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 OF THE LORD 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 Luke next 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 to wine 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 or set apart Jesus for the work he was to do, and he imparted to Him the power of the 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. 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 Peter and 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 alms–giving 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.”