One in the Spirit – Acts 10:23-11:18

by Roger McCay
20 October 2019
Sermon Passage: Acts 10:23-11:18
Link to Audio Version

You probably know the lyrics to the song “They’ll Know We are Christians,” which is our hymn of response today. The song begins …

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord

And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, By our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love[1]

Unity. It’s a mark of God’s people. The Lord even says it is how the world will know the truth that the Father sent the Son and loved his people even as the Father loved the Son (John 17:23).

Our unity, bound by love for God and one another, is proof to the world that God loves us even as the Father loves the Son.

But, what about division among God’s people? We find division everywhere. We find it in macro and micro circumstances—from hundreds of denominations (some of which doubt or deny that people in denominations other than theirs are or even can be really saved); to divisions of ethnicity and race (it is said, aptly, that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week); and even divisions within local church bodies for all sorts of reasons.

Yet, the Scriptures, God’s Word, tell Christians that we are to be unified—a point the Lord makes over and over. Our passage today is one of the key passages in this doctrine. As we look at it I want you to be thinking about what unity looks like among differences. Unity, as a general rule, is not conformity. Unity is at its strongest among variety. We see it in the Godhead. We see it in God’s creation. And it is the pattern God has set for his church in this world.

Now, the issue with denominations is something beyond the scope of the sermon. I do want to mention, though, that denominations are a necessary thing. If our knowledge and understanding were perfect, and we lived in a perfect world, there would be no denominations. However, such is only found in heaven, at least, until the Lord returns to earth in glory. We can discuss this offline, if you’d like. But why must denominations, particularly those who hold to the orthodox truths of Scripture, be divided against one another? We don’t have to be! We must not be! Unity is not conformity and is at its strongest among variety united by love.

In our passage today, key points include the fact that the Spirit of God indwells all members of the body of Christ, no matter who they are; we worship the same God; our baptism is one, as it is in the name of the one true God; and, we are joined in fellowship (what is called koinonia in the Scriptures). We are joined together as one in Jesus Christ—fellowship with one-another joined in fellowship with our Lord (1 John 1:3).

Last week we looked in detail at Peter’s vision on the rooftop—the revelation to him that God is not partial and that God’s people must likewise show no partiality to people. There were two prayers (Cornelius’ and Peter’s); two supernatural events (the angel’s appearing to Cornelius, and the vision given to Peter on the rooftop); and God’s command to two men. Cornelius was told to send for Peter. Peter was told, “What God has made clean, do not call unclean,” so, “go with those men.” We ended in 10:23 with Peter providing hospitality for the three Gentiles sent by Cornelius, when they providentially arrived while Peter was pondering the vision God had given him on the roof.

Picking up today in the second part of v. 23, the next morning, Peter, along with six other Jewish Christians and the three Gentiles, begins the journey to see Cornelius. Upon arrival, Peter finds Cornelius and all his family and friends gathered, waiting, prepared to receive what Peter brings. Peter also found himself humbly correcting Cornelius’ reverence of him: “I’m just a man like you.”

Peter was a bit in awe of the whole event. He’d never in his life entered a Gentiles residence like this. As a Jew, such would have made him unclean. His Jewish background, with its particularities, would have forbid him from doing so. Indeed, there were vast gulfs of difference between Peter and Cornelius: racial, religious, cultural, political, socioeconomic, social status, and worldly power, among other things. Peter and Cornelius were night and day different. And all these things would have ensured they never came together as brothers, except for Jesus.