NAS Acts 10:20 “But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself.”
Thoughts from Acts 10:20 and 11:12
All of us are faced at times with the need to plan for the future. We face this in our personal lives as well as in our occupational involvement. In the story of Peter taking the gospel to the Gentiles, I find several key planning principles. Today, we will briefly look at Peter’s story. Then, in my next “thoughts,” we will start looking at the crucial principles.
A Gentile God-fearer in Caesarea named Cornelius was praying when an angel of God appeared in a vision and told him to send some men to Joppa for Peter. Immediately, he sent three soldiers.
The next day Peter, who was at the home of Simon the tanner, was praying. Peter became hungry. While a meal was being prepared Peter fell into a trance and saw a certain object like a great sheet being let down from the sky with all sorts of four-footed animals and crawling creatures in it. These animals and creatures were considered unclean and unholy by the Jews. Despite this, Peter heard a voice from heaven telling him to arise, kill, and eat. Peter objected, then a voice told him that what God had cleansed, he was not to consider unclean. Three times he heard the voice.
While the perplexed Peter was reflecting on this, the three men arrived. Before Peter came downstairs to meet them, the Spirit told Peter (10:19-20) to go with them without misgiving. Upon meeting them, Peter asked them what their reason was for coming. They told him they had come to invite him to come to the house of Cornelius and give a message. Peter invited the men to stay overnight. On the next day, he arose and went with them.
We know the result. Peter went to the house of Cornelius and spoke. While he was speaking the Spirit of God was outpoured upon the people. This event established that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. God had granted the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, repentance unto life. It was a dramatic breakthrough!
Later, Peter met with the brethren in Jerusalem. Some of the circumcised brethren objected that Peter ate with uncircumcised men. Peter then restated the central point:
“And the Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings” (Acts 11:12). The impact on the spread of the gospel was huge. More in my next “thoughts.”
More Thoughts on Acts 10:20
With the story of Peter and the Gentiles in view, we will discuss some steps to take in spreading the gospel. The first principle is that we should respond to need.
In the case of Peter, the need was very clear. An angel appeared to Cornelius and told him to invite Peter. Then came the Spirit’s instructions for him to go. Both the need and his specific response were dramatically presented. Without this kind of stimulus, the need might never have been met!
Sometimes the need is felt. At other times it is not. When the need is felt, it is easier to meet the need. Sometimes there is a great need for the gospel to be preached, but people may not be interested. At other times, the people may be eager to hear. Either way, there is a great need.
Meeting needs is a divine-human process. Very often, our process of determining the need is quite human. We may look at all the demographic factors, determine who has been reached and who has not, and find out whether the people are responsive to the gospel. All of this is legitimate and good. It’s a part of using the good sense God has given us.
At the same time, we must listen to what the Spirit says. God is in control of the Master plan. He sees both the short-run and the long-run. He knows whether we are to be heralded as great harvesters or simply be faithful workers in difficult places. We long to hear the Spirit say, “Go without misgivings!” Spirit of God, help us to know what needs you want us to meet!
More Thoughts on Acts 10:20
We are studying what this passage suggests regarding our planning for action in the spread of the gospel. The first thing that we noticed was that we should respond to needs. Second, based on our consideration of need, we must set goals with commitment.
In Peter’s case, it became clear that he was to go to the house of Cornelius, eat with the Gentiles, and preach to them. He was committed to that goal. It was Paul, however, who picked up the cause and became the apostle to the Gentiles. The Gentile portfolio was assigned to him.
As believers, we frequently begin our meetings with a prayer for the Spirit’s guidance. Unless the Spirit speaks a specific word to us, we must move ahead with the best wisdom and understanding we have. We must believe that God is at work in this. Once we have set our goals, then we must be fully committed to them. Unless we are committed to the goals, nothing is likely to be accomplished.
We long to hear the Spirit say, “Go without misgivings.” When we do, we must focus our efforts on the goal. It will be surprised what the Lord will do with people fully devoted to given goals.
More Thoughts from Acts 10:20
Luke tells the story of Peter breaking the Gentile barrier in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. From this, we learn several crucial principles about planning for outreach. First, we respond to need. Second, we set goals with commitment. Third, we must count the cost.
Jesus said, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?” Jesus used this illustration to remind the disciples that there is a cost to discipleship. Counting the cost, however, is not the only factor in our planning for outreach.
The apostles were obedient to the voice of the Spirit. Peter knew that eating with Gentiles would be controversial and costly, but he obeyed the voice of the Spirit. Paul knew (Acts 20:24) that he would suffer in Jerusalem, but he had purposed “in Spirit” to go and was willing to suffer even the loss of his life.
When we set goals, we must assess what resources we must reach the goals. Do we have the resources, the spiritual gifts, the commitment, and the energy to reach the goals? While making our decisions, we long to hear the Spirit say, “Go without misgivings!” We will count the cost, but we will go knowing that He has all things in His control.
More Thoughts on Acts 10:20
We have discussed three principles in outreach planning suggested by this passage. First, we must respond to needs. Second, we should set goals with commitment. Third, we should count the cost. Today, we consider the fourth principle: we must have faith.
Luke does not mention Peter’s faith in going to the house of Cornelius. However, when Peter understood what the voice said to him, he believed. This was such a historic occasion that Peter’s complete and firm faith in what the voice said to him was required. The Spirit asked him to do what all his background and training said not to do. He was asked to eat food that he normally would not eat. Moreover, he was asked to eat with the Gentiles.
Sometimes the Spirit speaks rather dramatically to us. On such occasions, it is not difficult to believe. We may be awed by what the Spirit is asking us to do, but we know that He is leading us. At other times we must act in faith when we have not distinctly heard the voice of the Spirit. We must rely on what we can learn from general information in the Word of God, the counsel of others, and other tests. When we are sure of the Spirit’s leading, our faith rises.
We long to hear the voice of the Spirit saying, “Go without misgivings!” “Go in faith!” Are we listening today? What is the Spirit saying to us?
More Thoughts from Acts 10:20
The fifth outreach principle suggested by this passage is that we must demonstrate our faith through our works. A voice from heaven instructed Peter to go with the men from the house of Cornelius. As quickly as possible, Peter acted. Luke writes: “And the next day he arose and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him” (Acts 11:23). Peter demonstrated his faith through his works.
James (2:18-19) says: “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Faith without works is dead! We must not only set goals and believe we can reach them, but we must also enact a plan to make them happen. We must set up “works of faith.” These are works that are done as a result of faith and are themselves done in faith.
In summary, the outreach principles that our text suggests are: (1) We must respond to need; (2) we must set goals with commitment; (3) we must count the cost; (4) we must have faith; and (5) we must demonstrate our faith by our works.
As we follow these principles, we long to hear the Spirit say, “Go, without misgivings.” As always, we count on His leadership both regarding our goals and how to reach them.
George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.