth chapter of this New Testament book, however, we find the net which was being cast among men transitioning beyond the shallow waters of Jerusalem and into the deeper waters of Judaea and Samaria. In fact it would be through persecution the early church would be launched out from the city of Jerusalem into the deeper waters of Judaea and Samaria. In all reality what we find in the eighth chapter of this book is the direct fulfillment of the words which Jesus had spoken unto those whom He led out as far as the mount called Olivet before He ascended unto heaven and was received by the Father. If you recall it was Jesus at the mount of Olivet who declared unto them they would receive power and would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judaea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. I would invite you to consider with me if you will the following words which are found in the twenty-eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, the words found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Luke, as well as the words which are found in the opening chapter of this New Testament book of Acts:

 

            “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20).

 

            “…And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up. His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:44-53).

 

            “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he though the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two. Men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we pay attention to the words which are found in these three portions of Scripture for what we find here is a powerful picture of Jesus instructing and commanding His disciples and followers to tarry in Jerusalem until they be endued with power from on high. Jerusalem which was the city where Jesus had been condemned and sentenced to death, and Jerusalem which was where the Lord Jesus Christ was brutally tortured and where a crown of thorns was plated and placed upon his head would be the very place the disciples and followers of Jesus were to abide and remain until they be endued with power from on high. It would be in the very city where Jesus suffered, and in the very city where Jesus would be brutally beaten, and in the very city where Jesus would be mocked and scourged before a crown of thorns was plated and placed upon His head where the apostles and followers would abide and remain until they be endowed with power from on high. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it would be in the city of Jerusalem where the promise of the Father would first be released and poured out. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where the apostles would first speak with other tongues as the Holy Ghost gave them utterance and it would be in the city of Jerusalem where the apostle Peter would preach on the day of Pentecost confirming the word spoken by the prophet Joel as well as the words which had been spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover it would be in the city of Jerusalem where the impotent man who had been lame from birth was healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth and where the apostles would be persecuted, threatened, imprisoned and beaten for the sake of the name and gospel of Jesus.

 

            I am convinced the words which are found in these chapters before us serve as a powerful foundation for what we find in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book for they bring us face to face with the apostles and followers of Jesus being endowed with power from on high and speaking with other tongues as the Holy Ghost gave them utterance. In all reality I am convinced there were certain pivotal moments found in the New Testament book of Acts that serve as the foundation and backdrop for what we find in the tenth chapter of this same book. Of course we know and understand that the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the right hand of the Father as mentioned in the first chapter was the foundation upon which all other events would take place and unfold for it would be after His ascension the apostles and followers of Jesus would return unto Jerusalem with great joy and would be together in one accord in one place giving themselves to prayer. In the second chapter we find the day of Pentecost arriving and the sound of a mighty rushing wind filling the upper room where the followers of Jesus had been gathered and cloven tongues of fire resting upon them as He would give them utterance to speak with other tongues. The second chapter of this Old Testament book would bring us face to face with the day of Pentecost and how after the apostle Peter had finished preaching three thousand souls were added unto the number of followers and apostles which were present in the upper room. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh chapters you will find the heat beginning to be turned up upon the apostles as they would be threatened, persecuted, imprisoned and even beaten for the sake of the name of Jesus.  The persecution which the apostles would themselves face would ultimately transition to the time of the church’s first martyr as Stephen—one of the seven deacons chosen from among them—would be wrongly accused before being stoned to death. It would be this persecution of Stephen that would be the catalyst for a great persecution to break out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem against the apostles and followers of Jesus, thus forcing all but the apostles to be scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria.

 

            As you think about and consider the great persecution which broke out in the city of Jerusalem and the scattering abroad of the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ you must needs recognize and understand how that was the catalyst and the launching pad for the church into Judaea and Samaria. It was Jesus who declared unto them they would be His witnesses in Judaea and Samaria and yet upon making that declaration He would not speak nor would He reveal unto them how it would take place. What Jesus promised the apostles at the mount of Olivet was that they would be endowed with power from on high and would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. What Jesus, however, did not mention unto His apostles and followers on that day was that persecution would be the catalyst which would thrust them into Judaea, into Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. POWER WITHOUT PERSECUTION! POWER APART FROM PERSECUTION! In essence the apostles and followers of Jesus Christ knew and understood they would receive power from on high and would be witnesses for Him, however, for the first seven chapters of this New Testament book we find them continuing in the city of Jerusalem while Judaea, Galilee and Samaria would be entirely untouched and unreached with the gospel and name of Jesus as well as the promise of the Father. This, however, would all change when persecution would break out in the city of Jerusalem as the person and presence of the Holy Ghost would incite and invite persecution to break out against the early Church during those days.

 

            Before I delve any further into this writing I feel compelled to declare unto you who might be reading these words how there are many who would desire the power and presence of the Holy Ghost and yet have absolutely no room or space within their lives for persecution. There are many among us who would like to have the power and presence of the Holy Ghost within their lives and yet they have no context or framework for persecution within their lives. In the first and opening chapter of this New Testament book we find and encounter Jesus declaring unto His apostles and followers they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth and yet what we don’t see in those words but would see in the eighth chapter is the presence of persecution. In all reality I would dare say that as we read the words found in the book of Acts we must needs recognize that more often than not the presence of the Holy Ghost can and will be accompanied by persecution. There would be those among us who would like to think that the presence of the Holy Spirit is solely about power from on high—power to heal the sick, power to raise the dead, power to cast out unclean spirits, power to preach the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, and power to fulfill the call and plan of God for our lives. There are those among us who believe that the presence of the person of the Holy Ghost is all about power from on high and yet they have absolutely no context or framework for persecution in their lives. If, however, there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that more often than not the person and presence of the Holy Spirit not only brings power to be witnesses but also persecution for the sake of the name of Jesus and for the sake of the gospel preached in His name. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there are many among us who want the power of the Holy Spirit without and apart from the persecution that more often than not accompanies the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

 

            POWER APART FROM PERSECUTION CAN OFTENTIMES BE SHALLOW! I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I find myself coming face to face with the awesome truth that power—even power endowed us by the person and presence of the Holy Spirit—can at times within our lives be the catalyst for persecution and the launchpad for our moving beyond those places we are comfortable. I am sure the followers of Jesus were comfortable in the city of Jerusalem gathering together in one accord, breaking bread from house to house, selling all they had to distribute to the poor, continuing in the apostles’ teaching and doctrine, and being united together in community and compassion. What we find in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book is a powerful transition that would take place in the history and narrative of the early church as with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would come persecution. Oh I can’t help but read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts and come face to face with the tremendous truth that more often than not the person and presence of the Holy Spirit does indeed come with receiving power from on high and being witnesses, however, more often than not that power must be tempered and meted with persecution.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize upon reading the eighth chapter of this New Testament book it’s that when Jesus declared unto His apostles and followers they would be witnesses in Judaea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth He did not tell them how persecution would break out in the city thus disrupting everything they had enjoyed and build up until that point in time. Up until that time the early church and followers of Jesus had enjoyed rest and peace in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—this despite the fact that the apostles were persecuted, threatened, beaten and imprisoned. What’s more is that outside of and apart from the persecution of the apostles and the death of Stephen the early church experienced a large measure and degree of peace and rest in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. This, however, would all change after the death of Stephen for it was almost as if the death of Stephen would grant license unto those within the city of Jerusalem to raise themselves up against the followers of Jesus and engage in persecution of them. What we find in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book is the time of rest and peace in the city of Jerusalem drawing to a close as persecution would rise up against them in the midst of the city. So severe was this persecution that it would force all but the apostles from the city of Jerusalem into Judaea and Samaria. With this being said I feel compelled to declare unto you that there are times when we must needs be made uncomfortable in our lives and experience the heat being turned up for us to begin to step into and walk in what we have been called. It was indeed true the apostles and followers of Jesus would be witnesses in Judaea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth, however, that would and could not take place apart from persecution which broke out in the city of Jerusalem.

 

            I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand just how powerful this persecution was during the days of the early church for were it not for the persecution which broke out at that time it’s possible the followers of Jesus would not have been scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. I can’t help but read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts and see persecution as the catalyst and launchpad for the early Church to bring them beyond Jerusalem and into Judaea and Samaria. It would be the great persecution which would break out against the church in the city of Jerusalem that would thrust the early Church out into the deeper waters of Judaea and Galilee—not only as means of bringing the gospel of Jesus and the promise of the Father in those places but also as a precursor and portent of the gospel and name of Jesus as well as the Holy Spirit going even further than Judaea and Samaria. It’s important for us to realize that Jerusalem was merely the epicenter of the gospel and name of Jesus being preached and the release of the promise of the Father which was the person of the Holy Ghost. Jerusalem was merely the origin of the promise of the Father which was the person and presence of the Holy Ghost and Jerusalem would be the starting point of the early church from the day of Pentecost on. With this being said, however, neither the gospel and name of Jesus nor the person of the Holy Ghost was destined to abide and remain in Jerusalem. Although the apostles and followers of Jesus were instructed to abide in Jerusalem until they be endowed with power from on high that did not mean they would remain in the city of Jerusalem for the rest of their days. Eventually there would come a point in time when the early church would be brought forth and launched out of the city of Jerusalem and into the surrounding regions of Judaea and Samaria.

 

            When you come to the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find a great persecution breaking out against the church which was at Jerusalem and how they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria. In the opening verses of the eighth chapter you will find Saul making havoc in the church as he would enter into every house haling men and women committing them into prison. Those, however, who were scattered abroad throughout Judaea and Samaria would preach the word wherever they went in the midst of Jerusalem and Samaria. It is this concept of persecution and preaching which we must needs understand for when we come to the fifth verse of this chapter we find Philip one of the seven deacons chosen and appointed from among the brethren going down to the city of Samaria and preaching Christ unto them. It would be there in Samaria the people with one accord would give heed unto the things which Philip spoke as they heard and witnessed the miracles which he did. In addition to the preaching of the gospel and name of Jesus being preached in Samaria unclean spirits crying with a loud voice came out of many which were possessed with them. Moreover many which were taken with palsies and were lame were healed in Jesus’ name as great joy was in the city. The beloved physician Luke writes and records how many in this city who believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ were baptized. It is in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we find many in this city of Samaria believing on the name of Jesus Christ as they were not only baptized in name of Jesus but were also baptized in water. Upon seeing and hearing all the great works and miracles which Philip did a man named Simon who was a sorcerer and had previously bewitched the people also believed and was baptized as he continued with Philip and wondered as he beheld the miracles and signs which were done.

 

            If you continue reading in the eighth chapter of this New Testament book you will find that when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John. Upon coming unto Samaria and beholding the great work that took place in that place Peter and John prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost for as yet the Holy Ghost had fallen upon none of them. When the apostles Peter and John laid their hands on those in Samaria they received the Holy Ghost and I would dare say they began speaking with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this portion of Scripture for here in Samaria—not only do we find preaching in the name of Jesus, not only do we find healing in the name of Jesus and not only do we find unclean spirits being cast out in the name of Jesus but we also find the person and presence of the Holy Ghost being poured out upon them. When the apostles Peter and John came down unto and among those in Samaria hearing how they had received the word of God they would lay their hands upon and pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. This is something which must needs be recognized and acknowledged when reading these words for what took place in Samaria was not only the fulfillment or the beginning of the fulfillment of what Jesus spoke concerning their being witnesses in Judaea and Samaria, but it would also be the precursor for the further spread of the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as the gift of the Holy Ghost being poured out unto those who believed.

 

            That which we find in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts must be carefully considered and understood for what took place in Samaria was not only hearing and receiving the word of God and being baptized in the name of Jesus but also receiving the Holy Ghost. What took place in Samaria would be the beginning of the gospel and name of Jesus being preached beyond Jerusalem as well as the beginning of men and women beyond Jerusalem being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The events which occurred in Samaria would be the beginning and the catalyst of the Holy Ghost being released unto and upon those outside of the city of Jerusalem as men and women outside of Jerusalem would receive the Holy Ghost. Oh we must needs recognize and understand what is found in this passage of Scripture for the events recorded in the eighth chapter would be the beginning of the spread of the gospel beyond even Judaea and Samaria as it would ultimately be manifested unto the Gentiles and the uttermost parts of the earth. What would begin in Jerusalem would eventually spread into and throughout Judaea and Samaria and it would be in Samaria where men and women would not only be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but would also be baptized with the person of the Holy Ghost. Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are presented in the eighth chapter for what we find here is a beautiful picture of how the persecution which broke out in the city of Jerusalem would thrust the early church and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ into Judaea and Samaria and how it would be in Samaria where many would believe, where many would be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and where many would receive the person, the presence and promise of the Holy Ghost.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that if we wish to understand what is found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we must needs recognize what is found in the eighth chapter. What we find in the eighth chapter is those in Samaria believing on the name of the Lord Jesus, being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and receiving the promise of the Father which was the Holy Ghost. Through the events which took place in Samaria we begin to discover that the promise of the Father wasn’t merely for the Jews in Jerusalem nor even for the Jews alone but would also be for the Samaritans. By the time we come to the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth concerning the promise of the Holy Ghost being for and unto both Jews and Samaritans alike. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as it draws and calls our attention to the powerful truth that what Jesus had spoken was indeed coming to pass and being fulfilled during those days. Jerusalem had indeed been the epicenter of the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus being preached and the outpouring of the promise of the Father, however, Jerusalem wouldn’t be the home of the gospel nor of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jerusalem would merely be the starting point and the foundation for where the gospel of the Lord Jesus would be preached and where the promise of the Father would be poured out. Eventually, however, both the word of the gospel, the name of the Lord Jesus and the person of the Holy Ghost would transition beyond Jerusalem and would be manifested in Judaea and Samaria. Oh pause for a moment and consider the awesome and tremendous truth surrounding what took place in the eighth chapter for what we find here in this chapter is the beginning of the gospel spreading into Samaria as well as the person of the Holy Ghost being released among them.

 

            As you read the New Testament you will essentially find three distinct groups of people mentioned in the four gospels—namely, the Jews, the Samaritans and the Gentiles. What we find in the first seven chapters of the New Testament book of Acts is the gospel of the Lord Jesus being preached unto and among the Jews as well as the Holy Ghost being released upon and poured out on the Jews which were in Jerusalem. When, however, we come to the eighth chapter of this New Testament book we find the gospel of the Lord Jesus being preached unto and among the Samaritans as it would not only be for the Jews but for the Samaritans as well. Although when Jesus originally appointed His twelve apostles and gave them power over unclean spirits to cast them out, to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead and to preach the gospel unto the poor He instructed them not to go into any of the cities of Samaria that would all change when the person and presence of the Holy Ghost was poured out. It would be when the person and presence of the Holy Ghost was poured out in the midst of the earth that the rest of Judaea would be unlocked as well as Samaria. In all reality we might very well say that it was the person and presence of the Holy Ghost and persecution that unlocked Judaea and Samaria for up until that point in time the gospel was only preached in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Up until that point the promise of the Father was only being released and poured out in the city of Jerusalem and would not be poured out among the Samaritans nor the Gentiles. WHEN PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH AND THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER UNLOCKS CITIES AND NATIONS! Oh dear reader it is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to what is found in the eighth chapter for it would be the catalyst and precursor for what is found in the tenth chapter when the gospel would be preached and the Holy Ghost would be poured out beyond Jews and beyond Samaritans.

 

            When you come to the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find one of the most powerful turning points in the history of the early Church for after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and. His preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus in Damascus and in Jerusalem we find the apostle Peter being used mightily of the Lord Jesus among Gentiles. That which we find in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is the beginning of the gospel of the Lord Jesus being preached unto and among the Gentiles. What’s more is that not only do we find the gospel of the Lord Jesus being preached unto and among the Gentiles but we also find the promise of the Father being poured out among the Gentiles. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize what is found in the tenth chapter for it would set the stage and serve as the foundation for the gospel of the Lord Jesus spreading beyond Jews and Samaritans and beginning to be manifested unto the Gentiles. In the tenth chapter we find and encounter the awesome truth surrounding the person and promise of the Father which was the person of the Holy Ghost being poured out among the Gentiles when up until that point He had only been poured out among the Jews and Samaritans. Up to the seventh chapter the Holy Ghost had only been poured out upon and among the Jews, however, when we come to the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the Holy Ghost being poured out among the Samaritans as well. By the time the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts draws to a close we find both the Jews and Samaritans hearing the gospel of the Lord Jesus as well as being baptized and receiving the promise of the Father which was the person of the Holy Ghost.

 

            If you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the tenth chapter you will find Luke writing how there was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius who was a centurion of the band called the Italian band. This man name Cornelius was a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house and gave much alms to the people and prayed to God always. Upon reading the words found in the tenth chapter of this New Testament book we find present before us a centurion who served Rome and yet was a devout man, one who feared God together with all his house, one who gave alms to the people, and one who prayed to God always. Pause for a moment and consider what is found in this passage of Scripture for here we have one who served Rome and yet who was a devout man who feared God and prayed to Him always. Despite the fact Cornelius served Rome he gave much alms to the people and was one who lived justly and aright in the sight of God. We must needs recognize and understand this for although Cornelius was a Gentile and although he served Rome as a centurion he was one who prayed to God always and was one who feared God together with his household. It would be because of Cornelius’ faithfulness before the Lord that He would send unto him an angel from heaven who would come to him in a vision. Luke records how Cornelius saw in a vision an angel of God coming in to him and declaring that his prayers and his alms had come up like a memorial before God. As a direct result of his prayers and alms coming up as a memorial before God an angel of God came unto him instructing him to send men to Jopaa and call for one Simon whose surname was Peter. This Simon whose surname was Peter would be lodging with one Simon a tanner whose house was by the sea side. Upon sending for this man name Simon called Peter whom he had never met he would be told what he ought to do. Without any hesitation or reservation Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devour soldier of them which waited on him, declared unto him all those things which he had seen and sent them unto Joppa.

 

            Please pay close attention to the words found in this chapter for what we find in this passage of Scripture is a truly awesome and powerful picture of Cornelius receiving similar instruction as that of Saul of Tarsus. You will recall in the ninth chapter of this New Testament book the Lord who appeared unto Saul along the road to Damascus would instruct him to go into the city and there abide until he be told what he must do. It would be there in the city as Saul fasted and prayed that one named Ananias would be instructed of the Lord Jesus to go unto Saul of Tarsus, lay hands on and pray for him and instruct him to receive his sight, be baptized and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Must like Saul was instructed to go into the city of Damascus where he would be told what he must do so also was Cornelius instructed to send for one Simon whose surname was Peter who would tell him what he ought to do. It is of vital importance we recognize what is found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for what we find in this chapter is a truly awesome and wonderful picture of the beginning of the gospel being preached unto the Gentiles as well as the person and presence of the Holy Ghost being poured out and released upon them as well. In the first eighth verses of this chapter we find Cornelius—a centurion who was a devout man, who feared God, who gave much alms and who prayed to God always—seeing in a vision and angel of God coming unto him and instructing him to send for one called Simon who was called Peter to learn what he must do.

 

            As you come to the ninth verse you will find that while an angel of God came unto Cornelius there in Caesarea the apostle Peter would receive a vision the very next day. Luke writes and records how about the sixth hour Peter went up upon the housetop to pray and while praying he became hungry and would have eaten. While food was being prepared in the house of Simon the tanner we find the apostle Peter falling into a trance and seeing heaven opened and a certain vessel descending unto him as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners being let down upon the earth. Within this sheet were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. Accompanying this vision of the sheet being filled with all manner of four-footed beasts, wild beats, creeping things and fowls of the air was a voice calling unto Peter and commanding him to rise, kill and eat. In response to the voice and command spoken unto him the apostle Peter would declare unto the Lord, saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common on unclean.” Having heard the words which the apostle Peter had spoken unto Him the Lord responded unto him instructing and commanding him to not call common or unclean what God had cleansed. What’s more is that this vision happened three times before the vessel was received up again unto heaven leaving the apostle Peter to wonder what the vision meant and why the Lord had showed it unto him. The apostle Peter would see this vision and hear the words which were spoken by the Lord three times before the vessel was received up to heaven leaving Peter to wonder what the vision had meant and why the Lord had shown it unto him.

 

            In verses one through eight we find the narrative of Cornelius who served Rome as a centurion and yet was a devout man who feared God, who prayed to God always and who gave much alms. Within the opening verses of this passage we find an angel of God appearing unto Cornelius in a vision instructing him to send for one named Simon who was called Peter who would tell him what he ought to do in response to his prayers and alms coming up before God. Verses nine through sixteen describe the events which took place in Joppa as on the very next day Simon called Peter would fall into a trance and see a vision from the living God in heaven. It would be at the sixth hour while the apostle Peter prayed and was hungry he would see a vision of a sheet being let down with all manner of unclean and common animals and would be instructed to rise up, kill and eat. The apostle Peter declared unto the Lord that he had never eaten any thing which was common or unclean. In response to the words which the apostle Peter spoke the Lord would speak to him from heaven instructing and commanding him not to call common or unclean that which he had cleansed. Thus what we find within the first sixteen verses of the tenth chapter is the Lord working in two different places within the lives of two different individuals to accomplish one ultimate purpose. It is actually quite remarkable and astounding to read the words found in the tenth chapter of this New Testament book for what we find here is the Lord working together within the lives of two men who up until that moment had never met and who did not know each other to accomplish something much greater and much larger than each of them. What we find in the tenth chapter is the Lord working in two different places and in the lives of two different men that he might bring them together to accomplish something that was not only much greater than them but also that which would set in motion events that would forever alter the course of church history.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and reading the words found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with how the living God moves and operates. When we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we find the living and eternal God sending an angel from heaven unto Cornelius in Caesarea declaring unto him how his prayers and alms had come up to heaven as a memorial and had been received of the Lord. It is entirely unclear what Cornelius prayed during those times of prayer before Him, however, we know from the words found in this passage of Scripture that his prayers had been heard by the living God. Much like the prayers of Zacharias and Elisabeth were heard in heaven by the living God and Gabriel was sent unto him while he ministered in the tabernacle to speak of the birth of John so also had the prayers which Cornelius had prayed come up as a memorial unto heaven and heard by the living God. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s how our giving is seen and witnessed in heaven and how our prayers are heard in heaven by the Father. What we see and witness in this passage of Scripture is an incredibly powerful picture of Cornelius’ prayers being heard and His alms being seen and received in heaven by the living God. In direct response to his alms being received in heaven and his prayers being heard by the living God an angel was sent unto him instructing him to send for one Simon whose surname was Peter to learn what he must needs so. What an incredibly powerful picture it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and encounter the truth of alms and giving coming up as a memorial before the living God and one’s prayers which were prayed continually being heard by the Father and inciting a response from heaven. WHEN PRAYERS AND GIVING ARE RECEIVED BY HEAVEN AND SOLICIT A RESPONSE! WHEN HEAVEN RESPONSE TO YOUR GIVING AND PRAYING! WHEN HEAVEN COMES DOWN TO ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS AND RESPOND TO YOUR GIVING! HEAVEN COMES DOWN IN RESPONSE TO YOUR PRAYERS AND YOUR GIVING!

 

            The words which we find recorded here in the tenth chapter of the book of Acts are absolutely captivating when you think about it for within it you find the Lord working in the lives of two different individuals in two different places at two different times to accomplish something that was so much greater than either of them could have thought or imagined. I am sure Cornelius did not think that his prayers and his alms would position him and household to be the first Gentiles to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, however, that is precisely what happened. I am sure the apostle Peter had absolutely no idea that he would be used by the Lord to preach the gospel unto Gentiles in Caesarea as well as laying hands on and praying for them that they would receive the Holy Ghost and yet that is what would take place there in Caesarea. It is absolutely captivating to read the words found in this passage of Scripture for both the apostle Peter and Cornelius and his household would be mightily used by the Lord to accomplish something no one during those days and at that time thought or imagined. There was absolutely no one who thought or even believed the gospel would be preached unto the Gentiles nor even that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon them and yet what we find in this passage of Scripture is a powerful and profound picture of the apostle Peter and Cornelius being brought together that the works of God might be manifested in the earth.

 

            If there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the Holy Spirit would work within the lives of two different people in two entirely different places over the period of two different days—not only to bring them together but also to accomplish something that was much greater and much larger than they could have even imagined. I am sure the apostle Peter had absolutely no clue he would be used of the Lord Jesus to bring the gospel unto the Gentiles and to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost and yet the Lord Jesus would bring him unto the house of Gentiles that they might receive the Holy Spirit and hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it shouts to the activity and work of the Holy Spirit and of the living God. The living and eternal God would send an angel from heaven unto Cornelius in a vision speaking unto him concerning his prayers and his alms coming up as a memorial before the living God and the Lord Himself would show Peter a vision of that which was unclean as He instructed him to rise, kill and eat. What’s more is that the Lord would also instruct and command Peter not to call common that which he had cleansed. Little did the apostle Peter know and understand that the purpose of the vision was to prepare him to enter into the house of Gentiles that He might not only preach the name of the Lord Jesus but also pray that they receive the promise of the Father. It is truly something remarkable to read the words found in the tenth chapter and to watch how the living God would carefully orchestrate the events in the life of Peter in Joppa and Cornelius in Caesarea that both might come together and witness the gospel being preached among the Gentiles and the promise of the Father being released among them.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is found in this passage of Scripture for what is present here is a strong and powerful picture of the fulfillment of that which Jesus had spoken unto His apostles and followers concerning their being witnesses unto Judaea, Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The apostle Peter had already witnessed and been a part of the Holy Ghost being released and coming upon the Samaritans and now he was being invited to partake in that same Holy Spirit being released among the Gentiles. Within three chapters found in this New Testament book—not only do we witness Samaritans being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus before receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit but we also witness Gentiles being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit themselves. What’s more is that in the tenth chapter we find that in addition to Cornelius and his entire household being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in addition to their receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit they were also baptized. This is truly something worth thinking about and considering for we know that Cornelius and his entire household feared God and yet when the apostle Peter came in unto them he preached the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus. When, however, the apostle Peter came unto them he would discern that he had been brought unto and among them that he might preach the gospel concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by men, buried in a borrowed tomb, raised from death to life on the third day and ascended unto the right hand of the Father. The apostle Peter would take this opportunity to preach unto them the gospel concerning the Lord Jesus Christ—something that up until that point in time had not happened. Up until that time only the Jews and the Samaritans had heard and been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus yet now we find the preaching of the gospel and the promise of the Father being brought unto the Gentiles.

 

            The more I read the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the activity of heaven in the lives of the apostle Peter and Cornelius. It would be in the first eight verses we find an angel of God appearing and coming unto Cornelius there in Caesarea speaking unto him of his prayers and alms rising as a memorial unto God and instructing him to send for one Simon called Peter who would tell him what he must do. In Joppa we find the Lord showing the apostle Peter a vision of all manner of unclean and common things which he instructed Peter to rise, kill and eat. The purpose of this vision and it happening three times was to properly position the apostle Peter to not call uncommon that which the Lord had cleansed. It would be while the apostle Peter thought about this vision and what the Lord had spoken unto him the Holy Spirit would speak unto him concerning the men who sought for him and instructed him to go down and go with them doubting nothing for He had sent them. How incredible this is to read and consider for when you take the time to truly study this you will find an angel of God, the Spirit and even the Father in heaven working together to begin the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Ghost being manifested unto the Gentiles. How absolutely wonderful it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and to see how the living God would work in the lives of two different men in two different places on two different days to bring them together that the name of the Lord Jesus might begin to be preached among the Gentiles and that the promise of the Holy Ghost might be released unto and upon them. It is truly something worth noting and pointing out when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that the Lord was working in the lives of two different men that something much greater than either of them could have even thought or imagined might begin being fulfilled within the earth.

 

            Upon continuing to read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that when the men arrived at the house of Simon the tanner Peter went down unto them and declared unto them that he was the one whom they sought and asked why it was they had come unto him. Up until that point in time the apostle Peter had seen the vision the Lord had shown him, had heard the Lord instruct him to call nothing uncommon what He had cleansed and had heard from the Spirit that he was to go down unto the men and go with them doubting nothing as he went for they were sent by Him. After the apostle Peter had asked these men why it was they had come unto him they responded by declaring unto him how Cornelius the centurion who was a just man and one that feared God and was of good report among all the nation of the Jews was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into house and to hear the words which he would speak unto him. Upon hearing the words they relayed to him the apostle Peter would lodge these three men for the evening and departed with them on the following day taking with him certain brethren from Joppa. It would be on the very next day the apostle Peter would depart for Joppa still not knowing what the Holy Spirit sought to accomplish in the house of Cornelius. This is actually quite interesting when you think about it for there are times within our lives when the Lord will invite us to obey Him and journey unto a certain place and yet we have absolutely no clue what He seeks to do until we get there. What so amazes me about this particular experience within the life of the apostle Peter is he had absolutely no idea what was going to happen at the house of Cornelius until he had preached the name of the Lord Jesus unto them and witnessed the Holy Spirit fall upon them.

 

            I absolutely love the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here bring us face to face with the apostle Peter entering into the house of Gentiles which he recognized and acknowledged was unlawful for Jews to do. Despite the fact that it was unlawful for Jews to keep company or come unto one of another nation he would do so anyway for the Lord had showed and revealed unto him that he ought not call any man common or unclean. Please don’t miss and lose sight of what is found here for we know that during the three and a half years Jesus walked upon the earth as the Word made flesh in power and might He cleansed lepers—those who were unclean according to the Law of Moses. We know that Jesus cleansed the woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years who according to the Law of Moses was unclean. What makes the words in this passage so incredibly powerful is that here we have Gentiles who neither had leprosy nor had an issue of blood which made them unclean according to the Law of Moses and yet the apostle Peter came unto them according to the word and will of the Lord. What’s more is that we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that the apostle Peter didn’t come unto Cornelius and his household to cleanse them or to make them clean before they were qualified to hear and receive the preaching of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Peter wasn’t sent unto the house of Cornelius with the instruction to cleanse them but rather to come unto them not calling any man common or unclean. Pause and consider how absolutely difficult this is for countless men and women—even in our own generation—as they look upon and view others as common and unclean among them.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to this truth which was made known unto Peter—namely that he ought not call any man common or unclean what the Lord had called clean. What’s more is the apostle Peter wasn’t sent unto the Gentiles to somehow cleanse them and thus prepare and make them ready to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter wasn’t sent to cleanse them and through that cleansing they would then be positioned to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Even more than this is the apostle Peter did not come unto and among them calling them unclean, judging or condemning them because they were Gentiles but recognized that the Holy Spirit had sent him unto them. In addition to all of this it’s incredibly unique to read the words found in this passage and discover Cornelius and his household receiving the word of the Lord Jesus and it was while they heard the word of the Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit would come upon them. The apostle Peter did not have to lay his hands on nor did he have to pray for them to receive the Holy Ghost but the Holy Ghost came upon them while they were hearing the word of the gospel. Even more than this it was after they heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus, after they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and received the Holy Ghost they were baptized in water. If there is one thing this particular passage reveals it’s not only that we dare not call or consider any man common or unclean but we also dare not put God in a box and expect Him to always move and work in a specific order. We dare not allow ourselves to get caught up in thinking we know how God should or is going to operate nor even make demands on how we think He needs to operate. The apostle Peter recognized the Lord Jesus had sent him there to preach the gospel and as a direct result of this they were not only filled with the Holy Spirit but were also baptized.

 

If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that we ought not to call or consider any man common or unclean when God has called them clean. There are so many times when we think and feel we need to clean men and women up before they can hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus or before they can receive the Holy Spirit and yet what we find here in this passage of Scripture is the Gentiles hearing the gospel just as they were. What’s more is that not only did they hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus just as they were but they also received the promise of the Holy Spirit just as they were. There wasn’t anything that was needed on their part in terms of cleansing them that they might be positioned to receive the Holy Ghost and to even hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus. How absolutely astonishing and remarkable it is that the Holy Ghost was poured out on Gentiles just as they were and just where they are without any additional requirement. They did not have to be clean nor did they have to prove themselves in order to be positioned to receive the gospel and the promise of the Holy Spirit for Cornelius had already been proven and found faithful by God. What we have great need of recognizing when reading this passage of Scripture is that Cornelius and his house had already been found faithful in the sight of God and it was because they had been found faithful in the sight of God they were positioned to receive the gospel of the Lord Jesus and the promise of the Holy Spirit. They did not have to prove themselves to the apostle Peter nor did they have to jump through any hoops to position themselves to receive the gospel nor the person of the Holy Ghost. Oh that we would read the words found in this chapter and live our lives calling no man common or unclean. Oh that we would read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not limit God and somehow put Him in a box and think and expect Him to operate the way we want Him to or think He should.

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