Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Seeker or Saver?
There?s a phrase that I really hate, but one that I?ve heard often, ?We?ve always done it this way.? Change comes hard to some people, even when presented with a new reality that requires change. They?re the kind that say, ?I don?t mind change as long as everything stays the same.?
There?s actually a science around this stuff, its called Rogers Adoption/Innovation Curve. The five stages of adoption of change are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. When it came to recognizing the new reality of the innovator Jesus Christ, the Jews were definitely laggards, described as ?Traditional people, caring for the \"old ways\", are critical towards new ideas and will only accept it if the new idea has become mainstream or even tradition.?
After spending three years with Jesus the disciples had adopted the change that Jesus was in fact the Jewish Messiah. They might have seemed like early adopters to the Pharisees but Jesus wasn?t done innovating change in the universe. He is indeed the Jewish Messiah, but Jesus is also the Gentile Messiah as well. But many Jews had a hard time understanding that. They wanted to ?save? the way things had been. Such radical change was really hard to accept.
To say that a Gentile could have a relationship with God outside of Judaism was unthinkable. You became a Jew first, then you could know Jesus, sort of. The Jewish Christians at first really thought salvation was just for them. Jesus is about to show them that they aren?t as early adopters as they thought, and it takes repeating it three times and then showing Peter directly until it got through to him. I?m quite thankful it did though!
Cornelius, on the other hand, was a seeker. He was a man very involved in one system that he didn?t find satisfied him, so he started seeking God. And God found him.
1 ? 8
Cornelius led 80 or 100 men, a non-commissioned officer who had worked his way up through the ranks of the Roman army and served as part of a larger force numbering usually 600.
The Roman occupiers were hated in Israel, and the Roman army as official representatives and enforcers of Roman law, even more. This centurion was very unusual, in that he loved Yahweh, communicated that to his house and his men and was generous (the result of his relationship with God no doubt). A ?God fearer? was a Gentile who was in the process of becoming a proselyte of Judaism. In this case, it could be that this man saw the waste of paganism and worshipped and prayed to Yahweh.
Military personnel were not permitted to marry so ?household? may just mean his servants, but it?s not out of the realm of possibility either that he had a wife and
Lesson: God was preparing the heart of someone who had no guarantee of a relationship but loved and sought God anyway. Deuteronomy 4:29-30
But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
9 ? 16
These guys must have walked some of the 35 miles on foot to get to Caesarea by noon the next day. It was unusual to pray at noon, but prayer is good any time! The roofs of the houses were flat and used for drying vegetables, but could also have canopies on them that would make it a cool spot to recline, even at midday.
Maybe the smells of lunch are beginning to waft up to the roof making Peter?s mouth water. While he?s waiting this sheet comes down. Presumably on this sheet are animals that were okay for a Jew to eat and those that were not. The Law was very specific about what they could eat. See Leviticus 11 for more details.
The specific application here is that for the Christian, the Jewish dietary laws were no longer in effect. Jesus said as much in Mark 7. But the universal application of this vision went much further, that God was accepting both Jew and Gentile into His kingdom. He?s about to find out just how far God is taking this new thing He has created.
Lesson: God may in the process of calling and saving someone with whom you would not associate. Don?t let background or foreground fool you, God looks at the heart.
17 ? 23
God is very carefully orchestrating this. He doesn?t want Peter to think that this is any coincidence that these men have arrived just as God have him this vision. When he sees they are Gentiles, I wonder if his mind doesn?t start to spin.
Lesson: What has God been revealing to you? What have you been ?inwardly perplexed? about? Perhaps there is some truth God wants you to share with someone who needs to hear it.
24 ? 29
Several of the believers from Joppa go with Peter as witnesses. Cornelius had gathered quite a few people. It would have been rather embarrassing if Peter had said ?no.? But I guess when an angel tells you something you pretty much figure its going to happen. Nonetheless, this man is putting a lot on the line here.
Jews were not allowed to do business with Gentiles or even enter their homes either because they didn?t tithe (Kenneth Barker) or because he might risk touching food that was unclean (Life Application Commentary).
You almost get the feeling that Peter is still a little shaky as to what?s going on. Just to make sure he asks ?why am I here?? He knows now that he shouldn?t consider Gentiles as ?unclean??so he goes into the house. But does this mean God is going to save them? I?m not sure he yet knows.
Lesson: There is always wisdom in finding out where someone is at in their life. Assuming you know what to say to them might not be the best thing. Better to get to know them and their struggles and wants and desires. Then let the Holy Spirit guide the conversation towards Him.
30 ? 33
I think once Cornelius relays the story, Peter realizes the way God was working to connect him and this Gentile. Perhaps then, the Holy Spirit gave him the words to speak, words that led not only to salvation of non-Jews, but filling them with the Holy Spirit.
34 ? 43
Perhaps Peter started thinking about verses like:
Hosea 2:23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. KJV
It?s a pretty clear gospel message, giving the background that Jesus came to the Jews but now expanding it to ?everyone? in ?every nation? who will accept him will receive ?forgiveness of sins through his name.? These people are so hungry that it?s like drag cars at the starting line. Their engines are revved and they are just waiting for the light to turn from red to yellow to green, and off they go!
44 ? 48
This then is the Gentile Pentecost, after the Samaritan Pentecost of chapter 8 and the Jewish Pentecost of chapter 2.
We serve a patient God. If Jesus had expounded on what he said in Matthew 28 ?go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? ? and that means the Gentiles too, boys! I think they would have freaked out. But God gently yet purposefully pushes the disciples into going more and more to the nations.
God doesn?t just come into our lives and completely renovate us in one week. It?s not like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It?s more like one of those projects you started 10 years ago on your house. You work at it a little at a time and one day (hopefully) it?ll be done. Along the way you learn more and more what you are doing and get better at it.
The Lord slowly reveals to us who He is and who we are and slowly moves us from who we have been to what we are going to be. So let Him nudge you.
Are you a seeker or a saver?
Is it better to be a seeker or a saver? I?d say there is good and bad in each. If you have a hard time with change, you may be a saver. God may be speaking to your heart but you have a hard time listening or accepting it. God may be gently speaking to you about wanting to know you and you just can?t bring yourself to let go of what is comfortable. Try it. Let go a little. Reach out. Open up. Take a lesson from Peter. It took three times, but it did take (sort of).
Being a saver is tough when it comes to change, but it can be invaluable when it comes to withstanding bad doctrine. Once you learn the truth, stick to it, hold fast.
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. ESV
And that?s the downside of seeking. A person who is a seeker but never stops when they find what they are looking for can be open to all kinds of bad stuff.
?2 Timothy 3:7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. ESV
But being a seeker of God is absolutely vital. Cornelius didn?t give up until God found him.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. NKJV
How often do we seek to know Him more, to understand His ways, to have more of Him in our lives? Let?s learn a lesson from Cornelius!