Today, which is Day 10 of The Acts Challenge 2019, we will read about Cornelius and his conversion.
It’s exciting to see the Word at work in the early church. This was a time of GREAT CHANGE in the world because Jesus had come, lived, preached, died, and risen from the dead! This ushered in a new age, one that even the Prophets of the Old Testament had prophesied about. How exciting!
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(Vs. 1) There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
(Vs. 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.
Cornelius was a “devout man” meaning that he hadn’t just recently come into the faith. Apparently, this had been his very lineage. Had it started with him? Or were there those before him that had also been devout?
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 5) And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
(Vs. 6) He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, who house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Cornelius Sends for Peter
(Vs. 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;
(Vs. 8) And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
Cornelius called two servants and a soldier to go and get Peter. Before sending them out, he told them just what the angel had said to him, where they were to go, and why.
(Vs. 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:
(Vs. 10) And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
(Vs. 11) And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
(Vs. 12) Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beast of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
(Vs. 13) And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
(Vs. 14) But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
(Vs. 15) And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
(Vs. 16) This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
A Common Perception
Many people think that this particular Scripture is God making unclean animals clean so that they can be eaten. However, there is no context here whatsoever to believe that to be true. When put together with certain other Scriptures, particular where Paul is speaking, it looks even more convincing.
However, the context that this Scripture IS in is what we need to be looking at. And we’re not talking about food at all.
Peter’s Own Perception
(Vs. 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 enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,
(Vs. 18) And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
Even Peter wondered what the vision could mean. It’s quite possible he was also thinking God could be making unclean animals worthy of being eaten. After all, he was hungry before he went into this trance.
Diaporeo (Strong’s G1280) is translated as “doubted”. It doesn’t mean what we think it to mean. The actual definition of this word is to “be perplexed, entirely at a loss, or unsure how to act or respond”. The fact is, Peter just didn’t know how to take it. Until…
The Spirit Speaks to Peter
(Vs. 19) While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
(Vs. 20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
(Vs. 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?
Even while Peter was thinking about what the vision must have meant, the Spirit spoke to him. The Spirit revealed that there were three men (the two servants and the soldier) seeking him. So, he went down, surely still thinking about the vision, and told those men that he was the one they were looking for.
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 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.
Peter Visits Cornelius
(Vs. 24) And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
(Vs. 25) And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
(Vs. 26) But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
You can imagine that if God sends an angel to tell you about a man, you’re going to think that man is something more than just an average man. God had sent word that Cornelius needed to hear what Peter had to say. It must have given Cornelius time to assume that Peter was, himself, holy.
But, Peter nipped that idea, raising Cornelius back up quickly. He told him that he too was just a man. The Scriptures actually mention this on various occasions. Even angels would not allow men to worship them! There is only ONE worthy of our worship, and that is Jesus!
Peter Begins to Speak
(Vs. 27) And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
(Vs. 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.
First of all, Peter starts off by making the rhetorical statement that Jews were not to hang out with anyone from any other country. This is reminiscent of Jesus speaking to the woman at the well, and their conversation that it was not a common thing, nor was it acceptable.
But, by now, Peter has obviously connected the dots between the trance, the vision, and the fact that God had instructed Cornelius to call for him. The ONLY THING that vision could have meant was that Peter was not to consider Gentiles, which Cornelius was, unclean or unworthy in any way. At this point, Peter is probably only thinking about just being in the same company with this group of people. But God had even more in mind.
Peter Questions Cornelius
(Vs. 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?
(Vs. 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,
(Vs. 31) And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 34) Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
(Vs. 35) But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Words Mean Things
After Peter hears from Cornelius himself about God speaking through an angel and sending for him, he is now SURE that the vision he had while in the trance on Simon the Tanner’s rooftop was not food related.
In fact, he says it means that God “is no respecter of persons.” He goes on to say that in every nation (past, present, and future), anyone who fears God AND worketh righteousness, God will accept.
We know what fearing God means… not in the “scared” sense of the word, but rather, to have reverence for in that He is perfect and completely holy.
I love the further explanation, though, of the word “righteousness” (Strongs G1343, dikaiosyne) here. In the 92 times this word shows up in the Scriptures (KJV), it always translates into, simply “righteousness.”
If you’ve been a student of Greek or Hebrew, you know too that a single word in English can mean an entire phrase in these languages. Our English translates more into a thought process. Like a state of mind in many cases, rather than simply linking one word to another.
So, having said that, “righteousness” means, in these places, “a condition acceptable to God, the doctrine covering the way to attain that condition, integrity, purity, and feeling or acting in a way that is right.”
All that to say: no matter where we’re from, if we revere God as our Creator and One True King, and we work to attain this “righteousness”, then he will accept us! Hallelujah!
Peter’s Brief Sermon
(Vs. 36) The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
Peter knew that Jesus Christ was known, even to the children of Israel. God in the Spirit, the Creator, and Law-Giver, was paving the way for the time when He would lay aside total deity to take on flesh and walk with the created! It’s so exciting to see this throughout the entirety of the Scriptures!
(Vs. 37) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
Again, the phrase “ye know” is somewhat rhetorical. He is putting together facts that these people already know (the word that was preached as Jesus began his preaching season with John the Baptist), with facts that they did not yet understand. This is a perfect example that people can be “holy,” “devout,” and “religious” and still not know Jesus or the hope of salvation.
(Vs. 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.
This is another well-known aspect of Jesus’ ministry. By the time Peter visited Cornelius, everyone knew.
Peter Was an Eye Witness
(Vs. 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:
(Vs. 40) Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
(Vs. 41) Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
Peter solidified his position as a disciple and an apostle by saying that he was an eye witness to Jesus’ preaching, his miracles and wonders, his death, and his resurrection.
(Vs. 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.
Again, Peter makes it clear that Jesus commissioned him, and the rest, to preach and testify to not only Jesus’ life but the fact that He was coming back as JUDGE. That’s why He set Himself as the perfect atonement for sin, the “once and for all” sacrifice that would purge us all and make us worthy of Him and of salvation.
(Vs. 43) To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Going back to the Old Testament Scriptures, Peter says that they testified of Him, of Jesus, who made it possible for our forgiveness. They looked forward to that day when sin offerings and the blood of bulls would no longer be necessary.
The Holy Ghost Falls on Cornelius & Family
(Vs. 44) While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
(Vs. 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.
(Vs. 46) For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. They answered Peter,
It was nearly unbelievable for those with Peter, who were Jews themselves (because they were “of the circumcision” – a state only Jews had to go through), to believe that God had poured out the Holy Ghost on these Gentiles! But they did receive!
And how did they know that these Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost? By the “evidence,” which IS the speaking with other tongues.
Cornelius and His Household Baptized
(Vs. 47) Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
(Vs. 48) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Finally, after hearing the Word, and receiving the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, they baptized Cornelius and his entire household in the Name of Jesus.
Have YOU received the Holy Ghost since you believed?
Please feel free to share your thoughts below! And thank you for reading!
Ever In His Service,