Acts of the Holy Spirit and an interrupted sermon

Please read Psalm 98 and Acts 10: 34-48 and pray; Precious Holy Spirit, open my eyes that I may see
the truth of the Scriptures you inspired, and give me the grace and the power to live for Jesus.

Today our thinking will be focused almost entirely on the book of Acts. Anyone new to the Church or
the Christian faith might ask this question. Why is the fifth book in the New Testament called Acts?
What acts? Whose acts? Those who have been in the Church and reading the bible for some time
should be able to answer – Acts of the Apostles. “Acts” is simply an abbreviation of “Acts of the
Apostles.” Following on from the four gospels, this fifth book highlights the extraordinary way the
apostles, and particularly Peter and Paul, took the message of the risen Lord Jesus out into the
world, so bringing about the phenomenal growth of the early Church.

However, some have argued that what we have here in Acts is primarily the Acts of the Holy Spirit
and this is true. It is the Holy Spirit who is the key ACTOR and the most important and prominent
personality in Acts. Were is not for the Holy Spirit and His powerful and irresistible arrival at
Pentecost, there would be no apostolic acts, no Church growth, and no spreading of the gospel.
Chapter 1 of Acts is concerned with the risen Lord Jesus instructing his disciples to “wait for the gift”,
a gift referred to as the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” which both Jesus and His Father promised
they would send soon. (Acts 1:4,8) Chapter 2 then explodes into life with the dramatic arrival of the
promised Spirit who comes down and rests upon all who are gathered waiting prayerfully in an
upper room. Then Peter, in his first sermon explains to the pilgrim crowds in Jerusalem that what
they now see and hear is the Holy Spirit in action as prophesied by Joel. Peter preaches in and with
the power of the Holy Spirit – and after his first amazing sermon, 3000 are saved and receive both
the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit for themselves. (Acts 2: 38-41) We then hear of the
emergence of a new community which is full of the life of the Spirit. The Church in Jerusalem begins
to grow rapidly because of the activity of the Spirit through the ministry of the apostles –
particularly through the preaching and teaching of Peter and John who amongst other things heal a
beggar in the name of Jesus who had been crippled from birth. (Acts 3: 1-9)

The Church then must come to terms with an uprising of aggressive persecution, and the subsequent
scattering of Christians to other areas in Judea and Samaria which results in further growth. The
gospel as prophesied by Jesus is then taken into the region of Samaria through the powerfully
anointed supernatural ministry of an evangelist named Philip. (Acts 8: 4-8) The Samaritans who have
been reached and converted through the Spirit-filled Philip, then experience their own Pentecost as
Peter and John venture out to visit them and pray for them with the laying on of hands. (Read Acts
8: 14-17)

As you continue to read Acts, you begin to sense that much bigger things are yet to come from the
Holy Spirit who leads the mission of the gospel to the world. In Chapter 10 of Acts – we step towards
a new threshold, the details of which I will come to that in a moment, but let me return to where I
started with the name of this exciting and pulsating biblical book – Acts.

What we have in Acts is this – and this is why it is called Acts. We have the apostles’ performing acts
that were done and could only be done in and with the power of the Holy Spirit. It must be stressed
that the Holy Spirit is the principal actor in Acts. God the Holy Spirit leads, guides, empowers, and
blesses the entire mission of the early Church. Without Him, there would have been no mission or
growth. All preaching done by the apostles and others like Philip the evangelist was done with and in
the power of the Spirit. The Church was/is the ever-growing community of the Spirit where Jesus is

Lord and where He is continually worshipped and glorified. Take a concordance, and look at how
many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in Acts – and you will soon realise who is orchestrating,
overseeing, inspiring, guiding, empowering, and governing the ministry of the apostles and the
growing Church. God-the Holy Spirit!

What we have now in chapters 10 and 11 of Acts is one of the most significant movements and acts
of the Holy Spirit in the entire book. These are critical chapters to grasp if we are to understand the
pioneering mission of the Spirit and the spreading of the gospel. And the main player is not Peter or
Cornelius but the Holy Spirit who descends dramatically to save Gentiles and surprise Jews.
Let us look at this key historical incident. The Holy Spirit has brought together an anointed apostle
(Peter) and a god-fearing gentile (Cornelius- plus his whole household and others) and now the
action is about to begin as Cornelius invites Peter to share the message of the gospel. The content of
Peter’s message is empowered and blessed by the Spirit.

The main points Peter makes are these;
– Peter clearly understands through the vision he received through the Spirit that God has no
favourites but will work in the lives of people of every nation who fear him and do what is
right and who seek after God. (34-35)
– God had revealed to Israel a message of peace centred on Jesus – who is Lord of all. (36)
–  Jesus’s own ministry began after John’s in Galilee and it was richly and powerfully anointed
by the Holy Spirit. (38)
– Jesus was killed but raised by God on the third day – a most important historical fact. (39-40)
– Specially chosen eye-witnesses saw the risen Jesus and ate with him many times. (41)
– The apostles were commanded to preach about Jesus and point out amongst other things
that He is God’s appointed Judge of the world, and anyone who believes in him will
experience the complete forgiveness of their sins. (43)
– Reconciliation to God is possible to all“through his name.”

Even as Peter is teaching and explaining these truths to Cornelius and the others gathered that day,
and well before he reaches the end of his sermon – he is interrupted – and another Person takes
over proceedings!

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.

The sovereign Holy Spirit took over and assumed complete control. Peter had done what the Spirit
wanted him to do, and now the Spirit came down to do what Jesus had sent Him to do, which was to
lead humble and prepared people like Cornelius into the kingdom of God, into the forgiveness of sins
and the reception of Himself and His power.

Why is this such a critically important story in Acts. Why is this particular act of the Holy Spirit a
massive moment in history and the advancement of the gospel? The answer is this. This is the
Gentile Pentecost. This is Pentecost mark three. What do I mean? The main purpose of Acts and the
mission of the Holy Spirit is revealed to us in the foundational verse of Acts 1:8 which contain the
words of promise from the risen Lord to his apostles;

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in
Jerusalem (1), and in all Judea and Samaria (2), and to the ends of the earth (3).
As we enter the humble household of Cornelius, we have now reached that very moment when the
Spirit’s dynamite comes and explodes on behalf and for the sake of all Gentile nations. This is the
moment when all the possibilities and promises of the great gospel of Jesus open-up for the whole
world. Now the Spirit moves powerfully and unmistakably to reveal to Peter and those Jews with
him that the gospel is for all, even the Gentiles who Jews have separated themselves from for so
many generations. This new and decisive part of the Spirit’s mission begins here in front of Peter’s

Father Abraham was solemnly promised that all nations would be blessed through him and his
offspring. (Genesis 12:3b) The risen Jesus had issued a command to his apostles that the gospel must
be taken to all nations. (The great commission – Matthew 28: 16-20) They had to wait for the Spirit,
but once the Spirit had come upon them – they must go! And now this is the point where the
mission to the Gentiles explodes into life and action. It is so interesting to note God’s amazing timing
of key events as revealed through the historical occurrences and interventions of the Holy Spirit in
Acts. It is in Acts 9 – just before this, where we have the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus
recorded in glorious detail – the one who became the apostle Paul – who was very specifically
chosen and prepared by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles. (Acts 9: 15-16)

More than anything, this act of the Holy Spirit in the home of Cornelius clearly demonstrated that
the Gentiles were to come into the Kingdom of God on an equal footing with the Jews. There was to
be no difference. Their Pentecost was but a repetition of the Jewish one where Peter himself had
received the Spirit. The Spirit had come down upon these Gentiles just as He done with the Jews on
the day of Pentecost. Gentiles here were speaking in tongues just as Jews had done. Peter was
instantly convinced that this really was the work of the Spirit. He was so persuaded that “he
ordered” that Cornelius and all his household be baptised with water. Baptism signified reception
into the family of God – and the Gentiles were being brought into Abraham’s family by the power of
the Spirit. Peter was not going to argue with such an obvious work of the Spirit! (Read 47-48, 11:17)
So, these Gentiles came into the Church. The floodgates had been opened. Gentile Christians and
nations today (you and I included) are now part of this extraordinary global move of the Spirit. All
over the world the Spirit is moving as the old chorus puts it. All over the world as prophets and
psalms said it would be. All over the world, in every nation, as Jesus promised and made clear.
(Psalm 98: 2-3 Matthew 24:14, 28:19)

Today there is hardly any nation that has not been touched and affected by this gospel of the
resurrection. The NT or significant parts of it has now had been translated into well over 1200
languages. The words inspired by the Spirit in the Bible have gone global and the fire has spread
everywhere. It will never be put out! And, one of the main features of this move of the Spirit under
the Lordship of Jesus is that barriers between nations, races and ethnicities are broken down in the
name and love of Jesus. Here, in the home of Cornelius, the wall between Jew and Gentile began to
collapse like the Berlin wall did in 1989. The dividing walls of hostility and deep division were to
crumble before the cross of Jesus. (Ephesians 2: 14-18) God’s intention was always to build one new
humanity united under the same Lord, filled with the same Spirit, cleansed and forgiven by the same
blood, and rejoicing in the same eternal hope. Heaven was always destined to be supra-national –
consisting of people from all nations, all races – all peoples! (Revelation 7:9).

The Holy Spirit sent by the Father and the Son therefore leads a mission which outlaws’ racism.
Racism has no place in the Church of Jesus Christ. All are made in the image of God, all are equally
welcomed and included by the Christ who died for each one. One of the fruits of the Spirit in a
human life is the eradication any kind of superiority complex along with any vestiges of racism
lurking within the heart and mind. The Church is one. One body. One people. One holy nation
belonging to God where all are equally cherished, loved and blessed by Almighty God the Creator of
all people. (1 Peter 2: 9-10)

One of the most moving Spirit-filled visitations I have ever personally experienced occurred in 2001.
I, along with about 35 other Christians from different nations had been invited to take part in an
ecumenical conference in Geneva near the HQ of the World Council of Churches. Despite the
language barriers, the learning, worship, and fellowship experiences were beautiful beyond
description. The unity in Jesus was plain for all to see, experience and enjoy. The blessings of God fell
upon our united gatherings and discussions. (Psalm 133) I remember this conference so well,
because while we were present in Switzerland, there was the dreadful killing of 9 members of the
Nepalese Royal Family. You may remember all the shocking news coverage at that time. One
member of our group was from Nepal, and I vividly recall all the participants gathering around our
brother to weep with him and pray for him and his nation in the precious and merciful name of
Jesus. Christ unites like no other person can. He is unique in mercy and power. He is Saviour of all
who come humbly before him. He is universal Lord as clearly declared in Acts!

In what ways have you personally experienced the acts of the Holy Spirit in your life? Give thanks for
such visitations, interruptions and interventions of God’s power and grace. In what ways have you
witnessed the uniting and reconciling power of the Spirit and the gospel – and barriers between
different ethnicities come tumbling down? Has the Spirit cleansed your heart and mind of all racist
tendencies? Pray for that. Yearn for that! Be satisfied with nothing less. Do you love and delight in
the fact that God has a plan for all nations and peoples, including those presently suffering under the
terrible strain of war, terrorism, famine, political oppression, and intolerable injustice? Do you
rejoice as I do that the Spirit still comes down and takes forward His mission to all nations so that
every promise of God to the world is being and will be fulfilled? May God give us all a hunger and a
passion to keep in step with the missionary Spirit! He marches on. We should keep up with Him.

And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – be all glory and praise.

Revd Peter J Clarkson (5.5.24)