Acts 10 Conversion of Cornelius
Summary

The theme of the book of Acts is the spreading of the gospel to the entire world. That is not simply a geographical theme but a message that the gospel is intended for all mankind. To this point in the text, those accepting the gospel have been Jewish. Here the gospel goes out directly to a Gentile for the first time. He and his household are saved by Jesus on the same basis as the Jews. That is established by their hearing the same message, accepting the gospel by the same faith and obedience, and receiving the Holy Spirit as had those on the day of Pentecost. In a sense, therefore, this is a turning point because while other Jews will become Christians, the focus will be upon taking the gospel to the Gentile world.

Peter and Cornelius

10At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3About the ninth hour of the day[1] he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Question 1

Why was Cornelius told to send for Peter rather than the angel telling him what to do?

Peter's Vision

9The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour[2] to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

Question 2

What was the significance of Peter’s vision (9-16)?

17Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23So he invited them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

Question 3

What was Cornelius’ character (2, 22)? Was he already saved because he was a good man?

30And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour,[3] and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Gentiles Hear the Good News

34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Question 4

What were the main points in Peter’s message to Cornelius (34-43)?

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Question 5

5. In what way was the presence of the Holy Spirit seen in this story (44-48)?

People
  • Cornelius
  • A Roman centurion

  • Peter
  • The apostle who preaches to Cornelius

  • Household of Cornelisu
  • Join Cornelius in becoming Christians

Places
  • Caesarea Maritima
  • Where Cornelius was stationed with Roman military

  • Joppa
  • Where Peter had been staying and where he received his vision

Peter and Cornelius

10At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3About the ninth hour of the day[1] he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, 8and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Acts 10:1

Josephus describes how Herod built up Caesarea into an administrative and harbor city.

The city was formerly known as Strato’s Tower but was renamed for the Roman emperor.


Acts 10:1

A centurion commanded 100 men. There were six centurions in a Roman cohort of 600. Each cohort (regiment) was part of a legion which contained 6000 men. This was the “Italian cohort.”


Acts 10:2

Polybius said centurions were to be men who were “good leaders, of steady and prudent mind.”


Acts 10:3

The ninth hour was about 3:00 pm. That was a time for Jews (and Cornelius) to stop and pray.


Acts 10:5

Joppa was approximately thirty miles south of Caesarea.

Peter's Vision

9The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour[2] to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

Acts 10:10

At the least, some of what Peter saw in the sheet was unclean under Jewish standards. The student is encouraged to read Leviticus 11 (alsoDeuteronomy 14:3-21) concerning unclean foods.


Acts 10:15

God alone has the right to declare what is right or wrong, clean or unclean.

17Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate 18and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. 19And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23So he invited them in to be his guests.

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

Acts 10:17

Peter was still perplexed until he was given further insight. Including Gentiles would be a major adjustment to both the attitude and activity involved in his preaching.


Acts 10:19

Peter’s three exposures to Divine insight: an angel (3); a heavenly voice (13-15); the Spirit (19).


Acts 10:25

Only God is to be worshiped. Never man! Peter was not there to be honored himself.


Acts 10:28

Peter now realizes the meaning of the vision. It was not about animals. It was about all mankind.

30And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour,[3] and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Acts 10:33

Cornelius also realizes the purpose of his vision. God was speaking to him.

Gentiles Hear the Good News

34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles

44While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acts 10:44

This verifies the reception not only of Cornelius but all like him (Gentiles) who receive God’s word.


Acts 10:45

Others had come with Peter (see also v. 23). They would be witnesses.


Acts 10:46

The tongue speaking was like what happened on Pentecost (seeActs 2:4; Acts 11:15).


Acts 10:47

Notice, the reception of the Holy Spirit here was before baptism, not subsequent to it (Acts 2:38).


Acts 10:48

As in other cases, new believers were instructed to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Perspectives

Even persons of fine character, need to hear the gospel and obey it to be saved.

All men are in need of the gospel and are accepted upon fearing God and working righteousness.

The gospel message to the Gentiles was the same message preached to the Jews.