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Bible Commentaries
Acts 10

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-8

A God Fearing Gentile Is Directed to Seek the Truth

The city of Caesarea, according to Ash, was "an important seaport and the center of the Roman government and militia for the area. Both Greeks and Jews populated the city, often inharmoniously." Luke told Theophilus that in that city was a centurion, or commander of a hundred men, named Cornelius. He was of the Italian regiment, or cohort, which would have numbered between 600 and 1,000. The beloved physician described him as being devout, God fearing, one who gave generous gifts to those who might have been in need and prayed. Luke noted that his household also feared God, which was a way of describing one who believed in the God of Abraham but had refused to be circumcised.

At three in the afternoon, which was the ninth hour and a Jewish hour of prayer, an angel appeared to Cornelius in a vision. He reassured the frightened centurion by telling him God positively received his sacrifices. Then, as the ultimate proof of that acceptance, God directed that Cornelius send men to Joppa to call for Simon Peter at the house of a tanner named Simon. Immediately following the angel's departure, Cornelius dispatched two servants and a religious soldier to the city of Joppa ( Act_10:1-8 ).

Verses 9-23

Peter's Vision

On the next day at noon, while the emissaries were on their way, Peter went to the top of Simon's house to pray. He became very hungry while preparations for the noon meal were being made and fell into a trance. He saw something like a sheet being let down out of heaven full of all types of unclean animals and heard a voice telling him to kill and eat. Peter refused the instructions of the heavenly voice because he did not want to defile himself, as a Jew. The voice, in full agreement with the Lord's teachings in Mar_7:14-19 , told Peter that nothing God had made should be described by man as common or unclean. The same vision was repeated three times and the sheet taken out of the apostle's sight.

As Peter thought about the vision, the men from Cornelius arrived at the house and began to inquire about him. The Holy Spirit told him to go with the three men who were looking for him because they were sent by the Spirit. Peter went down and told the men he was the man for whom they were looking. They told Peter that Cornelius had been told by God, through the agency of an angel, to send for Peter so that he could hear him preach. Realizing this message was from God, Peter invited them in to spend the night, apparently eating the very meal with them which had been being prepared while he saw the vision. The next morning, Peter and some other brethren set out for Caesarea ( Act_10:19-23 ).

Verses 24-33

Peter Meets Cornelius

The following day, Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, where the God fearing soldier had assembled his kinsmen and friends to hear what God's messenger would say. Upon meeting the Lord's apostle, Cornelius bowed down before him. Rather than accepting such adoration or encouraging it in any way, Peter told Cornelius to get up because he too was a man (compare Act_14:8-18 ; Rev_19:10 ; Rev_22:8-9 ). As they were talking, they entered the house and Peter saw a large group had assembled.

Peter's hospitality to the three messengers in Joppa suggests that he had already surmised God's intent for him to preach to the Gentiles. Perhaps it was for the sakes of those six witnesses who came with him that he started speaking as he did. Specifically, the apostle said he, as a Jew, was not allowed to go into the house of a Gentile. The words "one of another nation," according to Bruce and Ash, come from the word used in the Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, to designate an uncircumcised Philistine. In reality, a Jew could be in the company of Gentiles but such contact made them ceremonially unclean. However, Peter stated that God had shown him not to call any man common or unclean. So, Peter had come without objecting and now asked why they had sent for him.

Cornelius explained how, during a time of fasting and prayer, an angel had spoken to him. The angel had told him that God had heard his prayers and recognized the good he had done for those in need. He had been given specific details concerning how to send for Peter. The assembled group was prepared to hear whatever God had commanded the apostle to preach ( Act_10:24-33 ).

Verses 34-43

Peter Preached to the Assembled Gentiles

The beginning of Peter's sermon makes it obvious that he had learned a great new lesson. As Ash said, "Acceptability to God no longer depended on national descent, but upon character (cf. Amo_9:7 ; Mic_6:8 ). Thus one need not become a Jew to please God." So, he began to preach the simple gospel message he had already proclaimed to so many Jews. First, the Jews had learned Jesus was the means of man obtaining peace with God and his fellow man. To do that, Jesus had to be Lord, or master, over all. Peter presumed they had already heard of the preaching of Jesus which had spread through Judea and Galilee, beginning with the message of the forerunner, John the baptizer.

Jesus was God's anointed and had performed numerous acts of kindness and healing. Peter and the other apostles stood as witnesses of the good he did and the terrible trial the Jewish leaders put him through, followed by his death on the cross. They also could testify that God raised him up and made him known to certain witnesses, some of whom even ate with him. Those same were given a commission to testify that Jesus would ultimately judge both the living and dead. Even the prophets had referred to the coming Messiah through whom those believing on his name could receive the remission of their sins ( Act_10:34-43 ).

Verses 44-48

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

A remarkable thing occurred while Peter was speaking. Gentiles, who had never gotten rid of their uncleanness through circumcision and sacrifice, were baptized with the Holy Spirit. The fact that they spoke in tongues and magnified the name of God was clear evidence that such a baptism had in fact taken place. Thus, God clearly showed that Gentiles could enter the church through baptism without first submitting to the requirements of the law of Moses. Peter drew the obvious conclusion and asked how anyone could forbid these Gentiles the opportunity to obey Christ by putting him on in baptism. After the entire group had obeyed the Lord, they asked Peter and his companions to stay for a few days ( Act_10:44-48 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 10". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-10.html. 2014.
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