For those of
you who have not yet read my last article (“What
Paul Taught Me About Being A Contender”), let me
bring you up to speed on a few things. First, I’ve
been reading through the book of Acts in the New Testament.
I’ve found it to be a fascinating and highly motivating
book, and I encourage everyone to read it. Second, I
love telling stories, and the best ones I’ve found are in
the Bible. And finally: when telling these stories, I
do take some literary license. Therefore, I highly
encourage everyone to go straight to the source to get all
the details. In the case of this article, the source
will be the book of Acts, chapters 10 and 11.
story starts out in Caesarea, which was a town located 30
miles north of Joppa, and was named after Augustus Caesar.
That’s really not the important point of the story, so if
you forget that, it’s okay. You probably won’t find
Caesarea in any current AAA travel maps, so don’t worry
about it. Anyway, there was a Roman centurion living
in Caesarea named Cornelius. The Bible tells us that
Cornelius was a good, devout, God-fearing man. Here is
a man that prayed regularly, and gave to people in need.
Cornelius was an all-around good egg. One afternoon,
an angel appeared to Cornelius in a vision. This
doesn’t happen everyday, so I expect Cornelius about choked
on his lemonade, but the author doesn’t give us that
information. The author DOES tell us that the angel
told Cornelius, “God knows you’re a good egg and a faithful
servant. Send some of your men to Joppa and have them
pick up a guy named Peter. He is also a good egg, and
he’s got some important info for you. “ Now if you
cheated and read Acts 10 prior to reading this article,
you’re wondering what version of the Bible I’m quoting.
If you’re wondering that, I’d like to refer you back to the
first paragraph, where I confess to taking some literary
license. After the angel left, Cornelius wiped the
lemonade off his chin, and called in a few of his men.
He told them about his vision, and sent them to Joppa to get
following day, Peter was up on the roof of his place in
Joppa, catching some rays and praying. It was noon,
and he started to get hungry. He called down an order
for a kosher platter, and while the food was being prepared,
Peter slipped into a bit of a trance. Now it’s Peter’s
turn to have a vision. He saw heaven open up, and a
large sheet was slowly lowered. This sheet was
suspended at each of its four corners. On this sheet
was a very NON-kosher display of wildlife. The author
says there were all kinds of four legged animals, reptiles,
and birds. It was essentially a visual laundry list of
things that Jewish law prohibits its adherents from eating.
A spirit (probably an angel) spoke up at this point and told
Peter, “Get up, kill one of these and eat it. Lunch is
served.” Peter, being thoroughly indoctrinated in the
Law, and as brazen as anyone I’ve known, told the angel, “No
way! I’ve never eaten anything non-kosher in my life!”
The angel responded, “If God says something’s kosher, it’s
kosher. Don’t call anything impure that God says is
pure.” To reinforce the point, the sheet got sucked
back up to heaven, and the object lesson was repeated two
more times. Peter, being a thinking man (NOW he takes
the time to think), sat and pondered this vision.
About that time, Cornelius’s men showed up at the gate and
started hollering for Peter. The angel told Peter, “Oh, by
the by, there are three guys downstairs to see you. Be
a good man and go with them.” Peter (getting smarter
by the second) ran downstairs to greet his visitors.
The three men told Peter that Cornelius had a vision and
wants Peter to come talk to him.
next day, Peter and his new friends started out for
Caesarea. It’s a long walk, so they don’t arrive until
the following day. When Peter walks through the door
of Cornelius’s house, Cornelius threw himself at Peter’s
feet in reverence. Peter was a good man, but not an
arrogant or pious man, and he told Cornelius, “Get up.
I put my sandals on one foot at a time, just like you.”
When Peter continued on inside the house, he saw that
Cornelius had arranged for a number of friends to come over
as well. Okay, so Peter gets a little pious here.
He tells the gathering, “You all know that Jewish law
forbids me from associating with uncircumcised Gentiles like
y’all, but God told me I shouldn’t call anything impure that
he has made pure. So here I am. What do you
want?” Cornelius told Peter about his vision, and
Peter replied, “I see now that God loves the Gentiles just
like he loves the Jews.” So Peter begins to share the
gospel of Jesus Christ with this crowd of uncircumcised
Gentiles, and as he’s doing so, the Holy Spirit came upon
them and they all started praising God and speaking in
tongues. Peter was a bit flabbergasted, but finally
manages to say, “You’ve obviously been baptized in the Holy
Spirit, so you may as well be baptized with water in the
name of Jesus Christ.”
the apostles and other believers in the area heard that
Peter had associated with Gentiles, they were a bit put off.
Well, “repulsed” might be a better word. So Peter went
to Jerusalem to explain his actions. He told them the
whole story, from the non-kosher platter from Heaven to the
end. When he got to the part where the Holy Spirit
came upon the Gentiles, the apostles in unison said, “No
way!” Peter insisted, “No, really! They started
speaking in tongues and everything! It was way cool!”
At this, the apostles realized that the salvation bought by
Jesus Christ was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
This really paved the way for Paul’s subsequent missions to
After reading this story, I sat and pondered the meaning
behind it. Being a thinking man, I couldn’t just look
for the obvious, so I wondered what the significance was in
Peter’s non-kosher buffet being lowered three times.
What was significant about THREE times? Was it a Bible
code message? Is the answer revealed in the Greek
manuscripts? Just then, my wife walked in and said to
me, “Ben, I’ve asked you twice already to get an ad in the
paper for your truck. This is the last time I’m going
to ask. If you don’t do it this time, I’m going to
sell it for scrap.” I felt bad that Jen was forced to
remind me three times. THREE times?! YES!
That’s it! There is no special hidden meaning there.
Peter’s vision was shown to him three times, because God
knows that men can be especially stubborn, forgetful, or
just thick in the head. I speak from personal
Perhaps God has been tapping you on the shoulder about
something. Perhaps he’s calling you to a ministry, or
to simply take a stand for your faith at work. In any
case, he has called us all to be his ambassadors on this
earth. He has given us a great commission, and has
ordered us to the front lines to contend for our faith.
There are a lot of people in this world who do not yet know
Jesus as their savior. Many of them have been deceived
by false prophets, and are unaware of the danger they’re in.
Others are stubbornly resistant or attached to this world.
Regardless of their reason for not experiencing the saving
grace of Jesus Christ, we have been called to action.
We must reach out to them. We have to be ready to give
an answer for the hope that lies within us. All signs
indicate that we may very well see the Lord return in our
generation. It may soon be too late for a third or
fourth reminder for the unsaved. Don’t let it take
three or four taps on your shoulder from God to get you
involved. Don’t be content to feel justified because
you are a deacon in your church. Take the Word of God
and carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to those in your
communities that so desperately need to hear it.
May God bless you as you reach out and contend for the