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Bible Commentaries
Acts 10

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,

1. We are now introduced to a man who is not a Jew. All converts to this point have been Jews, either by birth or conversion.

2. Cornelius was a Roman soldier. He was a leader.

3. Centurion means he was the leader of a group of at least 100 men. Many groups were larger than 100.

Verse 2

2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

1. We now meet the person - Cornelius.

1. Devout - He was a sincere, godly man.

2. Feared God - Not fear as in fear for our life. Fear is used here as "awe" and amazement. Thayer says, " to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience."

3. Including his house - He was not only a leader in the military, he was also a leader in his home.

4. Shared with others - He was not selfish. He was willing to give to help those less fortunate than himself.

5. Prayed - He was a man of prayer.

2. There many other points to consider here. Notice the following:

He referred to " God, " not gods.

1. Cornelius was a monotheist.

2. Gentiles subscribed to the notion that there were many "gods" (cf. 1Co_8:5-6 ). The depravity of Roman religion is vividly portrayed in the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Roman saints (cf. 21ff).

3. Even before he heard the gospel message from Peter's mouth, Cornelius already had turned from idols to reverence a living God (cf. Act_14:15 ; 1Th_1:9 ).

Cornelius believed that God was an observer of human activity and interested therein.

1. He confessed: "we are all here in the sight of God." The phrase not only suggests that Heaven was aware of this meeting, but approved of it.

2. Jews struggled with the idea that Jehovah observes everything.

3. Jacob fled from his home, away from Esau, came to Bethel. God renewed the promise made to Abraham.

4. When Jacob awoke, he exclaimed, with obvious surprise: "Surely Jehovah is in this place; and I knew it not" ( Gen_28:16 ).

5. Jonah tried to flee away "from the presence of Jehovah" ( Joh_1:3 ).

He was aware that saving truth was embodied in an objective revelation which would issue from a man who had been appointed by God to instruct him.

1. The group assembled to "hear" the things, i.e., "words," (cf. 11:14) to be spoken by Peter.

2. No direct operation of the Holy Spirit.

3. This is a important truth that many today need to learn.

He acknowledged the sovereignty of Almighty God.

1. There are things commanded. We must submit.

2. There are several interesting matters here.

3. The verb " commanded " is in the passive voice, suggesting that God is the giver of commands, and we humans are the receivers. We are not in the driver's seat!

4. The action has occurred already, but the results are abiding. The effect here is this: God had commanded, and his will was to remain inviolate. There would be no disputing it.

Cornelius recognized that he could not selectively obey the Lord.

1. "All" was the goal. He was ready to hear "all things" the Lord had commanded.

2. Many want a "multiple choice" salvation.

3. Reject baptism ( Mar_16:16 ), or be immersed if only they did not have to repent ( Act_2:38 ).

4. Naaman was not terribly disturbed about dipping in a river for cleansing from his leprosy, he just faulted the Lord's location of the ceremony ( 2Ki_5:12 ). He needed to learn that deliberate, partial obedience is no obedience!

He conceded that Peter was a spokesman for deity.

1. Peter's words would carry as much weight as if the Lord had spoken to them personally.

2. Some have an illusion that the "words in red," are of greater significance than what Peter or Paul wrote.

3. I have heard members of the church say that they disagreed with Paul on some issues.

4. Such a reckless expression of disrespect!

5. "He who hears you hears me; and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" ( Luk_10:16 ).

6. Paul also said that the things he wrote represented the "commandment of the Lord" ( 1Co_14:37 ).

BUT - He needed to hear words to be saved

1. Act_11:14

2. GOOD is not enough.

3. Close only counts in horseshoes.

4. We must have an obedient faith.

Ideas adapted from: Six Great Truths Cornelius Can Teach Us, by Wayne Jackson

Verse 3

3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, " Cornelius! "

1. The 9 th hour of the day, about 3 in the afternoon.

2. He saw clearly - not just some hazy figure or a mist. This was clear.

3. An angel (messenger) of God. This was direct message for him. The angel called him by name.

Verse 4

4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, " What is it, lord? " So he said to him, " Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.

1. Cornelius realized that he was in the presence of deity. He was filled with amazement.

2. This passage has caused much discussion on the issue of God hearing the prayers of alien sinners (those who have never been in covenant with God).

3. There are two answers.

1. Yes . God heard Cornelius. God hears the prayers of those seeking, turning toward Him. "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." ( 1Pe_3:12 ) God is always aware of those seeking Him.

2. No . God does not hear the prayer that seeks salvation other than what He has commanded. God does not hear the prayer for those seeking to "pray through" at a mourner's bench. God does not hear the prayer of those who refuse to repent. God does not hear the prayer of those who refuse to obey His commands.

Verses 5-6

5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.

6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do. "

1. Cornelius is instructed to send messengers to Joppa. He is given instructions to locate Simon (Peter).

2. Why send for Peter?

1. If man is saved by a "direct operation of the Holy Spirit" - Why was it necessary for Peter to come?

2. If man is saved by being a good moral man - Why send for Peter?

3. If man is saved because he is praying for salvation - Why send for Peter?

4. If man is saved by God's election and nothing man can do about it - Why send for Peter?

3. Answer : Send for Peter because there are things that you MUST do. Notice the strong word, MUST. Thayer says, of the Greek word here, "necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end."

Verse 7

7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually.

1. When the angel left - Cornelius did exactly as he was instructed. No hesitation. No wondering if this was real. No delay.

2. He sent two trusted servants and a soldier.

Verse 8

8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

1. He explained the purpose of their trip.

2. He told them the information they needed and the message they were to deliver.

Verse 9

9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.

1. Meanwhile, in the city of Joppa - Peter knows nothing of what is about to transpire.

2. He just knows that it is an hour of prayer - the 6 th hour (noon) was one of the times of prayer. Many went to the nearest synagogue. If no synagogue was close by, they would just take time to pray where they were.

Verse 10

10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance

1. It was lunch time and the meal was not ready yet. But, Peter was hungry.

2. He fell into a trance - Strong says, of this word, "a displacement of the mind, that is, bewilderment , "ecstasy": be amazed, amazement, astonishment, trance."

3. Thayer gives a more detailed description of this word. "A throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of mind, whether such as makes a lunatic or that of a man who by some sudden emotion is transported as it were out of himself, so that in this rapt condition, although he is awake, his mind is drawn off from all surrounding objects and wholly fixed on things divine that he sees nothing but the forms and images lying within, and thinks that he perceives with his bodily eyes and ears realities shown him by God."

Verse 11

11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.

1. The sheet was described by Thayer as "household utensils, domestic gear; the tackle and armament of vessels, used specifically of sails and ropes."

2. Here is a great sail coming down. It is suspended by the corners.

Verse 12

12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.

1. All kinds of animals are in this sheet.

1. Wild animals - all kinds of savage, ferocious animals

2. Creeping things - used of snakes.

3. Birds - By implication, birds of prey, birds that were unclean and forbidden under Jewish law.

Verse 13

13 And a voice came to him, " Rise, Peter; kill and eat. "

1. Peter not only sees this image. He also hears a voice.

2. He is told to kill and eat. Peter is hungry. Here is food.

Verse 14

14 But Peter said, " Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean. "

1. Peter resists. Peter has obeyed the Law of Moses regarding diet. He has not eaten what the law declared to be unclean.

2. He was not about to change now.

Verse 15

15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, " What God has cleansed you must not call common. "

1. The command came again.

2. When God cleanses something - it is not unclean.

3. The Greek word here (koinos) is use in three ways among Greeks. Common - not of any special value; Unclean - Certain foods and actions were declared forbidden in the Law of Moses; Ordinary - The language of the NT was "koine" Greek, not the classical Greek but the language spoken by

Verse 16

16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.

1. And a third time Peter is confronted with these "unclean" foods and told he is permitted to eat them.

2. As Paul Harvey would say, "Now the rest of the story."

1. The message is not about clean or unclean meats.

2. The message is not about exceptions when one is hungry.

3. The message IS about accepting the Gentiles on the same basis as Jews.

Verse 17

17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon ' s house, and stood before the gate.

1. Peter is now trying to figure out what all this meant. There must be some message here. There must be some ulterior motive.

2. The timing is perfect. The men Cornelius sent are not knocking at the door.

Verses 18-19

18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there.

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, " Behold, three men are seeking you.

1. Now things are going to clear up. Peter is told that there are some men seeking him.

2. Peter still does not have a clear picture of the purpose of the vision. He must be trying to make some connection between the vision and the men at the door.

Verse 20

20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them. "

1. Peter is to go with them - Where? Where they need him to go, he is to follow.

2. Doubting nothing - This is the hard part. I could follow, but I am sure my mind would be filled with doubts about these strangers.

3. "I sent them" - God wants Peter to know that they are there, not by accident, but on purpose. They were directed to Peter.

Verses 21-22

21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, " Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come? "

22 And they said, " Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you. "

1. First Peter admits that he is the one they are seeking.

2. Next he asks the purpose of their trip.

3. They explain the angel's message to Cornelius. They tell Peter that his a good man, well respected among Jews, and that he has leadership skills.

4. But, he needs to hear words from you. We learn in Act_11:14 that they were words by which he could be saved.

Verse 23

23 Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

1. Perhaps Peter is still not sure about all this. Is there some doubt?

2. Peter takes some men from Joppa with him. He wants witnesses to whatever is about to happen.

Verse 24

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.

1. This group arrives in Caesarea.

2. Cornelius is waiting for them.

3. Not just Cornelius. He has a house full of friends, associates, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone else he could persuade to come.

Verse 25

25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.

1. Cornelius, either thinking Peter was an angel of God, or just thinking that he was a person to be worshiped, fell down and begin to worship Peter.

2. Jesus was clear in Joh_4:24 that we are to worship God, not men.

Verse 26

26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, " Stand up; I myself am also a man. "

1. Peter stood him up.

2. Peter is just a man. He is not someone to be worshiped.

3. 2,000 years later, there are many who are still worshiping Peter, creating statues of him, kissing the feet of these icons, and seeking favors from him.

Verse 27

27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together.

1. Peter found a house full of people. Not just a family gathering.

2. Many had come. For what purpose? Why were they here? What were they wanting from Peter?

Verse 28

28 Then he said to them, " You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

1. Alb ert Barnes discusses this matter. "This was not explicitly enjoined by Moses, but it seemed to be implied in his institutions, and was, at any rate, the common understanding of the Jews. The design was to keep them a separate people. To do this, Moses forbade alliances by contract, or marriage, with the surrounding nations, which were idolatrous. See Lev_18:24-30 ; Deu_7:3-12 ; compare Ezr_9:11-12 . This command the Jews perverted, and explained it as referring to contact of all kinds, even to the exercise of friendly offices and commercial transactions."

2. Jesus went against this tradition in speaking with the woman at the well in Joh_4:1-54 .

3. Peter begins to "justify" his presence.

1. Tradition forbids me to be here.

2. BUT, God showed me that no man is common or unclean.

Verse 29

29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me? "

1. Peter came without objection. There may have been some hesitation. He may have had some doubts.

2. He was still trying to make a connection between the vision and his trip.

Verses 30-33

30 So Cornelius said, " Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,

31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.

32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you. '

33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God. "

1. Cornelius begins to explain and rehearse all that had happened to him. He tells about the angel coming to him. His prayers were heard. He followed the instructions to send men to Joppa.

2. Cornelius says that he immediately sent for Peter. He is glad that Peter choose to come.

3. Cornelius is expecting great things from Peter. He has gathered many in his house. They are there, not for a dinner party, but to hear what Peter commands them.

4. They also realize that Peter is only going to command what God commands.

Verses 34-35

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: " In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.

35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

1. Now it is Peter's turn to explain why he is present, among Gentiles.

2. Peter now has the vision figured out.

1. It was not about lunch - what to eat - clean or unclean animals.

2. It was about people. God has opened the door for ALL, Jew and Gentile.

3. With God there is no partiality. Those who believe and obey will be saved.

4. God accepts men, not on their race, nationality, color, or ethnic origins.

5. God accepts men who believe and obey His commands.

Verse 36

36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ-He is Lord of all-

1. God sent a message to Israel. God sent Jesus Christ to them.

2. But not to them alone. Jesus is Lord of All.

Verses 37-38

37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:

38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

1. Peter give a brief description about Jesus. Most commentaries agree that this is just a "Reader's Digest" of what was said.

2. In summary - Peter teaches about Jesus:

1. Proclaimed in Judea

2. It began in Galilee - Most of Jesus' teaching, miracles, parables and ministry was in the region of Galilee.

3. God gave Jesus great power

4. He went about doing good - What a summary of the ministry of Jesus! He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He delivered those oppressed by the devil.

5. God was with Him.

Verse 39

39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.

1. Peter now brings in himself. Peter did not just read about these things. He was a witness.

2. Read 2Pe_1:16-21 . These are not fictitious stories. They are not fables. Peter was there. He was an "eye witness" to these events.

3. Jesus was crucified.

4. He was hung on a "tree." The word here means a beam made of wood and used as the cross beam for a cross. It also was used of a fetter or shackle for hands or feet.

Verse 40

40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,

1. Here is the "heart" of the Gospel message. He died. He was buried. He was raised the third day.

2. Paul calls this the "gospel" in 1Co_15:1-4 .

3. Jesus was raised - not in secret or to just a few. He was open. He was seen by many different people. There are hundreds of witnesses to his resurrection.

Verse 41

41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

1. Jesus was not out in public to all men. However, God wanted to make sure there were enough who saw Him, talked with Him, ate with Him, drank with Him.

2. The resurrection is an established fact. Not a guess. A fact.

Verse 42

42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

1. Peter now brings in the "Great Commission" given before the ascension of Jesus.

2. Peter was commanded to preach the gospel to "every creature under heaven." ( Mar_16:15 ) He was told to make disciples "of all the nations." ( Mat_28:19 )

3. NOTE : The word "nations" in the plural is the same word translated "Gentiles." In the mind of the Jew, there were Jews and there was "every one else." Everyone not a Jew belonged to the nations of Gentiles. This word is translated in our NT "gentile" 93 times and "nations" 27 times.

Verse 43

43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. "

1. Now salvation is introduced. When Christ is preached, remission of sins is offered.

2. Those who believe and obey the commands of Jesus will receive the forgiveness of their sins.

Verse 44

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

1. We now come to a section of this chapter that requires careful attention. Some false doctrines have come from a misunderstanding of what happened here.

2. There are some who believe Cornelius was "saved" and "received the Holy Spirit" before baptism. Therefore, baptism is not important to salvation.

3. There are also many who believe that Cornelius received Holy Spirit baptism.

4. This matter will be discussed in greater detail in chapter 11 as Peter explains to his fellow Jews what transpired with Cornelius.

Verse 45

45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

1. It is clear that the Holy Spirit fell on those who were listening to Peter. The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles.

2. This out pouring was demonstrated by their ability to speak with tongues (languages they had not learned or studied) and were praising God.

Verses 46-47

46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered,

47 " Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? "

1. All who were with Peter from Joppa saw what was happening.

2. Peter turns to his fellow Jews and asks, "Can I forbid them to be baptized?"

3. They have received the Holy Spirit in the same manner that it came on Pentecost.

4. In effect, Peter is saying -

1. I did not do this. God did.

2. God sent the Holy Spirit to them. I did not touch them. I did not lay hands on them to impart some spiritual gift. God did.

3. If God choose to impart to them some gift, how can I refuse to baptize them?

Verse 48

48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

1. So - Peter commanded them to be baptized.

2. Yes, baptism is a command. Cornelius knew that the command was from God.

3. It is clear that they obeyed and were baptized. Act_11:1 shows that they accepted the message from Peter.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 10". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-10.html. 2021.
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