Acts 10 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
1. There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius,
a centurion of the band called the Italian [band],
2 [A] devout [man], and one that feared God with all his house,
which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day
{ie., about 3 pm}
an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 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.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for [one] Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side:
he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed,
he called two of his household servants,
and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all [these] things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
...Caesarea...- Was the seat of Roman government over the region which included Israel and Jerusalem.
Located on the Mediterranean sea coast, about 33 miles north of Joppa, this city was the residence and headquarters of Pilate, the Roman governor.
...Cornelius, a centurion of the... Italian band...- His station in life:
Cornelius was a military officer in charge of 100 soldiers. The Italian band of soldiers were not conscripts from the local territories, but rather more elite troops deployed from Rome, to ensure the security of the governor.
...Cornelius...- His character and spiritual life:
  • ...devout {GK=eulabes, lit., taking hold well}...- He was one who 'took care' to acknowledge the presence and claims of God.
  • ...that feared {GK=phobeo} God {GK=deos}...- He maintained a respectful reverence of God. Although Cornelius was not a proselyte to Judaism, he honored the God of Israel as the true God.
  • ...gave much alms to the people...- He offered merciful assistance, financial and otherwise, to the common people (in context, the Jewish people are primarily in view, as the people of God).
  • ...prayed to God alway.- The word for prayer used here indicates that he was continually making request of God. We are not told what he asked for. But apparently, he desired a greater knowledge of God.
...Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.-
The Lord was 'mindful' that Cornelius was living in accord with the light that he had. His 'good works' could not save him. But they showed that he seriously desired more light. send... and call for Simon... he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.-
Cornelius believed and obeyed the angel's instructions. He sent three trusted men to fetch Peter. To these men, who were very close to him, he unashamedly 'declared' or 'recounted' the angelic vision, and the instructions which he had received.
9. On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city,
Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten:
but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him,
as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth,
and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord;
for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice [spake] unto him again the second time,
What God hath cleansed, [that] call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city...-
As the gentile messengers approached, the Lord set about to prepare Peter to accept them.
...he fell into a trance {GK=ekstasis, a standing out}...-
This was a vision, in which he was distracted from his immediate surroundings, and became vividly aware of an audio-visual presentation from the Lord.
...Rise, Peter, kill {GK=thuo, sacrifice} and eat... Not so, Lord...-
The great sheet, that Peter saw coming down from heaven, contained animals which the OT Law defined as unclean. Peter, knew that salvation is not dependent upon keeping the Law, but rather, on faith in Christ. Yet, from his youth, he had been observant of the Law. It seemed unthinkable to him to violate the dietary prohibitions, and to offer a sacrifice of unclean things (Lev 11:1-20; 20:25; Deu 14:1-21). Later, the epistles will show that under Grace, there is 'nothing unclean of itself.' But even so, to violate one's conscience is sin (eg., Rom 14:14-17).
     The servants of Cornelius did as they were told. But Peter refused his Lord's instructions. This was not the first time that Peter answered as though he knew better than the Lord (Mat 16:22).
...What God hath cleansed {GK=katharizo, purged of impurity}, that call not thou uncommon... This was done thrice...-
The Lord patiently repeated His instruction, impressing its importance upon his servant. While the illustration was about food, the lesson was that God can cleanse unclean people.
17 Now while Peter doubted in himself
what this vision which he had seen should mean,
behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius
had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
18 And called, and asked whether Simon,
which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19. While Peter thought on the vision,
the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down,
and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
Peter 'doubted' {ie., was perplexed} about the vision and 'thought' {ie., pondered} on its message:
eg., Why was there such an emphasis on the unclean being made clean? Why was it repeated three times?
The Lord timed His lesson to close, as the three men arrived.
Now the Holy Spirit clearly instructed Peter to "go with them, doubting {GK=diakrino, 'judging' or 'separating from'} nothing {ie., no one}." Since God had sent these three gentile men, Peter was not to reject them as unclean.
21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius;
and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what [is] the cause wherefore ye are come?
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God,
and of good report among all the nation of the Jews,
was warned from God by an holy angel
to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
23 Then called he them in, and lodged [them].
And on the morrow Peter went away with them,
and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
Peter invited them in and put them up for the night, even though they were gentiles.
Peter, who had refused the Lord in the vision, was obedient to the Spirit's leading.
When he departed with them the next day, he took a few of the Jewish believers from Joppa with him. He was wise to do so, as we will see, in the next chapter.
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea.
And Cornelius waited for them,
and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him,
and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him].
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in,
and found many that were come together.
Cornelius, being impressed with the importance of the words that God's messenger would bring,
waited in watchful anticipation, and called his family and friends together, so that they could hear also.
Cornelius... fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.-
To the mind of a man brought up under heathen religious superstition, a messenger announced by an angel must be divine.
     Peter was quick to correct his error. Worship belongs to God alone (cp. Rev 19:10; 22:8,9). Peter talked with him, he went in...-
Entrance into the house of a gentile would have been a big step for Peter, because Jews were not to associate with gentiles (eg., Deu 7:1-6; Joh 4:9; 18:28).
28 And he said unto them,
Ye know how 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 hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore came I [unto you] without gainsaying
{ie., unquestioningly},
as soon as I was sent for:
I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour;
and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house,
and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard,
and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter;
he is lodged in the house of [one] Simon a tanner by the sea side:
who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee;
and thou hast well done that thou art come.
Now therefore are we all here present before God,
to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
Peter confessed his natural discomfort with association with gentiles,
and explained how God had corrected his attitude (v.15).
He asked Cornelius to explain why he had called for him.
Cornelius rehearsed the angelic vision, quoting the angel's message, as though it was still ringing in his ears.
Why did Peter need to ask, before preaching the Gospel?
     Up until now, he may have assumed that the Gospel was for the Jews only (eg., in keeping with the earthly ministry of the Messiah, Mat 10:6; 15:24; and the exclusivity of Peter's first sermon: Acts 2:36). Therefore, Peter, wanting to be sure of the Holy Spirit's leading, was waiting for clear direction.
34. Then Peter opened [his] mouth, and said,
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him,
and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Peter is not saying that acceptance before God can be obtained through a man's own works of righteousness.
Our own righteousnesses are not acceptable before Him (see Isa 64:6,7; Rom 2:11-16; 3:23).
     But rather, God has made true righteousness available to anyone who truly desires to be right in His eyes, and who will turn to Him for the salvation which He has provided in Christ (Titus 3:5-7). God does not differentiate between people according to race, religious background, wealth, or any other test of human status. The way of salvation is the same for the Jew and for the Gentile. Jesus, the Christ, is Lord, not only of Jews, but of all (v.36). Therefore, Peter confidently opened his mouth to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, to the assembled gentiles (cp. Rom 1:16).
36 The word which [God] sent unto the children of Israel,
preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, [I say], ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea,
and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 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.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did
both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem;
whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
41 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.
42 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 quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness,
that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
The word {GK=logos, a communicated concept, v.36} which God sent unto the children of Israel...
Jesus, the Word of God (Joh 1:1-2,14), was sent, to Israel, in fulfillment of prophetic promises of salvation (Luk 2:10-14; Joh 4:22; Acts 3:25,26).
That word {GK=rhema, a saying, a spoken message, v.37}, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea...-
These gentiles, who were involved in the Roman jurisdiction of the regions of Judaea and Galilee, were familiar with the basic facts concerning the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. They had received word of Jesus' miracles, and of His crucifixion. They had heard rumors of His resurrection. Now, Peter bore witness to the purpose behind these things.
...we are witnesses...-
  • of all that he did... (v.39)
  • of His unjust crucifixion... (v.39)
  • of His resurrection... (v.40,41)- Peter spoke as one of many eye witnesses, who were able to verify that Jesus had risen from the dead, not as a ghost, but bodily, for they had shared meals with Him afterwards (Luk 24:30,41-43; Joh 21:13).
  • of the Gospel message... (v.42,43) -
    The word "testify" (v.42) is an intensified form of the word "witness(es)" which occurs several times in v.39-43. The apostles were 'commanded' {GK=parangello, commissioned with an urgent message} to testify {ie., 'thoroughly testify', 'earnestly proclaim') the Gospel concerning Jesus (to which the scriptures and all believers bear witness):
44. While Peter yet spake these words,
the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished,
as many as came with Peter,
because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,
which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Here, the Holy Spirit bears witness that these gentiles were saved by placing their faith in Christ.
The Spirit's witness...
  • astonished the Jewish believers.
  • was audible and visible, in a manner similar to (though lacking tongues of fire) when the Spirit had come upon Jewish believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
       At Pentecost, it was a sign to unbelieving Jews, in confirmation of the Gospel. Here, it was a sign to believing Jews, that the Gospel of Christ was also for believing gentiles, for God had given His Spirit to them also.
Can any forbid water, that these should be baptized?...
Having been baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ (1Cor 12:13), these first gentile believers, now bore witness to their identification with Him through baptism in water. Faced with the Holy Spirit's clear witness, none of the astonished Jewish believers had anything to say against it. When Peter 'commanded' that they should be baptized, he was not ordering or forcing the new believers to do anything. Rather, recognizing the reality of their salvation, Peter exercised his apostolic authority, to permit the baptism of gentile believers. (This would have been unthinkable to him, a few days earlier.)
     Peter had used the keys, given to him by Jesus, to open the Gospel message to the Jews and also to the Gentiles. (Mat 16:18,19; to the Jews in Acts 2:14-41; to the Gentiles, here, in Acts 10)
Then prayed they him to tarry certain days...-
These new believers manifested another mark of the new birth, in their hunger to learn more about their Savior (1Pet 2:2-3).
The Three Essential Elements of Conversion [JV McGee]- are again very evident:
The verses, noted below, mark the major occurrences of each element in the conversion of Cornelius.
The three prominent accounts of conversion, in Acts ch. 8-10, demonstate that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, because Earth's population is descended from Noah's three sons (Gen 10:1-32; Joh 4:42; 1Joh 4:14). [JVMcGee]
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch - a descendant of Ham.
  • Saul - a descendant of Shem.
  • Cornelius - a descendant of Japheth.
The Gospel having been proclaimed first in Jerusalem, and then in Judaea and Samaria, will soon begin to move out to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8)... but first, the church in Jerusalem must understand what God is doing...

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