Last week, we saw that Habakkuk expressed his faith in God’s promises to him by praying and singing about those promises. We then looked at Psalms 75 and 94, which corroborate the same truth.
We then examined Luke 18:1-8 because it is clear NT teaching that also teaches us similarly. We saw that the elect (Luke 18:7) are just people who live by faith. Their righteous living by faith expresses itself in their praying to God day and night for Him to grant them justice (Luke 18:7). By faith, they long for the coming of the Son of Man who will be God’s agent to bring about justice for them (Luke 18:8).
Today, we continue to examine our theme, The Just Shall Live by Faith: A Faith That Works, by looking at the next account, Luke 18:9-14. This passage transitions us to considering directly how our theme pertains to evangelism, which is one of our major objectives for this study.
Jesus told this parable about two men who came to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed proudly about how he was better than other people were and touted his own religious activities, but the publican abased himself before God.
In Psalm 75, we saw that God the Judge exalts those who humble themselves and humbles those who exalt themselves. Applying that teaching to Jesus’ concluding statement about these two men (Luke 18:14), we learn that He justifies those who humble themselves by praying to Him that He would be merciful to them as sinners.
The publican displayed what Heb. 11:6 teaches about faith; he came to God believing that God was the merciful Judge who would reward with mercy those who come diligently to Him seeking mercy. This passage, therefore, correlates directly with what we saw about Abraham’s interceding with the Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25) for mercy upon sinners.
This parable teaches that for a lost person to become just by faith, he must believe that God is a merciful Judge who will justify him as a sinner if he humbles himself before Him. It also plainly shows that a person who tries to be saved by his works will not be saved.
I have used this passage evangelistically many times. It is excellent for dealing with people who think that God will accept them because they are not as bad as other people are or because of the religious things that they do. It also provides a model prayer for guiding a sinner in praying to God to have mercy on him for his sins.
Our previous account was in Luke. The natural place to go next to learn more about how prayer pertains to a lost man who becomes one of the just who live by faith would be to go to Acts because it is the sequel that Luke addressed to the same man (Theophilus) to whom he wrote the Gospel of Luke. In fact, Luke-Acts comprises more of the NT than the writings of any man, including Paul (unless Paul wrote Hebrews).
Like Luke 18, Acts 10 concerns a lost man who prayed to God. It also provides more information about how faith and works relate in a lost person’s becoming just by faith.
This evangelistic account is important for our study for many more reasons, including the following:
1. Whereas the previous passage was a parabolic account, this account relates an event that actually happened.
2. It is the longest record concerning an apostolic evangelistic encounter that we have in Scripture – 66 verses (Acts 10:1-48; cf. 11:1-18).
3. It explicitly records divine activity to bring lost people to salvation in a way unmatched by any other evangelistic account, both in the preparation of the evangelist and of the lost people who would hear his message.
4. It answers in a decisive way some crucial questions about how faith and works relate, such as do people have to be baptized to be saved.
5. It is the only account of mass evangelism where every person who heard the message was genuinely saved.
6. It ties directly to much of what we have already studied about our theme
Because of the importance of this passage to our study, we will treat it both this week and next week.
A Selective Exposition of Acts 10 with Reference to Our Theme
I. Supernatural Preparation A and Cornelius’ Faith
Through a remarkable encounter with an angel, God informed Cornelius that He had heard his prayers and had remembered his alms. Strikingly, we as the readers of Luke are given four reports of this angelic encounter.
The angel instructed him to send for Peter, through whose words Cornelius and his entire household would be saved. Although he was still a lost man, he obeyed immediately, showing his faith in what God had revealed and promised to him.
II. Supernatural Preparation B
Peter went up to pray on the top of the house in which he was staying. While he was there, God gave him a perplexing vision that was repeated three times. Luke provides two separate reports of this vision that God used to prepare Peter for his evangelistic ministry to Cornelius and his household.
III. Supernatural Preparation C
While Peter was pondering the meaning of the vision, the men whom Cornelius had sent arrived where he was staying. The Holy Spirit then spoke to Peter to inform him that because He Himself had sent these men, he should go meet them and return with them to Cornelius.
When Peter inquired of them why they were looking for him, they informed him that Cornelius had sent them to him at the direction of the angel who had appeared to him. Peter hosted them for a day and on the next day departed with them to Caesarea.
IV. Cornelius Further Demonstrates His Faith
When Peter and those who were traveling with him arrived at and entered the house of Cornelius, they found that he had gathered his household and his close friends. Gathering his family, Cornelius showed that he had believed what the angel told him about how he and his household would be saved by hearing a message from Peter.
Remarkably, Cornelius, however, also had gathered his close friends with his relatives to hear Peter’s message. He thus showed faith that went even beyond what the angel had said to him.
V. Cornelius Provides Peter with a Striking Prompt for His Message That Further Showed His Faith
Encountering Peter, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. Peter rebuked him for doing so.
Peter explained how God had directed him to come meet him and then inquired why Cornelius had sent for him. Cornelius explained that he had sent for him because the angel who appeared to him told him to do so in order that he might hear words from him by which he and his entire household would be saved.
Cornelius then told Peter that they all were there before God to hear all that the Lord had commanded him to tell them. Saying this, he showed his faith that it was Peter’s God-given message that was essential for them to hear.
Next week, we will look at the rest of Acts 10 and then examine Acts 11:1-18. From there, we will go to Acts 15.
See the other lessons here