“WHEN DID GOD PREACH TO A PREACHER?”

Some thoughts about Peter from Acts 10:9-16 – by Mike Benson

SCRIPTURE IS CHOCK full of sermons in both Testaments.  God told prophets, priests, and evangelists to WHOM to preach, WHEN to preach, exactly WHAT to preach, and sometimes even WHERE to preach.  But in Acts 10, it was God who was doing the preaching Himself.  Consider:

1.  God preached a pictorial SHEET1 SERMON.  “Heaven opened and an object like a great sheet (emphasis mine, mb) bound at the four corner, descending to him and let down to the earth.  In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air…” (Acts 10:11, 16).

2.  God preached that SAME sheet sermon OVER AND OVER.  “This was done three times…” (Acts 11:10).

3.  God preached that same sheet sermon three times to ONLY ONE INDIVIDUAL (Acts 10:9, 13: 11:5).  Ironically, the one-man assembly was a preacher himself (cf. 2:14ff; 3:11ff; 4:2, 8ff, 20, et. al)!

4.  God preached a meaty, Scripturally solid (cf. Heb. 5:12-13) homily three times to the same preacher WHO INITIALLY REJECTED THE SERMON because he was only able to consume spiritual milk at the time.2  Peter said, “Not so Lord!  For I have never eaten anything common or unclean…” (Acts 10:14; cf. 11:8).  Read and study Hebrews 5:12-13 for further consideration. 

5.  Peter didn’t grasp the spiritual depth and significance of God’s sermon until he MULLED IT OVER IN HIS MIND AND THOUGHT ABOUT IT the following day.  When Peter wondered within himself what [the] vision which he had seen meant (v. 17), he finally realized that God had shown him that he should not call any man common or unclean (v. 28; cf. vv. 34-35, 43, 11:9).  Like the sermon-parables delivered by His Son (cf. Psm. 78:2; 49:4), God the Father wasn’t talking so much about food or fleshly matters, but about spiritual matters (cf. Mat. 13:16-17) and the fact that the gospel wasn’t just for the Jews, but it was also for the Gentiles (cf. Acts 11:4ff; 6, 15-18; cf. Eph. 2:11-15; Rom. 9:6, 8; 11:11; Acts 15:7-11; Gal. 3:28-29).

6.  Oddly enough, Peter had actually PREACHED PART OF THIS VERY SAME SERMON some nine years earlier back at Pentecost.  He’d taught, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off (emphasis mine—mb), as many as the Lord our God will call” (2:39).

7.  Luke’s inspired record of the delivery of God’s sermon was LONGER THAT THE SERMON ITSELF.  In the English, the message comprised only four words:  “Rise, kill and eat” (v. 13b), while the explanation of the sermon was nine words in length (v. 15). 

8.  God had actually been talking about this truth (e.g., the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles) FOR CENTURIES in the OLD TESTAMENT (Gen. 17:4; 22:18; Psm. 2:8; Isa. 43:1, 6; 49:6. cf. Acts 10: 43; 15:7b-9; Rom. 11:1ff; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11ff).

9.  There was a strong relationship between what Peter BELIEVED and what he HAD AND HAD NOT PRACTICED—at least prior to Acts 10.  He told God that he never had eaten unclean food, nor could he ever do so in the future (cf. Acts 10:14; 11:8).

10.  When Peter later preached in Acts 11 the same sermon that God had preached to Him back in Acts 10, those who heard his message ENDORSED AND ACCEPTED IT.  “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (11:18). I find this almost humorous. When the preacher first heard God’s sheet sermon in Acts 10, he rejected it, but then when he turned around and preached the sermon that was preached to him, those in the “assembly” received and approved of it.

OBSERVATIONS FOR REFLECTION: 

  • God preached the same sermon three times to just one preacher (i.e., Peter), and yet the preacher didn’t “get it” at first (cf. Acts 10:28, 34, 43). 
  • The weakness wasn’t in Jehovah’s preaching, but in the mind, heart, and prejudices of the “man in the pew” up on the roof of the house. 
  • God combined words and visual aids to communicate truth to Peter. 
  • It’s not possible to believe error, but then simultaneously practice truth (cf. Acts 10:14).
  • Even though Peter was an inspired penman and apostle, he still hadn’t put the ideas of Jews and Gentiles united in Christ until Acts 10. 
  • If Peter had to think about and ponder God’s message in Acts 10, I shouldn’t be surprised when good brethren today need some time to chew on the Word of God (cf. Josh. 1:8; Ezra 7:10; Psm. 119:15-16, 47-48, 96-98) just as he did.    
  • If God had to preach the same sermon three times to Peter, I shouldn’t be discouraged when I preach the same ideas over and over and folks don’t immediately “catch on.” 
  • Peter preached that the gospel was for the Gentiles in Acts 2, had to be re-taught it again in Acts 10 (some nine years later), and then evidently forgot it several years later in Galatians 2 (cf. 2:11ff).
  • Peter needed time (another 8-10 years) to grow in his knowledge, understanding and practice (2 Pet. 3:18). 

1 Gospel preachers in the early-mid twentieth century often delivered large visual-aid “sheet sermons” which they had created on bed covers with paint and/or markers, etc.  The sheets would be hung on the wall, usually behind the preacher, and he would use it to guide the assembly to the Truth via the passages, notes and diagrams thereon. 

2 Even though Peter had been preaching for nine-plus years, he was still consuming spiritual milk in the context of the Gentiles. 

Does God Have Body Parts?

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IT IS A $100 word.

Anthropomorphism.

It is difficult to enunciate; it is even more challenging to understand.

The word is a combination of the Greek anothropos, meaning human and morphe, meaning form.

Anthropomorphic language represents God having human form or characteristics.

For instance, the Bible says:

Do these passages tell us that God possesses physical features? No.

Jesus said, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and as such, He is not a partaker of flesh and blood as we are.

Here are two helpful things to remember whenever you come across anthropomorphic language in your study of the Scriptures:

1. Anthropomorphic language typically informs readers of something God has done or is doing.

2. Anthropomorphic language speaks of God as though He were a man in order to help us, on some limited level, to comprehend deity (cf. Psalm 50:21Isaiah 55:9).

Bernard Ramm, in his book, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, observes:

“Holy Scripture is the truth of God accommodated to the human mind so that the human mind can assimilate it. Through such accommodation the truth of God can get through to man and be a meaningful revelation. Stated another way, revelation must have an anthropomorphic character.”

Contemporary writer R.B. Thieme says similarly:

“For the sake of clarity…when describing the character and function of infinite God, the Bible often resorts to language of accommodation. In other words, to make certain that His thoughts, policies, decisions, and actions are lucidly explained, God takes into account our inherent limitations and basic ignorance. He graciously describes Himself as having human feelings, human passions, human thoughts, human anatomy-even human sins-in order to communicate things to us for which otherwise we would have no frame of reference.”

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

Can Pain Be a Blessing?

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DR. PAUL BRAND was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in treating leprosy in India and Louisiana.  Leprosy (or Hansen’s disease) is a disfiguring disease cause by a bacterial infection.  Once considered incurable, leprosy can now be cured with antibiotics.  One effect of the disease is that it destroys the nerves and causes numbness–a lack of pain sensation–in the limbs.

On one occasion, at a time when the disease was still considered incurable and the antibiotic treatments were still unknown, Dr. Brand was traveling by train in England.As he was getting ready for bed, he removed his shoes and socks and discovered to his horror and dismay that he had no feeling in his heel.  He rubbed his heal, and the numbness persisted.  He took a pin out of one of the shirts in his suitcase and jabbed into hard into the heel.  Blood beaded up from the puncture wound, but still he felt no pain.

His mind awhirl with fear, Dr. Brand spend most of the night lying awake, imagining his new life as a leprosy victim.  He would have to live in isolation from his family and suffer the progressive deterioration caused by a then-incurable disease.

In the morning, he sat up in bed and decided to conduct one more test.  He took the pin, jabbed it hard into his heel–and cried out in pain!  It hurt!  Thank God, it hurt!

Then he realized what had caused the numbness the night before.  During the long train ride along the English coast, he had hardly gotten up once to stretch his legs.  The long period of immobility had numbed the nerve leading to his heel.  From then on, Dr. Brand would often speak of what he called “the blessing of pain.”

We tend to think of pain as a curse, not a blessing, and that’s understandable.  Pain hurts.  Pain brings pressure to bear upon our bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits.  But God sometimes has a purpose in our pain that we cannot see.  And He is always present in our pain even when we can’t sense Him there.

Ray C. Stedman, “The Pressure of Pain,” Let GOD Be GOD–Life-Changing Truths from the Book of Job, 37.

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”  Psa. 119:71

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

 

What Does “Father in Heaven” Imply?

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I WILL SPEAK for me.

I probably need to spend more time thinking about what I’m actually saying in my private prayers.

“Father in heaven…”

If I am not very careful, the phrase may constitute little more than a thoughtless, repetitive expression.

Strangely enough, I don’t talk to my earthly father that way, but I tend to do so with my heavenly Father.

Does He ever get weary of my redundancy?

What am I really saying when I articulate the words, “Father in heaven…”?

First, “Father” means I am a member of God’s family.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Just as a suit which I put on envelops me and identifies my appearance, my immersion in water (Romans 6:3-4; cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21) was the culminating act of faith by which God added me to His spiritual household (1 Timothy 3:15) and identified me as His kin.

Second, “Father” means I am a recipient of God’s special provision.

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:9-11)?

If I, as an earthly father, endeavor to meet the dietary needs and requests of my child, how much more (cf. Ephesians 3:20) will my heavenly Father accommodate the requirements (cf. Philippians 4:19James 1:17) of my life (cf. Psalm 37:25)?

Third, “Father” means I am the beneficiary of God’s loving discipline.

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6; cf. Proverbs 3:11-12).

Because God is my Father in heaven, He, on occasion disciplines me for my long term good (cf. Hebrews 12:9-11). He wields the rod (Psalm 89:32Proverbs 22:15) of pain and corrects me as an expression of His special relationship (Hebrews 12:8) with me.

“Father in heaven…”

The phrase ought to be more than some rote recital of words. It should be an indelible imprint on my heart–that I have a Father who…

  • takes me in as his own
  • gives me all that I need
  • chastens me to help me mature.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”  –Mike

Is Help on the Way?

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LONG AGO, IN the days of sailing ships, a terrible storm arose and a ship was lost in a very deserted area.

Only one crewman survived, washed up on a small, uninhabited island.

In his desperation, the castaway daily prayed to God for help and deliverance from his lonely existence.

Each day, he looked for a passing ship and saw nothing.

Eventually, he managed to build a very crude hut in which he stored the few things he had recovered from the wreck, and those things he was able to make to help him.

One day, as the sailor was returning from his daily search for food, he saw a column of smoke.

As he ran to it, he say that it was arising from his hut, which was in flames.

All was lost.

Now, not only was he alone, but he had nothing to help him in his struggle for survival.

He was stunned and overcome with grief and despair.

He fell into a deep depression and spent many a sleepless night wondering what was to become of him and questioning whether life itself was even worth the effort.

Then one morning, he arose early and went down to the sea.

There, to his amazement, he saw a ship lying offshore, and a small rowboat coming toward him.

When this once-marooned man met the ship’s captain, he asked him, “How did you know to send help?  How did you know I was here?”

The captain replied, “Why, we saw your smoke signal last week.  But, by the time we could turn our ship around and sail against the wind, it had taken us several days to get to you.  But here we are.”

Calamity may strike, but we must remember that God can use that calamity as a means to bring greater blessing to our lives.

Right now, you may feel as if your life has gone up in smoke.  You may feel as if your heart is going through fiery trials.

I want you to know that your trial may be used by God as the very instrument that will bring you closer to Him and bring blessing from His hand.

That reality would eventually become true in Job’s life.

God drew Job closer to Himself than ever before.

God will use our times of testing and trials to bring us even closer to Himself.  Steven J. Lawson, “I Just Want to Lie Down and Die,” When All Hell Breaks Loose, 69-70

“Then Job answered the LORD and said, ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:1-2).