January 12, 2020

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 42:1-7

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 3:13-17                            

Sermon Text; Acts 10:34-38


Acts, chapter ten is a pivotal chapter in the Bible.  It is a watershed moment.  We are going to read verses thirty four, through thirty eight.  This is in our Savior's name.


Then Peter began to speak:  “Now I really am beginning to understand that God does not show favoritism, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and does what is aright is acceptable to Him.  He sent His Word to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

“You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached.  God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.  He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, because God was with Him.”


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Again, this chapter is a pivotal chapter in the Bible. 

Let's start this way.  Suppose we had lived during the time of Jesus, and His disciples.  Had we lived during the time of Jesus, and the disciples, there would have been a very, very, very clear distinction between Jews, and anyone who was not a Jew.  They would have been referred to as Gentiles. 

Here is the clear, clear distinction that would have existed.  It would have been going on for fifteen hundred years, from the time of Moses, until the time of Jesus, and His disciples.  Several, many layers of distinction were between Jews and Gentiles. 

-So, there was, first of all, racial purity.  Gentiles were considered unclean.  Jews were considered clean.  The Jews were not permitted, according to God, to intermarry with Gentiles.  They were to be separate from one another.

-There was physical difference.  The males in the Jewish race were to be circumcised, making them physically different from all of the peoples around them.  Separate unto God.  There was a difference, a big difference.

-They were to have a dietary difference.  There were many, many foods that to the Jews were considered unclean, and they could not eat them.  And so, every single meal they ate, they realized, “We are different.  We are separated from the Gentile people.”

-There was a difference in worship.  The Gentiles were not allowed to come in to the vast majority of the temple area.  There was a  separation between Jews and Gentiles

-Also, according to the tradition of the Jewish people, the Jews could not go in to the home of a Gentile.  They could not visit with a Gentile, or go in to the home of a Gentile, because it would make them unclean.

So, there was this huge, huge separation between Jews and Gentiles, at the time of Jesus, and His disciples.  I don't know if we ponder this very often, but Jesus' disciples grew up, since they were little children, in that atmosphere.  Peter was one of them.  Peter grew up, since he was a little boy, understanding this clear distinction God had made between Jews and Gentiles.  We even learn from Peter's own mouth that he never, never (all the way through his childhood, and up through his adulthood) had eaten anything that was considered unclean, or impure.  He always kept within those boundaries.  He had not gone in to the home of a Gentile, and never set foot in the home of a Gentile.

So, here is this clear distinction between Jews and Gentiles.  And yet, Jesus came and He began to preach things like this. 

“God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son...”

He told His disciples,

“Go in to all the world

and make disciples of all nations...”

And so, here is this doctrine from Jesus that salvation is for all people, and yet there was this wall that separated the Jews from the Gentiles.  How do you put that in to practice, when there is this separation, this clear separation God had made between Jews and Gentiles?  How were the disciples to put in to practice this, going in to all of the world?

That brings us to Acts, chapter ten.  Acts chapter ten is really a pivotal chapter in scripture.  Here is what happened in Acts, chapter ten, which is before we get to today's scripture reading.  Peter went into a trance.  The Lord put him in a trance.  In this trance Peter saw  a sheet come down from Heaven.  The sheet was filled with all of these unclean animals. 

The Lord said to Peter, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 

To which Peter replied, “Certainly not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 

I had a neighbor who was brought up very strongly Roman Catholic.  I invited him to church a few times.  He told  me, “Man, I have been taught that if I go in to a Lutheran church, I am going to get struck by lightening.” 

I am sure Peter thought the same thing.  “If I were to eat something unclean, and I have been taught all of my life, I shouldn't eat anything unclean, that would go against my conscience.  Now the Lord tells me to kill and eat.” 

So Peter says, “Certainly not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

To which the Lord replied, “What God has made clean, you must not continue to call unclean.”

“Peter, don't treat as unclean what the Lord has made clean.” 

That happened three times.  He had the same vision three times.  The Lord was driving home, “Peter there is a change that is taking place, here.”

As that vision was ending, the Lord told Peter, “Peter, there are going to be three men who will come to your door.  They are going to knock on the door.  When they come, I want you to go, and follow them.  Go where they take you.”

Sure enough.  As soon as that vision was ending, there was a knock at the door.  The Lord had sent three men from a town called Caesarea, from a man named Cornelius.  Cornelius was a Gentile.  He was not Jewish.  He was a very important man.  He was a Centurion, a ruler, a leader of the Roman Army. 

The Lord had told Cornelius to send men up to Joppa, to a house owned by a guy by the name of Simon, the tanner.  In that house they would find a man named Simon, who is called Peter.  They were to ask him to come with them. 

So there they were, knocking on the door, asking Simon Peter to come with them, because the Lord had a message for him from the house of Cornelius. 

I want you to see what is starting to happen.  The Lord is starting to erase these barriers, these 'walls' He had set up for centuries.  They had served their purpose, up until the time of Christ.  Those walls were a picture, a physical picture of something that was about to happen, spiritually.  It is a physical picture that God had set aside a separate people for Himself.  They were to be clean.  Only now, this is going to become a spiritual reality in Christ.

So, Peter goes with these men.  He goes to the house of this Gentile named Cornelius.  Now, in scripture it simply says Peter went in to the house with the men.

“...Peter went inside...” 

Maybe we read through that without even pausing to think what that meant.  But, Peter did something he had never, ever, ever, ever done before in his life.  Peter literally stepped outside the boundaries he had been in, all of his life.  He actually put his foot into the house of a Gentile.  He had never done that before.  I wonder if he really had to wrestle with himself, as he stepped foot in that house.  But, the Lord had told him to do it.

In that house were gathered a large group of people.  They were also Gentiles.  They were the family and friends of this man named Cornelius. 

Peter began speaking to them.  The very first thing he said to them was this. 

“You understand how unlawful it is for a Jewish man

to associate with,

or visit anyone who is not a Jew.”

“You know very well Jews are not to associate, or visit with Gentiles.” 

They all knew it.  They knew Peter should not be there, according to The Old Testament scripture, according to the tradition of the elders.  But, there he was. 

He said,

“But God showed me that I should no longer continue to call anyone impure or unclean.”

“I am here, because the Lord has told me to not treat as unclean what He has made clean.”

So, the Lord had sent Peter to these Gentiles to preach to them.  They were eager to hear what Peter had to say. 

That gets us to today's scripture reading.  Here is what it says. 

“Then Peter began to speak:  'Now I really am beginning to understand that God does not show favoritism, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” 

Peter says,

“Now I really am beginning to understand that

God does not show favoritism...”

When it says 'favoritism', the Greek word is 'outward appearance'. 

-It is not a matter of what race you are that makes you special to God. 

-It is not a matter of whether you are outwardly circumcised that makes you special to God. 

-It is not a matter of what you eat, outwardly dietary issues, that make you special. 

-It is not a matter of who you are married to that makes you special to God. 

It is not outward things, but it is spiritual things, what is going on in the inside, that sets you apart to God.  Are you set apart to God, as someone holy, and special to Him?  How does that happen? 

And so then, Peter begins his sermon.  This is really the beginning of his sermon, and it goes on.  But, he begins with the baptism of Jesus, of all things.  He says,

“You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached.  God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.  He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, because God was with Him.”
And so now, as Peter says Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, Peter is referring to Jesus' baptism. 

-When Jesus was baptized in The Jordan River, The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit landed on Him in the form of a dove.  We believe it was there, according to His human nature, (of course as God, Jesus is One with the Holy Spirit), but according to His human nature,  The Bible tells us He was anointed with the Holy Spirit in power.  Baptism is the tool of the Holy Spirit.   He works through baptism.

-The Bible tells us Jesus received the Holy Spirit without limit, without measure. 

-The Bible tells us after Jesus was baptized, He was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit.

So, at His baptism, Jesus then, filled with the Holy Spirit, begins His public ministry.  (Peter is really going to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit, as we go through this text.) 

Now, we only have a portion of the sermon here, but I want you to listen to what happened.  Something stunning is about to happen in the room where Peter is talking to all of these Gentiles.  He starts to preach, and he starts to preach the Gospel.  He says,

“This Jesus died.  He died on a cross, and He was raised from the dead.  He is going to come back, and He is going to judge us.  Whoever believes in Him, has forgiveness.” 

Then, The Bible tells us something stunning happened.  The Bible says

“While Peter was still speaking these words,

the Holy Spirit came on all who were listening to the message.”

How do we know that?  It is because the Bible tells us they were able to speak in tongues.  So, all of a sudden, in this home of these unclean people, these Gentiles, who the Jews were not even to go in to their homes, now, all of a sudden the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is in that house.  The Holy Spirit is in the hearts of those people who were considered unclean.  The Holy Spirit brings these people to faith, people who had been considered separated from the Jewish people.  Stunning.  So stunning!  The Bible says there were some Jewish men who came to that home with Peter, and they were astonished that the Holy Spirit came upon these Gentile people.

Here is a watershed moment in scripture.  Now we begin to see salvation is not just for the Jewish people.  Salvation!  God calls people to Himself, the holy people to Himself, not by what race you are, or what you eat, or who you are married to.  He calls people to Himself through the Holy Spirit, working through The Word to create in our hearts faith in Jesus, so that we are justified - that is declared not guilty, and holy.  We become a holy people in God's eyes, through faith, given by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says, as those Gentiles heard that Word, and the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were baptized.  You and I were also baptized.  We were baptized.  This is when we were called by God from uncleanness into The Holy Christian Church.  The word 'church' in Greek is 'ecclesia', 'those who are called out'.  We were called out to be God's special people.  It is not because we earned it, or deserve it.  The Bible says in His mercy, in His mercy God saved us.  And, it says how He did it. 

“ the washing of regeneration

and renewing of the Holy Spirit...” 

(talking about baptism)

“...who He poured out abundantly on us

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

through whom we are justified,

and have become heirs of the gift of eternal life.” 

So, at your baptism the Holy Spirit washed you, cleansed you, and brought you to faith in Jesus, as your Savior.  You have clung to the promise that all of your sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, and you have become a member of this called out group, this holy group, that in God's eyes, for Christ's sake is holy, because of what Jesus has done for us.

That enables us then to begin to live a special life.  It says,

“You are baptized by Christ,

united with Christ by baptism into Christ's death. 

Just as Christ was raised from the dead,

by the glory of the Father,

you too may walk in newness of life.” 

Now we are called out to be a people who live in newness of life. 

So, in this text we see that God's people are not just a race.  It is not just Jewish people.  It is not just people who eat, or drink certain things.  But, it is people, anyone, (no matter what race, no matter what you eat), who have been called into God's family by faith in Jesus Christ. 

So, now instead of God’s special people being the Jewish people it has become The Holy Christian Church.  The Holy Christian Church are people who have come to faith in Jesus, as their Savior).  Everybody else are unbelievers. 

What is our attitude?  What should be our attitude be, as The Holy Christian Church toward unbelievers?  Should we be satisfied to say, “You know what?  I am sure glad I am part of this group, The Holy Christian Church.  I am sure glad I am able to come to Holy Cross, hear God's Word, and go home knowing I am saved.  I am sure glad God forgives my sins every day.”, but, have no concern about the people who are outside of the Church? 

Not at all.  Jesus tells us,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them

in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  

It should be our heart that we understand this is not an exclusive club.  It is not just for us.  God intends we reach out to others, and call them to faith in Jesus Christ, through Word and Sacrament.  When Sherri and I go to bed at night, we always say a prayer together at night.  Our prayers generally follows a pattern.  We pray for certain things that are important, and we often end with this particular prayer.  We often end by saying,


Please help us to share the Gospel Message, and tell others about Jesus.” 

We understand we are not to be an exclusive club.  We want to go out, and share that message with others.  Then, we say,

“And Lord,

Please help all the members at Holy Cross to want to take that Gospel Message, tell other people about it, and share it with others.” 

That is one of the main reasons we exist as a congregation.  It is so that we can share what we have.  We have been called into the Holy Christian Church, by the mercy of God, the Holy Spirit.  We believe our sins are forgiven.  We believe in Jesus.  And, one of the main reasons we exist is so that we can take that to others. 

-So, may God grant us a heart that wants to talk about our faith with those who do not know Jesus, yet. 

-May God grant us hearts that want to invite people to church so they can come to hear The Word, and the Holy Spirit can work through that to create faith in their hearts. 

-May God grant us hearts that want to give offerings that are used to spread the message to people who do not know Jesus, yet. 

-May God give us hearts that pray for the lost, pray for those who do not know Jesus, and pray that God will give us opportunities. 

It is a privilege, nothing but a privilege to be a member of the Holy Christian Church.  But, it is not an exclusive club.  We want to reach out to others, and bring them into the Holy Christian Church, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God grant that for Jesus' sake.



May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds, through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.