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Acts 10:23-48 – Story of Cornelius-Part 2

INTRODUCTION

The tenth chapter of the Book of Acts is one of the most important in the narrative of Luke. Before the events in this chapter, Christianity had, for all practical purposes, been a Jewish religion. The followers of Jesus had not gone into the entire world. Now the time has come for Gentiles to hear and respond to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Cornelius had been instructed by an angel of the Lord to send to Joppa and get Simon Peter to come and tell him what he must do to be saved. To read the narrative about the character of Cornelius, one might think that he was already a saved man. No doubt he possessed more good qualities than some who were already in the Body. But being a good and moral person will not make it. Concerning the salvation of Cornelius, he was saved the same way that you and I were saved. God does not depart from His plan to redeem man. We have left the messengers of Cornelius in Joppa. We encourage all to follow along in your Bible and try to learn more about the Book of Books as we continue our studies in the Book of Acts.

PETER’S JOURNEY TO THE CITY OF CAESAREA: ACTS 10:23-24

In the 23rd verse we’re told that Peter followed the command of the Holy Spirit and went with the messengers from Cornelius. Verse 24 tells us that the journey from Joppa to Caesarea took more than one day. While his trusted servants were away, Cornelius was busy assembling an audience to hear the Apostle of the Lord proclaim a message from the One True God. He cared enough of his relatives to invite them to share with him in this joyous occasion.

THE APOSTLE ARRIVES IN CAESAREA: ACTS 10:25-27

Verse 25 tells us of the first meeting of Peter and Cornelius. The narrative tells of the response of Cornelius to Peter’s arrival. Gareth Reese writes the following,

“Does Cornelius meet Peter at the city limits, or are we to picture what Lukenext records as another  place at the door of Cornelius’ home? Probably the latter. Picture the commander of 100 men, in full dress uniform, bowing down to Peter. In Eastern countries, it was usual for persons to prostrate themselves on the ground before one of rank and honor. Cornelius first would have knelt, and then bowed forward until his forehead touched the ground. The word translated ‘worshiped’  (proskuneo) is the one that tells us that Cornelius bowed before Peter in an act of extreme homage. It is possible, by such an act, to express worship to God, but Cornelius’ knowledge of the true God probably keeps us from thinking he looked upon Peter as a deity.”

In the next verse Peter makes sure that Cornelius harbors no thoughts of him  being more than a man. He helps him to his feet and assures him that he is only a servant of the Most High God. In verse 27 Peter enters into the house of Cornelius to find many people assembled to hear a message from God.

PETER TELLS THE GROUP ASSEMBLED WHY HE CAME TO SPEAK: ACTS 10:28-29

Peter then informs those who have come to hear him of why he was willing to come to speak to them. He tells them that according to his upbringing it was unlawful for a Jew to mingle with Gentiles. Gareth Reese writes

“When Peter  says “foreigner,”  he uses a word (allophulos) which is carefully and kindly selected to avoid the use of “Gentile.” There is no such delicacy of feeling in Acts 10:45 and 11:3. Such social segregation as Peter here says is ‘unlawful’ was not explicitly commanded by Moses; but it did seem to be implied in his law, and was the common understanding of the Jews. Moses did forbid intermarriage with the pagan nations in the land of Canaan, and he did discourage participation in their idolatrous practices. This prohibition the Jews (especially as the Pharisees interpreted the Old Testament) extended to social activities of all  kinds, and     understood they were to have no friendly relationships or commercial transactions with Gentiles. The strict Jew would not enter a Gentile’s house, nor sit at the same couch, nor eat or drink out of the same vessel. Now God had not commanded such segregation as the Jews interpreted; but Peter had been so taught that he feels a bit uncomfortable entering the strange surroundings he just has, so that he goes on to explain why his conduct is so different from what the ordinary Jew’s would be.”

The Apostle then relates that God has shown him that these practices were wrong. God has hold him that he should call no man unholy or unclean. Peter has learned that all men can come to saving relationship with  the Lord. Peter then asks Cornelius to explain why he sent for him.

CORNELIUS  EXPLAINS WHY HE SENT FOR PETER TO COME: ACTS 10:30-33

Starting in verse 30, Cornelius relates the events of the previous four days. Reese gives us a breakdown of the events in his book, New Testament History: Acts,

“Four days and parts of four different days, have passed between the visit of the angel to Cornelius and Peter’s arrival at Caesarea. On the first day the angel messenger arrived at Joppa, about noon. On the third, Peter and the rest started for the city of Caesarea. On the fourth, they arrived  at the  home of Cornelius.”

Cornelius further explains to those present that it was four days ago at the same time as now, i.e. 3:00 p.m. that the angel appeared to him. In verse 31 he relates what the angel said to him. The angel has told him that his prayer has been heard. Verse 32 tells us that he  was told by the angel to send for Simon Peter. In verse 33, Cornelius expresses the fact that he appreciates that Peter took the time to come relay the message of God to him and his friends. Peter had overcome his prejudice and  had been willing to be with Gentiles in order to obey the Lord. Cornelius then tells him that they have assembled to hear what the Lord has to say through His servant Peter.

PETER’S PROCLAMATION OF THE GOOD NEWS: ACTS 10:34-43 

In verse 34 Peter begins his message before the assembled household of Cornelius. Peter says that he has come to realize that God is not one to show partiality. This implies that before Peter felt and believed otherwise. In verse 35 Peter tells us that wherever there is one who is seeking after God, God is willing to accept him. That person is a candidate to become a Christian.

In verse 36 Peter tells those assembled that God’s message to man was preached through Jesus Christ. He tells Cornelius that Jesus is Lord of all. Peace is available to all through the personage of Jesus Christ.

Starting in verse 37, Peter reminds them of the events of the life of Jesus Christ. He tells  them that they are aware of what has happened. Peter is speaking from first-hand knowledge since he was present with the Lord of Glory when these events transpired. Peter begins with the first miracle, that of changing the water towine at Cana of Galilee. Peter then reminds his hearers of the ministry of John the Baptist. Peter takes us from the baptism of John to the resurrection and the post-resurrection appearance of the Christ. In verse 38 Peter tells them that it was God who anointed His Son with the Holy Spirit. He tells them that in all the good He did, the Father was with Him. Dale has written these words,

“Peter has presented each of the members of the Godhead. God anointed orset apart Jesus for the work he was to do, and he imparted to Him the power ofthe Holy Spirit. Thus in the work of redemption the three are present, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”

In verse 39 Peter says that we are witnesses of these events. We were present when they happened. What I am telling you comes from firsthand knowledge. F.F. Bruce writes the following,

“Peter emphasizes that he and his colleagues are eyewitnesses of all these things, which took place all over the land of Israel. Yet Jesus’ acts of mercy and deliverance, he goes on, did not prevent Him from being put to death, and put to death by the means upon which the O.T. scriptures pronounced a curse, for they killed Him by ‘hanging Him on a tree.’”

But the story does not end here. Jesus was unlike any other religious leader in the fact that He conquered death. He was raised from the dead on the third day. Peter then tells his hearers of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. He appeared to many witnesses,  indeed to people at large,  but to those selected by God. to see the Risen Savior Peter and his fellow-disciples. They could bear certain witness to his  resurrection, for they had not only seen Him alive again after His passion but had even eaten and drunk with Him. This  was decisive proof that it was no bodiless  phantom that appeared to them.

Peter tells them that Jesus commanded them to preach the good news to the people. They were to “solemnly testify that this is the One  who has been  appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.”  In verse 43 Peter says that the prophets bear witness to Jesus.  He says  that all who come to Jesus in true obedience will receive the forgiveness of his or her sins. God does not depart from His plan to redeem man.

THE RESULTS OF THE PROCLAMATION OF GRACE: ACTS 10:44-48

It was while Peter was proclaiming the good news that the following event occurred. Luke refers to it in these words, “The Holy Spirit fell on those who were listening to the message.” Gareth Reese writes the following,

“Those who are intended are Cornelius, his relatives and close friends. This is a second example in Acts  where we are specifically told that it is a case of baptism with the Holy Spirit. This does not seem to be comparable to the Acts 2:38, i.e., ‘the gift” of the Holy Spirit’, for that comes when a penitent believer is immersed for the forgiveness of his sins; and these men at Caesarea in Cornelius’ house have no yet been immersed. Nor does the Holy Spirit come, in this case, by the laying on of  an apostle’s hands, which suggests that this is not what we have called ‘spiritual gifts.’ In the case of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit came as He did on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 11:15 tells us.

F. Bruce writes also of this event,

“Peter had not yet finished his address when the ‘Pentecost of the Gentile World’ took place. The Holy Spirit fell on all his listeners. But the order of events differed markedly from that which was seen on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, so far at least as the hearers of the apostolic message were concerned. The hearers in Jerusalem were exhorted to repent and be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the experience of the hearers in Caesarea reproduced rather that of the original company of disciples at Jerusalem, on whom the Spirit descended suddenly. Peter indeed, draws a parallel  between the household of Cornelius and the original disciples than between the household of Cornelius and the three thousand who believed on the day of Pentecost.”

We’re told  of the amazement that came upon the believers who came with Peter. They were surprised that God would grant this to Gentiles. J W. McGarvey wrote the following remarks,

“If Peter had finished his discourse, promising them the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit on the terms which he had laid down on Pentecost, and  had baptized them, these brethren would have taken it as a matter of course that they had received the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38. And if, after this, Peter had laid his hands on them and imparted to them the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit, as in the case of the Samaritans, ,they would not have been greatly surprised. The considerations which caused the amazement were: first, that the Holy Spirit was ‘poured out’ upon them directly from God, as it had never been before on any but the apostles, and, secondly, that this unusual gift was bestowed upon Gentiles.”

In verse 46 those present heard the Gentiles speaking with tongues and exalting God. In the last part of the 46th verse and continuing into the 47th Peter asks the following question: Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did,  can he?J. W.  McGarvey comments on this verse,

“Let us now recall the fact that Cornelius had been directed to send for Peteand hear the words whereby he and his house should be saved. Peter has come and spoken those words. He has told the company of the Christ, in whom they now believe. He has told them to be baptized, and in the next verse we shall see it done. What the pious, prayerful and almsgiving Cornelius had lacked of being a Christian has now been supplied, and nothing has been required of him but to believe in Christ and be baptized.

In verse 48 we have the Apostle Peter commanding them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  He is then asked to stay on for a while. In our next essay, we will strive to cover the first eighteen verses of the 11th chapter of Acts. The lesson will be called Peter Defends his actions in Caesarea.”

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“God Prepares Peter to Preach To Gentiles” Acts 10:1-23a

INTRODUCTION

While the Risen Lord was still instructing the Eleven, as is recorded in the first chapter of Acts, He told them to spread the Good News throughout the entire world, starting at Jerusalem.  Had His will been accomplished?  In the first few chapters we find the early church ministering only to the Jews in Jerusalem and in Judea. In Acts 8

We read about Philip’s ministry among the Samaritans. But the early community had not ventured out to share the Good News with the Gentiles. The events, recorded in the 10th chapter have Peter as the principal character, along with the Gentile Cornelius. Gareth Reese writes the following,

“It is noteworthy that God selected Peter for the purpose of preaching the Gospel first to the Gentiles. This is in harmony with the events at Caesarea Philippi where, after making the good confession of Christ, Peter was told that to him would be given the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:18, 19). Peter used those keys for the Jews on the day of Pentecost. He is now about to use the keys to open the door of the church to the Gentiles.”

So, we invite you to study along with us as we journey through the first 23 verses of the 1Oth chapter of Acts. Let each one be looking to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

THE MAN CORNELIUS: ACTS 10:1-2

Who is this man Cornelius? What does the Word of God tell of him? Sometimes we think of Jerusalem being the prominent city in Palestine at this time. And it is so if we look at things from a biblical standpoint. But to the Romans the most important city in the land was Caesarea. It was here that the Romans had their seat of government. The city was named after Caesar Augustus.

In verse 1 we’re told that there was a certain man in the city whose name was Cornelius. We’re further told that he was a centurion. Luke further informs us that he was of the Italian cohort Irving L. Jensen, writes the following in Acts: An Independent Study,

“’Cornelius a centurion … Italian Cohort.’ The name Cornelius was a very common Roman name at this time. Originally a centurion commanded one hundred men, though this number varied later. A Roman legion consisted of ten cohorts, or bands. The commander of a cohort was called a chiliarch, or chief captain (cf. John 18:12). A cohort comprised six companies, each commanded by a centurion. Cornelius was commander of one company, or even possibly of an entire cohort. The fact that he was an Italian has some significance. Because of his nationality, he and his men would be considered to be very loyal to the emperor and his representatives in the land of Palestine.”

Verse 2 of the narrative tells us of the character of Cornelius. We’re <told that he was a devout man, one who feared God. We’re further told that he and family his family gave alms to the people and that they prayed constantly. It is apparent that Cornelius was a proselyte of the gate. To show that he was not a proselyte of righteousness, Gareth Reese writes the following in New Testament History: Acts,

“Cornelius is not a proselyte of righteousness, for Peter understood that he was a foreigner (Acts 10:28), and the rest of the Jews knew that Cornelius was not considered to be one of them (Acts 11:3).”

We’re told further in the narrative that Cornelius was keeping the hour of prayer. Here was a man with pagan roots who had been so influenced by the religion of the Jews that he had embraced it partially. The fact that God heard Cornelius’s prayers is proof that we serve a prayer answering God.

THE PRAYER OF CORNELIUS: ACTS 10:3-7a

We now come to the actual prayer of Cornelius. He is praying at the ninth hour, that is, 3:00 p.m. Luke tells us that Cornelius, while praying; saw in a vision an angel of God.  In verse 3 the angel speaks clearly to Cornelius calling him by his name. It seems that the angel assumed human form. In verse 4 Cornelius fixed his gaze upon the messenger. The text tells us that he was alarmed. I suppose that you and I would be just as alarmed as he was. He calls the angel, Lord.  H. Leo Boles wrote the following,

“It seems that Cornelius recognized the angel as a messenger from God: hence he addressed the angel as ‘Lord’”.

The angel then informs Cornelius that his prayers have been heard and are going to be answered by God Himself. In verse 5 we are told that the angel told Cornelius what to do. He tells him to send some men to Joppa to contact Simon, who is also called Peter. Verse 6 tells us where Peter is to be found. He is living with Simon the tanner. We’re further told that Simon’s house was by the sea. In the first part of verse 7 the angel departed.

CORNELIUS SENDS HIS SERVANTS IN SEARCH OF PETER. ACTS 10:7b-9a

In the second part of verse 7 we have Cornelius summoning his servants, two to be exact, to his side. Also he calls to his side a devout soldier. These were the ones that he would trust with this most important task. In verse 8 he explains to them the situation before sending them to Joppa. James Burton Coffman, in his Commentary On Acts, writes the following,

“’Having rehearsed all things unto them …’ a mutual love and trust between Cornelius and his subordinates appear in such a thing as this. Rather than writing a letter, Cornelius fully explained the details and purpose of his mission to trusted servants and sent them on their way. It appears, from the text they left the same day. They were found the next day approaching the city of Joppa. Since it was about 30 miles between the two cities, it can be assumed that they had traveled all night.”

GOD REVEALS HIS WILL TO PETER THROUGH A TRANCE: ACTS 10:9b-16

In the latter half of the 9th verse we find Peter on the housetop ready to pray at the 6th hour, that is, noon.  Verse 10 informs us that Peter became very hungry and as the preparations for the meal were taking place he fell into a trance. In verse 11 we’re told that the sky opened up. The text tells us that an object like a sheet was lowered from the sky. Verse 12 gives us the contents. ‘And there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.’ Here we have a mixture of clean and unclean animals. James Burton Coffman, in his Commentary on Acts published by Firm Foundation, had this to say.

“‘All manner …’ is the significant word concerning; all those creatures let down. In Leviticus 11th chapter, one may find a list of clean and unclean creatures, the latter being forbidden for Jews to eat; but the collection of creatures Peter saw was clearly made up of many that were unclean. God was about to open Peter’s eyes to the truth stressed by Paul, that ‘every creature of God is good (to eat); and nothing is to he rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving,’ etc. (1 Tim. 4:4). Of course, this was no new doctrine discovered by the apostles; Jesus had plainly taught this, but it took a miracle to get Peter to believe it. See Mark 7:15-19. A similar thing may also be noted in the fact of Peter’s Pentecostal declaration that the promise of the gospel was ‘to them that are afar off.’”

Peter could understand that this meant the Gentiles could receive the gospel without being circumcised and keeping the Law of Moses. Concerning this same passage, Gareth Reese writes the following comments,

“The particular point of the vision is that a law peculiar to the Law of Moses is going ‘to be called into question. It was designed to teach Peter an important lesson in regard to the introduction of the Gospel to all nations. Certain distinctions that used to hold true are no longer true.

“In verse 13 the voice tells Peter to ‘Arise, Peter, kill and eat.’ But in verse 14 he refuses. He says that he has never eaten anything unclean. In verse 15 we find the Lord’s reply to Peter. ‘And again a voice came to him a second time, what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ In verse 16 Luke tells us that this was repeated three times. After this happened the object was taken hack into the sky. Perhaps at this time Peter was coming to the realization that the Law was to be abolished, yea, was already abolished.”

THE MESSENGERS FROM CORNELIUS ARRIVE IN JOPPA: ACTS 10:17-23

Verse 17 informs us that Peter didn’t know what to make of the events that had just transpired. The verse further informs us of the arrival of the messengers from Cornelius. Verse 18 found them inquiring if Peter was here. It was at this time that the Spirit told Peter that the three men were looking for him. The Holy Spirit further instructs Peter, in verse 20, telling him to accompany these men without asking questions.

In verse 21 Peter descends from the rooftop and identifies himself to the messengers of Cornelius. He then asks them why they have come to him. They tell Peter that Cornelius was informed and directed by an angel to send for you to come to his house that he might hear a message from you. In verse 23a Peter invites them in and offers them lodging for the night.

It is here that we have chosen to divide the chapter, in the next lesson we will continue our studies and finish the 10th chapter. We ask that the reader study along with us and be prepared to continue this journey through the Book of Acts. The upcoming article will be titled, “Peter Preaches The Gospel to the Gentiles.” Please pray with us as we endeavor to present these studies. Let us always he looking for the return the Lord of Glory. Until next time MARANATHA!

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BEATITUDES FOR CHURCH MEMBERS

  • Blessed is the man whose watch keeps church time as well as business time.
  • Blessed is the man whose calendar contains prayer meeting night.
  • Blessed is the man who is faithful on a committee.
  • Blessed is the man who will not strain at a drizzle and swallow a downpour.
  • Blessed is the man who loves the church with his pocket as well as with his lips.
  • Blessed is the man who leaves the critical spirit on the sidewalk.
  • Blessed is the man who is not afraid of spoiling the minister by a word of praise.
  • Blessed is the man who has patience as well as piety.
  • Blessed is the man who has grace enough to give up the end seat.

—Edgar W. Work.

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