2005-01-16 — How Japheth Entered The Tents Of Shem!

Epiphany 2:
Date: January 16, 2005

Theme: How Japheth Entered The Tents Of Shem!

1) The Shemites had to open the door; and
2) The Holy Spirit had to bring Japheth in!
– Acts 10:44-48

– Ude, John

The Order of Worship:

Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.


TLH 136 : Angels from the Realms of Glory Hymnary.org link
TLH 129 : Hail, Thou Source of Every Blessing Hymnary.org link
TLH 226 : Come, Oh Come, Thou Quickening Spirit Hymnary.org link
TLH 226 : Come, Oh Come, Thou Quickening Spirit Hymnary.org link

Theme: How Japheth Entered The Tents Of Shem!

1) The Shemites had to open the door; and
2) The Holy Spirit had to bring Japheth in!

Acts 10:44-48

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (ESV)

Sermon: Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

In the Name of Jesus January 16, 2005
Long before this God had foretold, “Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem” (Gen. 9:27). Note the intimate sharing involved with different families dwelling in the same tent. But the Jews and Gentiles could not tolerate each other, how could such a union ever come about? Today, the ecumenical movement seeks one united church body by agreeing to disagree about God’s Word agreeably. These chapters of Acts however present to us how God established one tent, believers of both Jew and Gentile living in the same tent, on the basis of agreement in faith. In order that we may live in that tent let us consider: How Japheth Entered The Tents Of Shem! We will see that 1) The Shemites had to open the door; and 2) The Holy Spirit had to bring Japheth in!
We are told in V.2 that Cornelius was a devout man who feared God with all His House. These two adjectives are used in scripture to designate converts to Judaism (Acts 10:22,35; 13:16,26,43; 16:14; 17:4,17; & 18:7). Daily this set him apart, as it should with us, from the unbelievers. He had forsaken the pagan idea of many gods and so would not join them in giving a libation to the gods at every meal. He had set his faith in the one living God and showed his thankfulness in continual works of charity and prayer. The LORD answered those prayers of Cornelius with an amazing message: “seek Peter.” Yes, amazing for God set up an appointment for Cornelius with the last man who wanted to keep such an appointment. The Holy Spirit had converted 3000 Jews through Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. But Peter was not ready to embrace a “goihm,” a gentile, as an equal brother in the LORD. A national prejudice had been trained into him. Even the Law of God itself had taught him to separate from the Gentiles. Let them become proselytes, great, but they were still not to enter the temple proper. And so the teacher had to first be taught that Christ’s death has broken down every wall of partition so every believer is one in Christ. Peter was up on the rooftop enjoying their form of air conditioning and a nap before supper when the LORD revealed a vision to Peter. A sheet came down out of heaven filled with what the law had commanded Jews to consider unclean. The LORD told Peter to kill and eat. It was in fact another lesson in three’s for Peter. There was his threefold denial (Mt 26:34) and the threefold restoration to the apostolic office (Jn 21:5-7). Now three times Peter was commanded to kill and eat. Three times he answered, “Not so Lord: for I have never eaten anything unclean or common.” Three times God told him, “What God has made clean, you shall not call common.” It is perhaps hard to imagine Peter being even able to say, “No,” three times. But what an impact that threefold repetition must have had on Peter. The purpose of these Old Testament ceremonial laws was to fence the Jews off from sin and from the nations until Christ would come (Ex. 19:5,6; Lev. 19:45, Gal. 3:19,23). And so now God Himself, who had written the menu on clean and unclean, was tearing it up. Peter was shocked and confused. Peter was being taught that Christ’s death and resurrection has ended the Mosaic law. The forgiveness of all our sins in Jesus blood sets us free from the condemnation of the law. The fulfillment of the law in Christ’s own righteousness makes us sons of God free from the coercive demands of the law. We are freed not to live in sin but to live in Jesus. Ever since God erected that fence the Jewish people had tried to climb over it to be like the world but now that God had torn it down the danger was that they would try to keep the fence up and remain comfortably behind their fence keeping others out in prejudice. But this could destroy the Gospel tent for all, so God arranged for this divine encounter with Peter and the second Pentecost that followed. With threefold clarity Peter was taught to cast away his Judaic exclusiveness, to grasp the fullness of God’s mercy for all, and to become the champion of freedom from the law in Christ (Acts 15:7-11). Peter got the point. He announces to Cornelius V.34, “God does not show partiality toward any person.” God called Shem to throw open the doors of the Kingdom of God without partiality.
So shall we erect one tent for all to believe whatever they want and pray, worship and commune with all who say they are Christians? That was not what the Lord taught here. He led them to invite the “outsider” to Christ. But the whole point of the vision is that we are to recognize as clean only those that God has made clean – those whom He has brought to repentant faith in Christ – not those who think they are clean in themselves or who continue disregarding a Word of God without repentance. Peter recognized these Gentiles as members of the Kingdom of God and invited them into the church only when the Holy Spirit brought the Gentile’s Pentecost through them: they heard the message of Christ and were filled with the Holy Spirit. With this evidence of Spirit created faith Peter asked, “Can anyone forbid?” Note this public and mutual recognition of faith in Christ and all His word. When Peter later reported his actions in Jerusalem he pointed to this evidence of faith as the fruits of the Spirit. For Shem to invite Japheth in, a second Pentecost was needed, so both would live in the one tent of grace in Christ, pray, worship and commune together on the basis of unity of faith in Christ and His word. A second Pentecost was also needed to bring Japheth in and that’s us. We are creatures of partiality as much as Peter. It may not be Jew vs. Gentile or Black vs. white. Maybe its blue collar vs. white collar – Democrat vs. Republican – Hoetown vs. Hooterville. Even a God desired separation from sin can lead to a despising of those sinners we consider unworthy of the gospel. It happens too often, doesn’t it? We show partiality in the way we speak at some people – to some people – about some people – and leave some people out. This human partiality is by no means the fruit of the Spirit but the work of the flesh that perishes. God however shows no partiality. V. 35 “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” But Peter goes on to reveal that this impartial manner of God’s accepting people was carried out in what Jesus did for us. To fear God means that we give all glory to Him and that starts with rejoicing with the Angels that Jesus came for He alone can forgive our sins. The person who is working righteousness is only that person who by God’s grace relies on Christ’s work of righteousness to give us peace with God. Every moment of righteousness you enjoy with God is the result of Christ’s becoming righteousness for you. For God anointed Jesus, V. 39 points out, to establish all righteousness for us – to die for our sins and rise for our justification. Peter says, “I am a witness. I was there eating and drinking with Him, after He rose from the dead. All the Old Testament prophets witnessed that whoever believes in Jesus will receive the forgiveness of sins.” To “believe in” means more than to know what Jesus did, more than going to church. To believe an elevator can get us to the top means more than standing by the elevator admiring what it can do. It means to get in the elevator and ride it to get in the work of God in Christ, ride it, live it, and abide in it, rejoicing in Christ’s blood and righteousness so we follow righteousness. The person who c
hooses to continue living in partiality without repentance is pushing others out of the elevator and pushing himself out backwards. We need a second Pentecost to tear down our fences of partiality and prejudice. This wondrous message of God’s impartial plan of salvation would not be among us if God had not gotten the message through for Shem to open the door and bring Japheth in. Every moment of peace that you and I enjoy is a divine encounter arranged by God for you and through you for others. Amen.