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Caesarea stood on the Mediterranean coast about 30 miles north of Joppa. Formerly its name was Strato’s Tower, but Herod the Great renamed it in honor of Augustus Caesar, his patron who was the adopted heir of Julius Caesar. "Sebaste" is the Greek equivalent of the Latin "Augustus." Herod the Great had modernized the city, made it the provincial capital of Judea (Pilate lived there), and built its magnificent harbor. It was at this time the major Roman seaport for Palestine and its most important center of Roman government and military activity. [Note: See Hengel, pp. 55-58.]
Cornelius was a common Roman name. [Note: See Longenecker, pp. 384-85.] Centurions were non-commissioned officers of the Roman army who each commanded 100 soldiers and were on about the same level of authority as a captain in the United States army. A "cohort" contained 600 soldiers, and Cornelius’ cohort had connections with Italy. [Note: See Barrett, p. 499.] Every reference to centurions in the New Testament is positive (Matthew 8:5-10; Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:44-45; Acts 22:25-26; Acts 23:17-18; Acts 27:6; Acts 27:43). These men were "the backbone of the Roman army." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 215. Cf. Barclay, p. 82.] Cornelius was similar to the centurion of Luke 7:1-10 (see especially Acts 10:5).
"The legion was the regiment [cf. an American division] of the Roman army, and it consisted nominally of 6000 men. Each legion was divided into ten cohorts [Amer. battalion], and again each cohort contained six centuries or ’hundreds’ of men [Amer. company]. The officer in command of a cohort was called a tribune or in the Greek chiliarch: Such was Claudius Lysias of xxi 31 and xxiii 26. A century was under a centurion or kekatontarch." [Note: Rackham, p. 147.]
Cornelius represents a new type of person to whom the gospel had not gone before, as recorded in Acts. The Ethiopian eunuch was also a Gentile, but the Jews viewed his occupation favorably. There was nothing about his occupation that would have repulsed the Jews. However, Cornelius, in addition to being a Gentile, was a member of Israel’s occupying army. The Jews would have avoided him because of his occupation even though he possessed an admirable character and was friendly to the Jews.
It is interesting to note that the first Gentile Jesus dealt with during His ministry was a Roman centurion and he, too, believed. In response to that man’s faith Jesus announced that many would come from among the Gentiles to join Jews in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11).
Cornelius’ vision 10:1-8
2. The conversion of Cornelius 10:1-11:18
Many people consider healing a lame person a great miracle and raising a dead person back to life an even greater one. But the spiritual salvation of a lost sinner is greater than both of them. The Lord performed the first two miracles through Peter (Acts 9:32-43), and now He did the third (ch. 10).
"In a sense this scene is the book’s turning point, as from here the gospel will fan out in all directions to people across a vast array of geographical regions, something Paul’s three missionary journeys will underscore." [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 380.]
The episode concerning Cornelius is obviously very important since there are three lengthy references to it in Acts (chs. 10, 11, and 15). It deals with an important issue concerning the mission that the Lord gave His disciples. That issue is how the Christians should carry out that mission in view of the obstacle of Gentile uncleanness. Gentiles were ritually unclean and communicated ritual uncleanness to Jews, according to the Mosaic Law, mainly because they did not observe Jewish dietary distinctions (Leviticus 11). This obstacle kept Jews and Gentiles separate in society.
Luke stressed four things in this conversion story particularly. First, the Christians initially resisted the ideas of evangelizing Gentiles and accepting them into the church apart from any relationship to Judaism (Acts 10:14; Acts 10:28; Acts 11:2-3; Acts 11:8). Second, God Himself led the way in Gentile evangelism and acceptance, and He showed His approval (Acts 10:3; Acts 10:11-16; Acts 10:19-20; Acts 10:22 b, 30-33, 44-46; Acts 11:5-10; Acts 11:13; Acts 11:15-17). Third, it was Peter, the leader of the Jerusalem apostles, whom God used to open the door of the church to Gentiles rather than Paul (Acts 10:23; Acts 10:34-43; Acts 10:47-48; Acts 11:15-17). Fourth, the Jerusalem church accepted the conversion of Gentiles apart from their associating with Judaism because God had validated this in Cornelius’ case (Acts 11:18). [Note: Longenecker, p. 383.]
"Although Paul is the primary agent in the mission to the Gentiles, Luke wishes to make it plain, not only that Peter was in full sympathy with his position, but that, as head of the Church, Peter was the first to give its official blessing to the admission of Gentiles as full and equal members of the New Israel [i.e., the church] by his action in the case of a Roman centurion and his friends . . ." [Note: Neil, p. 137.]
Cornelius lived a moral life because he feared God, as did the other members of his household. His generosity to the people (Gr. to lao, i.e., to the Jews) and his prayers (Gr. deomai, lit. begging) were further evidences of his respect for Israel’s God. His relations with God and people were admirable (cf. Matthew 22:37-39). Cornelius had not become a full Jewish proselyte (Acts 11:3), but he did pray to the Jews’ God. The Jews called full Gentile proselytes who had undergone circumcision "proselytes of righteousness." They referred to Gentiles who adhered to Judaism to a lesser extent without submitting to circumcision "proselytes of the gate." Luke called these latter people "God-fearers." Cornelius may have been one of the latter proselytes or "God-fearers," and the Ethiopian eunuch may have been another (cf. Acts 8:27). This type of Gentile constituted fertile soil for the gospel seed (cf. Acts 8:26-40). It was mainly such God-fearing Gentiles who responded to Paul’s ministry.
Scholars debate the existence of the God-fearers as a distinct group. [Note: See, for example, the series of articles featured in Biblical Archaeology Review 12:5 (September-October 1986) under the general title, "The God-Fearers-Did They Exist?": Robert S. MacLennan and A. Thomas Kraabel, "The God-Fearers-A Literary and Theological Invention," pp. 46-53; Robert F. Tannenbaum, "Jews and God-Fearers in the Holy City of Aphrodite," pp. 54-57; and Louis H. Feldman, "The Omnipresence of the God-Fearers," pp. 58-63.] The scriptural evidence points to their existence (cf. Acts 10:2; Acts 10:22; Acts 10:35; Acts 13:16; Acts 13:26; Acts 13:43; Acts 13:50; Acts 16:14; Acts 17:4; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:7), and this has been the opinion of the majority of scholars over the years.
Some students of Acts have contended that Cornelius was a believer (i.e., an Old Testament saint) before he sent for Peter. [Note: E.g., Ironside, Lectures on . . ., pp. 245, 268.] Some scholars argue that Cornelius was righteous before he heard Peter’s gospel message, so it is unnecessary for people to hear the gospel to be saved. [Note: E.g., John Sanders, "Inclusivism," in What about Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, p. 40; but see 10:43; 11:14). For refutation of this view, see Ramesh Richard, "Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):85-108.] It seems to many others, and to me, that in view of what we read in this chapter and the next he was not truly saved (i.e., justified) until Acts 10:44 (cf. Acts 11:14).
The ninth hour (3:00 p.m.) was the Jewish hour of prayer (cf. Acts 3:1), so Cornelius may have been praying. Again God prepared two people to get together by giving each of them a vision (cf. Saul and Ananias). Cornelius saw an angel, not Jesus (Acts 10:7; Acts 10:22; Acts 10:30; Acts 11:13; cf. Acts 1:20). "Lord" here is a respectful address such as "Sir," but the centurion undoubtedly felt great awe when he saw this supernatural visitor (cf. Acts 10:30). Cornelius was not calling the angel his Savior or his Sovereign. God had noted Cornelius’ piety (his prayers Godward, proseuchai, and his alms manward, cf. Acts 10:2) and was now going to give him more revelation.
"Luke is suggesting that the prayers and the alms of this Gentile were accepted by God in lieu of the sacrifices which he was not allowed to enter the Temple to offer himself. In other words, God had acted to break down barriers between Jew and Gentile by treating the prayers and alms of a Gentile as equivalent to the sacrifice of a Jew." [Note: P. F. Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lucan Theology, p. 162.]
Modern missionaries have told stories of similar seekers after God. After they penetrated some remote tribe and preached the gospel, the natives explained how they had previously worshiped the God the missionary preached and had prayed for more light. Romans 3:11 means that no one seeks God unless God draws him or her to Himself, which is what God did with Cornelius.
God told Cornelius to send some men to Joppa for Simon Peter who was staying there with another Simon, the tanner (cf. Acts 9:43). Tanners used quite a bit of water in practicing their trade, and this may be the reason this Simon lived by the Mediterranean Sea.
Cornelius immediately (Acts 10:33) sent two of his servants, probably to assist Peter, and a spiritually devout military aide to ask Peter to come. These servants appear to have been God-fearing individuals, members of his household (cf. Acts 10:2), who were in sympathy with Cornelius’ purpose.
Most Jews prayed twice a day, but pious Jews also prayed at noon, a third time of prayer (Psalms 55:17; Daniel 6:10). However, Peter may have been praying more because of the recent success of the gospel in Joppa (cf. Acts 9:42) than because praying at noon was his habit. The aorist tense of the Greek verb proseuchomai suggests that Peter was praying about something definite rather than generally. He probably went up on the flat housetop for privacy and the fresh sea air. Luke’s reference to Peter’s hunger, which God evidently gave him, explains partially why God couched His vision in terms of food. Food was what was on Peter’s mind. Peter’s trance (Gr. ekstasis, Acts 10:10) was a vision (horama, Acts 10:17; Acts 10:19; Acts 11:5).
". . . on weekdays Jews ate a light meal in mid-morning and a more substantial meal in the later afternoon." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 185.]
Peter’s vision 10:9-16
"Though Peter was not by training or inclination an overly scrupulous Jew, and though as a Christian his inherited prejudices were gradually wearing thin, he was not prepared to go so far as to minister directly to Gentiles. A special revelation was necessary for that, and Luke now tells how God took the initiative in overcoming Peter’s reluctance." [Note: Longenecker, p. 387.]
The original Greek, Roman, and Jewish readers of Acts all put much stock in dreams, visions, and oracles. They believed they came from the gods, or the true God in the case of Jews. So it is not surprising that Luke put much emphasis on these events in his conversion stories of Saul and Cornelius. This would have put the divine sanction for Christianity beyond dispute in the readers’ minds. [Note: Witherington, p. 341.]
The sheet-like container, similar perhaps to an awning on the roof or a ship’s sail, was full of all kinds of animals, clean and unclean (cf. Acts 11:6). The issue of unclean food was the basic one that separated observant Jews like Peter from Gentiles.
"Milk drawn by a heathen, if a Jew had not been present to watch it, bread and oil prepared by them, were unlawful. Their wine was wholly interdicted-the mere touch of a heathen polluted a whole cask; nay, even to put one’s nose to heathen wine was strictly prohibited!" [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 1:92.]
". . . the point is that the Lord’s command frees Peter from any scruples about going to a Gentile home and eating whatever might be set before him. It would be a short step from recognizing that Gentile food was clean to realizing that Gentiles themselves were ’clean’ also." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 186.]
The Jewish laws distinguishing between clean and unclean animals appear in Leviticus 11.
Peter resisted the Lord Jesus’ command strongly but politely (Gr. Medamos, kurie), as Ezekiel had done when he received similar instructions from God (Ezekiel 4:14). Peter may have remembered and recognized the voice as that of Jesus. [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 220.] He had either not understood or not remembered Jesus’ teaching in which He had declared all foods clean (Mark 7:14-19, cf. Romans 14:14). Peter’s "No, Lord," is, of course, an inconsistent contradiction. Nevertheless Peter’s response was very consistent with his impulsive personality and former conduct. He had said, "No," to the Lord before (cf. Matthew 16:22; John 13:8). His reaction to this instruction reminds us of Peter’s similar extreme reactions on other earlier occasions (e.g., John 13:8-9; John 21:7). Saul’s response to the voice from heaven on the Damascus road had not been negative (Acts 9:5-8).
"The cliché, ’If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all’ is simply that-a cliché and not a biblical or theological truth. He can be Lord of aspects of my life while I withhold other areas of my life from His control. Peter illustrated that as clearly as anyone that day on the rooftop when the Lord asked him to kill and eat unclean animals. He said, ’By no means, Lord’ (Acts 10:14). At that point was Christ Lord of all of Peter? Certainly not. Then must we conclude that He was not Lord at all in relation to Peter’s life? I think not." [Note: Ryrie, So Great . . ., p. 73.]
Peter’s Jewish cultural prejudices were overriding the Word of God in his thinking. For this reason God repeated the vision two more times so Peter would be sure he understood God’s command correctly.
"The threefold repetition might also remind Peter of an interview on a familiar beach [cf. John 21:15-17]." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 96.]
"The message pervading the whole [of Peter’s vision] . . . is that the disciples are to receive the Gentiles, not before cleansing, but after God has cleansed them as He will do later through the cleansing Gospel which Peter will share with them the next day." [Note: Harm, p. 35.]
"The particular application had to do with nullifying Jewish dietary laws for Christians in accord with Jesus’ remarks on the subject in Mark 7:17-23. But Peter was soon to learn that the range of the vision’s message extended much more widely, touching directly on Jewish-Gentile relations as he had known them and on those relations in ways he could never have anticipated." [Note: Longenecker, p. 388.]
I wonder if Peter remembered Jonah as he thought about the mission God had given him of preaching to the Gentiles. God had also called that prophet to carry a message of salvation to the Gentiles in Nineveh, but Jonah had fled from that very city, Joppa, to escape his calling. Now Peter found himself in the same position.
"Because Jonah disobeyed God, the Lord sent a storm that caused the Gentile sailors to fear. Because Peter obeyed the Lord, God sent the ’wind of the Spirit’ to the Gentiles and they experienced great joy and peace." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:443.]
Peter did not understand what the vision meant. While he pondered the subject, Cornelius’ messengers called out below inquiring about Simon Peter’s presence in the house.
The invitation from Cornelius’ messengers 10:17-23a
Somehow the Holy Spirit convinced Peter that God wanted him to accompany the messengers to Cornelius’ house.
". . . it is both exegetically and experientially difficult, if not impossible, to draw any sharp lines between ’an angel of God [Acts 10:3; Acts 10:22],’ the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:19], and the ascended Christ [Acts 10:4; Acts 10:14]." [Note: Longenecker, p. 389. See also Neil, p. 139.]
We could also add "God" (Acts 10:28; cf. Acts 8:26; cf. Acts 8:29; cf. Acts 8:39; Acts 16:6-7; Romans 8:9-11; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
"A God-fearer had no objection to the society of Jews, but even a moderately orthodox Jew would not willingly enter the dwelling of a Gentile, God-fearer though he were." [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 217.]
Peter was to feel free to enter the house of Cornelius since the centurion was not unclean. Perhaps as Peter "was reflecting" (Acts 10:19) he remembered Jesus’ teaching in which He terminated the clean unclean distinction (cf. Acts 10:29; Mark 7:19).
Peter probably descended from the roof by using a stairway on the outside of the house, as was common, and met the messengers outside the door where they had been standing. They described Cornelius as a man well spoken of by the whole nation (Gr. ethnos) of the Jews as well as a righteous and God-fearing man (cf. Acts 10:2). They obviously wanted their description of their master to influence Peter to accompany them back to Caesarea.
After learning their intent, Peter invited them inside and acted as their host. This was very unusual since Jews normally did not provide hospitality for Gentiles. Peter had apparently already begun to understand the meaning of the vision he had seen and began to apply it in his relationships with these Gentiles.
"There may also be some intended irony here, since Peter had earlier protested his scrupulousness about food, all the while staying in the house of a man whose trade made him unclean!" [Note: Witherington, p. 351.]
Peter wisely took six other Jewish Christians with him (Acts 11:12). A total of seven believers witnessed what took place in Cornelius’ house. The trip from Caesarea to Joppa took part of two days (Acts 10:30). Cornelius was so sure Peter would come that even before the apostle arrived he gathered a group of his relatives and friends to listen to him. The text gives no reason to assume that Cornelius knew that Peter was the foremost apostle among the early Christians (cf. Acts 10:5). Cornelius had an exemplary concern for the spiritual welfare of others even before he became a Christian (cf. Acts 10:27).
Peter’s visit to Cornelius 10:23-33
Cornelius met Peter like the apostle John responded to God’s angelic messenger on another occasion. Nevertheless Peter, like the angel, refused this unwarranted veneration (cf. Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8-9).
". . . Simon Peter would never have let you get down to kiss his big toe [as pilgrims to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome do to the statue of Peter there]. He just wouldn’t permit it." [Note: McGee, 4:556.]
Later Paul and Barnabas received a similar reception from the Lystrans and likewise refused worship (Acts 14:11-15).
It was taboo for Jews to associate with Gentiles and to visit them in their homes. [Note: Mishnah Demai 3:4.] Gentiles did not observe the strict rules Jews followed in eating, preparing, and even handling food, nor did they tithe or practice circumcision. Any physical contact with Gentiles laid a Jew open to becoming ceremonially unclean because of the Gentiles’ failure to observe these Mosaic laws.
"There is nothing more binding on the average person than social custom." [Note: Robertson, 3:141.]
Food was the crux of the issue that separated them. However, Peter had gotten the message of the sheet full of food: food does not make a person unholy or unclean. Consequently he had come without further objection. Peter’s explanation in these verses stressed the fact that God had convinced him to go against traditional Jewish custom, which was wellknown among the Gentiles.
"If the food laws of the Jews no longer were valid, there was no real reason to avoid social contact with gentiles, for those distinctions lay at the heart of Jewish clannishness." [Note: Kent, p. 93.]
"He [Peter] violates the first rule of homiletics when he begins his message with an apology. What he says is not a friendly thing to say. In fact, it is an insult. . . . How would you feel, especially if you are a lady who is a housekeeper, if some visitor came into your home and his first words were, ’I am coming into your home, which I consider dirty’?" [Note: McGee, 4:557.]
Nevertheless Peter quickly and humbly explained that he had been wrong about how he formerly felt about Gentiles (Acts 10:29).
". . . the Christian preacher or teacher must call no man common or unclean." [Note: Morgan, p. 218.]
Cornelius then related the vision he had seen to Peter. The angel in Cornelius’ vision (Acts 10:2) had looked like a man dressed in shining garments (Acts 10:30). The vision God had given him was a response to the centurion’s prayers and alms.
". . . there are certain things that do count before God. These are things which can in no way merit salvation, but they are things which God notes. . . . Wherever there is a man who seeks after God as Cornelius did, that man is going to hear the gospel of the grace of God. God will see that he gets it." [Note: McGee, 4:555.]
Cornelius had responded to God admirably by sending for Peter immediately (cf. Peter’s "By no means, Lord," Acts 10:14). Cornelius then invited Peter to tell him and his guests what God wanted him to say to them. What a prepared and receptive audience this was!
Luke stressed the significance of Cornelius’ experience by repeating certain details (cf. Acts 11:4-10). This is another example of his doublet style, which increases emphasis. Other examples are the repetition of Jesus’ miracles by his followers and the repetition of the same types of miracles that Peter performed by Paul.
"Opening his mouth" is a phrase that typically introduces something very important (cf. Acts 8:35; Acts 18:14; Matthew 5:2; Matthew 13:35).
". . . in Luke’s eyes what Peter was about to say was indeed momentous in sweeping away centuries of racial prejudice." [Note: Longenecker, p. 392.]
What Peter confessed he now understood was something God had revealed throughout the Old Testament (e.g., Amos 9:7; Micah 6:8) but that most Jews had not grasped due to centuries of ill-founded pride. God had now clarified this revelation.
Since God is not one to show partiality (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:19), certainly Christians should not do this either. Peter proceeded to prove that God deals with all people equally through His Son (cf. Acts 10:36; Acts 10:38; Acts 10:42-43), not on the basis of their race (cf. John 10:16). Whenever Christians practice racial discrimination they need to reread Acts 10.
Peter’s message to Cornelius 10:34-43
Peter’s sermon on this occasion is the first sermon in Acts addressed to a Gentile audience (cf. Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31). It is quite similar to the ones Peter preached in Acts 2:14-40 and Acts 3:11-26 except that this one has more information about Jesus’ pre-crucifixion ministry. This emphasis was appropriate since Peter was addressing Gentiles who would have known less about Jesus’ ministry than the Jews did. Also this speech contains no quotations from the Old Testament, though there are many allusions to the Old Testament.
God requires faith in Jesus Christ for total acceptance (Acts 10:43; cf. Acts 11:17). However anyone who fears God and does what is in harmony with His will, as Cornelius did, meets with His initial acceptance.
All of this verse is a kind of caption for what Peter proceeded to announce to Cornelius and his guests. Its three main emphases are, first, that the message to follow was a presentation of revelation that God had sent to the Jews. Second, it was a message resulting in peace that comes through Jesus Christ. Third, Jesus Christ is Lord of all, both Jews and Gentiles. "Lord of all" was a pagan title for deity, which the Christians adopted as an appropriate title for Jesus Christ. [Note: Ibid., p. 393; Barrett, p. 522.] "He is Lord of all" expressed Peter’s new insight. It is probably the main statement in the verse.
"Since Jesus is Lord over all, Peter could proclaim to Cornelius and other Gentiles that the gospel is available to all. This is one of the most central points in Luke-Acts." [Note: Bock, "A Theology . . .," p. 105]
"What is the nature of Jesus’ lordship [Acts 10:36]? Because of His lordship, He had a ministry of power as He healed all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). As Lord, He was the object of a testimony that declared Him to be the Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). He is the one of whom all the prophets testified that forgiveness of sins is found in His name (Acts 10:43). Again [as in Acts 2:21; Acts 2:32-39; Acts 5:14; and Acts 9:42] lordship described the authority that Jesus has as the Bearer of salvation-an authority that involves work in the past (exorcising demons), present (granting forgiveness of sins), and future (serving as Judge)." [Note: Idem, "Jesus as . . .," p. 149.]
Peter proceeded to outline Jesus of Nazareth’s career for his listeners assuming some knowledge that was common but adding more details than Luke recorded in Peter’s previous speeches. This is the most comprehensive review of Jesus’ career found in any speech in Acts. These details would have been appropriate since Peter’s hearers here were Gentiles. Peter’s sketch followed the same general outline as Mark’s Gospel, which, according to early Christian tradition, Peter influenced.
Luke undoubtedly summarized Peter’s message, as he did the other addresses in Luke-Acts, and stressed points important to his readers. These points included the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1 (in Acts 10:38, cf. Luke 4:14-30), the importance of apostolic witness (in Acts 10:39-41, cf. Acts 1:8), and Jesus’ post-resurrection eating and drinking with his disciples (Acts 10:41, cf. Luke 24:41-43). "The thing" to which Peter referred was the earthly ministry of Jesus.
Jesus’ anointing by God with the Holy Spirit took place at His baptism by John (cf. Luke 3:21-22) when He became God’s officially Anointed One (i.e., the Messiah). The "all" whom Jesus healed were the many He healed. This is hyperbole since Jesus did not heal every needy person He met. [Note: See my comment on 3:2.] This is another verse advocates of the "prosperity gospel" cite to prove their case. [Note: See my comments on 5:16.] Jesus’ good deeds and supernatural miracles testified to God’s presence with Him (cf. Genesis 39:2).
The apostles regularly mentioned that they were eye-witnesses of Jesus’ ministry in their preaching (Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 5:32; Acts 10:41; Acts 13:30-31). This had tremendous persuasive appeal to their hearers. Peter divided Jesus’ acts into those that He performed in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, their capital city. Those who put Jesus to death were the Jews (Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30; Acts 7:52) and the Gentiles (Acts 4:27). Here Peter referred generally to all those involved in the Crucifixion. "Hanging him on a cross" emphasizes the horrible way the enemies of Jesus killed Him.
"It is difficult, after sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked in Paul’s day. The word crux was unmentionable in polite Roman society (Cicero, Pro Rabirio 16); even when one was being condemned to death by crucifixion the sentence used an archaic formula which served as a sort of euphemism . . ." [Note: F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 271.]
"The cross of Christ reveals the love of God at its best and the sin of man at its worst." [Note: Anonymous.]
In contrast to man’s treatment of Jesus, God raised Him from the grave after three days (cf. Acts 17:31). Jesus also appeared to selected individuals whom God chose to be witnesses of His resurrection. Among these was Peter, who even ate and drank with the risen Lord, proof that He really was alive.
"The resurrection appearances were not made to the people at large. The reason appears to have been that those who saw Jesus were constituted to act as witnesses to the many people who could not see him, and this obligation was not laid on people who were unfit for it but only on those who had been prepared by lengthy association with Jesus and by sharing his work of mission." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 193.]
Peter referred to the Great Commission, which Jesus gave his disciples after His resurrection (Acts 10:41), in Acts 10:42.
"This entire experience is an illustration of the commission of Matthew 28:19-20. Peter went where God sent him and made disciples (’teach’) of the Gentiles. Then he baptized them and taught them the Word." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:447.]
Jesus Christ will one day judge all people as forgiven or not forgiven (cf. Acts 17:31). To be forgiven one must "believe in Him" (cf. Acts 5:14; Acts 9:42; Acts 11:17). Peter said this is what the Old Testament prophets taught (e.g., Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25-26; et al.). The Messiah (Christ) would be the Judge of all people, and Jesus of Nazareth is that Messiah (cf. John 5:27). The Lord of all (Acts 10:36) is also the Judge of all (Acts 10:42).
Note how Peter stressed the universal benefit of Jesus’ ministry in this message to Gentiles; it was for Gentiles as well as Jews. Not only is Jesus Lord of all (Acts 10:36), but He went about healing all (Acts 10:38). Furthermore He is the Judge of all (Acts 10:42) to whom all the prophets bore witness (Acts 10:43 a), and God forgives all who believe in Him (Acts 10:43 b).
"This simple outline [Acts 10:34-43] . . . is perhaps the clearest NT example of the kerygma, the earliest form in which the apostolic proclamation of the gospel was apparently couched." [Note: Kent, p. 94.]
Peter did not need to call for his hearers to repent on this occasion. As soon as he gave them enough information to trust Jesus Christ, they did so. Immediately the Holy Spirit fell on them filling them (Acts 10:47; Acts 11:15; cf. Acts 2:4) and baptizing them (Acts 11:16; cf. Acts 1:5).
God gave His Spirit to individuals from both groups, Jews and Gentiles, solely because of their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17). The Gentiles did not have to do anything but believe on Jesus. They did not need to become Jewish proselytes, experience baptism in water, undergo circumcision, turn from their sins, or even say they were willing to turn from them. [Note: See Roy B. Zuck, "Cheap Grace?" Kindred Spirit 13:2 (Summer 1989):4-7, for a popular critique of "lordship salvation."]
Note that Spirit baptism took place here without the laying on of an apostle’s hands. The identification of Spirit baptism with the apostles was not necessary here, as it had been with the Samaritans (cf. Acts 8:17-19). Here the important point was the connection between faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from any external Jewish rite, and Spirit baptism.
"Through Peter’s experience with Cornelius it is made plain that the norm for this age for both Jews and Gentiles, is for the Holy Spirit to be given without delay, human mediation, or other conditions than simple faith in Jesus Christ for both Jew and Gentile." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1179.]
The giving of the Holy Spirit to Gentiles 10:44-48
The outward evidence that God had given His Spirit to these Gentile believers as a gift was that they spoke in tongues and praised God (cf. Acts 11:15-16). This amazed Peter’s Jewish companions because it proved that God was not making a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus regarding His acceptance of them.
Probably Peter and his Jewish companions heard these Gentiles praising God in Aramaic, which these Gentiles would not have known previously since Aramaic was a language the Jews spoke. The Jews present would have understood Aramaic immediately and would have recognized that the ability to speak in an unstudied language was an evidence of Spirit baptism, as it was at Pentecost.
There was no reason to withhold water baptism from these Gentile converts; they could undergo baptism in water as a testimony to their faith immediately. They had believed in Jesus Christ and had experienced Spirit baptism. Baptism with the Spirit was Jesus’ sign of His acceptance of them, and baptism with water was their sign of their acceptance of Him. They had done everything they needed to do. They did not need to experience anything more such as circumcision, or admission into the Jewish community, or the adoption of traditional Jewish dietary laws, or anything else.
"I have heard people say sometimes that if you are baptized with the Holy Ghost you do not need to be baptized in water. It is not a question of what you need-it is a question of what God has commanded." [Note: Ironside, Lectures on . . ., p. 257.]
The events Luke recorded in Acts 9:32 to Acts 10:48 prepared Peter for the Lord’s further expansion of His church to include Gentiles. Peter had unlocked the door of the church to Jews on Pentecost (Matthew 16:19; cf. Ephesians 2:14). What happened in Cornelius’ house was "the Pentecost of the Gentile world." [Note: F. H. Chase, The Credibility of the Acts of the Apostles, p. 79.] By pouring out His Spirit on these Gentiles, God showed that in His sight Jews and Gentiles were equal. The Jew had no essential advantage over the Gentile in entering the church. God observes no distinction in race when it comes to becoming a Christian (cf. Ephesians 2:11 to Ephesians 3:12).
The Ethiopian eunuch was probably a descendant of Ham, Saul was a descendant of Shem, and Cornelius was a descendant of Japheth (cf. Genesis 10). [Note: McGee, 4:545.] Thus with the record of their conversions in chapters 8-10 Luke told us that the church is equally accessible to all branches of the human family.
Why was the conversion of Cornelius rather than the earlier conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch the opening of the church’s door to the Gentiles? The conversion of the Gentile eunuch was a case of individual private salvation. The conversion of Cornelius, on the other hand, involved several Gentiles, and it was public. God had saved individual Gentiles by faith throughout history (e.g., Rahab, Ruth, Naaman, et al.). With the conversion of Cornelius, He now, for the first time, publicly brought Gentiles into the church, the new creation of God, by Spirit baptism. The eunuch became a Christian and a member of the church, but that was not evident to anyone at the time of his conversion. With Cornelius’ conversion, God made a public statement, as He had at Pentecost, that He was doing something new, namely, forming a new body of believers in Jesus. In chapter 2 He showed that it would include Jews, and in chapter 10 He clarified that it would also include Gentiles. The sole prerequisite for entrance into this group (the church) was faith in Jesus Christ regardless of ethnicity, which had separated Jews from Gentiles for centuries. The distinctive difference between becoming a Christian and becoming a Jew (religiously) was that God gave the Holy Spirit to every Christian. The sign of this, for the benefit of the Jews, was that He enabled those to whom He gave the Spirit to speak in tongues. In the rest of Acts Luke proceeded to narrate the conversion of various sorts of Gentiles in various parts of the Mediterranean world.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany