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October 18, 2015
“God is No Respecter of Persons!”
PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy! Blessings.
Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. You are always encouraged to do your own personal studies as well. Blessings!)
Isaiah 42:6 it was prophesied, speaking to the Jews, “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, “ (see also Isaiah 49:6; Galatians 3:14).
Salvation is not exclusive to one person, one country, or one people. After all, the picture that John shows us in the book of Revelation is one that reveals, “A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9). Those multitudes from all over the world are there before the Lamb because they accepted Him as their Savior; because somebody told them about Jesus Christ.
Though God used the Jewish people to be examples and “light” to shine the way for others, Jesus made it very clear in His final statement before ascending into heaven that the gospel was to be shared with people everywhere. He commanded His disciples, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” (Acts 1:8).
As we have been studying the church history in the book of Acts, we see regions being reached for Jesus. First, as Jesus commanded Jerusalem and Judaea. Then, through persecution we read how Philip brought the gospel to Samaria, changing lives in that city. This week’s lesson we are ready to cross more borders for Jesus as the door to the Gentiles opens even wider welcoming more people in the family of God.
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
Today’s lesson is a story of two visions that open one pathway for an unreached people to know Jesus Christ.
Cornelius, a man whom the Bible attributes as being “devout, and one that feared God with all his house,” (Acts 10:2). Although he is a centurion by trade (an officer over 100 men) for the Italian regime (Acts 10:1), he is a man who seeks to live a life of reverence to the Almighty.
He gives “alms” (which means he helps with support of those less fortunate) and he “prayed to God always,” (Acts 10:2). Although he wasn’t a Jew or raised in a Jewish household, Cornelius was a man very much devoted to God, proven in his pursuit of God through his life and through prayer.
One day during his prayer time, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, Cornelius saw in a vision an angel of God coming in to him, (Acts 10:3). The angel spoke to him and reassured 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: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do,” (Acts 10:4-6).
We are not privileged to know the specifics of Cornelius’s prayers, but the one fact that we do know is God heard his prayers and God is paying attention to those who call on Him.
Following the instructions of the angel, Cornelius gathered some of his men and sent them to find the man God told them to look for; one who would tell them what they ought to do.
Note: Yes, God could have instructed and taught Cornelius straight from heaven, but there were still barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles that had to come down. If the message of Jesus Christ was going to reach the world it was going to be through people who wouldn’t mind preaching to the world, no matter where they are from. The disciples would have to learn to step beyond their comfort zones and look at people for not where they are from, but through the eyes of a great God that wants to save all. Peter would be a key vessel in the foundational work of the church (see Matthew 16:18).
The next day, Peter also was in a prayer time at about noon time on the housetop of Simon the tanner where he was currently residing. While praying Peter “feel into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air,” (Acts 10:9-12).
It did not escape Peter’s attention that all the animals represented in this vision were not clean. They had from birth been instructed according to the law of Leviticus of what to eat and what not to eat (Lev. 11). Peter was hungry (as noted in verse 10), but was he hungry enough to cross barriers that were before prohibited in order to satisfy his natural hunger.
What about the spiritual hunger of reaching people for God? Would he be provoked to go to places he would have never dreamed of to reach people for Christ?
While viewing the vision a voice spoke saying, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat,” (Acts 10:13). Peter was being told to go against everything he previously believed was right in this regard; to go against the culture in which he was raised and to “eat” that which was deemed unclean.
Peter’s response reflected his nature to adhere to what he has been previously taught. He said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean,” (Acts 10:14; emphasis mine). “Never” indicates that this is an area where compromise and giving into natural cravings has not and would not happen for him. So, God had to reeducate him on the “now” of things; on how He wants his people to respond now. Therefore, the voice spoke again and instructed Peter, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common,” (Acts 10:15).
God was ready to do a new thing through His people.
Three times this repeated itself before the vision disappeared back into heaven leaving Peter to contemplate what all of this meant. While contemplating, the Spirit spoke and said, “Three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them,” (Acts 16-20; emphasis mine).
“Doubting nothing;” was Peter still struggling with the meaning of the vision despite the instructions? God needed him to meet with the men and go where He leads without hesitation and without questioning. Souls were dependent on his obedience to answer the call to go.
Going down to meet with the men and hearing what they had to say, the next day “Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him,” (Acts 10:21-23). Peter was following God’s lead in these uncharted territories to win souls through Jesus Christ.
This brings us to the specific current text we are dealing with in today’s lesson.
The two visions come together for full revelation:
After their departure from Joppa, the following day Peter and the men that were sent arrived in “Caesarea.” There “Cornelius waited for them, and had called his kinsmen and near friends.”
There are two things of note in verse 24, one being the diligence of Cornelius to find out more. If one is truly hungry for the things of God, he or she will be filled according to the Bible (Matthew 5:6). Cornelius held his ground of faith and kept an eye out for the return of his men with Peter in anticipation of what God would reveal next.
Next, we see Cornelius’s positive influence on those closest to him (note: the people closest to you will give the greater testimony of who you really are). As he gathered his family and friends, he not only shows his personal love for them in wanting them to participate and hear what it is that Peter will show them. But, it shows the respect they too have for Cornelius in coming as he bid them. He obviously has an outstanding reputation among those who know him the most.
“And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” One can only imagine, with his expectation building at the coming of Peter, what Cornelius thought he would see. After all, the vision of the angel (a supernatural event) probably had his mind preprogramed with cultural bias that Peter was worthy of this sort of homage and worship.
Peter, setting the record straight, point blanked acknowledged that he too was just a “man.” One must really take into consideration the attitude of the true followers of Christ here and must prayerfully make a concerted effort not to seek glory of our own. Even the angels refused to be worshiped saying, “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God,” (Revelation 22:9). Peter, falling in line with that premise of thinking, instructed Cornelius to rise and refused that kind of personal adoration for himself.
Instead he went about the work of why he was summoned to this place. Addressing his audience he let them know of the serious nature of his being there and the phenomenal thing that God was about to do, he said, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean,” (Acts 10:27-28).
We know this was a serious matter because when Peter arrives back in Jerusalem after the events here with Cornelius, the Bible tells us, “They that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them,” (Acts 11:2-3). Accusations and contentions were flung at Peter without knowing the whole story of what God was doing to bring all who believe, no matter their ethnicity, background, or culture under the same umbrella of faith through Jesus Christ. Walls of separation based on these outward markers were being broken down (see Colossians 3:11).
For Peter, this was a step of faith into the unknown. All he knows is the Spirit told him to go “doubting nothing.”
With that, Peter stated before his audience, “But God . . .”
Others may look at him funny; as if he has lost his mind going where they previously were prohibited, but when God steps in things begin to change. All prejudices and preconceived ideas of who can be saved or not; of who is afforded a spot into heaven or not, vanishes in the inclusive beauty of His holy plan.
Peter stands boldly and declares, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” God showed him his old way of viewing people had to go. If he and the church were to reach the masses with the gospel, they had to view people like God views them. Don’t look at the fact that he is uncircumcised. Don’t look at the fact that he is from a foreign land; from a people not familiar with their ways. The soul on the inside matters to God the most and this is what he wanted His people to focus on. So, don’t call any man unworthy to receive the gospel. Don’t prejudge anyone as not being right for God’s kingdom. This was the revelation of God’s vision to Peter. Everybody gets a chance because everybody’s welcome if they turn to Him.
“Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for,” (Acts 10:29a). Peter came without questioning or talking against the plan of God. That’s the kind of obedience and moving of faith that can make a difference in the spreading of the gospel to anyone. Obedience and faith are also true markers of the Christ working in each of us personally.
With that, Peter wanting to hear from Cornelius himself, said, “I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?” (Acts 10:29b). Personal experience can tell one a lot. Surely Peter has heard from the men that were sent why they had come to seek him, but nothing can take the place a one on one encounter with a seeking soul. From here Peter will not only hear the full details of what took place, but the passion of witnessing it all firsthand will show in its retelling. (For example, many people can relay the details of events they have read or heard about, but ask someone who saw it with their own eyes; who experienced the agony or thrill of what took place, and the story will that much more vividly alive.)
With the invitation to tell all, Cornelius pours out in detail what took place. He said:
“Four days ago I was fasting until this house; and at the nineth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God,” (Acts 10:30-33).
In his personal account, Cornelius revealed the story of what took place and why he sent for Peter. Much of this account we relayed in vision one of our lesson with the exception of seeing that not only was Cornelius praying, but he was also fasting.
Peter, hearing this retelling, gains not only a greater understanding of the vision he saw, but has a greater understanding of what God is doing among His people now.
Peter said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” What an awesome revelation! As noted in our introduction, “Salvation is not exclusive to one person, one country, or one people.” Faith was for all! God shows no partiality between those who love Him and neither should we!
“Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD . . .” (Psalms 112:1); he is the one to whom God opens His arms. He, too, that “worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” People are not to be categorized and classified by outward statuses. There is to be no racial, economic or social profiling to deem one worthy or not of the faith. Everyone who loves the Lord and comes to Him through Jesus Christ can be saved!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16; emphasis mine). Look at those words “world” and “whosoever.” Those words have no exclusivity to them whatsoever; they speak of anybody on God’s green earth who turns from a life of sin in repentance to Him is “accepted.”
“The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)” (Acts 10:36). A brief peek into history reveals that Israel is God’s chosen people. Deuteronomy 7:6 declares, “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” It is to them this gospel of peace is preached first and then to the Gentiles (a pattern we see over and over again in the New Testament; see Acts 13:26, 45-46; Romans 1:16, 2:9-11 and so on).
This relationship He had with them was also bound by oaths and covenants. One that specifically said to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” (Genesis 28:14), denoting that salvation was going to be made available to everyone because of Jesus Christ. Here, in the above verse we see the revelation that Jesus Christ, “he is Lord of all.” Again, with the word “all” it shows that it includes everybody and anybody who comes unto Him.
“That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him,” (Acts 10:37-38). Realizing the availability to take the gospel to a people who had not previously been privy to receive it, Peter begins to tell them all about Jesus.
Peter opened up Jesus’ ministry in a full, but brief summary describing the beginning (His baptism and the witness of the Holy Ghost as a dove); the middle (His healings and casting out demons. Miracles He did, too numerous to name.); and the ending (His death, resurrection, and His command to “go preach unto the people” – Acts 10:39-43, not in today’s text).
Peter preached Jesus! He didn’t go into the system of this or that, he told them all about Jesus that “God was with him!”
And, that’s all it took. Acts 10:44-48 tells when they heard these words, “the Holy Ghost fell on them all,” (vs. 44). The men that traveled from Joppa with Peter were astonished with the work of God in the lives the Gentiles, “because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost,” (Acts 10:45).
Peter, seeing and hearing everything taking place said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as well?” (Acts 10:46). With that, Cornelius and those with him were baptized and started their new life in Christ Jesus.
Salvation through Jesus Christ is available to any man, woman, or child. God is no respecter of persons. Let the picture we see in Revelation, with multitudes from all over the earth worshiping, be our living example of the goal we are working toward when reaching people for Jesus Christ.
(Click here for PDF: God is No Respecter of Persons Sunday School Lesson, or click print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Word Search: God is No Respecter of Persons Word Search Answers: God is No Respecter of Persons Word Search Answers
Word Scramble: God is No Respecter of Persons Word Scramble Answers: God is No Respecter of Persons Word Scramble Answers
Draw the Scene: God is No Respecter of Persons Draw the Scene
How Many Words?: God is No Respecter of Persons How Many Words
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Peter’s Vision Coloring Sheet” (This one is geared toward older students and shows the vision Peter had before Cornelius’s men came to him. Enjoy!)
“All the Children of the World” (A great object using eggs, not to mention printables, coloring, and group activities such as “Thumb Print Children” and “Play Dough Kids” that really engage students in this lesson. Enjoy!)
“Peter and Cornelius Sunday School Lesson” (This site brings some very original ideas to the table that I think your students would love for this week’s lesson. Newspaper snowball fight? Stuffed animals? Oh, yeah! Click to find out more. Enjoy!)
“Cornelius and Peter’s Vision” (Powerpoints, worksheets and a wonderful, easy to put together lesson display that’s sure to draw the curiosity of your students to today’s lesson. Enjoy!)
“Peter Visits Cornelius” (I love the craft idea on page 6 for making a simple reconstruction of Cornelius’s houses for students to remember the lesson, or the game ideas on pages 7 and 10. Enjoy!)