Setting the Stage for Peter and Cornelius
The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.
In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said. Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel. And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.” As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.Acts 10:1-8
Sending for Peter
The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean. ” But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven. Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there. Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.” So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?” They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” So Peter invited the men to stay for the night.Acts 10:9-23
Peter’s Arrival and Cornelius’ Explanation
The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa. They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled. Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.‘ So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”Acts 10:23-33
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favouritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we apostles are witnesses of all He did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him to life on the third day. Then God allowed Him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be His witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the One all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in Him will have their sins forgiven through His name.”Acts 10:34-43
The Holy Spirit’s Response
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.Acts 10:44-48
Peter Is Called to Account for What Happened
Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of small animals, wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.‘ ‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’ But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven. Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’ ‘As I began to speak,’ Peter continued, ‘the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as He fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.’ “Acts 11:1-18
The Word is Spread as far as Antioch
Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.Acts 11:18-24
I have emboldened some portions and coloured other red in the whole passage from the end of Acts 9 to the end of Acts 11. It is inescapable isn’t it? The Holy Spirit of God engineered this whole thing on multiple levels from start to finish. God knew the degree to which each of these groups of people were entrenched in their cultural viewpoint for centuries. Something very remarkable had to happen to bring them all out of their cultural blindness. Thus God engineered the whole thing across all groups. He begins with Cornelius, a Roman army officer. The Romans were totally self sufficient and had no need for anything Jewish. They considered the Jews a thorn in their side. Those posted to Palestine were exasperated by the Jewish cultural perspectives and their apparent disdain for Rome. Yet here was a man who was a devout God-fearing man. This term as it is used through Luke’s account in Acts signifies Gentiles who have embraced the Jewish God YHWH. It is a not a term used to indicate a Roman who embraces the Roman deities but one who has leanings toward YHWH. It was going take a miracle to pull Peter from his prejudices across the cultural boundary to the Gentiles. At the same time God is communicating with Cornelius, a Roman army officer, at the very moment He is bringing Cornelius’ men to Peter, Peter is given this vision three times (significant to Jews) at the very moment Cornelius’ men are at the door.
Notice the repetition throughout this story of how it all started. Luke tells us from the very beginning that Peter is staying with Simon the tanner in Joppa. Clearly everyone knows him. It reminds me of the Ananias story as Saul is prepared for his service. He is told to go to Saul on Straight Street. He is given the address by the Holy Spirit. Similarly here Cornelius is told exactly where to go to reach the one they are looking for. This is the Holy Spirit at work to the nth degree. At the perfect moment before Cornelius’ men arrive Peter has this shocking vision of unmentionable non-kosher things THREE TIMES. At that moment Cornelius’ messengers arrive at the very house Peter is staying and tell him they are looking for him. Everyone in this story gives the message that God told them to go. Not only does He tells them where but He tells them what Peter has just seen. Now you have to admit that is a powerful statement of God’s involvement in all this.
In Luke’s telling of this story it is impressed upon us at every turn that the Spirit of God was behind these happenings. Notice how the involvement of the Holy Spirit is highlighted every step of the way. It is very clear to all concerned that God is behind what is happening. A Roman soldier knows it. His three messengers know it. All Cornelius’ household know it. Peter knows it and I am sure all in the household of Simon the tanner. The Apostles and all the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were told what happened. And I am sure the Gentile believers came to know about it as well. How could they not? The Jewish believers in Jerusalem begin with criticism but after hearing the story they stopped objecting and began praising God. Oh I am sure they heard the full story of everything that happened but noticed in the shortened version of the story told to us through Luke’s account what is highlighted is how the Holy Spirit initiated it. Isn’t that the whole point of the story? The essential message of this story is that it was God-inspired, God-initiated, God-implemented, God-ordained and God-sustained throughout. Each person who is told or tells the story keeps repeating the fact that it was God who initiated it and God who sealed it in His Holy Spirit. Now how can you argue against that?
It is little wonder that when others get to hear, no matter whether they have been primed and ready beforehand or hearing the story for the first time, they acknowledge that God was behind it. We have had that experience as we have told our story of how God started the process with us and how He has continued His involvement with us. People who hear acknowledge that was God. It is inescapable. Christians and non-Christians alike acknowledge God’s hand on it all. Peter and Cornelius had the same experience. The fact that God’s fingerprints or whole hand was all over the events as they unfolded made it is easy for those who heard to acknowledge. As soon as they know that God led Cornelius to Simon’s house to find Peter at the same time God told Peter Cornelius’ men were coming they are prepared to received what comes next along with the implications.
The implications are huge.
Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.Max Lucado
What happened in my life may not have been Plan A but God can take Plan B & make it better than Plan A ever would have been.Joyce Meyer
The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.Carl Henry
When God is involved the timing is always impeccable when we gossip the Gospel.Ian Vail