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Acts 10

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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The following chapter chronicles the beginning of the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. Until this point in New Testament history, the gospel has been restricted to the Jews only. Beginning here, the gospel is to both Jews and Gentiles. In the dramatic series of events that are about to unfold, God guides both the preacher and the subject of conversion with supernatural instructions. It is here that the second part of New Testament history begins: the conversion of the Gentiles to Jesus Christ.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).

Verse 1

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,

There was a certain man in Caesarea: For a description of the city of Caesarea, see notes on Acts 9:30.

called Cornelius: Cornelius is a name of Latin origin, indicating this man is most likely a Roman. Bruce notes, "Cornelius was a specially common name in Rome ever since Publius Cornelius Sulla in 82 B.C. liberated 10, 000 slaves ..." (214).

a centurion of the band called the Italian band: A "band" is a regiment of from six hundred to one thousand Roman soldiers. A "centurion, " as the name suggests, is a commander over a division of soldiers consisting of one hundred men. Cornelius is the commander over one hundred Roman soldiers from Italy. This elite Roman division is referred to as the "Italian band, " thus distinguishing it from other "bands" that were composed of soldiers from the provinces.

Verse 2

A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

A devout man, and one that feared God: It is truly amazing to realize that this soldier who has risen to the rank of centurion in the Roman army, a Gentile to whom neither the Law nor the Gospel has been extended, is nonetheless a reverent, God-fearing man. Evidently Cornelius has come under the influence of the religion of the Jews and might be considered a proselyte of the gate. That is, he is not a full proselyte, rather a Gentile who keeps the ceremonial laws but is uncircumcised.

A proselyte was a Gentile who undertook to keep the Jewish law in its entirety and was admitted into full fellowship with the people of Israel by a threefold rite: (1) circumcision (for male proselytes), and (2) a purificatory self-baptism in the presence of witnesses, and (3) the offering of a sacrifice. Because of the first of these three requirements, full proselytization was more common among women than men. Many men were content with that looser attachment to the Jewish religion usually indicated by the term "God- fearers" (Bruce 64).

Cornelius is one of these "God-fearers." The very people whom he is helping to keep in subjection to Rome teaches Cornelius the only true God. Since the gospel has not been available to the Gentiles until now and since Cornelius is living the Jewish law to the best of his ability, he stands righteous before God. Cornelius is a Gentile who shows "the work of the law written in his heart" (Romans 2:14-15). Cornelius is a "just" man (verse 22). It is the will of God that such a man as this pious Gentile will be first to receive the "keys of the kingdom" for all Gentiles.

with all his house: Cornelius is concerned that his family and servants may also share his religious convictions. He seeks to impart his beliefs upon those of"his house."This is a noble example for all Christians.

which gave much alms to the people: This is yet another example of the good nature of Cornelius. He is generous with his wealth, giving"much alms"to the people.

and prayed to God alway: Cornelius is a praying man. We can assume that what is about to happen is the answer to Cornelius’s prayer. Not only does Cornelius pray, but God hears his prayer (verse 31). This is further evidence that until now Cornelius has been righteous in the sight of God because as the blind man says:

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. (John 9:31)

Cornelius is soon to learn that Jesus Christ has come between all men and God. If he expects to continue his relationship with God, he will have to do so through Jesus.

Verse 3

He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

He saw in a vision: The first step in bringing this good man to Christ and opening the door to Christianity for all Gentiles begins with a "vision." We are not to understand that Cornelius is in a trance or having a dream. Cornelius is wide-awake and engaging in prayer (verse 30). This supernatural event involves the actual appearance of a heavenly messenger. There is to be no doubt about this experience: an "angel of God" appears and speaks to Cornelius.

evidently about the ninth hour of the day: The "ninth hour" as the Jews kept time is about three o’clock in the afternoon. This is one of the times for the traditional Jewish hours of prayer (see notes on 3:1.)

an angel of God coming in to him: One of God’s heavenly messengers is dispatched with divine instructions that will bring a gospel preacher to the house of Cornelius. For more information on angels, see notes on 5:19 and 7:30.

and saying unto him, Cornelius: It is noteworthy that the angel calls Cornelius by name. It is an humbling thought to know that in spite of the multitudes of human beings on the earth, God and His heavenly representatives are aware of us as individuals even to the degree of knowing us by name.

Verse 4

And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

And when he looked on him, he was afraid: Who would not be startled to have one of God’s holy angels appear and speak to him?

That one should have an angel speak to him is beyond all natural phenomena: Nor should this fact be lost on believers. The Christian religion is a supernatural religion; and, if the supernatural elements in it can be denied, the entire system is not merely worthless, but detestable (Coffman 200).

and said, What is it, Lord: The word "Lord" is used here simply as a term of respect. It could have been translated "sir" (see notes on 9:5.)

And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God: What a wonderful thought! Man, who is always looking for a way to build himself a memorial, may be overlooking the greatest memorial possible. God recognizes as a memorial the prayerful life of a good man who is full of good deeds and a desire to know and serve Him.

Verse 5

And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

The angel brings these divine instructions to Cornelius:"send to Joppa for Simon Peter" (for more information on Joppa, see notes on 9:36).

Verse 6

He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: The angel’s instructions to Cornelius are plain and explicit. The servants of Cornelius will have no trouble in locating Peter, who has been living at the house of Simon, the tanner, evidently since the raising of Dorcas from the dead. See notes on Acts 9:43 for comments on the relationship of the Apostle Peter with Simon the tanner.

he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. What is the purpose in calling Peter? Why did not the angel tell Cornelius what he needed to do? The answer is Jesus committed the task of preaching the gospel to man. An angel sent Philip to the Ethopian (8:26), but it is the man Philip who tells him what he needs to do to be saved (8:35). Jesus appears to Saul in person (9:5), but it is the man Ananias who preaches the gospel of salvation to Saul (9:17). A divine pattern is established; it will not be altered here. These facts need to be impressed upon the minds of all– supernatural interventions never supersede the indispensable work of the human agent. The angel appears to Cornelius, but it will be the man Peter who will tell him "words whereby he shall be saved" (11:14).

From the Bible record of Cornelius, we learn:

1. Morals alone will not save one from his sins.

2. Praying on a regular basis will not save.

3. Doing good deeds does not save one from his sins.

4. Having an angel appear unto a person will not save.

5. Even a combination of all the above will not save.

To be saved, one must hear and obey"the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16).

Verse 7

And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

Although it is late in the afternoon, the zeal of this good Gentile is not to be delayed. Cornelius quickly begins the process that will bring the Apostle Peter to him by dispatching two faithful servants and a "devout" soldier to "call for" Peter.

Verse 8

And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

As soon as these servants receive their instructions, they are on their way to Joppa. The promptness of these men can be appreciated as this trip involves a journey of about thirty miles. They leave Caesarea sometime after three o’clock (ninth hour) in the afternoon and arrive in Joppa about noon (sixth hour) of the next day (verses 3 and 9).

The scene now shifts from Caesarea back to Joppa where Peter is about to be prepared for what he would never have dreamed possible. God is about to use him to open the "kingdom of heaven" to the Gentiles. It is likely Peter does not fully understand nor appreciate the promise that Jesus makes to him in Matthew when He tells him he will be given the"keys of the kingdom."

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

The "keys of the kingdom" is the gospel of Christ. It is Peter who preaches the first gospel sermon to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and now it is Peter who has the great privilege of preaching the gospel first to the Gentiles.

Verse 9

On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:

The necessary elements for this extraordinary event are coming together. The messengers from Cornelius are nearing the city of Joppa as Peter retires to the rooftop to pray.

In the eastern countries the houses often have flat roofs. It is customary that the roof be used as a place for relaxation as we might use a patio or porch. It is here Peter goes to pray"about the sixth hour, "noon by Jewish time keeping.

Verse 10

And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,

And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready: Peter is "very hungry" but even this strong physical need will wait while the will of God is working.

From the connection, where is said that they were making ready, that is, preparing a meal, it would seem that this was the customary hour of dining. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, however, had but two meals, and the first was usually taken about ten or eleven o’clock. This meal usually consisted of fruit, milk, cheese, etc. Their principal meal was about six or seven in the afternoon, at which time they observed their feasts (Barnes 444- 445).

Now it can be understood why Peter is "very hungry" since the usual morning meal is at least an hour late.

he fell into a trance: The Greek says that an ecstasy (ekstasis) fell upon Peter. Vine defines ekstasis thusly:"a condition in which ordinary consciousness and the perception of natural circumstances were withheld, and the soul was susceptible only to the vision imparted by God" (Vol. IV 148).

Verse 11

And 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:

Peter, who is now caught up in this revelation from heaven, sees as it were a sheet let down from heaven by its four corners.

Verse 12

Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth: We quickly learn that this "vessel" from heaven contains various sorts of animals. The Jews make a distinction between clean and unclean animals. In Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, rules are given concerning which animals are considered as clean and which are unclean. For example, among the four-footed beasts, which includes such animals as sheep, goats, camels, cattle, swine, donkeys, etc., the only ones considered to be clean and could be eaten are those that have a cloven (divided) hoof and chewed their cud. Using this guide line, the Jews could eat cattle and sheep; but camels, which chew their cud, are considered unclean because their hooves are not divided. Even though they have cloven hooves, Hogs are considered unclean because they do not chew their cud.

and wild beasts: "Wild beasts" are generally to be understood as carnivorous animals. These are the ferocious animals of the region as lions, bears, etc.; they are considered as unclean because they eat blood and carrion and are therefore inedible to the Jews.

And creeping things: These "creeping things" are such creatures as snakes, lizards, insects, etc., Of these, a few, such as the locust (grasshopper), are counted as clean (edible) while the majority of "creeping things" are unclean.

and fowls of the air: Certain birds are allowed to be eaten while others such as owls and eagles are considered an abomination.

Verse 13

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

The command from heaven is for Peter to "rise and kill and eat" without distinction as to the animal’s being clean or unclean. The true indication of this command is that the Old Testament commandments concerning the restrictions among animals has been removed. These steps are gradually preparing Peter for the acceptance of the Gentiles.

Verse 14

But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

We never have to wonder what Peter is thinking! The very idea of eating one of these "unclean" animals is repulsive to Peter. He even carries it a step farther in saying he has not eaten anything"common.""Common"is a term used to indicate those things indulged in by the Gentiles.

In spite of the teaching Peter has just received from the Lord–that the commandments of Moses pertaining to diet are not binding on Christians–he still resists the command of God (Mark 7:15-19). Peter has a difficult time realizing that at this very moment he is being taught some of the fundamental principles of the Christian dispensation. Either Peter does not understand, or else he does not remember his statement in his sermon on the day of Pentecost when he affirmed the promises of the gospel are"to all that are afar off, "thus signifying the acceptance of the Gentiles by God (2:39).

Verses 15-16

And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

This scene, as observed by Peter, is repeated three times. The obvious reason for the repetition is for emphasis. This repetitious teaching should have sounded a familiar note to Peter because he has already experienced this tactic. Jesus, shortly after His resurrection, asks Peter three times, "lovest thou me?" (John 21:15-17).

The voice from heaven surely puts the Apostle Peter to thinking. If God commands you to do a thing, it is not impure or wrong."What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."Today in our world, with its awareness of microbes, germs, etc., there are those who are afraid to obey God in the way that He instituted the Lord’s supper because they count the practice of using one cup as unsanitary, "unclean" (Matthew 26:27). Woe unto those who would call that which God has appointed as common or unclean!"

Verse 17

Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,

Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean: One would have to appreciate the fact that Peter is very slow to accept a teaching that is a radical departure from what he has always believed. (We get the idea that Peter understands this vision; but, because of his prejudice, he begins to look for possible meanings other than the most obvious.) Perhaps Peter is thinking if the distinction between clean and unclean meats has been abolished, what else has been changed? In Peter’s wildest dreams, he would not have imagined that God is about to use him in His plan to open the kingdom of heaven to these "uncircumcised Gentiles."

behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate:

The fact that this group of Gentiles is at the gate asking to see Peter is no coincidence. The providence of God is at work; and, just as surely as Philip providentially intercepted the Ethopian eunuch on the road to Gaza in order to preach "unto him Jesus" (8:26-39), so also will the providence of God bring Peter to preach the "good news" to the Gentiles.

Verses 18-19

And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.

This delegation from Cornelius knows exactly where to ask and for whom. Cornelius has received these divine instructions directly from the messenger of God (10:5-7). Peter is still rehearsing the events that have transpired when the Holy Spirit informs him there are three men who desire to see him. It is very probable that Peter would have had nothing to do with these Gentiles if he had not received reassurance from the Holy Spirit.

Verse 20

Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

The Holy Spirit gives definite instructions to Peter; he can enter into this event with the full confidence that it has God’s approval."I have sent them, "assures the Spirit.

Verse 21

Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?

Because of the revelation that Peter has received and the direct command of the Holy Spirit, he has no choice of action but to go down and receive these men.

Verse 22

And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.

The good qualities of Cornelius are recounted by these messengers (see notes on verses 1 and 2). Surely the implications of what has transpired are becoming more clear to Peter.

Connecting this message sent by the order of a "holy angel" with the vision and with the command of the Spirit to go with these men, nothing doubting, Peter now in an instant sees he is called by divine authority, through the angel, through the vision, through the Spirit, to do what he has always before thought sinful, to go into the house of a Gentile, and to speak to him the word of the Lord. Nothing less than an unmistakable divine call could have induced him to go; but now he has no alternative unless he would withstand God. He now sees what he afterward expresses so happily: that he was to call no man common or unclean (McGarvey, Vol. I 205).

Verse 23

Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them:

Since it is too late in the day to begin a journey to Caesarea, Peter invites these men into the house to spend the night. Peter, who yesterday would have crossed the street to keep from walking on the same side as these despised Gentiles, today is ready to accept them into his fellowship. Jesus came into the world to remove the enmity from between men. To reconcile both Jew and Gentile in on body by his death upon the cross (Ephesians 2:16-22).

This was Peter’s first break with the exclusiveness of the law of Moses. The Gentiles he invited into the house, shared the meal which by that time had been prepared for him, and kept them overnight, the lateness of the hour requiring that they should wait till the morrow to start to Caesarea. By this one act, Peter swept aside the prejudices of a lifetime, letting in the fresh air of the kingdom of heaven (Coffman 207).

and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him: In his many experiences with his Jewish brethren, Peter has the forethought to take some men with him to witness what is about to happen. We learn from Acts 11:12 that he takes with him six brethren to be competent witnesses that every word, every action can be verified. Peter, no doubt, anticipates having to give an explanation as to his association with these Gentiles. This is a wise decision on Peter’s part as we soon discover when he is called to explain his actions.

Verse 24

And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.

In high anticipation, this noble Centurion has gathered his family and friends together to hear the words of Peter. He has no doubt that the bread of life is soon to be broken unto him. That the tribe of Cornelius would be increased upon the face of the earth today is our prayer.

Verse 25

And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.

Since we understand Cornelius is not an idolater, we have no reason to believe that when he "worshipped" Peter he was giving Peter the status of a god or any divine honor."Cornelius worshiped Peter only in the sense of paying him that homage which, according to oriental custom, was due to one of greatly superior rank" (McGarvey, Vol. I 207). Vincent in his comments on "worshipped" says, "An unfortunate translation, according to modern English usage, but justified by the usage of earlier English, according to which to worship meant simply to honor. Worship is worthship, or honor paid to dignity or worth" (500-501).

What a scene comes to our imagination! Here is a commander of one hundred elite Roman soldiers, a member of the army that has conquered the world, bowing before a fisherman from Galilee! After all, this Galilean fisherman holds the "keys to the kingdom, "and this humble Roman waits with high expectation that his prayers are about to be answered. He, too, will soon be "such as should be saved."

Verse 26

But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.

It may have been that Peter does not understand the motives of Cornelius, or perhaps he is a bit embarrassed by this show of profound respect; either way he quickly ends this moment with the words "I myself also am a man." Now if Peter had been the Pope, as some would claim, he would not have been so modest. Instead, he would have expected and relished this attention.

Verse 27

And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.

The audience of Cornelius’s family and close friends is waiting in high anticipation of the arrival of Peter, as well they should have been. This day is to mark a turning point for the human family for all time. God has now decreed the Gentiles are subject to the gospel. The gospel, from this time forward, is to be preached to all nations. The barriers between Jews and Gentiles are about to be broken down forever.

Verse 28

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation: This explanation is probably for the benefit of the six Jews who accompany Peter as much as it is for the audience of Gentiles. They are expected to be witnesses for Peter, and in order to do so they need a clear understanding of the procedures. It is doubtful we can fully appreciate the prejudice that developed between the Jews and Gentiles over the years. Following is a description of the situation that Peter calls "unlawful." Maybe this explanation will help us to understand the difficult position in which Peter now finds himself.

Unlawful comes from athemitos, which means contrary to custom, or law, a violation of established order. Such social segregation as Peter here says is unlawful was not commanded explicitly by Moses; but it did seem to be implied in his law, and was the common understanding of the Jews. Moses forbade alliances by contract, or marriage, with the surrounding nations, which were idolatrous (Leviticus 18:24-30. Deuteronomy 7:3-12, Ezra 9:11-12). This command the Jews perverted, and explained it as referring to social activities of all kinds, even to the exercise of friendly offices and commercial transactions. The strict Jew would not enter a Gentile’s house, nor sit on the same couch, nor eat nor drink out of the same vessel (compare Mark 7:3-4). God had not commanded such segregation as the Jews interpreted. Now the position in which Peter found himself was strangely unfamiliar, so much so, that he can scarcely help apologizing, even to Romans, for his conduct. He goes on to explain why his conduct is now different from what the ordinary Jew’s would be (Reese 312-313).

but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean: Peter now fully realizes the rooftop vision included men who are not to be counted unclean. In particular, it meant the Gentiles.

Verse 29

Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?

Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: In spite of a lifetime of teaching to the contrary, Peter puts aside his personal feelings and, without contradicting or saying anything against (gainsaying) the order of God, makes a speedy trip to the house of Cornelius.

I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me: The messenger from Cornelius states the purpose for sending for Peter in verse 22. It seems Peter wants to hear it directly from Cornelius.

Verse 30

And 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,

At the request of Peter, Cornelius begins to relate the events that had transpired some "four days" previously. He describes the angel who appeared unto him as a "man in bright clothing." Luke often uses the description of "bright" or "white" apparel in describing an angel (1:10).

Verse 31

And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.

This is a repetition of the information given in verse 2. The most significant difference in the information given here and that given in verse 2 is the fact that it is noted that the prayers of Cornelius are heard by God (see notes on verse 2 for comments).

Verse 32

Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.

This verse is a repetition of the information given in verses 5 and 6. The very fact that Cornelius is privy to such details as Peter’s name and residence should have helped Peter to understand what is happening is truly under the direction of God.

Verse 33

Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. There are two thoughts that can be gained from this verse. First, it seems Cornelius is most grateful for the courage of Peter and thanks him for coming; "thou hast well done." Vincent says "well" means, "You have done a courteous and handsome thing in coming" (502).

Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God: Secondly, Cornelius declares "we are all here ... to hear all things." With such an audience and such a preacher with such a message, great things are sure to happen!

All things" could hardly have failed to ring a bell in Peter’s heart; for he had heard the Lord command that "all nations" should be taught "all things" whatsoever Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). His duty, therefore was crystal clear, for here was a Gentile household belonging to the "all nations, " declaring that they were assembled to hear "all things" the Lord commanded (Coffman 213).

Before entering into the content of Peter’s sermon, it is necessary that we note the chronology of the events as they are happening. This is necessary because there are those who would contend that Cornelius is saved at some point before he is baptized in water. It is evident that the Holy Spirit falls upon Cornelius and his household before Peter preaches to them. "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them" (Acts 11:15). This account does not contradict the record in Acts 10:44 :"While Peter yet spake...."The point is the Holy Spirit falls upon the household of Cornelius at the beginning of Peter’s statement. It is very likely Peter would never have preached the gospel to Cornelius if the Holy Spirit had not fallen upon them (Acts 11:17). For a more complete commentary with an explanation of the implications involved, see notes on Acts 11:4-17.

Verses 34-35

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

In this one momentous statement, Peter wipes away the privileged position the Jews have held under the Mosaic covenant. This verse should also eliminate the erroneous doctrine of an arbitrary predestination for certain men. In this inspired pronouncement, we learn that God respects not persons as such but rather those persons who "fear him, and work righteousness."

Verse 36

The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

By the standards of most modern denominations, Cornelius would already have received recognition as a Christian (see notes on verse 6); but this situation is not the case in the mind of Peter. He proceeds to preach unto Cornelius "words whereby he might be saved" (11:14).

Peter continues his discourse by stating that "the word, "the gospel, which offers man peace through Jesus Christ, was first sent to the Jews. But Jesus is not just Lord to the Jews; He is Lord to all men.

Verse 37

That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

That word, I say, ye know: Peter assumes Cornelius and his friends are already aware of the basic elements of the "glad tidings" of Jesus Christ. The gospel has had such extensive publication through the world of that day that one would have had to be locked in a closet not to have heard the story of Jesus. It is certain that one as concerned with spiritual matters as Cornelius would "know."

which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached: Peter begins his brief outline of the life of Jesus with Jesus’ baptism by John. Quickly the fame of Jesus spread throughout all of Judaea primarily because of his miracles that began with the miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11).

Verse 38

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: This is a reference to the time Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends from heaven and alights on Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:22; ).

who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him: It is an established fact that Jesus is known for his good deeds. He works many miracles of healing the sick and casting out of demons. The ultimate purpose of these miracles is to confirm that Jesus is truly the Son of God (2:22).

Verse 39

And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem:"We" indicates the apostles are witnesses of the ministry of Jesus both in the regions of Judea and in the city of Jerusalem (1:8).

whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Let no modern Jew say that the Jews are not responsible for the death of Jesus."They" is a reference to the Jews as the ones who slew Jesus by hanging him on a tree (see notes on 2:23).

Verse 40

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;

The outstanding contrast given here is the comparison of what man does to Jesus and what God does for man (see notes on 3:13). This is the very cornerstone of our faith in Christianity. Jesus dies, is buried, and then rises again for the salvation of mankind (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

The fact that Christianity has for its leader Jesus Christ the Lord, who triumphed over death, makes Christianity far superior to the pagan religions whose originators are dead. Why would anyone choose for a religious leader, such a one as Confusius, Budda, etc., whose path leads only to the grave?

Verse 41

Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.

The apostles are chosen as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus (1:8) and are, on at least three occasions, allowed to eat with Jesus after his resurrection (Luke 24:30; Luke 24:42; John 21:13). That the apostles eat with Jesus after his resurrection is the critical test to show that Jesus is not some phantom or figment of their imagination.

Verse 42

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

Peter reveals yet another facet of the power that God appointed to Jesus. Jesus is to be the "Judge" of the quick, those who are alive when Judgment day comes, and the dead, those who will be resurrected at Judgment day (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).

Verse 43

To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

To him give all the prophets witness: Peter here indicates the promises of salvation through Jesus Christ is not a new promise but one originally declared by the "prophets." These holy men of the Old Testament could see by an eye of prophecy that Jesus would "justify many" and "bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11).

that through his name: It must never be forgotten that it is "through" the name of Jesus, that is, by the authority of Jesus, that man has the promise of eternal salvation (see notes on 2:38).

whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins: This statement is not to be understood as the single requirement for salvation as those of the "faith only" persuasion might contend; rather we must understand Bible belief or faith includes obedience. In chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, we have a record of some of God’s heroes who were saved by faith and obedience. In each example "faith alone" would not have saved the individual:

  • Verse 4. What did Abel do "BY FAITH?" Abel "OFFERED."

  • Verse 7. What did Noah do "BY FAITH"? Noah "MOVED and PREPARED." It would have been a sad day for Noah when the flood came if he would have been like many of those who trust in salvation by "faith only." God would have said, "Noah, there is a flood coming."Noah would have said, "I believe there is a flood coming."God would have said, "Noah, prepare an ark."Noah would have said, "I believe I am going to need an ark."Noah would have drowned like everyone else, but that is not the kind of faith that Noah had; his belief caused him to "MOVE" and "PREPARE."

  • Verse 8. What did Abraham do "BY FAITH?" Abraham OBEYED.

For us in the Christian age, it is also required that we "believe" and "obey." Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). This same pattern is true for Cornelius. In the next few minutes, Peter will instruct these Gentiles to be baptized (v.48).

Verse 44

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Peter has recited a brief history of the life and purpose of the coming of Jesus. How much more Peter would have told these Gentiles is debatable. Peter is certain to have had some mental reservations about these uncircumcised Gentiles. He now receives an indelible sign showing him that God has truly accepted the Gentiles. As Peter will say in Acts 11:15-17, "the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning, ... what was I, that I could withstand God?"

Verse 45

And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter: Those Jews who come with the Apostle Peter are astounded when the Holy Ghost is "poured out" upon those whom heretofore they counted as unworthy of such a"gift."It is certain these Jews who have observed this major milestone in the history of Christianity are called upon as witnesses of this event until their dying day.

because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost: The Jews now have been shown by this outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the Gentiles are subject to the gospel of Christ just as the Jews. It took this singular miracle to tear down the historical prejudice the Jew have against the Gentiles.

The phrase, "gift of the Holy Spirit, "occurs twice in the New Testament: Acts 2:38 and here in this passage. It is plain the term "gift" indicates the Holy Spirit himself."…on the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." Peter says in verse 47 they "received the Holy Ghost, " and again in Acts 11:15 he says, "the Holy Ghost fell on them." From the context it can be shown that the gift promised in Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45 are different in measure. The "gift of the Holy Spirit" promised to "every one of you" who will "repent and be baptized" is the non-miraculous "gift" promised to all Christians (see extensive notes on 2:38) while the "gift" spoken of here for the house of Cornelius is the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a miraculous measure, which is demonstrated by the fact that they "spoke in tongues." This is the same ("like"11:17) gift experienced by the apostles on the day of Pentecost (2:1-4). But the fact remains that in both cases the "gift" is the Holy Spirit Himself.

The ground of amazement to the Jewish brethren was not the mere fact that these Gentiles received the Holy Spirit; for if Peter had finished his discourse, promising them the Holy Spirit on the terms which he had laid down on Pentecost, and had then baptized them, these brethren would have taken it as a matter of course that they received the Spirit. And if, after this, he had laid hands on them and imparted the miraculous gift of the Spirit, as in the case of the Samaritans, they would not have been so greatly surprised. The considerations which caused the amazement were, first, that the Holy Spirit was "poured out" upon them directly from God, as it had never been before on any but the apostles; and second, that this unusual gift was bestowed on Gentiles. ... The fact that this gift of the Spirit was manifested by the miracle of speaking in tongues distinguishes it from the gift of the Spirit promised to all who repent and are baptized (ii. 38); and the fact that it came directly from heaven, without the imposition of apostolic hands, distinguishes it from such gifts as that bestowed on the Samaritans, and that afterward bestowed on prominent members of many churches. We have no event with which to classify it except the gift bestowed on the apostles on Pentecost; and thus it is actually classified by Peter farther on (xi. 15, 16). He says:"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized in water, but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit; and these two are the only events that are thus designated in the New Testament. The one was the divine expression of the admission of the Jews into the new Messianic kingdom, and the other, that of the first Gentiles (McGarvey, Vol. I 213-215).

Verse 46

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

The Jewish witnesses to these events realize the Gentiles have received the "gift of the Holy Spirit" when the Spirit manifests himself by endowing these Gentiles with the miraculous ability to speak with "tongues." This incident follows the pattern established on the day of Pentecost when the apostles also are "baptized" in the Holy Spirit; they too speak with "tongues." These "tongues" are not some ecstatic utterance understood only by God, as some claim today, but are foreign languages miraculously spoken by direction of the Holy Spirit (see notes on 2:1-4).

Verse 47

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Peter now realizes beyond a shadow of a doubt the Gentiles are subject to the gospel of Christ. He is ready to teach them the need for baptism in water for the remission of their sins.

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized: Peter asks a question of his Jewish witnesses to which they all know the answer. Are there any here, regardless of their former biases, who will stand in opposition to this revelation made known by God? What man would dare withhold what God has ordained?

which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we: In this phrase, "we" refers to the apostles. The house of Cornelius has received the Holy Spirit as a "gift" as the apostles did on the day of Pentecost (2:1-4; 11:17).

Verse 48

And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord: Did we not say that great things will happen when a group of earnest seekers gets together with one who will tell them "words, whereby thou… shalt be saved?" The house of Cornelius receives the gospel of Christ, and they obey the terms of salvation, including the command "to be baptized in the name of the Lord."

Then prayed they him to tarry certain days: This verse draws to a close the series of events that lead to the first opportunity for the Gentiles to accept the gospel of Christ. How long Peter tarries with the house of Cornelius we have no record, but we do know Peter is called upon to explain his involvement with these uncircumcised Gentiles in chapter 11.

The following can be learned from this study:

1. The coming of the Holy Spirit to Cornelius does not save him. Cornelius is told to send for Peter who will tell him "words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved" (11:14). It is obedience to these "words" (the gospel) that saves Cornelius (Hebrews 5:8-9; Acts 10:47-48; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:38).

2. One may conclude that Peter would not have preached the gospel to Cornelius if it had not been for the coming of the Holy Spirit. It takes the same miracle that the apostles experience on Pentecost to convince Peter that God is now ready to accept the Gentiles under the conditions of the gospel (11:17). (For the exact chronology of events, see notes on 11:4-17.)

This exceptional gift was bestowed, in this instance, to remove the scruples which "those of the circumcision" might otherwise have felt as to admitting Gentiles, as such, to baptism; and having served that purpose, as a crucial instance, was never afterwards, so far as we know, repeated under like conditions (Plumptre 71).

3. Cornelius, this one time righteous Gentile who by nature kept the Law, is now made subject to the gospel of Christ.

4. Peter has now realized the promise given him by Jesus in Matthew 16:19 when he was promised the "keys of the kingdom." Peter has now used the "keys" (the gospel) to open the kingdom to both Jews (on the day of Pentecost) and here for the Gentiles. What a grand privilege to be the first one to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles!

5. The prophesy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-17) has been fulfilled. With this event, the Spirit of God has been "poured out upon all flesh, " that being both Jew and Gentile (see notes on 2:16-17).

6. With the bringing in of the Gentiles to the fold of God, Christianity takes an entirely new thrust. It was God’s will that the gospel be offered first to the Jews (Romans 1:16), but for the most part the nation of Israel rejected the gospel call; now as the Apostle Paul says, "from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles" (18:6). It is the Gentiles who will soon comprise the vast majority of those who make up the kingdom of the Lord.

It would be most interesting to know more of the life and times of noble Cornelius, this first Gentile Christian; but the divine text furnishes us with no more evidence. There are many unanswerable questions concerning Cornelius, but this commentary will come to a close with one interesting and important comment made by McGarvey:

We should be glad to know more of Cornelius, so as to judge whether, even in times of peace, the profession of arms was considered by the apostles compatible with the service of the Prince of Peace. He is the only soldier of whose conversion we have account in the New Testament, and of his subsequent career we know nothing. Not many years afterward the army in which he held a commission visited a most cruel and unjust war upon the Jews, and whether he continued in the service through that period we can never know in this life. Let it be noted, however, that this is an instance of a soldier becoming a Christian, not of a Christian becoming a soldier. It furnishes a precedent for the former, but not for the latter (Vol. I 218)

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 10". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/acts-10.html. 1993-2022.
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