By Ken R. Speakman
Member, Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory
Chapter 10 records the salvation of the Gentiles. God has used Peter to open the door of faith for the Jews and Samaritans, and here he would be used to bring the Gentiles into the church (see Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 2:11-22). Chapter 10 must be seen as an entire unit. The drama that unfolds in this chapter can be divided into four scenes: (1) home of a Gentile seeker, (2) rooftop with Peter, (3) living room of Simon the Tanner, and (4) estate of the Roman centurion.
Scene 1. Unlike the Ethiopian or Saul the Pharisee, Cornelius comes from a background of belief in many gods. He is a Roman military officer who doubts the gods the Romans worshiped. He was assigned to Palestine and tried to learn all he could about the God of the Jews. He prays, gives alms, and uses his military clout to protect the Jewish people. He was highly appreciated by the Jews. Cornelius was asking God to show him the way of salvation when he is visited by an angel and told his prayers have been heard. He must send someone to Joppa and find a man named Simon Peter. He immediately sends his top aide to Joppa.
Scene 2. The next day as the messengers were nearing Joppa, Peter was on the roof of Simon’s home when a vision of various animals, reptiles, and birds appear to him. A voice told him to “kill and eat” but Peter, holding to the dietary laws, refuses (Leviticus 11:1-47). The Jews under the old covenant had to learn to despise the foods that God said were unclean and enjoy the foods that God said were clean.
Scene 3. As Peter is wrestling over the vision, the Holy Spirit told him that three men had come to see him and he must not hesitate, but go with them. The messengers inform him an angel appeared to Cornelius and instructed them to come and get Peter. They stayed until morning and Peter with believers from Joppa, go with them to the home of Cornelius in Caesarea, 30 miles north of Joppa.
Scene 4. After a day’s journey they arrived at the home of Cornelius who was waiting for them, and who had called together his relatives and close friends. Peter told Cornelius that it is unlawful for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile, but God had shown him nothing should be considered unclean or impure that God created. Cornelius told Peter about the angel visiting him.
Verse 13 gives us the new message that Peter delivers to Cornelius’ household. There are no more sacrifices, no more priestly caste, no more ritual or religion, and no more Jew or Gentile. He was just starting his message when his congregation believed and the Holy Spirit interrupted the meeting. He was not able to finish speaking because those present, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to speak and praise God. They were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and Peter stayed several days, no doubt discipling the new Gentile congregation. Now, a church movement began among the Gentiles and spread throughout the world (Acts 1:8).