Tom: We’re in the Book of Acts, and, Dave, we’re going to start 10:1: “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band 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 alway.”
Dave: Tom, can I interrupt there: I’ve mentioned it many times, but this is one of the many things I love about the Bible: It’s not a book about philosophy, and it certainly is not fiction, it’s about…
Tom: By philosophy you mean speculations about the world, and so on.
Tom: There are no speculations in the Bible.
Dave: No, absolutely. This is God’s Word. It is also history. It’s about real people, real places, real events—not like the Bhagavad Gita, and so forth, or the Book of Mormon.
So we are now being introduced to a centurion of the band—it gives you his group, called the Italian band. His name is Cornelius. We learn about him [that] he’s a devout man. He fears God—not some false god, but he apparently knows the God of Israel, and he fears the God of Israel, and with all his house—he has his house in order. He has apparently taught them, and he prayed to God always—you know, “Pray without ceasing,” the scripture says. So this man’s doing all of that, yet he’s not a Jew, and he’s certainly not a Christian.
Tom: But, Dave, that brings up an interesting point: at the very least, you could say this is a man moving toward the God of the Bible, to the God of truth. So he’s not saved, yet at the same time, God is honoring his moving—he’s seeking after Him, so God is going to respond and answer to prayer and so on, whereas some who were into false gods or not believers [unintelligible], but they get into a situation in which they’re going to pray, God’s not going to hear their prayers. It’s all self-oriented, it’s all part of their delusion, and He’s not going to reinforce that, I don’t believe.
Dave: Tom, we’ve quoted it many times—Jeremiah:29:13: “You will seek for me and find me when you seek for my with all your heart.” And you can run into people all over the world who say, “Well, I’ve been seeking God. I’ve been seeking God. I don’t seem to get anywhere.” No, they have not been seeking the true God, they’ve been seeking a god who would be kind of like a magic genie: when you rub the lamp, he comes and says, “At your service. What would you like this time?” But anyone who seeks the true God because they want to obey Him, they want to know His will for their lives, and they want to follow it, absolutely whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever part of the world, whatever time in history, God will reveal Himself to them, and He reveals Himself to Cornelius in a rather remarkable way.
Tom: Verse 3: “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…” Dave, can I give you a little aside here?
Tom: This is a question that’s sort of bugging me—not for long, but I just thought about it the other day. Verse 3, it says: “He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day…” And we have throughout Scripture the “sixth hour,” the so on and so forth—how’d they know? Was it where the sun was? Was it sundials, was it…they didn’t have watches; they didn’t have clocks.
Dave: Well, that’s why it says—that’s rather interesting, also—“evidently about.” And you would say…on the one hand, you’d say, “Wait a minute, this is God’s Word! Why doesn’t it tell you the precise time?” Well, it’s going by what Cornelius understood, the way he understood. As you say, he didn’t have a watch, but he knows it’s about the ninth hour of the day, okay? We’re getting this from Cornelius’ viewpoint. I think they probably could tell time without a watch, but not precisely.
Tom: Okay, that settles it for me.
Dave: Well, God is reaching out to Cornelius. Cornelius has been reaching out to Him, now God is responding. Of course, you know, there are people today, Tom, you know, some of the charismatic leaders—and I believe that God can do anything. He works miraculously today (I’ve seen it in my own life) as He did in the past. But some people… I remember the book Angels on Assignment, you remember that one?
Dave: This guy had angels setting up their headquarters on his lawn. Even his dog saw them. It was Pastor Buck…
Tom: Pastor Buck, yeah.
Dave: Pastor Buck, right. And angels are just appearing all the time. We talked about Benny Hinn—he claimed that angels came into his room just to observe him every night for a whole year. That’s not the way it happens.
Tom: Well, Buck’s reasoning here—Pastor Bucks’ reasoning—he knew he was in the throne room of God because there were feathers on the floor. Do you remember that?
Dave: Oh, yeah.
Dave: All kinds of nonsense. But angels do appear, and they did appear. They came to Abraham a couple of times, but they weren’t with him every day.
But here comes an angel, because this is something very, very special. This is going to be the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles. Up to this point, no Gentile has had a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So this is a special man, Cornelius, prepared of God, and this is a really special event in the history of the church and of Christianity. And he has a proper reaction—some of these people, they’re not afraid; you know, it’s just like this angel is their buddy, and so forth. No, this man is afraid. This is the real thing, and he said, “What do you want? What is it, Lord?” He recognized the power of this being that had appeared before him, and he says, “God has heard your prayers.”
Tom: You know, once again, his prayers must have been he was seeking after God, he wanted God, and then his alms demonstrated in his life. It wasn’t—you know, as James says, “Faith without works is dead.” Not before God—God knows our heart—but before men. So he was demonstrating at least to the men around that he was truly seeking after God.
Dave: And he knew God as the God of Israel—203 times He’s called the God of Israel. He’s not Allah, the god of the Qur’an, the Muslims. The God of Israel—and that is very, very important. If we are going to know the true God, we’re going to have to know Him as the God of Israel. This is how He reveals Himself. Nine times He calls Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, so he knows that the Jews are God’s chosen people, and he is giving alms to them to build synagogues and so forth.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And, Dave, he knows that. On the other hand, the Jews are more reluctant about the Gentiles, which we’re going to find out about.
Again, v. 5: “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 angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”
Dave: Here again, Tom, we don’t have the address. It doesn’t give us the address, because they didn’t have addresses in those days, but he’s giving them all the information he needs.
Dave: “There’s a guy named Simon Peter, and he’s lodging with Simon the tanner, and it’s by the seashore. When you get to Joppa, just ask some people, and they will be able to direct you to his house.”
“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….” So here’s Peter praying, also, and…
Tom: And he’s checking his sundial…or not.
Dave: I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Dave: “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance…” Kind of interesting. Tom, I don’t understand that. It’s not unreal, but it’s a vision for Cornelius. Peter is in a trance, but we better come back and talk about that next week.