At the same time, the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who shall be the greatest in the kingdom?”
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble (become teachable) himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me.”
Jesus was not speaking of salvation. He had already proclaimed the requirements for salvation…“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that Whosoever believes on Him, shall never perish, but have everlasting life.”
On many occasions, Jesus referred to the disciples as “Children”. In the well known “Parable of the Sower”, Jesus referred to those whose hearts are fertile ground who receive Jesus… as “The Children of the Kingdom”.
Jesus speaking to the throngs in Jerusalem said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem which kills the Prophets and stones them that are sent to you; how often would I have gathered your Children (citizens) together, as a hen does gather her brood, under wings, and you would not!”
Once, Jesus issued a promise of blessings to those who blessed His followers, whom He referred to as His “Little Ones”; while at the same time sternly warning against anyone who would ever mess with them: “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, verily, I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these Little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanging around his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”
On one occasion, Jesus was teaching a crowd; and He said to them, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be THE CHILDREN OF THE HIGHEST; for He is kind to the unthankful, and to the evil.”
It is clear that Jesus considers His believers and followers to be His Children. He was very direct in commanding us to become as children. How do we accomplish this? How can an adult become as a child? The answer is that we must be reborn. In this case, Jesus is talking about a process different from the salvation experience and even the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He is asking us to have our minds renewed, and to become as Children, as an act of our wills.
Jesus promised that if we would become “Born Again”, that we could see the kingdom of God, and enter it. Jesus was referring to seeing the Kingdom of God, in this life and entering the Kingdom of God in this life.
Many Christians have come to consider the “reborn experience” as what happens when one is saved by belief in ones heart that God raised Jesus from the dead; and verbal confession that He is Lord. This is the salvation experience and with it does come a Spiritual rebirth.
Still others believe that the real re-birthing process, is the receipt of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which certainly does bring a new Spiritual birth. However, Jesus was speaking of something quite different than either of these experiences.
Consider the disciples. The disciples had been reborn in their acceptance of Jesus as Lord, and at Pentecost, they received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Yet, they were led of their flesh and not of the Spirit.
Jesus had commanded the disciples twice to go into ALL nations and teach the Gospel. Yet the original disciples did just the opposite even after they were baptized with the Holy Ghost. They clearly disobeyed Jesus’ instructions. They believed that it was a sin to commune with gentiles. Instead of teaching the gospel to all nations, they taught the Hebrew Law which Jesus had fulfilled for the Jews; mixed with a weakened form of Christianity to Jews. They believed that it was a sin to commune with gentiles.
It was not until after Peter had an Angel command him three times not to call anything that God has called clean, unclean; that Peter began to understand that the Gentiles were meant to receive the Gospel of Jesus. Even then, it took a profound Spiritual experience to shake Peter out of his flesh. Here is what happened:
God orchestrated a magnificent set of miracles. Without these, the gospel might have died in Jerusalem with the disciples. The first miracle was that God caused the worst sinner in the world at that time; Saul of Tarsus, to be “reborn” and changed him into Paul the teacher to the gentiles. He did this because the original disciples refused to obey Jesus.
Then God sent Paul to teach all people. Then Peter became “reborn” because of an experience that could only have been done by God through the Holy Spirit.
Peter was teaching in Israel and doing miracles signs and wonders. He had just raised a woman named Dorcas from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was in a town called Joppa. Joppa is on the coast of the Mediterranean sea about 30 miles from Jerusalem. After the woman was raised from the dead, Peter stayed in Joppa “many days” in the home of a man named Simon who was a tanner.
About 40 miles north of Joppa was Caesarea. It was also located on the Mediterranean and was the capitol of Judea. A man named Cornelius lived in Caesarea. Cornelius was neither a Jew, nor a Christian. He was a man who loved God and sought Him with all of his heart. Read now the Word of God:
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius a centurion (a Commander in the Roman Army), of the band called the Italian band. A devout man, and one that feared (respected, sought) God as did his entire family, which gave much alms (money) to the people, and prayed to God always.”
“He saw in a vision, evidently about 3 in the afternoon an angel of the Lord coming in to him, and saying to him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said What is it Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send your men to Joppa and call for one Simon whose surname is Peter; He is staying with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. he shall tell you what you ought to do.” (Acts 10:1-6)
The urgently important message here, is the fact that Cornelius had not experienced the “born again” salvation. Neither, had he experienced the “born again” experience of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Yet, remember the beginning of this teaching. Jesus has taught us that unless we are born again, and humble (become teachable) ourselves, we can not see or enter into the kingdom of God. Cornelius did see and enter into the Kingdom of God. He saw and heard the angel and the angel came to him in the Kingdom of God which is the unseen. Which makes it clear that Jesus was speaking of a different kind of rebirth.
Cornelius saw and entered into the Kingdom of God because he became as a child and humbled himself. He was willing to learn and he sought God always. His imagination was not retarded by his intellectual ability to reason. He believed the unseen and responded to it. Cornelius allowed his Spirit and not his Flesh to guide him. If he had surrendered to his flesh, his reason would have told him that the angel was a figment of his imagination. His flesh would have told him that the voice he heard was his own mind. Cornelius became as a little child and walked in newness of life.
Interestingly, I know Preachers who consider themselves to be faith preachers; who do not believe that God speaks to us with specific directions. If you are of that persuasion, consider what you just read. The angel in a vision gave Cornelius Peter’s first and last name, where he was staying, with whom he was staying, and the town and street that the man with whom Peter was staying lived on. The angel also told Peter exactly what to expect from Simon Peter. Pretty specific huh?
Now while this miracle was going on, God was orchestrating the second half of concurrent miracles. Concurrent Miracles are pretty cool. Peter was on a roof top in Joppa. He began to pray and got “Slain in the Spirit”. To the point that by Dr. Luke’s (the author of the book of Acts) description, he was “In A Trance”.
Read more from the Word of God: “And when the angel which spoke to Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; And when he had declared all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.”
“The next morning, as they went on their journey, and came near to the city, Peter went up on the house top to pray about noon. And he became very hungry, and would have eaten; but while they prepared the food, he fell into a trance. And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending to him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and bowls of the air.”
“And there came a voice to him, Rise Peter, kill and eat, But Peter said, Not so, Lord for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spoke to him the second time and said, What God has cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done three times. And the vessel was received up again into heaven.”
This is an astonishing event. Three times Peter had denied Jesus on the night before his execution. Three times at the sea of Galilee, Jesus had given Peter the opportunity to tell Him that he loved Jesus. Now, three times the voice of the Holy Spirit told Peter not to call anything that God has cleaned, unclean. The voice was instructing Peter to do something that was entirely against the Hebrew Law. Peter and the disciples had been calling the Gentiles unclean. They refused to obey Jesus’ command to teach the Gentiles His Gospel because they placed more importance on the Law than on the Gospel of Jesus. Now, the Holy Spirit in this vision commanded Peter to break the Law. WOW!
God through the blood of Jesus made the Gentiles every bit as clean before Him as were the Jews who accepted Jesus as Lord. Paul was the only one who understood this. So, the Holy Spirit had to bolo Peter directly. What happens now is even more astonishing.
Just to shorten this teaching a bit, the messengers from Cornelius arrive and the Spirit instructs Peter to go with them to Cornelius doubting nothing, for I have sent them. Peter goes to Cornelius’ home . Cornelius had gathered many other gentiles together at his home.
Peter said to those assembled…”You know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean, therefore I have come to you.” (Acts 10:28)
Remember the great commission? Jesus commanded the disciples to “Go you therefore and teach ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever, I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew28:19-20)
Remember Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples? “But you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem,and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Peter has just explained why the disciples had not obeyed Jesus’ instructions, even though he like the rest of the disciples had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was because their flesh overcame their Spirits and they obeyed their flesh which told them that the Law was more important than the Gospel. That is how the evil one has deceived and dis-empowered Jesus’ people for 2000 years. He has placed the Law above the teachings of Jesus. The disciples who had been baptized needed to, “Humble themselves and become as little children and be born again”.
Thanks for hanging in so far, this has been a long teaching. If you continue, you will be amazed at the depth of knowledge you acquire. At this point the entire Gospel of Jesus is about to vanish. The disciples have deliberately disobeyed Jesus. They have decided not to teach the Gentiles the Gospel and they are committed to teach the Hebrew commandments instead. Yes, they proclaim that Jesus is the only salvation, but they mixed salvation with Hebrew law. By doing so, they devalued the blood of Jesus and empowered satan. Unfortunately, the church as a whole is under this same false teaching today.
We continue with the Word of God: At this point Peter and Cornelius explain to each other the Supernatural experiences that brought them together. Pay attention to what happens next. As Peter for the first time obeys Jesus, a thing that is flabbergasting to Peter and to all of the disciples happens…
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears Him and works righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel preaching peace by Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all: That word, I say, you know which was published through out all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hung on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly: Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.”
“And He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of the Living and the Dead. To Him give all of the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.”
Hang on to your seat, here it comes…..
“While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word. And they that were of the circumcision (the Jews) which believed, were astonished. as many as come with Peter, BECAUSE THAT ON THE GENTILES WAS POURED OUT THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.”
The reason that they were astonished is because; even though they had been baptized in the Holy Ghost, their flesh told them that according to the Law, God was only to the Jews. Even though Jesus and the Holy Spirit had told them otherwise. “Peter, never call anything that God has cleansed unclean”.
“For they heard them speaking with tongues and magnify God then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded that they be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:34-48)
If you are still reading, you are about to be even more amazed at Peter. After all that you have just read, Peter blew it completely. For a while, Peter lived with, ate with and taught the Gentiles. He taught them Grace and the gospel of Jesus. Then, here in the words of Paul, is what happened:
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
“For before that certain (messengers/spies) came from James, ( the brother of Jesus, the author of the book of James, the Pastor of the Christian church at Jerusalem and a Law/Jesus teacher) he did eat with Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”
“And the other Jews (Jews who had become Christians) dissembled (separated themselves from the Gentiles) likewise with him; in so much that Barnabus (Paul’s right hand man/Associate Pastor) also was carried away with their dissimulation.”
“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before all, If you being a Jew, lives after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
We Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified ( found not guilty by God) by the works of the law (keeping the commandments and their 600 associated ordinances and/or placing ones self under a performance based relationship with God) but, by the faith of Jesus, even we have believed in Jesus, that we might be justified by the faith of Jesus, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Jesus, we ourselves also are found sinners, therefore is Jesus the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again what I have destroyed (place myself back under the law or performance in order to find favor with God) I make myself a transgressor.”
“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” (since it is impossible to live without sin and the law proves it, the only hope we have is the grace of God through faith in Jesus)
“I am crucified with Jesus; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Jesus within me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, then Jesus died for nothing.” (Galatians 2:11-21)
Wow! Did you get that Peter? The Laws of Moses and it’s ordinances were like the Constitution of the United States to the Jews of that day. Jesus merely asked them to forget the Law and believe that He was the new deal with God. In order to believe Jesus, the disciples would have to forget what they saw in the flesh and see with their spiritual eyes. They would have to become as Children.
Peter may have never been “Born Again”. Paul certainly was. He became the complete opposite of the person he was before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He learned to believe the unseen more than the things that he saw. And because he did, Peter saw the kingdom of God and entered it and walked in it, in this life and in the life to come.
What does it mean to become as a child? Children believe without question. Children have open minds and are willing to learn. Child en have not forgotten how to use their imaginations. Children do not allow their ability to reason, to overcome their sense of the reality of the unseen.
Jesus’ promise to us is that if we will become teachable and become like a child, we will see the kingdom of God and we will enter into it. We will be just like the wind. We will become part of the unseen Kingdom of God. In this life and in the life to come. Or we can live in the flesh, unbelieving and unreceiving of the promises of God. We can see or walk in darkness. The choice is ours. Being “born again”, is to allow our minds to be renewed and transformed.
Are you His Child? Has He gathered you under His wings? Can you see Him? Is Jesus more real to you than the things that you see? If so, you have been “Born Again”.
Jesus Loves Children!