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Acts 10:1-23 (web)

Peter's Vision

10:1 Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, 
a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 
10:2 a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, 
who gave gifts for the needy generously to the people, and always prayed to God. 
10:3 At about the ninth hour of the day{3:00 PM}, 
he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God coming to him, and saying to him, "Cornelius!" 
10:4 He, fastening his eyes on him, and being frightened, said, "What is it, Lord?" 
He said to him, 
"Your prayers and your gifts to the needy have gone up for a memorial before God.
10:5 Now send men to Joppa, and get Simon, who is surnamed Peter. 
10:6 He lodges with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside."
{TR adds "This one will tell you what it is necessary for you to do."} 
10:7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, 
Cornelius called two of his household servants 
and a devout soldier of those who waited on him continually. 
10:8 Having explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. 

10:9 Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, 
Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. 
10:10 He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. 
10:11 He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him,
like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, 
10:12 in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, 
wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. 
10:13 A voice came to him, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat!" 
10:14 But Peter said,
"Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." 
10:15 A voice came to him again the second time, 
"What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean." 
10:16 This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven. 
10:17 Now while Peter was very perplexed in himself
what the vision which he had seen might mean,
behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius,
having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate, 
10:18 and called and asked whether Simon, who was surnamed Peter, was lodging there. 

10:19 While Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, 
"Behold, three{Reading from TR and NU. MT omits "three"} men seek you. 
10:20 But arise, get down, and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them." 
10:21 Peter went down to the men, and said,
"Behold, I am he whom you seek. Why have you come?" 
10:22 They said, "Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man and one who fears God,
and well spoken of by all the nation of the Jews, 
was directed by a holy angel to invite you to his house, 
and to listen to what you say." 
10:23 So he called them in and lodged them. 
On the next day Peter arose and went out with them, 
and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 


Jesus said, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." John 10:16  The "other pen" was the Gentiles, and Cornelius was one of the sheep of that other pen. He was already righteous as Abraham had been having already believed in the LORD, though he had yet to hear the gospel and receive the Holy Spirit. 

This Gentile was a Roman soldier - a centurion in charge of 100 men. I wonder if this might be the same centurion whose servant Jesus healed in Luke 7 and who was commended for his faith. Perhaps not, unless he moved from Capernaum. But it is interesting that there were those among the Romans who were of such commendable faith even before coming to know Christ. The Jews were particularly contemptuous of the Romans, being not only Gentiles but also reckon oppressors. But the fact that godly men could rise to such ranks among the Romans tells a different story. And here's a man praying 3:00 in the afternoon - a busy part of the day. How many Christians even do that? We also note that all his house were devout, such was his contagious influence. 

The Vision of Cornelius

Concerning the vision of Cornelius, there are some interesting issues. For why give him a vision in the first place? Why not just send Peter over to him much as God sent Philip to the Ethiopian and such? It seems to me that perhaps God wanted to communicate the sense that He was already there before the gospel arrived. Cornelius was already His sheep, but of a different pen. Peter needed to learn much of God's attitude towards the Gentiles. God entered the house of a Gentile before Peter did. He spoke to the Gentile before Peter did. 

Another aspect of the vision is why did God tell him to send for Peter? Why didn't the angel tell him the gospel right on the spot? One reason, as I mentioned concerning Peter being sent to Samaria, is that Peter was promised the keys to the kingdom and this event represented the opening of the kingdom to the Gentiles. But more generally just as God sent his Son into the world, so he has sent Christians in the world as His ambassadors. That's His administration. He brings the gospel through Christians. But God is working by His Spirit even outside the Christian community to draw people to Himself.

"Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God."
It was because of his works of righteousness that God would bring the gospel to this man and his household. Yes it is true that "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" Titus 3:5 and "God credits righteousness apart from works." Rom 4:6 But we are not talking about the basis of his righteousness, but rather the reason God gave him the opportunity to hear the gospel. The basis of righteousness is the forgiveness of sins. But the outworkings of saving faith are revealed by a lifestyle of righteous deeds. His works of faith indicated he was prepared to accept the gospel and so it was given to him. 

The Vision of Peter

Peter was praying at noon time and starting to think about lunch. God brought him a picnic of unclean animals. But Peter thought this was just a test - like Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. For it was against the Law of Moses (which God gave to the people of Israel) to eat theses kinds of animals. In fact there is nothing inherently sinful in eating these. Paul the apostle, a Jew of the sect of the Pharisee later writes: "As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself." Romans 14:14 The dietary restrictions God placed upon the Jews under the Law of Moses was a temporary thing which now at this point in time was eliminated. Upon Peter's vision God changed the rules. The restrictions were meant to symbolize God's people as holy and separate from the world. But now this symbolism was changing to the reality in which the Church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is the reality of what the nation of Israel and the Laws of Moses were only symbolic of.

Jews did not eat with Gentiles. But this vision allowed for such fellowship. Paul would have to remind Peter of this in Galatians 2. Futhermore the unclean animals were also representative of Gentiles as the Jews thought of them. God now called them clean and therefore qualfied to have the gospel preached to them. This is also an inference Peter makes in Acts 11. Much to his credit Peter embraces the vision and obeys, even housing these Gentiles for the night.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jun 23,2023