These Amazing Converts
November 13th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THESE AMAZING CONVERTS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-13-77 10:50 a.m.
You are listening and watching on television and radio the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Gospel for the Gentiles or, These Amazing Converts. We are preaching through the Book of Acts and are in one of the most interesting sections to be found in the Bible and in all of the story of Christendom. The message tonight will be doubly interesting.
It says here in the eleventh chapter that when Peter was come back to Jerusalem, they that were of the Judaizing party diekrinonto, they "contended" with him, they accosted him, they condemned him, they disputed with him. And you will find the reason for that in the message this morning. Our sermon is an exposition of the last half of the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts. But I need briefly to capsulate the first part of that chapter so we can come with understanding and intelligence to the second part, the last part of the chapter.
In Caesarea, which was a hated city in Judea; it was the capitol of the Roman province of Judea, the seat of the Roman government. There the procurators lived and administered the Judean government under the Roman Caesar. In that city was a Roman officer, a centurion. If you are acquainted at all with Roman history, the strength and the thrust and the might of the Roman army was found in the genius and the fearless integrity of these centurions. In that city was a centurion, a godly man, a Gentile, but one who had renounced his heathen gods and had embraced the ethical, moral law of Moses. And the Lord sent to that Roman officer an angel who said, "You send to Joppa for one Simon Peter who will come and tell thee words whereby thou and thou house may be saved." [Acts 10:5, 6] The Roman centurion thereupon sent faithful messengers thirty miles south down the coast to Joppa and there invited Simon Peter to come up to Caesarea.
Peter would not have done that under any conditions had it not been that the Lord prepared him; letting down from heaven a great sheet held at four corners, in which were all kinds of ceremonially unclean things – not that they were particularly unclean in themselves, but they were unclean ceremonially. It was not legitimate for one who followed the mosaic legislation to eat them – such as a pig, such as a shrimp, such as a lobster; a whole lot of things like that, that are just fine in themselves, but they were ceremonially unclean. So the Lord said to Simon Peter, "Rise, kill and eat. And he said: Not so, Lord; for I have never done that in my life, never. And the Lord said, what God hath cleansed, call not thou common or unclean." [Acts 10:13-15]
While Peter was thinking upon these things, there was that heavy knock at the door and the emissaries from this Roman centurion were asking this Simon Peter to come to Caesarea. Thereupon, Simon Peter journeys with the men along with fellow Judaizing Christians to the capitol city of the Roman province of Judea.
Now we begin the exposition of the Word of the Lord, "And on the morrow" – taking a full day – "on the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was there waiting for them. And had called together his kinsmen and near friends." [Acts 10:24, 25] Would you not think that was a blessed, blessed opportunity? Cornelius waited for them, with his kinsmen and his near friends. To see a man who seeks God is one of the dearest, sweetest and most treasured of all of the experiences in a Christian life; seeking a man; looking at a man who wants to know God. We are all here waiting for a word from heaven. That is the Ethiopian eunuch, reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and saying to Philip, "When the prophet speaks of this man, who is to bear our sins, is He talking of Himself or of somebody else?" [Acts 8:34]; seeking God, wanting to understand.
When I was in Buenos Aires, the capitol city, a great tremendous city, the capitol city of the Argentines, there was a man in that city who reserved a beautiful dining hall. And in the evening he had gathered, oh, between a hundred and a hundred fifty men and women for a lovely dinner. And when I went into the hall, I was the only one not a national who was present. And I said to him, "Why is no one else but I here?" And he replied to me, "I wanted us to have this meeting just for you to tell us about the Lord and what He can mean to us in Argentina." One of the most unusual open doors ever presented to me, in that beautiful hotel downtown; that lovely dinner and those people listening with hungry hearts.
Last week, a precious couple in my study, each with a Bible in his/her hand, and a Bible in mine, opening the Scripture and reading what God says to us. That is precious, seeking the man who wants to know about God. That is Cornelius, "We are all here. Now, what is God commanded you?"
Well, isn’t it a wonderful thing that Simon Peter was prepared? Had God not got him ready, first of all, he would not have gone. When he enters he says, "You know how it is unlawful for a man that is a Jew to keep company or to come into the house of a Gentile." [Acts 10:28] First of all, he would not have gone. Second, had he gone, when he stood there to speak to those Gentiles, he would have brought a message about Jewish ceremonialism, about circumcision, about the mosaic legislation, about the rituals of the temple and a thousand other things that belong to Jewish tradition, Talmudic tradition. But this man had been prepared of the Lord God.
Just as the Lord intervened in the life of Jonah and sent him to Ninevah, so the Lord has intervened in the life of Simon Peter, and now has prepared him for a message delivered to these in Caesarea. "God hath showed me that I am not to call any man common or unclean." [Acts 10:28] So having entered into the home of these forbidden, and outcast, and lost, and hated Gentiles; verse 34, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said" – now that is a passage in God’s Book that we glibly and swiftly glide over and overlook – "then Peter opened his mouth and said." [Acts 10:34] How uncultured, and uncouth, and vulgar, and common is that? "He opened his mouth and said."
In these over-refined times, and under the cheap thin veneer under which we live, for a man to speak up and to speak out is to show himself uncultured and without aesthetic sensibilities – "he opened his mouth, and said." I came across a definition of a preacher. "A preacher is a mild-mannered man, speaking to a mild-mannered congregation about how to be more mild-mannered." I heard another definition of a preacher. "He is a dispenser of peace of mind-soothing syrup." A preacher, never to open his mouth, never to thunder or to herald, but to speak in the most apologetic low-key, with his head down, maybe between his legs; with his mouth not open, you know, proclaiming the message of God to the whole world like this. Ah, Peter "opened his mouth, and said."
That is why one of my favorite chapters in the Bible is the fortieth chapter of Isaiah: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord." [Isaiah 40:3] When they sing that in The Messiah, I say, "That is right." And then, the next chorus from The Messiah in the fortieth of Isaiah: "O [Zion], get thee up into the high mountains; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice. . . . lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold thy God." [Isaiah 40:9] And when they sing that, I say, "Amen. Amen." Then Peter "opened his mouth, and said."
That is the way that the gospel begins in the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, "In those days came John the Baptist, kerusson. What is kerusson? Kerusso is "heralding." It is announcing. It is proclaiming. Now he was down there in the Jordan River and they could hear him clear on the other side of the nation, on the Mediterranean seacoast. It was great. It was marvelous. That is the way a man is to preach. Oh, but you do not understand. Why, you can hear a pin drop. You do not have to shout. And I can hear you. I do not have to have somebody standing up there with a loud voice. I can hear perfectly well.
Man, what you do not understand is this, that a real honest-to-goodness preacher, a man with a fire and flame of God in his soul, is not saying syllables. He is not saying sentences. He is not pronouncing words. A God-called preacher is a man preaching hell and damnation and judgment and the wrath of God upon nations and upon sin. And he is preaching forgiveness and love and salvation. He is living the gospel message in the pulpit. That is what preaching it. So when we come to this passage in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter "opened his mouth, and said."
Now, what did he say? This is the gospel. First of all, he announces the universal, without distinction, love of God for the whole lost family of Adam’s dying race. He starts off the first sentence, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. . . . To Him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." [Acts 10:34, 43] The universal message of the gospel; He is no respecter of persons, and whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins; nobody excluded, nobody common, nobody called unclean; but the whole world in the love and circumference of God’s grace and mercy.
Bless your heart. I was in Washington D. C., our national capitol, at a convocation of our Baptist people. And on Sunday morning, I went to the services of the Calvary Baptist Church. It was jammed with our convention-attending people. And I sat over there. And right across from me, where I could watch him and see him, was the most illustrious citizen of the United States of America at that time. His name was Charles Evans Hughes. He was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. He had gone to bed in years previously. He had gone to bed thinking that he had been elected President of the United States. Woodrow Wilson gained the office just by a hairs breadth, but Charles Evans Hughes, a Republican, thought that he had been elected. He looked the part; one of the most distinguished-looking men that I ever saw, and a great American, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
And they said to me, that when Charles Evans Hughes joined that Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, that there came down the aisle also a poor Chinese laundryman. And they sat side by side on the front row – the Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and the humble, menial Chinese laundryman; there alike. That is one of the reasons I loved the First Baptist Church in Dallas. By your side may be seated one of the richest men in this city. By your side may be seated one of the finest surgeons or physicians in all our hospitals. By your side may be seated a shrewd and a gifted lawyer. And by your side also may be seated the janitor of one of the buildings in downtown Dallas. But we are all alike before the Lord. I love that. This is the gospel. "Of a truth I perceive" – something I have not known before – "that God is no respecter of persons." [Acts 1:34] But any man anywhere who calls upon the name of the Lord, that man shall be heard and saved.
Well, will you notice another thing that he says? He says here "that whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." [Acts 10:43] And right above he spoke of the death of our Lord who they slew and hanged on a tree, crucified for the remission of sins. Now, can you believe that? Who is this man to whom Simon Peter is preaching that gospel message about sins and the atoning death of our Lord, and the remission of our iniquities in him? Who is this man? The second verse describes him. This man Cornelius, this Roman officer, a devout man, and one that feared God with all of his house, who gave much alms to the people and prayed to God always." [Acts 10:2, 3
Peter, you mean to tell me that to that kind of man you are preaching about iniquity and about sin and about the blood of Christ and the atoning sacrifice of our Lord? Oh, that is unthinkable and inexcusable! What you want to do to a man like that is preach Christ, preach Christ. But preach Christ as the great and noble ideal. Preach Christ as beautiful in His life, in His thoughts, and the purity of His soul. Preach Christ as the great model and paragon who encourages us to follow the hero in our hearts. Preach Jesus. That is right; but Jesus as a great exemplary.
But do not preach Christ to a man like that, as though we were lost sinners and He came to die to save us out of our sins. Do not preach Christ crucified; the blood of the Lord that remits sins. Do not preach that to a man like this. I can hear Simon Peter say, "Not so, for we all are sinners alike, all of us;" all sinners alike, all of us. That includes Cornelius. That includes me. That includes the whole membership of Adam’s fallen race. We are all sinners and lost alike.
A man came to me, a gifted preacher, and he was to speak to our seminary in Louisville, our Southern Baptist Seminary, and he said to me, "I have never spoken to this group before. All of those young men who are preparing for the ministry, I do not know how to do it. I do not know what to say. I do not know how to speak or what to speak." I said, "Listen my brother, I can tell you in a sentence. When you stand up there to speak to us at the seminary, speak to us as though we all were sinners, which we actually are, and call us to repentance, which all of us need – getting closer to God." All of that bunch of preachers, just a bunch of lost sinners outside of the grace of our Lord, we are all alike, all of us.
This last week, I picked up the daily newspaper here in Dallas, and there was a headline on the front page. A bunch of vandals, and they turned out to be teenagers, a bunch of vandals took baseball bats, and rocks, and guns, and they beat up all of the cars up and down the streets in the city where they lived; just a whole section of this city, the cars all beat up. Now, you tell me when I read that heading on the front of the paper, about those boys going out there and beating up all of those cars just for the fear of it, how does a preacher cuss any better – and he isn’t supposed to? Just for the fun of it. That is surely a lame word; out there beating up the cars "just for the fun of it."
So I read that in the headline. And wouldn’t you think, immediately when I follow the story, what I am doing is I am going to read about a bunch of kids that are raised in the ghetto, and in a crime-infested section of the city? Isn’t that what I am supposed to read? What did I read? That happened in the most elite silk-stocking so-called section of the city of Dallas. Those were the kids that beat up those cars. Listen, because a boy is reared in an affluent home, in a silk-stocking section of the city, does not mean in himself he is any better morally or otherwise than a boy raised in that poorest of all hovels in the south – in the southeastern section of this town. They are all alike; just lost in sin.
You look at this. Day after day after day, we read about that millionaire whose trial was changed to Amarillo, out of Fort Worth. You tell me, would you be reading about that if he were a poor man? No, you would not. He has got money. He has millions, and he hires the best lawyers in the world. And there he is trial going on week, after week, after week. My brother, because a man is rich or because he is famous, or because he is gifted, or because he is successful, or because he is anything else in the world, does not mean he is any better morally in his soul and life than that man who dug that ditch when you put in a water pipe from the main up to your kitchen sink. God says we are just two kinds of folks. We are not rich and poor. We are not black and white. We are not across the seas foreigner and an indigenous person at home. God says of the whole world, there are just two of us. We are either lost in our sins or we are saved by the blood of the crucified One. Just two; I am either on the road to heaven, praise God, or I am facing the judgment day for my unconfessed sins.
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
[Elisha J. Hoffman, "Are You Washed in the Blood?"]
Well, in the middle of the sermon, he never finished – in the middle of the sermon,
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard.
And they of the Judaizing party who believed were astonished, as many that came with Peter, because that on these – despised outcast – Gentiles, also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For they heard them speak if tongues – glossa, languages – and magnified God.
That is a demonstrable fact. Why, I have seen it again and again. I was preaching at the Cane Road Baptist Church out in Kowloon, but on Hong Kong Island, preaching in a three-day revival meeting. And while I was preaching – with a wonderful interpreter; if I have an interpreter whose spirit is like mine, we encourage each other. It is just a fury – while I was preaching, a Chinese man came down, and folded his hands, and bowed his head and stood there, right in front of me. And as I continued to preach, another one came, and another one, and another, and another, and another; and there was a large group standing there with folded hands and bowed head.
Finally, I stopped and I turned to the interpreter and I said, "My friend, what are all of these people doing down here?" And he replied to me. He said, "Praise God. Bless the name of the Lord. These are people that cannot wait until you are done with your sermon. But they accepted Jesus as their Savior. And as a token before men and angels, they are standing there with hands clasped and bowed heads receiving the Lord as Savior." Wonderful; God be praised.
I was preaching up here at Falls Creek in Oklahoma before they broke it up into about four different weeks. We had about twenty-five thousand different people there. And at eleven o’clock Sunday morning, when I began preaching at eleven o’clock; halfway through the sermon, it was just like somebody coming into that great, vast tabernacle. The Holy Spirit came down. And at two o’clock that afternoon, when I began preaching at eleven, at two o’clock that afternoon, we were still in the service of appeal and invitation. Forgot about dinner; forgot about lunch, the manager there, the preachers there; the whole assembly, moved under the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God – people saved; people answering God’s call; people giving themselves to the Lord. Oh, it was a heavenly thing! That is a demonstrable fact repeated again, and again, and again.
Then, what does it mean when they say, "For they heard them speak with glossa, languages, and magnify God?" [Acts 10:46] What is that? Well, Peter in his recounting – which will be a part of our sermon tonight – in his defense of the church at Jerusalem. Peter says in 11:17, "God gave them the like gift as He did unto us" – at Pentecost – a like gift. This thing he calls a like gift.
Well, all I have to do is go back to the Jerusalem Pentecost, the Jewish Pentecost, to see what happened here at the Gentile Pentecost. At the Jerusalem Pentecost, the people spoke with glossa, languages. It was a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was an interdiction to the new dispensation of grace in which He moved, and they spoke with glossa. And the Cappadocian heard it, and understood the language; and the Latin, and the Greek, and the Scythian, and the Mesopotamian, and the Persian. They were there from all over the civilized world. And every man heard in his own tongue the marvelous works of God. And that is exactly what happened here.
These men and women in that congregation that Cornelius had gathered; some of them were Latins, Romans; some of them were Greeks; some of them were Scythians; some of them were Aramaeans. They were from all over the Roman Empire. As you know in history, the Roman army was made up of nationals from every province that had been conquered by the Roman legionnaire. They were there.
And a psychologist will tell you that any time that a man is greatly and emotionally disturbed, he will revert back to his mother tongue. If he is frightened, he will cry out in his mother tongue. If he is excited beyond measure, he will speak in his mother tongue. That is exactly what happened there. In the introduction of this dispensation of the age of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentile – those Latins praised got in Latin; and the Greek praised God in Greek; and the Scythian praised God in his language; and the whole company praised the Lord for the gift of divine re-commission and salvation in Jesus; a marvelous thing.
Now, I must close. But I do so with a doctrinal statement. Then answered Peter saying, "Can any man forbid water?" [Acts 10:47]; water, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" [Acts 8:36] "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?" [Acts 10:47] And there is several doctrinal avowals to be found in that simple sentence. One is this; the importance of that holy and initial ordinance. Here is a people who have accepted Jesus, and the first day, the first thing that Simon Peter speaks of is they are to be baptized.
See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
. . . If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. . . ." I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.
And . . . then they went down in the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip and the eunuch saw him no more: and went on his way rejoicing
The first thing, and there it is again, "What would hinder these to be baptized?" Now, do you see it again? Baptism is not invested in a man, even though that man is Simon Peter, the chiefest apostle. He turns to his brethren and he says, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit the same as we?" [Acts 10:47] And your pastor does that every service. When these come forward, the ordinance of baptism is not in me. Even though I am the shepherd and pastor of the church, it is not invested of me. The ordinance of baptism belongs to the people of Christ. It belongs to the congregation. It is a shared ministry. And you will never hear me fail in doing it. Look, these have come dedicating their lives to Jesus, and are asking to be baptized.
And I turn to you and say and there is a half dozen ways I could do it. "All of you that are happy to receive them and thus commit them to the grace of God and to the holy ordinance, would you?" And I could say, "Would you stand up?" Or I could say, "Would you say aye?" Or I could say, "Would you hold up your hand?" If I had my way about it, I would do all of it on time. We are just so happy. Amen! Hold up your hands! Stand up! Praise God! Say hallelujah! And that pleases the Lord and that is the way it is in the Bible.
No investment in me even though I am the pastor of the church. It is not my ordinance. It belongs to the people. It is a shared commitment. We are trying to do that just as it says here in the book.
And what an infinite privilege just to welcome you whose hearts God has touched; to welcome you into the sweet communion and fellowship of this godly congregation and this New Testament church. Committing your life to the blessed Jesus, come. Some of you for the first time, accepting the Lord as your Savior, come. Some of you beginning a new, a new work and a new dedication with Him, come. Some of you answering God’s call to belong to this precious congregation, come.
As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am pastor. I am on the way." May angels attend you as you come while we stand and while we sing.
THESE AMAZING CONVERTS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Summary(Acts 10:1-23)
A. God sends angel to deliver message to Cornelius(Acts 10:5-6)
B. Vision of Peter (Acts 10:13-15)
C. Peter journeys to Caesarea
II. The man who is looking for God(Acts 10:24-25)
A. How blessed to meet him
1. Ethiopian eunuch(Acts 8:34, Isaiah 53)
III. Preparation of the messenger(Acts 10:28)
A. Had God not prepared him, Peter would not have gone
B. His message would have been about Jewish ceremonialism
IV. "Opened his mouth"(Acts 10:34)
A. In our over-refined times it is uncultured to speak up and speak out
B. Kerusson – proclaiming (Isaiah 40:3, 9, Matthew 3:1)
V. The sermon(Acts 10:34-43)
A. Opened the door wide to all(Acts 10:34, 43)
B. The atoning death of Christ for remission of sins (Acts 10:2-3, 36-43)
1. We are all alike sinners
2. We are either saved or lost
VI. Result of the sermon(Acts 10:44-46)
A. Holy Spirit fell – they were given a like gift (Acts 10:46, 11:17)
B. A demonstrable fact
VII. They were baptized(Acts 8:36, 10:47)
A. Importance of the ordinance
C. Not invested in a man, but belongs to people of Christ(Acts 10:47)