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!” So 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.” 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.” Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message.Acts 10:24-44
Notice how this passage is structured. There have been visions and supernatural things going on. By that I simply mean that God has been active among them and speaking to each of the major players and leading them for His purposes. When God steps into our realm and extraordinary things happen we tend to view them as supernatural and things beyond the natural realm of this world. But supernatural does not have to be weird and wacky, it is just simply beyond the natural. We all tend to do it – magnifying the little God touches on a human life and then look to the person involved as someone special. We imagine them to have supernatural powers or a special connection with the Almighty. It is true that God has stepped down into human affairs and has been leading His child or His people. But the Bible demonstrates to us it is a perfectly normal thing for Him to do. Despite the fact that such events blow us away. Thus we are more susceptible to building up the human being in the centre of the events into something he or she is not, someone beyond the realm of normal. But this passage and others in the Book of Acts keep our feet very firmly on the ground. It is rather breathtaking that God would speak to Cornelius in the way He did and then summon Peter in answer to Cornelius’ reaction. But these men are still men. This element of truth keeps appearing through the Book of Acts. God, angelic beings and humans are kept each to their own realm.
- Does the word for “worship” actually mean worship? If so it seems a but too much. Was Peter just uncomfortable being worshipped or is was there something more to this?
- Does Cornelius think that Peter was the man in dazzling white from his vision? Is that what was going on and therefore why he worshipped him?
These are good questions to ask. Yes the word “worship” in this verse is the standard Greek word for worship, [proskuneo] normally offered to God and not mankind. The same is true for the Hebrew word [Shachah] That is the point of the passage. Cornelius has got so caught up in this happening that he had difficulty in maintaining perspective. With the arrival of Peter, he falls at his feet and worships him. To “worship” in this way is to prostrate oneself in this way is an outward act of reverence and worship toward God or a superior being like an angel or one from heavenly realms. There is much debate in the literature and among the experts as to what is happening here. There are attempts to explain it away by claiming what Cornelius did was merely an act of reverence of honour and not actual worship. He was merely paying homage to Peter, expressing his gratitude that Peter came. No the text makes it clear that it was more than that. Cornelius had stepped over the line and was worshipping Peter as a God or demi-god or an angel. That was a good question to ask, Did Cornelius think that Peter was the man in dazzling white from his vision? With all that was going on perhaps he was. Perhaps God had showed Cornelius what the angelic being looked like.
But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!”
Peter made it very clear to Cornelius that he was a human being just like him. That is the point of the passage. Notice that Peter pulls him up. Get up off the ground. Stop prostrating yourself before me, the honour belongs to God not to me. He is the One behind all this. I am just a human player in His play. All through Scripture the classic human reaction to a Divine action is to fall on the ground and prostrate oneself. But there are numerous examples where the one prostrating themselves before angels or God’s agents (like prophets or messengers) is told to stand up again. It is interesting that humans often do that in response to a Divine action. And often the command or instruction is to “stand up”. Peter’s response here is to restore order and remind the Cornelius that only God is to be worshipped. Worship is not for human beings or angels.
I will never forget being in a meeting with Gordon Fee when he was asked about the Toronto Blessing phenomena and “falling under the power of God” or being “slain in the spirit”. Gordon’s response was to remind those gathered that most frequent biblical response to humans falling or prostrating themselves was the command to “stand up”. Especially so when the one being worshipped was not God Himself. To allow yourself to receive worship normally meant for God is a dangerous thing. Gordon Fee made the point that to “fall under the anointing” is premature. It is almost like God would say, get up, I haven’t finished with you yet. There are times when the human reaction to fall takes us out of the flow and prevents God from doing more for us or to us. Think about it.
Notice the elements in the rest of this passage I have highlighted in bold for you which seem to indicate that Peter is making it clear that he and the disciples are merely witness to the One True God. Oh how much I would love to know what Peter and Cornelius talked about behind that comment of Luke’s, “So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.” Did Peter continue the discussion on this matter or did they compare notes more as to how God had brought the two of them together? There are a number of elements in this account which make it clear that Peter is merely a human being whom God has sent. Cornelius then recognises that and says, “Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” After all is said and done, Peter is just a messenger of God for the moment. That is all we are, all of us without exception. Peter makes it clear, he and the disciples are just witnesses.
- we apostles are witnesses of all He did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem
- 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.
- 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.
We are just witnesses. Messengers of Jesus. Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. Now that is remarkable! As Peter turned Cornelius’ response from wanting to worship him back to God and put things in perspective for him and his gathered friends and family, the Holy Spirit fell on them. Question: as long as they had the wrong perspective would the Holy Spirit have fallen on them? I don’t believe so because the Holy Spirit is given to glorify and bear witness to Christ. The Holy Spirit does not work as an independent member of the Godhead. He always points to Jesus Christ. When order was restored in Cornelius’ gathering the Holy Spirit fell. The Holy Spirit showing up is what gives credence and proof that God is the One behind what is happening. That keeps happening through the book of Acts – the Acts of the Holy Spirit and the ever expanding role of the witnesses. Never lose sight of that through the book of Acts. And keep your eye open through the book for those moments when the reactions of men to Divine action is inappropriate. We have already seen a number of examples in our journey thus far. Keep the main thing the main thing and keep Jesus at the centre of your worship.
It’s just amazing to know how God can use everyone and everything to glorify Himself, including Cornelius who was not Jewish. Also, it’s very inspiring to see and learn about Cornelius’ thirst of God’s Word and his eagerness to invite his family and friends so they could also hear about the Good News. True
When I read Gal 2:11-14, this incident happens after Acts 10:9-23. Right? Most probably – see my comments in Gem 1524.
Just a thought I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned it but I could not help think of the time when Jacob had his vision and the heavens opened and a staircase came down with angels ascending and descending. God revealed the future here to Jacob as he was revealing the future to Peter. Looks like another remez what do you think? All adds to the authority of the moment for Peter. Yes Yes Yes. It is one of those moments when the angels or God Himself descends upon His people and confirms His presence and His plan. They occur throughout the Word of God. This passage is anotehr example but of a different type and magnitude.
My question is after this event is Peter going to spread the GOOD News to the Gentiles or this is when God used Paul to spread the GOOD News? Let’s see what the text tells us. Don’t run ahead of what Luke or the Holy Spirit is telling us.
Make sure you give your worship only to God to whom it is due. Don’t allow your worship to be given to anything less – that’s idolatry.Ian Vail
If we haven’t learned to be worshippers it doesn’t really matter how well we do anything else.Erwin Luther
If God was small enough for us to understand, He wouldn’t be big enough to worship!Rick Godwin
A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.C S Lewis
It’s not what you know that shapes your life, but what you worship.Anon
Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?Francis Chan
True worshipers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.John 4:23-24