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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Acts 10

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 10

THE CHURCH'S DOOR OPENED FOR THE GENTILES—ACCESSION OF CONVERTS FROM HEATHENDOM

1. Cornelius's Vision; or, a Gentile Inquirer directed (Act ).

2. Peter's Trance; or, the Apostolic Agent instructed (Act ).

3. Cornelius's Messengers at Joppa; or, the Gentile Proselyte knocking for Admission (Act ).

4. Peter's Journey to Csarea; or, the Candidate's Examination (Act ).

5. Peter's Sermon to Cornelius; or, the Gospel preached to a Gentile (vers.34-43).

6. The Descent of the Spirit on Cornelius; or, a Gentile's Reception into the Church (Act ).


Verses 1-8

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . There was.—Omitted in best MSS. Centurion.— ἑκατοντάρχης (Act 27:1) = ἑκατοντάρχος (Act 21:32; compare Luk 7:2-6; Luk 23:47). Italian band, or cohort.—The legio Italica of Tacitus (Hist, i. 59, 64), raised by Nero (Dion. Cass, Leviticus 24). was not at this time in existence. "An inscription in Gruter informs us that volunteer Italian cohorts served in Syria—i.e., Italian or Roman cohorts who enlisted of their own accord instead of being obliged to perform military service" (Hackett). The number of soldiers in a cohort was usually six hundred, though the term was frequently used for a maniple, which was a third of a cohort (Holtzmann).

Act . Devout.— εὐσεβὴς. different from εὐλαβεῖς in Act 2:5, Act 8:2, describes "the special type of devotion that belonged to Gentile converts" (Plumptre), though there is no ground for believing that Cornelius was a proselyte (Olshausen, Neander, Wendt). Against this stand (Zöckler):

(1) the word ἀλλόφυλος of another nation, applied by Peter to Cornelius (Act );

(2) the characterisation of Cornelius and his family as belonging to the Gentiles (Act );

(3) the great excitement kindled by their reception of the Spirit, and their baptism by Peter (Act ; Act 11:1 ff).

Act . Evidently = openly, so that the vision was not purely subjective (Neander).

Act . For a memorial before God.—Alluding to "that part of the meat offering which is burnt, and whose savour was intended to remind God of the worshipper" (Ewald). It is doubtful, however, if this is not somewhat fanciful.

Act . Send men to Joppa, etc.—Zeller correctly observes (Die Apostelgeschichte, p. 181) that this minute acquaintance of the angel with Peter's name and residence with Simon the Tanner shows that Cornelius's vision was not a mere fancy, ein blosses Phantasiegebilde des Betenders, but an objective appearance.

Act . The best MSS. omit the words, he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do, as an insertion in accordance with Act 9:6 and Act 11:14.

Act . For unto Cornelius read unto him. Of thom that waited on him continually may point to similarity of disposition, as in Act 8:13 (Zckler, Holtzmann), as well as to menial service (De Wette, Overbeck).

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Cornelius's Vision; or, a Gentile Inquirer directed

I. Cornelius's person.—

1. His name. This "may indicate a connection with the great Cornelian gens which had been made famous by the Gracchi and by Sylla" (Plumptre). There is no reason to suppose he was the individual mentioned in Luk .

2. His profession. A soldier. "A centurion of the band called the Italian." The military profession not incompatible with Christianity. Christianity has won numerous converts from the army. Yet modern soldiers too seldom resemble Cornelius. The special cohort commanded by Cornelius may have derived its name from having been either composed of native Italian soldiers, or at least commanded by Italian officers. Another cohort, called the Augustan, is mentioned later (Act ). The ordinary cohorts stationed at Csarea, which consisted of levies from the provinces, were not always reliable (Jos., Ant., XIV. xv. 10; Wars, I. xvii. 1).

3. His rank. A centurion or captain of a hundred, the sixth part of a cohort and the sixtieth of a legion.

4. His residence. Csarea, situated on the Mediterranean Sea, was the headquarters of the Roman procurator, and the seat of a Roman garrison. Built by Herod the Great, it was inhabited mostly by Gentiles, though it contained a considerable sprinkling of Jews (see on Act ).

II. Cornelius's character.—A devout—i.e., pious man, a worshipper of Jehovah, not necessarily a proselyte. The word here used differs from that employed to describe serious and religious-minded Jews (see "Critical Remarks"). His piety exhibited itself in four ways.

1. In cherishing the fear of God in his own soul As the absence of such fear is characteristic of the wicked (Psa ; Rom 3:18), so does its presence mark the good or righteous man (Psa 2:11; Psa 103:11; Pro 1:7; 2Co 7:1; Eph 5:21). That Cornelius's fear, of God was sincere, was attested by his own domestics (Act 10:22).

2. In seeking the spiritual welfare of his household. In caring for the religious training of all committed by providence to his care, his family, his slaves, his soldiers; like Abraham (Gen ), Job (Act 1:5), and David (2Sa 4:12). A proper exemplar in this respect to Christian husbands, fathers, masters, and superiors (Eph 6:4; Eph 6:9). "It is the highest ornament of a house when both the master and the dependants acknowledge and fear God" (Starke).

3. In practising benevolence towards the poor. In distributing much alms among the people—i.e., of the Jews (see Act ; Act 26:17; Act 26:23; Act 28:17), though not necessarily to them exclusively. Kindness to the needy (Psa 112:9), a grace enjoined upon Christians (Luk 10:37; Joh 15:17; Rom 12:10; Gal 5:13; 1Jn 3:17), as well as a dictate of ordinary humanity. There may have been in Cornelius's philanthropy "something of the service of works," yet was it not on that account to be adjudged as hypocritical.

4. In habitually maintaining the exercise of prayer. This was another mark of indwelling grace. A religion that does not prompt men to pray is not a true religion (Rom ; Eph 6:18; Php 4:6; Col 4:2; 1Th 5:17, etc., etc.). Among other matters carried by Cornelius to the throne of grace, it may be assumed, was the new religion which had been brought by Philip to Cæsarea (Act 8:40), and concerning which he most likely desired to be guided. N.B.—All the centurions of scripture (Act 27:3; Mat 8:5; Luk 17:2) are presented in a favourable light.

III. Cornelius's vision.—

1. The time. "About the ninth hour of the day"—i.e. somewhere in the course of it (the force of ὡσεί). As this was 3 p.m., one of the hours for temple worship (Act ), it has been suggested that Cornelius may have been a proselyte, but this hardly harmonises with subsequent statements (Act 10:28; Act 10:34; Act 11:1; Act 11:8; Act 15:7; see "Critical Remarks on Act 10:2"). The most that can be inferred is that along with his family he had adopted some of the forms of Hebrew worship.

2. The manner. Evidently, or openly; meaning clearly and distinctly, not obscurely and faintly, neither in a dream (compare Mat ; Mat 2:13), nor in a trance (compare Act 10:10; Act 22:17), but with his bodily eyes, "thus asserting the objective truth of the appearance" (Alford).

3. The appearance. "An angel of God" (as in Act ; Act 27:23). Cornelius, it should be observed, did not call him an angel of God, but described him as "a man in bright apparel" (Act 10:30). Yet Cornelius must have recognised the apparition as an angel, since his messengers used this appellation (Act 10:22); which suggests that Cornelius was accustomed to read the Scriptures in his household (Eze 1:13-14; Dan 10:6). In any case Peter, who had witnessed the Ascension and seen the two men in white apparel (Act 1:10), had no difficulty in identifying the "man in bright apparel" as a celestial intelligence (Act 11:13); and this fact that Cornelius's visitor was from heaven presumably weighed with him and his fellow-apostles in deciding whether right had been done in admitting an uncircumcised Gentile into the Christian Church. That Cornelius saw the angel coming in, and heard him speak, accords with the Biblical representation of these heavenly messengers (Act 5:19; Act 12:8; Act 27:23).

4. The impression.

(1) Cornelius having fastened his eyes upon the angel, was afraid, no doubt, at his dazzling appearance. That men should be alarmed at unusual phenomena, and in particular at the presence of the supernatural (Job ), is an indirect witness to the fall.

(2) Having recovered from his fright he inquired the reason of the angel's coming—"What is it, Lord?"

IV. Cornelius's commendation.—His prayers and his alms, said the angel, reversing Luke's order, perhaps to show that God regarded chiefly the heart (Lechler), had been—

1. Noticed by God. The Supreme is an indifferent spectator of nothing, least of all of what is done by them that fear Him (Job ; Pro 15:3; Mal 3:16; Heb 4:13).

2. Remembered by God. Gone up "for a memorial before God;" before God not as a plea in justification but as requests to be kept in mind and answered (see "Critical Remarks"). God forgets nothing but pardoned sin. Never in any instance the supplication of a humble heart (Psa ; Isa 65:24; Mat 7:8.)

V. Cornelius's instruction.—Given by the angel.

1. Whom to send for. "One Simon, who is surnamed Peter." The angel did not attempt to convert Cornelius. Neither had he been sent for that purpose. His mission was to direct Cornelius to send for Peter.

2. Where to find him. "He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner in Joppa" (see Act ), "whose house is by the seaside." N.B.—God's knowledge of men extends to their names, surnames, residences, trades, etc.

3. What to do. "He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." (But see "Critical Remarks.")

VI. Cornelius's obedience.—

1. Prompt. Immediately the angel had departed he took steps to carry out the injunctions received. Faith commonly brooks no delay. "Straightway" a familiar word in Faith's vocabulary.

2. Exact. He did precisely as the angel had commanded. He sent men to Joppa. Faith never attempts to improve on Divine instructions. As the Lord commands so does faith (Gen ).

3. Prudent. The messengers were carefully selected—two of his household servants, who, no doubt, like himself, were God-fearing, and a pious soldier who usually waited on himself. Faith never abandons prudence, but looks well to her goings.

Learn.—

1. That piety may exist and flourish in any rank and station in life.

2. That God's salvation is nigh them that fear Him.

3. That "more servants wait on man than he'll take knowledge of."

4. That prayers and alms are twin advocates of great influence with God.

5. That God never leaves the meek without guidance. 6, That good men should study to have pious servants about them.

7. That pious households are often visited by angels.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . The Centurion of Cæsarea.—A Roman from head to foot, Cornelius had still no heart for the Roman gods; he was one of Japhet's children, who in the conquered tents of Shem had himself been conquered by the God of Shem. Certainly he was still a heathen; Jerusalem's desolate temple had not had for him attraction enough to cause him to become a proselyte; had he sought to find peace there, he would have returned from Jerusalem just as unsatisfied as the Treasurer from the East.—Besser, Bibelstunden: Apostelgeschichte, III. i. 514).

Cornelius the Centurion.—An example of—

I. Goodness in high station.—A Roman soldier of exalted rank, and yet obviously kind to and considerate of his dependants as well as of the poor; two marks of moral excellence not always found among Christians, though they should be (Rom ; Rom 12:16).

II. Piety outside the pale of the Church.—A devout man who prayed to God always and gave much alms to the poor, though by birth and education he was a Gentile. God has other sons besides those who are called by His name (Hos ; Rom 9:25-26), and Christ other sheep than those who belong to the recognised foid (Joh 10:16).

III. An earnest soul seeking after God.—Though pious, he was yet conscious of a want. Though no longer in heathen darkness, he realised he had not yet attained to perfect light. Though delivered in a measure from fear, he was not at rest. For more light, fuller knowledge, deeper peace, his prayers were doubtless directed.

IV. Meekness instructed by God.—"The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way" (Psa ). This promise was signally illustrated in the case of Cornelius.

V. Faith proving itself by obedience.—No sooner did the angel command than with military promptitude he obeyed. (Compare Luk .)

Act . Praying Always.

I. Enjoined in Scripture.—By Christ (Luk ) and by Paul (1Th 5:17).

II. Not impossible.—Except as a mere external performance or bodily service (Mat ). As a spiritual exercise (1Co 14:15) by no means unattainable, as the cases of the Twelve (Act 6:4), of Cornelius, and of Paul (Col 1:9) prove. The heart may be always in an attitude of prayer, though not every instant conscious of desire.

III. Eminently reasonable.—The man who prays always shows himself to be good—i.e., humble and wise.

IV. Never unprofitable.—The soul that communes much with God will not only receive much from God (Mat ), but will gradually become like God.

Act . Simon the Apostle and Simon the Tanner; or, Christian Preachers and Christian Tradesmen.

I. Both known to God.—Their names, callings, and residences.

II. Both serve God.—Their callings may be different; their Master is one.

III. Both advance Christ's kingdom. The preacher (the apostle) directly by publishing the gospel; the tradesman (the tanner) indirectly by lodging the preacher.

IV. Both honoured by God.—Their names stand together in the annals of the Church and on the page of inspiration.

Act . A Model House.

I. Religious.—Characterised by the fear of God and sanctified by prayer.

II. Harmonious.—Master and servants, doubtless also parents and children, living in concord and love.

III. Benevolent.—Mindful of the wants of others; distributing to the necessities of the saints.

IV. Blessed.—Visited by angels, God's ministers of salvation.


Verses 1-16

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . There was.—Omitted in best MSS. Centurion.— ἑκατοντάρχης (Act 27:1) = ἑκατοντάρχος (Act 21:32; compare Luk 7:2-6; Luk 23:47). Italian band, or cohort.—The legio Italica of Tacitus (Hist, i. 59, 64), raised by Nero (Dion. Cass, Leviticus 24). was not at this time in existence. "An inscription in Gruter informs us that volunteer Italian cohorts served in Syria—i.e., Italian or Roman cohorts who enlisted of their own accord instead of being obliged to perform military service" (Hackett). The number of soldiers in a cohort was usually six hundred, though the term was frequently used for a maniple, which was a third of a cohort (Holtzmann).

Act . Devout.— εὐσεβὴς. different from εὐλαβεῖς in Act 2:5, Act 8:2, describes "the special type of devotion that belonged to Gentile converts" (Plumptre), though there is no ground for believing that Cornelius was a proselyte (Olshausen, Neander, Wendt). Against this stand (Zöckler):

(1) the word ἀλλόφυλος of another nation, applied by Peter to Cornelius (Act );

(2) the characterisation of Cornelius and his family as belonging to the Gentiles (Act );

(3) the great excitement kindled by their reception of the Spirit, and their baptism by Peter (Act ; Act 11:1 ff).

Act . Evidently = openly, so that the vision was not purely subjective (Neander).

Act . For a memorial before God.—Alluding to "that part of the meat offering which is burnt, and whose savour was intended to remind God of the worshipper" (Ewald). It is doubtful, however, if this is not somewhat fanciful.

Act . Send men to Joppa, etc.—Zeller correctly observes (Die Apostelgeschichte, p. 181) that this minute acquaintance of the angel with Peter's name and residence with Simon the Tanner shows that Cornelius's vision was not a mere fancy, ein blosses Phantasiegebilde des Betenders, but an objective appearance.

Act . The best MSS. omit the words, he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do, as an insertion in accordance with Act 9:6 and Act 11:14.

Act . For unto Cornelius read unto him. Of thom that waited on him continually may point to similarity of disposition, as in Act 8:13 (Zckler, Holtzmann), as well as to menial service (De Wette, Overbeck).

Act . The house-top was frequently employed for devotion. The roof, almost flat, only sloping enough to let the rain run off, was surrounded by a balustrade as directed by the law (Deu 22:8), and formed thus a terrace which served as a place of retirement (Stapfer's Palestine in the Time of Christ, p. 175).

Act . Would have eaten should be desired to eat, felt the demands of appetite consequent upon long fasting.

Act . And saw should be and seeth. Omit unto him after descending. As it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners and let down to the earth, according to the R.V. should be as it were a great sheet let down by four corners upon the earth— δεδεμένον καὶ being wanting in the best MSS. In the former case the sheet was tied at its four corners with ropes which let it down towards the earth; in the other it was let down by its four corners or ends (to which, however, ropes may have been attached, though this is not stated). The sense is not materially different. Alford, Hackett, Lechler, Plumptre, and others, prefer the first reading; Lachmann, Zöckler, Holtzmann, with Westcott and Hort, whom the R.V. here follows, decide for the second.

Act . Should read all manner of, or simply all the four footed beasts (omitting and wild beasts, a clause introduced from Act 11:6) and creeping things of the earth, with the sanction of the best texts (Tischendorf, Lachmann, Meyer, Westcott and Hort).

Act . Common or should be common and unclean.—"Common" is the opposite of "holy," hence unholy.

Act . Substitute straightway, εὐθὺς, for again, πάλιν. Thrice.—For the sake of emphasis. (Compare Dan 6:10; Dan 6:13; 2Co 12:8.)

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Peter's Trance; or, the Apostolic Agent prepared

I. The circumstances.—

1. Where?

(1) In Joppa (see Act ). How Peter came to be in that seaside city has already been related.

(2) In the house of Simon the tanner (Act ). A good man is near to heaven anywhere and everywhere.

(3) On the flat roof of Simon's mansion, whither he had retired for devotion. Since Christ came every place is holy ground. Oriental houses were commonly constructed like Simon's (Mar ).

2. When?

(1) On the morrow after Cornelius's vision, after the departure of his messengers and as they were approaching the city.

(2) About the sixth hour—i.e., about noon. This also was a favourite hour for prayer with devout Jews (Psa ).

(3) While Simon's domestics were making ready (Act )—i.e., while they were preparing the midday meal, which in all probability would consist of "fish, locusts baked in flour or honey, onions, and (perhaps) butcher's meat" (Stapfer's Palestine in the Time of Christ, p. 189).

3. How engaged? In prayer, for which roofs of houses were often used (Mat ; Mat 24:17; Luk 17:31), as being both secluded and safe, in consequence of ordinarily having a balustrade of three or four feet high running round them (Deu 22:8). It was not surprising that Peter should have a heavenly vision while engaged in prayer (see "Hints on Act 10:11"). Glimpses within the veil are most likely to be enjoyed by them who live nearest it.

4. In what condition? "Hungry," very (Hackett), and desirous of eating. He had probably partaken of no food since the morning, more especially if the day was one of those (the second and fifth of the week, Monday and Thursday) which were habitually observed as fasts by pious Jews (Stapfer's Palestine in the Time of Christ, p. 381). Although Jews often fasted from strange motives, as, e.g., "to secure pleasant dreams, to find the explanation of a dream, or to avert some evil omen" (Stapfer, p. 381), it cannot be supposed that either Cornelius (Act , A.V.), or Peter was similarly actuated. By them, doubtless, abstinence from food, either wholly or in part, was regarded as a valuable, if not necessary, preparation for high spiritual exercises (Psa 35:13; Psa 69:10; Dan 9:3; 1Co 7:5; Act 14:23).

II. The occurrences.—

1. The trance. "He fell into a trance; or there came upon him an ecstasy or rapture (= being in the Spirit, Rev ), by which, as it were, he was carried out of himself and put into a mental state in which he could discern objects beyond the apprehension of man's natural powers (Hackett). Compare Act 11:5, Act 22:17; 2Co 13:3; perhaps also Num 24:4 and Eze 8:3.

2. The sights.

(1) Heaven opened. So it happened to Christ on the occasion of His baptism (Luk ); to the beloved disciple in Patmos (Rev 4:1; Rev 19:11); and to Stephen in the council chamber (Act 7:56). Compare also in the Old Testament the oases of Jacob (Gen 28:17), Isaiah (Isa 6:1), Ezekiel (Eze 1:1), and Daniel (Dan 4:13).

(2) A great sheet descending out of it, let down by the four corners upon the earth—i.e., either the sheet, which in form resembled a vessel or receptacle, was fastened to the four corners east, west, south, and north of heaven (Meyer), or the ends of the sheet were fastened to and upheld by ropes let down from heaven (see "Critical Remarks").

(3) The cavity in the sheet filled with "all manner of four-footed beasts and creeping things of the earth and fowls of the heaven."

(4) The sheet swaying and moving towards Peter. The words "unto him," though omitted by the best MSS. (see "Critical Remarks"), probably express what Peter beheld (compare Act ).

(5) The drawing up of the sheet into heaven after a threefold repetition of the scene.

(6) Whether Peter saw any personal form or figure is not stated, but seems almost implied in what follows.

3. The sounds.

(1) Rise, Peter. The apostle may at this moment have been kneeling in prayer, or most likely prostrate in awe and wonder before the vision (compare Rev ). The mysterious voice, recognised by Peter as that of a heavenly being (compare Act 10:4), addressed him by name. Compare the cases of Moses (Exo 3:4); Samuel (1Sa 3:10); Saul (Act 9:4); and Cornelius (Act 10:3).

(2) Kill and eat. Any of the creatures, without regard to the distinction of clean or unclean, was what the voice intended. That Peter understood this his answer showed: "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and unclean," or, according to Peter's own version, "Nothing common or unclean hath ever entered into my mouth" (Act ). Peter's scrupulous conscientiousness as a Jew caused the commandment to come upon him with a shock of surprise. In the times of the Maccabees (1Ma 6:18; Act 7:1) the Jews suffered death rather than submit to the seeming indignity here proposed. Peter's refusal accorded with his well-known character for impulsiveness (compare Joh 13:8).

3. "What God hath cleansed call, or make, not thou common." Like the former voice this came from heaven, and implied that all meats were originally alike clean, that the distinction of clean and unclean had been of God's making, that henceforth God had abolished all such distinctions, and that the perpetuation or institution of such distinctions was an express violation of the Divine ordinance. Compare Christ's teaching on defilement (Mar ).

III. The teachings.—These were all such as concerned the Church, and in particular—

1. Its universal character. It was henceforth to embrace all nationalities, not Jews only, but also Gentiles. Ceremonial distinctions were no more to operate as dividing lines between the peoples of the earth. The Church's gates were to stand open continually for the admission of all comers. All souls were in future to be equally precious in God's sight (Rom ; Rom 2:22; Rom 2:29; Rom 3:1; Gal 3:28; Eph 2:14-22).

2. Its absolute permanence. Not even an apostle—and far less a Church council, and least of all a private member—should be at liberty to change its constitution, restrict its freedom, or impose conditions which would deny entrance therein to a heathen. "What God hath cleansed make not thou common." "Three times had the Lord formerly commanded Peter to feed His sheep and lambs: three times He here admonishes Peter to make the door into the sheepfold no narrower than God will have it" (Besser). The Church of Christ in all ages has suffered from the illegal intrusion of man's power into her sacred domain.

3. Its sole sovereign. God or His Son Jesus Christ, to whom alone pertains the right of making laws for His kingdom—of admitting to or excluding from the fellowship of His Church (Eph ).

Lessons.—

1. The reality of a supersensible world.

2. The possibility of Revelation 3. The world-wide destiny of the Church. 4. The dignity of human nature.

5. The headship of Christ within and over His own Church.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . Heaven opened.

I. Heaven may open to any man.—To a Jacob (Gen ), an Ezekiel (Eze 1:1), a Stephen (Act 7:56), a Paul (Act 9:3), as well as to a Peter—and in any place, on a hillside, a river bank, a council chamber, a public high way, or a housetop.

II. Heaven mostly opens to them who have prepared themselves for it—By prayer, meditation, or other suitable exercise. God is mostly found of them who seek Him.

III. Heaven seldom opens without imparting new revelations—Either of truth or duty. God has promised to instruct and guide those who wait upon Him in humility and faith.

IV. Heaven never opens to the spiritually blind.—"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." The eye must be opened before it can discern visions. "He that is of the truth heareth Him who is the truth."

Act . No Difference.

I. The one broad level of humanity, in the sight of God, for blessing.—There are various levels in other respects, various ranks and differences; national, personal, intellectual, educational; but here, in connection with spiritual blessing,—acceptance, favour, and the like, all these disappear.

II. The rebuke here given to national pride.—The Jew despised the Samaritan, and the Samaritan the Jew, both despising the Gentile. There was the pride of birth, the pride of descent, the pride of race. Here was God's rebuke to all such pride.

III. The rebuke given to spiritual pride.—This spiritual reward is twofold—the personal and the ecclesiastical.

IV. The open door for all.—There is no restriction now. God's free love goes out unconditionally—without restriction or qualification—to the lost.—H. Bonar, D.D.

Act . The Number Three in the New Testament.—That some special significance, most likely that of solemn emphasis, was designed by the threefold repetition of an event becomes apparent from a study of the instances in which this occurs.

I. In the history of Christ.—

1. The three temptations in the wilderness (Mat ).

2. The three raisings of the dead (Mat ; Luk 7:14-16; Joh 11:43-44).

3. The three prayers in Gethsemane (Mat ).

II. In the history of Peter.—

1. The three denials of Christ (Mat ).

2. The three questions of the Saviour (Joh ).

3. The three voices in the vision.

III. In the history of Paul.—

1. The three requests about the thorn (2Co ).

2. The three scourgings (2Co ).

3. The three shipwrecks (2Co ).

Act . Peter's Vision on the Housetop; a Mirror for the Heathen Mission. To show—

I. Its heavenly origin.—Appointed by God.

II. Its immense field.—The whole world, Jew and Gentile.

III. Its severe work.—To make all nations obedient to the faith.

IV. Its doubts and difficulties.—The first from within, in the prejudices, fears, and unbelief of Christ's people; the second in the hardness and hostility of the natural heart.

V. Its Divine promise.—Of continual assistance and ultimate success.—Adapted from Gerok in Lange.

Lessons from Peter's Vision.—In this vision we see the beginning of a great era—the first important breach in the iron partition wall that divided the human race into two hostile ranks. We have here the annexation of the whole Gentile world, without shedding a single drop of blood or wasting a single pennyweight of gunpowder. Peter saw the vision when engaged in prayer on the housetop of Simon the tanner, at Joppa. Prayer is a great revelation, and the stronger the prayer the grander the vision. He who would see the heavens opened must first open the heavens with the key of prayer. Ecstasies and visions are rewards of importunate prayer. Peter prayed from the housetop of a tanner; was there anything strange in that? Undoubtedly. Tanners were looked down upon as the pariahs, the outcasts of Jewish society. For Peter, the orthodox Hebrew, to lodge with a tanner, an outlaw, was the first step out of his miserable narrowness; and we are not surprised to find the tanner's lodger entering the Gentile centurion's house a little later. How striking these coincidences of history! There is as much Divine design in the movements of the centuries as in the formation of the rocks or the clustering of the stars. Cornelius prayed in Cæsarea, and Peter prayed in Joppa. How exquisite these dovetails, these morticings of history, and how marvellously well timed the correspondence! Surely the world is not governed by a fortuitous concourse of blind atoms, but by intelligence and unity of design. The first lesson of this vision of the great sheet is:—

I. The Divine origin of the Christian gospel.—Peter "saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth." The gospel did not spring up from the ground; it came down from the upper skies, and it bears innumerable evidences of its Divine origin. If God be not its parent, who is? The angels could not have invented it, for in inventing a false system and labelling it with the Divine name they would have become demons instantly. Demons could not have invented this system, whose main purpose is to destroy the works of the devil. The science of comparative religion proves that Christianity is as much loftier than all other systems as the heavens are loftier than the earth. A religion well adapted for the whole race must have the following elements:

1. An adequate revelation of God.

2. A provision of mercy for the guilty which satisfies the conscience.

3. Power given to lead a new life of virtue and holiness.

4. An ideal pattern of life which men may imitate.

5. A refuge for man in sorrow and bereavement.

6. Such a revelation of the future life as shall help man to prepare for his duties and destinies. All these important elements are in the Christian gospel, and are not in any other system under heaven. Does not this one fact establish its unquestionable preeminence?

II. The Divine origin of the human race.—The sheet, with its miscellaneous contents, came down from the heavens, and this suggests the Divine origin of all men. The contents of the sheet, as well as the sheet itself, came down from above. The gospel that gave the world a new conception of God has also given it a better conception of man. It teaches us to say "Our Father," that we may the better be able to say "My brother." In this respect for man as man the gospel stands alone among the great religious systems of the world. Look at man through the eyes of Jesus, and if the man be only a London dock labourer or a Dorset farm labourer, you will be able to see something of the Divine in him. Positivism boasts of its love for the race, and talks of "the parliament of man, the federation of the world." Where has Positivism found its fundamental doctrines? I charge it with being a plagiarist. The doctrines of the brotherhood of man and the oneness of the race are stolen from Christ.

III. The universality of the gospel.—Man is the heaven-sent ambassador to man. Cornelius sent for Peter. Why not send an angel to preach to him? The angel would have been the very first to object. Indeed, it was the angel who suggested Peter's name. Methinks the angels know a great deal about us. The angels seek for a man to preach to men. A preacher is never so effective as when he speaks to us in the first person. Cornelius must have a man named Peter to preach the sermon. Why not send troops of angels into the heart of Africa, or to the isles of Polynesia to evangelise those blacks? Thank God He has dignified man by making of him a minister to men. He sent a Divine Man to reveal the gospel, and he commissions man to preach it. When Cornelius fell down at Peter's feet and worshipped him, the apostle instantly cried out, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." Man must neither be worshipped on the one hand nor maligned on the other.—J. Ossian Davies.


Verses 17-23

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . ἐν ἑαυτῷ διηπόρει, doubted in himself, or mas much perplexed in himself (as in Act 2:12, Act 10:24), seems to intimate that Peter's trance was over and Peter himself returned to his ordinary consciousness.

Act . The Spirit said unto him.—Neander thinks that Peter's attention was first arrested by the sound of the men's voices in the court below, and that the Spirit only explained to him the connection between their visit and his meditations. This, however, is incorrect. The numeral three is by some codices omitted, while others have two; and instead of the present seek the participle seeking. Westcott and Hort read men seeking; Alford, Hackett, and Zöckler men seek.

Act . Which were sent unto him from Cornelius should be omitted on the authority of the best MSS.

Act . Warned from God, one word ἐχρηματίσθη, signifies was divinely instructed. (Compare Mat 2:12; Mat 2:22.)

Act . For Peter went away, the best authorities read, he arose and went away. The brethren from Joppa were six in number (Act 11:12), the whole company ten.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Cornelius's Messengers at Joppa; or, the Gentile knocking for Admission

I. The arrival of the messengers at Joppa.—

1. The time of their arrival. "While Peter doubted in himself what the vision he had seen should mean." A reminder that inspired men often saw and heard, thought and spoke, more than they could immediately understand. As Joppa was thirty Roman, or twenty-seven and a half English miles, from Csarea, Cornelius's servants would not require to leave their master's house till the morning after the vision (Act ) in order to reach Simon's dwelling about, or shortly after, noon; although it is quite probable that they started the night before the day of their arrival.

2. Their conduct on arrival. Like good servants, they carried out their master's instructions with exactness. Having inquired for Simon's house and been directed thither, they stood before the gate, which opened directly into the house or court, where, having called on some one to come out, they respectfully asked if Simon, surnamed Peter, lodged within. How many blunders might he avoided were all messengers equally faithful and minute!

II. The direction of Peter by the Spirit.—

1. The announcement. "Behold (three), men seek thee!" The numeral, omitted by the best codices, was probably inserted from Act or Act 11:11. If, however, it formed part of the communication inwardly whispered to Peter, it sufficiently proved that communication to be supernatural. The notion that Peter came to know about the presence of the men by hearing their footsteps and voices in the court below (Neander) is contemptuously rejected by critics of the Baur and Zeller school.

2. The commandment. "Arise and get thee down, and go with them nothing doubting"—i.e., making no scruples on the ground that they are heathen. This again confirms the supernatural character of the prompting of which Peter was conscious, since, though from the housetop, he might have heard the men calling for him, it is little likely he could either have known them to be three, or guessed what they wanted.

3. The incitement. "For I have sent them." Peter having recognised the voice that spake within him to be Christ's or the Spirit's, and having learnt that Christ had sent the messengers, immediately proceeded to grant them an interview.

III. The conversation of Peter with the messengers.—

1. Peter's introduction of himself and inquiry at the messengers. "Behold, I am he whom ye seek" (compare Joh )—an example of frank courtesy; "What is the cause wherefore ye are come?"—a pattern of direct speech (Mat 5:37).

2. The reply of the messengers concerning their master. Announcing

(1) his name—Cornelius;

(2) his rank—a centurion;

(3) his character—a righteous man, a person of rectitude ( δίκαιος), one that feareth God ( φοβούμενος τόν θεόν), and of good report, or well reported of by all the nation of the Jews (compare on Act ), like Ananias (Act 22:12) and Demetrius (3Jn 1:12). That man must be good who is well reported of by his own domestics or servants.

(4) His vision—"warned of God," or divinely instructed (compare Mat ), "by a holy angel"—i.e., through his agency (Peter was instructed by the Spirit), "to send for thee into his house, and to hear words from thee." With this the last vestige of doubt disappeared from Peter's mind. "He called them in and lodged them," as Laban did the messengers of Abraham (Gen 24:31).

IV. The journey of Peter to Cæsarea.—

1. After providing the messengers with hospitable entertainment. "He called them in and lodged them" over night. Hospitality to strangers a duty practised in Old Testament times (Gen ; Gen 19:1; Gen 24:31; Exo 2:20), and enjoined upon Christians (Rom 12:13; 1Ti 3:2; 1Ti 5:10; Heb 13:2).

2. With cheerful alacrity. "On the morrow he arose and went with them," in obedience to God's command, and in accordance with their invitation.

3. Accompanied by certain brethren from Joppa. Six in number (Act ), they may have escorted the Apostle as his personal friends, or out of a natural desire to see the issue of so remarkable an occurrence.

Learn.—

1. The duty of looking for and following the Spirit's guidance.

2. The beauty of Christian courtesy.

3. The excellence of household piety.

4. The value of fidelity in service.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . The Embassy from Cœsarea to Joppa.—A testimony to—

I. The poverty of heathenism, which has nothing that can satisfy the soul.

II. The power of the gospel, which can draw towards itself men of all ranks and characters.

III. The love of God, who will have all men to be saved.

Act . The Offices of the Spirit towards Christ's Servants.

I. To inform their minds.—"Behold three men seek thee!"

II. To direct their steps.—"Arise and go with them!"

III. To find them work.—"I have sent them!"

Act . Cornelius's Certificates of Character were three.

I. That of the angel, which was practically that of God (Act ).—Compare the cases of Daniel (Dan 10:11) and Nathanael (Joh 1:47). Who would not wish to be possessed of such a testimonial to the genuineness of one's piety? The nearest approach to this is the witness of the Spirit through the word (Rom 8:16).

II. That of his messengers, who were members of his own household (Act ). He whose piety can stand the inspection of those whose eyes are constantly upon him is beyond all question a sincere disciple. Many who are supposed to be saints abroad are known to be the opposite at home.

III. That of the nation of the Jews, who might almost be considered his enemies. When a man's foes are compelled to acknowledge his goodness, he must have reached a high point of excellence. Compare the case of the centurion of Capernaum (Luk ) Even the testimony of one's neighbours is no small guarantee of substantial worth. Compare the cases of Timothy (Act 16:2) and of Demetrius (3Jn 1:12).


Verses 24-33

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . And worshipped.—Not Peter (Adoravit: non addidit Lucas "eum," Bengel), but God in him, or who sent him. (Compare Gal 4:14.)

Act . Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house.—This seems to say that Cornelius had four days previous to Peter's arrival been fasting until a certain hour, probably the sixth, and that thereafter, when engaged in prayer about the ninth hour, he beheld a vision (Alford, Spence, Zöckler, Holtzmann). The best authorities, however, omit the clausule I was fasting—but wrongly, as many think (Alford, Meyer, Wendt, Zöckler)—and translate "Four days ago until this hour I was at the ninth hour praying," or literally, from the fourth day until this hour, etc., which cannot mean that Cornelius had been praying four days consecutively up to the moment in question, the ninth hour (Neander, De Wette), but must be understood as signifying that on the fourth day preceding he had commenced his devotions (or his fasting), and had continued on that day till the ninth hour.

Act . Is should be was heard, εἰσηκούσθη, and are should be were had in remembrance, ἐμνήσθησαν. So also in Act 10:4 the present tenses should be past.

Act . Who when he Cometh shall apeak onto thee, as an insertion similar to that in Act 10:6, is wanting in the best MSS.

Act . Substitute of the Lord—i.e., Christ—for of God.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Peter's Arrival at Cœsarea; or, the Gentile Candidate's Examination

I. Peter's reception by Cornelius.—

1. With eager expectancy. Having entertained no doubt as to the success of his embassy—a remarkable instance of faith—Cornelius had collected his kinsmen and near friends to await the apostle's arrival. Yet so impatient did he feel to look upon the messenger of heaven that he hastened out to meet Peter at the door, as Laban did with Eliezer (Gen ).

2. With demonstrations of religious homage. How much Cornelius designed to express by prostrating himself, Oriental fashion, at Peter's feet (compare 1Sa ; 2Ki 4:37; Est 8:3; Mar 5:22; Mat 28:9) cannot be ascertained. Luke does not say that Cornelius worshipped Peter. Yet Peter obviously regarded this action as at least approaching such reverence as was due to God alone, and rejected it accordingly (Act 10:26), as Paul afterwards refused similar worship from the Lystrans (Act 14:15), and as the angel put away from him that of John (Rev 19:10). Of course Peter may have attributed more to Cornelius's action than it was meant to convey, and some (Hackett, Stier) prefer to hold this rather than believe that Cornelius, a worshipper of Jehovah, should have been guilty of rendering Divine homage to a man. That he was still under the dominion of his old superstitious ideas about heroes who had been deified, and saw in Peter a superhuman being (Zckler), is scarcely credible after the plain intimation by the angel that Peter was a man.

II. Peter's explanation to Cornelius.—Addressed to the assembled company, but intended principally for the centurion.

1. The old principle—that intercourse with Gentiles was regarded by the Jew as unlawful (Act )—was of long standing and widely known. Though professedly grounded on Mosaic law, it had no such foundation in fact. The practice rested on traditional Pharisaism, according to which a Jew must have no relations with a foreigner, and must not enter his house (Joh 18:28). "He was not allowed to sit down at the table of a Gentile; the very sight of the Gentile world was repulsive to a Jew" (Stapfer, Palestine in the Time of Christ, p. 128). Compare Josephus (contra Apion, Act 2:28). "Those foreigners who come to us without submitting to our laws Moses permitted not to have any intimate connections with us." Juvenal (Satires, xiv. 103) says of the Jews it was their custom, non monstrare vias eadem nisi sacra colenti, not to show the way except to those observing the same sacred rites; while Tacitus (Hist., Act 10:8) affirms that they cherished against all a hostile hatred, and kept themselves apart in their feasts and couches: adversus omnes hostile odium, separati epulis discreti cubilibus.

2. The new light—that to man should be called common or unclean—was to a Jew a marvellous discovery, which probably nothing but a Divine revelation would have enabled him to accept. Hence Peter distinctly traced his acquaintance with it to God's showing, though he did not at the time mention the way in which such showing had taken place.

3. The explicit declaration that he had come to Cæsarea immediately on being sent for, "without gainsaying," not because he had forgotten or resolved to ignore, or through his own charity or wisdom had overstepped the bounds of traditional exclusiveness, but solely in consequence of that new light which had been imparted to him—in other words, that his appearance before Cornelius was at once an expression of his faith in God and of his obedience to the heavenly vision (compare Act ).

4. The direct question—for what intent had he been sent for? Peter knew he had been sent for in accordance with instructions given by Jehovah to Cornelius (Act ; Act 10:22); but as yet Cornelius had offered no explanation of his mission.

III. Peter's answer from Cornelius.—In this Cornelius rehearsed the story of how he had been led to send for Peter, mentioning—

1. The time when his vision had appeared to him. "Four days ago," about "this hour," which was probably about the ninth (Act ). The fasting had continued till noon, when during his subsequent devotions the vision burst upon his view, "as it were about the ninth hour." (See "Critical Remarks.")

2. The condition of his body and mind when the vision came. "Fasting" and "praying." Even should "fasting" be omitted from the text (see "Critical Remarks"), it was probably included in Cornelius's devotions. Fasting and prayer go well together, bodily abstinence being a suitable preparation for high spiritual exercises (compare Act ). Fasting was frequently conjoined with praying by the apostolic Church on occasions of special solemnity and high responsibility (Act 13:2-3, Act 14:23).

3. The form which appeared in his vision. A man, standing before him in bright apparel. A description shown by its liveliness and minuteness to be that of an eyewitness. Compare with this Luke's account (Act ), which omits the "Behold!" and says nothing about the angel "standing before" Cornelius.

4. The address which the man in bright apparel made to him.

(1) Calling him by name, Cornelius! the heavenly visitor;

(2) assured him that his prayer had been heard and his alms remembered (see on Act ); and

(3) directed him to send to Joppa for Simon Peter; at the same time

(4) mentioning the house in which Peter lodged (see on Act ).

5. The action which he (Cornelius) had then taken. He had sent for the apostle forthwith, as the business to be done was too important for delay (Ecc ).

6. The gratification with which he welcomed the apostle's arrival. "Thou hast well done that thou art come" (compare 3Jn ). Peter's arrival gave an indirect guarantee that he should learn more about the mind of God with reference to his salvation (Act 10:32; Act 11:14).

7. The readiness of himself and all present to hear what he (Peter) had to impart. "Now then we are all here present," etc. (Act .)

Learn.—That God's messengers—

1. Should be prepared for by private and (where practicable) social prayer.

2. Should never intercept for themselves any of the glory that belongs to God.

3. May sometimes learn profitable teaching from those to whom they are sent.

4. Should always be respectfully heard by those to whom they are sent.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . Mistaken Worship.

I. Is that which is offered.—

1. To the wrong object. The creature instead of the creator, the servant rather than the master, the messenger in place of the sender.

2. With wrong feelings. Of humility and reverence, which would have been proper and in place had they been directed to the right object, but, being directed to the wrong object, were improper and out of place.

3. In ignorance, though pardonable. Cornelius having been as yet only imperfectly enlightened, may not have understood that religious homage belonged to God alone.

II. Should be rejected.—

1. Promptly. Peter trifled not a moment with what he saw, but declined the proferred worship. Had he hesitated, or for an instant seemed to appropriate to himself what belonged to God, he would have heen guilty of lse-majest against the God of heaven whose creature, servant, and messenger he was.

2. Kindly. With no rebuke upon his lips he simply bids the prostrate worshipper arise, at the same time assisting him to regain an upright position.

3. Reasonably. Peter explained what was wrong in Cornelius's action and what was right in his own by adding, "I myself also am a man!"

Act . "I myself also am a man."

I. A man and therefore a creature.—Hence not a proper object to receive religious homage, which belongs to God alone (Exo ; Isa 42:8; Rom 1:25).

II. A man and therefore a sinner.—Hence as much needing forgiveness and salvation as the most benighted and degraded of Adam's race (Rom ; Rom 10:12).

III. A man and therefore a brother.—Hence such distinctions as divide me from my fellows, putting me above them or them above me in an essentially superior class, are against nature as well as grace (Pro ; Mal 2:10; Act 17:26; Act 17:29).

IV. A man and therefore a son of God.—Having been made in God's image (Gen ; Act 17:28). Hence in all I do I should remember my exalted origin (Col 1:10), and do nothing to disgrace my rank.

V. A man and therefore a possible heir of glory.—Having been redeemed by Jesus Christ. Hence in all things I should comport myself as one with a high destiny (Eph ).

Act . A Minister and his Congregation. (Suitable for entering on a charge.)

I. No minister should undertake the care of a congregation without being called.—

1. Invited by the people. Peter came not before he had been sent for. It is against all Scripture that preachers should thrust themselves upon unwilling people. Under such conditions the most talented ministry can only prove a failure.

2. Sent by God. It is doubtful if Cornelius's invitation would have sufficed to carry Peter to Csarea had he not already been directed by the Spirit to accompany the messengers (Act ). So the true minister will always be careful not to run without being sent, will strive to ascertain whether the outward call of the people concurs with the inward prompting of the Spirit.

II. To such a combined call every minister should respond.—

1. Immediately. As Peter did, without unnecessary delay, considering that the king's business requires haste, and that especially in matters of the soul delays are dangerous. The cry "Come over and help us" (Act ) should always be regarded as urgent.

2. Cheerfully. Again like Peter, without offering any objections or expressing any reluctance, or putting any obstacles in the way. The minister who enters on his sacred calling with a grudge or without enthusiasm cannot possibly succeed, and had better change his mind or abandon his calling.

III. The true business of a minister is not to push his own but his people's interests.—It goes without saying that these interests must be spiritual. Otherwise the congregation is not a Church of Christ. Hence, every minister should have it clearly understood that those are the interests at which he is to aim—the advancement, not of his hearers' intellectual culture, or of their social status, or of their material enrichment, or of their amusement, but of their spiritual and religious welfare.

IV. When minister and congregation conjointly recognise and work for this the true ideal of a Christian pastorate is reached.—But the two must be of one mind. A spiritually minded pastor and an unspiritual congregation, or vice versâ, cannot long remain together. One or other must attain superiority. If victory inclines to the spiritual element then prosperity of the highest kind ensues; if to the unspiritual, then decay of the worst sort follows.

Act . A Fortunate Journey. "Thou hast well done that thou art come." That Peter undertook that journey to Cæsarea was—

I. Well for Peter.—

1. It proved the reality of his own faith, which would certainly have been open to suspicion had he not gone to Csarea as directed.

2. It brought him into contact with a pious Gentile, of the existence of which he might otherwise have remained in doubt.

3. It helped him to understand the significance of the vision he had received, which, though explained by the heavenly voice (Act ), was not all at once apprehended by the Apostle (Act 10:17), and was none the worse of the commentary furnished by his interview with Cornelius.

4. It secured for him a special mark of honour in being permitted to open the door to the Gentiles, which, but for this journey, he might have missed.

II. Well for Cornelius.—

1. It assured him of the truth of his own vision, of which he might in course of time have become sceptical had Peter not appeared upon the scene.

2. It afforded him an opportunity of hearing the gospel preached by an apostle, though probably before this he had listened to it from the lips of Philip (Act ).

3. It led to the salvation of himself and his house, seeing that they all believed and were endowed with the Holy Ghost (Act ).

4. It ended in their formal reception into the Church, through their being baptised in the name of Jesus Christ (Act ).

III. Well for the Church.—Which was thereby—

1. Prevented from sinking back into a narrow-minded and exclusive Jewish sect, whereas it was intended to be a large and liberal-hearted community, knowing no distinctions of age, sex, culture, or nationality, but embracing mankind in all ages and countries, ranks and conditions of society.

2. Enabled to overcome a danger which threatened the realisation of this idea, as was soon shown by the part played by the Cornelius incident in the apostolic council (Act ). Had Peter not been able to speak as he did in that assembly, the issue of the conference might have been different.

3. Enlightened as to its true character as a world-embracing institution, and so in a manner fitted for the more successful prosecution of its work.

IV. Well for the world.—Which

1. Would hardly have been attracted—at least in great numbers—to Christianity, had it been presented to them as a Jewish sect. And

2. Would have missed the hopes and consolations which the gospel brings. The world has much reason to thank God for Peter's journey to Csarea.

The Picture of a Model (Christian) Congregation.

I. All present.—None absent from the stated place of assembly.

II. All reverent.—Realising they stand in God's sight—which they do in a special manner when they enter God's house.

III. All attentive.—Ready to hear what may be said by the preacher, who, if a true minister, is God's servant and Christ's ambassador.

IV. All obedient.—Prepared submissively to accept whatever God might command through His servant.

V. All believing.—None professing obedience merely in word or form, but all obeying in reality, receiving the truth into honest hearts and minds.

VI. All saved.—All baptised with the Holy Ghost, all sealed with the Spirit.

Act . Cornelius and Peter. Cornelius appears here in various aspects.

I. Waiting for Peter, as God's ambassador.

II. Reverencing Peter, as God's representative.

III. Talking to Peter, explaining his desires.

IV. Listening to Peter, as God's mouthpiece.


Verses 34-48

CRITICAL REMARKS

Act . The word for respecter of persons, προσωπολήπτης, is found only here in the N.T., though προσωποληψία occurs in Rom 2:11.

Act . Accepted with Him.—Better, acceptable to him. Though applied to Cornelius prior to his hearing the gospel, this did not imply that before and without a believing reception of that gospel Cornelius was in an absolute sense justified, forgiven, and accepted (see Act 10:43). What is here taught is not indifferentismus religionum, but indifferentia nationum (Bengel).

Act . The construction of the next three verses is uncertain. Either

(1) the word τὸν λόγον (Act ) should be connected with "I perceive," καταλαμβάνομαι (Act 10:34) and Act 10:46 taken as in apposition to Act 10:34-35 (De Wette, Ebrard, Lange, Alford); or

(2) τὸν λόγον should be regarded as in apposition to δικαιοσύνην (Ewald, Buttmann, Nösgen, Zöckler); or

(3), and perhaps the best way (Kuinoel, Meyer, Wendt, Winer, Overbeck, Lechler, Holtzmann, and others), the word (Act ) should be construed with ye know (Act 10:37), the word being described by the three clauses standing in apposition—(a) which God (or He) sent unto the children of Israel, etc. (Act 10:36); (b) that word (or, that saying) which was published, or (as in Luk 2:15) that affair which took place (Act 10:37); and (c) (the subject of that saying, also in the accusative) Jesus of Nazareth, etc. (Act 10:38).

Act . Whom also they (indefinite) slew and hanged (rather, having hanged him) on a tree.—Speaking to the Gentiles, Peter does not specify the agents as when addressing the Jews (Act 2:23; Act 3:14; Act 4:10; Act 5:30).

Act . Bengel, placing the clause "who did eat and drink with Him" in a parenthesis, explains it as pointing to the intercourse of the apostles with Christ before His death; it obviously, however, alludes to their fellowship with Him after His resurrection (Luk 24:43; Joh 21:13).

Act . Judge of quick and dead.—Not of the righteous and the wicked merely (Olshausen), but of those who shall be alive at His coming, and of those who shall have fallen asleep (Act 17:31; 2Ti 4:1; 1Pe 4:5).

Act . Can any man forbid the water?—The question suggests what was probably the case, that the primitive practice was to bring the water to the candidate rather than the candidate to the water.

Act . He commanded them to be baptised.—Most likely by another than himself, a practice afterwards followed by Paul (1Co 1:14). Peter only completes by outward form what God has already in inward essence, by communicating the Holy Ghost, effected—viz., the admission of Cornelius and his company to the Christian Church.

HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Act

Peter's Sermon in Cornelius's House; or, The Gospel preached to the Gentiles

I. The audience.—Cornelius and those assembled with him (Act ; Act 10:33).

1. Devout. Cornelius was so, and so most likely were his kinsmen and his friends around him (Act ).

2. Intelligent. Already they possessed some acquaintance with the main facts of gospel history (Act ).

3. Serious. A solemn sense of the Divine presence rested on their spirits (Act ).

4. Humble. Prepared for the reception of the message, they were ready to accord it obedience. A good model for every congregation when it comes together to listen to the preaching of the Word. (See "Hints on Act .")

II. The preacher.—Peter. Having already been honoured to preach the gospel to his kinsmen according to the flesh, homeborn and foreign Jews (Act ), he now enjoyed the privilege of publishing the truth in the hearing of a company of Gentiles. This he did—

1. With much solemnity, as if realising the importance of the occasion—an idea conveyed in the words "Then Peter opened his mouth" (compare Act ).

2. With peculiar tact. Not reminding them of their heathen origin, or saying aught to impress them with a sense of their inferiority, but crediting them with deep religiousness and even Christian intelligence (compare Paul's treatment of the Athenians: Act ).

3. With great fulness, setting forth in an address, of which, doubtless, only an outline has been preserved, the main facts and doctrines of gospel history and teaching (Act ).

4. With spiritual power. Which may be inferred from the fact that all who heard the Word believed and were baptised (Act ).

III. The sermon.—

1. Its exordium A statement which showed the preacher to be no narrow-minded bigot, but possessed of a mind open to receive "light from heaven" whensoever it was graciously vouchsafed; as well as tended to disarm the prejudice of his hearers and ingratiate himself with them. In this respect the fisherman apostle might be profitably followed by preachers of to-day. The truths contained in the statement were two:

(1) That God was no respecter of persons. A truth known to holy men of God before Peter's day (2Sa ; 2Ch 19:7; Job 37:24), but not understood by Peter till revealed by God through the vision lately given (Act 10:28), which reminds us that many truths which have been revealed are not yet fully understood. A truth afterwards insisted on by the apostle (1Pe 1:17), and by Paul (Rom 2:11; Eph 4:9; Col 3:25), and signifying that God in dealing with men, whether in providence or in grace, in judgment or in mercy, takes no account of such accidents as nationality, birth, rank, wealth, power, or other temporal or material circumstance, but has regard solely to manhood and character.

(2) That in every nation piety and goodness were equally acceptable in His sight. What Peter meant by piety and what by goodness he explained. The root of all piety he discovered in the fear of God (Psa ), and the essence of all goodness in working righteousness (1Jn 3:7). Wherever these existed, the individual possessing them, though not justified on their account (Act 10:43; Rom 3:20), was acceptable in God's sight as one to whom belonged the qualification necessary for admission into the Church of Christ (see "Hints on Act 10:35").

2. Its contents. A brief summary of the facts and doctrines of the gospel, embracing—

(1) The earthly ministry of Jesus, which began in its complete independence and unrestrained activity after John's ministry had closed; which had been divinely raised up and directed to the children of Israel, of which the burden had been peace (Eph ), and which, commencing in Galilee, had been published throughout all Judea; for which Jesus had been anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power (Luk 14:18), and which had been exercised in going about and, through the power of God who was with Him, doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil (Mat 4:23; Luk 4:36); the character of which had been witnessed by Peter and his colleagues in the apostleship, and the end of which had been a violent death and hanging on a tree (Act 10:36-39).

(2) The resurrection of Jesus, which was effected by the power of God on the third day after His crucifixion, and attested by His being openly shown or made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God—viz., to the apostles and others of the brethren, "who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead" (Act ).

(3) The second coming of Jesus to judge the quick and dead (Rom ; 2Co 5:10), to which office He had been ordained of God (Act 17:31; Joh 5:22), and about which He had Himself commanded them, the apostles, to testify unto the people, the Jews (Act 10:42). That the summary of Christian truth here put into Peter's mouth was not a second century embellishment has received most remarkable confirmation, not only from Pliny's letter (A.D. 112), but also from the recently discovered apology of Aristides (A.D. 125), both of which show that Christian Churches so widely apart as Bithynia and Athens accepted the very tenets here set forth.

3. Its application. Contained in the statement that, according to the unanimous testimony of Old Testament prophecy, through His name whosoever believed should receive remission of sins (Isa ; Zec 13:1).

IV. The Result.—

1. All those who heard the word believed. Though not stated, implied. Cornelius and his companions, without exception, received the word into honest and good hearts (Luk ). It is certainly a great sermon—great in the best sense—which converts all who hear it.

2. The Holy Ghost fell on all them who believed. Upon all Cornelius's household. The supernatural endowment, which descended on them while the apostle was yet speaking, revealed itself in the usual way, exactly as it had done at Pentecost, through speaking with tongues (Act ).

3. Those who received the Holy Ghost were baptised. Those believers of the circumcision who had come with Peter were profoundly astonished to hear Gentiles speaking with tongues; but they could not resist the apostle's argument when he asked, "Can any man forbid water?" etc.

Learn.—

1. The heaven-sent preacher should always speak his Master's message with boldness.

2. The best sermon is that which has most of Christ in it.

3. The Holy Ghost knows no distinction between Jew and Gentile.

4. Those who have received the essence should not be denied the sign of salvation.

HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Act . God no Respecter of Persons.

I. Expose some false constructions of the text.—

1. It is not true that God does not love one man more than another. He loves with a special affection all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Cain and Abel.

2. It is not true that God does not bestow on one man what He withholds from another. Natural gifts, social advantages, religious privileges, spiritual blessings.

3. It is not true that God does not admit one man to heaven while He excludes another. Some are cast out.

II. Explain the real meaning of our text.—

1. God does not respect persons on the grounds on which men are treated with partiality by their fellowmen—wealth, birth, genius. His preferences are determined by other considerations, although these cannot always be ascertained.

2. God does not respect persons as He Himself did under the former dispensation. The Jew has no monopoly of the blessings of the gospel. As Christ died for a men without distinction, so salvation through Him is to be offered to all, and shall be bestowed on all who believe in Him.

(1) Rejoice in the impartiality of God.

(2) Avail yourselves of the impartiality of God by embracing the common salvation.

(3) Imitate the impartiality of God.—G. Brooks.

Act . God no Respecter of Persons.

I. What the proposition does not mean.—

1. That God is indifferent to diversities in human character.

2. That all religions are equally acceptable in God's sight.

3. That belief in Christ is not required for salvation.

4. That all men will eventually be saved.

II. What the proposition does mean.—

1. That the essence of religion consists in fearing God and working righteousness.

2. That God is indifferent to external distinctions between man and man.

3. That all who possess the inward characteristics of religion are equally well pleasing in God's sight.

4. That all men who are thus religious belong to His Church, irrespective of nationality or other accidental circumstance.

On the Reception of New Truth.—Here is Peter, with the traditional spirit of an Oriental, violating the apparently natural order, and passing at once under a new set of ideas. What is the explanation?

I. It seems to be in the Nature of religious changes that they shall take place suddenly.—There may be, there must be, long seasons of preparation for any moral change, but the transition is instantaneous. It is the law of revelation.

II. His change was due to the fact that he had got sight of larger and more spiritual truths than he had been holding.—Peter had been used to believing that God was a respecter of persons, but when he caught sight of the fact that God has no partialities, but accepts all men who work righteousness, his truth-loving nature rushed at once toward the greater truth.—Theodore Munger.

Act . The Lordship of Jesus Christ.

I. Its basis.—His redeeming work.

II. Its extent.—All things and persons.

III. Its purpose.—Salvation or peace.

IV. Its perpetuity.—Till the time of the end.

V. Its authority.—Derived from the Father.

Preaching Peace; or, Publishing Good Tidings of Peace.

I. The Messenger of peace.—Jesus Christ.

II. The basis of peace.—His atoning work.

III. The terms of peace.—Faith.

IV. The blessing of peace.—Remission of sin.

V. The fruit of peace.—Holiness.

Peace to the Far Off and the Near.

I. What it is.—It means sometimes friendship or reconciliation; and sometimes the state of soul resulting from these. O man of earth, is this peace yours?

II. What it is not.—It is not mere indifference. The frozen lake is calm; but that is not the calm we desire. It is not the security of self righteousness. That a hollow security. It is not the peace of prosperity, or pleasure, or earthly ease. There is the world's peace.

III. Where it comes from.—It does not come from self, or sin, or the flesh or the world. Nor does it come from the law, or our own goodness, or our prayers or religiousness. It comes directly and solely from Jesus Christ; from Himself, and from His cross; from Him as Jesus, from Him as the Christ.

IV. How we get it.—Our text says it is "preached" to us; or more exactly, "the good news of it are brought to us." The pacifying, consciencepurging work is done; and God has sent us His account of it.

V. What it does for us.—

1. It purifies. No peace, no purity.

2. It liberates. The possession of this peace is the liberty of the soul. Without peace we are in bondage and darkness.

3. It satisfies; it fills the soul; it takes away weariness and emptiness.

4. It animates. Till peace takes possession of us we are sluggish in the cause of God. Peace makes us zealous, brave, self-denied; willing to spend and be spent, to do and suffer.—H. Bonar, D.D.

Act . "Who went about doing good."

I. A significant testimony.—Spoken by an eyewitness, authenticating the gospel records of the life of Christ.

II. A deserved eulogy.—History has preserved the names of individual princes, to whom she gives the title of benefactors: thus are held in memory a Ptolemæus Euërgetes, a Titus, "the joy and delight of all mankind"; but of what "benefactors" (Luk ), must not the name and reputation dim and pale before that of the Sovereign of God's kingdom?

III. A loud call.—To unswerving faith in Christ as the promised Saviour, the crown and ornament of humanity, God's highest revelation.

IV. A constant spur.—To a love which yields itself without condition to such a loving Saviour, and henceforth knows no greater joy than, though at a distance infinite, to follow in his footsteps.—Oosterzee.

"God was with Him."

I. Providentially.—As with all.

II. Spiritually.—As with those who fear Him.

III. Efficiently.—As with prophets and apostles working through Him.

IV. Essentially.—As with none else, being one with Him in substance and in power, holiness, goodness, and truth.

The History of Jesus of Nazareth.

I. His Divine mission.—Sent by God.

II. His personal qualification.—

1. Anointed with the Holy Ghost.

2. Clothed with supernatural power.

3. Attended by the Divine presence.

III. His philanthropic career.—

1. Its benevolent character. Doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.

2. Its extensive circuit. He went about; not restricting Himself to one town or province.

3. Its unwearied continuance. He went about manifestly without cessation,

IV. His tragic end.—"Whom they slew and hanged on a tree." A violent, undeserved, substitutionary death.

V. His triumphant resurrection.—"Him God raised up." The proofs of His resurrection: eating and drinking with the apostles.

VI. His sublime exaltation.—"Ordained to be Judge of quick and dead."

VII. His culminating glory.—"Through His name whosever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins."

Act . The Death of Christ.—A study in apologetics.

I. Its early occurrence.—After a brief ministry of three (or two) and a half years. Out of a life so short, followed by a death so soon, what great results could be expected to flow? Yet no life or death has moved the world like that of Christ.

II. Its shameful form.—Slain and hanged upon a tree, like the vilest of malefactors. Out of an end so ignominious, what hope of posthumous fame could spring? Yet Christ's death has attracted more attention and been more widely and permanently remembered than any other that has occurred.

III. Its undeserved character.—For no crime or sin of His own, proved or unproved, but for a life spent in holy fellowship with God, and in benevolent ministries among men. In this respect standing apart from that of any son of man who has ever died either before or since. Impossible that in such a death no greater significance could be than in that of ordinary mortals.

IV. Its age-long remembrance.—When Peter spoke of it to Cornelius it was little more than ten years old. The world had scarcely had time to forget it. But nineteen centuries have rolled away since then, and its memory is still green. In all countries men are thinking and speaking of the decease which was accomplished at Jerusalem. The question therefore rises, what was there about this death of Jesus of Nazareth that makes the world unable or unwilling to forget it?

V. Its extraordinary influence.—Christ Himself predicted that if He were lifted up from the earth He would draw all men unto Him (Joh ), and let it be accounted for as one will, the fact is true that the death of Christ has ever since it occurred been one of the most potent—conjoined with the resurrection, the most potent—factor in the onward development of human history.

VI. Its amazing significance.—In this alone lies the explanation that a death so early, so shameful, so undeserved, so long remembered, so profoundly influential, could have taken place, that it was the death:

1. Of an Incarnate God.

2. In the room of sinful men.

3. As an atonement for their sin.

4. As a means of effecting their sanctification; and

5. In order to secure for them eternal life. It is these considerations which give to Christ's death its unique position and power.

Act . Eating and Drinking with the Risen Christ.

I. A proof of Christ's resurrection.

II. An evidence of believers' salvation.

III. A foretaste of the saints' glory.

Act ; Act 10:43. The Threefold Office of Christ.

I. Prophetical.—Preaching peace.

II. Priestly.—Remitting sin.

III. Kingly.—Ruling all.

Act . His (i.e., Christ's) Name.

I. Divinely attested.—"To Him give all the prophets witness."

II. Widely published.—"He commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify."

III. Highly exalted.—Raised up and established above every name.

IV. Certainly saving.—Procuring forgiveness for all who believe.

V. Constantly enduring.—Since the gospel was designed not for one age but for all the ages.

Act . The Great Blessing of the Gospel.

I. Its nature.—Remission of sins.

II. Its channel.—Through Jesus Christ.

III. Its recipients.—All who believe in Him.

IV. Its condition.—Faith in Him.

V. Its certainty.—Witnessed by the prophets.

Act . The Gift of the Holy Ghost.

I. Its nature.—The inhabitation of the soul by the Spirit of God.

II. Its effect.—In some, divers gifts; in all, holiness and eternal life.

III. Its recipients.—Those who believe and obey the word.

IV. Its sign.—Baptism.

Act . The Conversion of Cornelius.

I. Prepared for by his religious condition.—

1. His character before conversion.

(1) A devout man, who

(2) feared God,

(3) cared for the godly training of his house,

(4) practised philanthropy, and

(5) prayed to God always.

2. His need notwithstanding of conversion. This may seem to be contradicted by Peter's statement in Act . Explain

(1) what Act does not and

(2) what it does mean (see "Hints").

II. Brought about by a threefold instrumentality.—

1. By the providence of God. Who had

(1) brought Cornelius into contact with the Jewish people and their worship;

(2) awakened in his heart dissatisfaction with the gods of Rome and eager longing for a purer religion;

(3) led him to Csarea where he heard the gospel; and

(4) sent Peter to Joppa, where he was easily found by Cornelius.

2. By the ministry of angels. In his own and Peter's visions.

3. By the preaching of the word.

III. Sealed by the gift of the Holy Ghost.—

1. The signs. Tongues.

2. The significance. An earnest of the inheritance.

IV. Attested by baptism.—The ordinance of Christ to be observed by believers.

Act . The Administration of Christian Baptism.

I. Hindrances to its reception.—

1. The absence of faith. The individual who is not prepared to profess faith in Jesus Christ has no claim whatever to be admitted to baptism.

2. The presence of open sin. Though a professed believer, the individual who lives in scandalous sin is in an unfit state for partaking of this holy ordinance.

3. The want of adequate knowledge. The person who has not yet attained to a clear understanding of the nature and significance of baptism is not a proper subject for its reception.

II. Qualifications for its reception.—

1. The qualification in God's sight. Endowment with the Holy Ghost. Baptism ideally considered is not a means of imparting the Holy Ghost, but a sign and seal of the Holy Ghost's presence.

2. The qualification in man's sight. An outward profession of faith, attested by visible saintship or a corresponding walk and conversation, accompanied, as above stated, with adequate knowledge.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 10:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/acts-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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