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The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter;
kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again (Acts 10:9-16).
Peter was waiting for the meal to be cooked, and he went up on the roof to pray around noon. The typical house back then had a flat roof with stairs leading up to it from the outside. Not only was it common for people to go up on the
roof to pray, they also used their roofs in the following ways:
Peter was extremely hungry when he fell into a trance. Then he saw heaven open, and down came an object that was like a great sheet. On this sheet was a mixture of clean and unclean animals. Unclean animals were prohibited for the Jew to eat under the Law of Moses (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). The heavenly voice said, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” In Peter’s entire life, he had never eaten anything that was unclean, and he was not about to start now, which is why he refused to do it.
This time the heavenly voice said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times before Peter came out of his trance. Since Peter would not eat the unclean food, obviously he did not know yet that all food was made clean under the new covenant (1 Tim. 4:3-4; Mk.
7:19). In fact, no Christian is obligated to keep the Law of Moses because that obligation was taken away at the cross and made obsolete (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:14-15; Heb. 8:13). We are only obligated to keep the commands found in the Law of
Christ under the new covenant (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6-8, 13; 9:15;1 Cor. 9:21).
We need to realize that the apostles received their miraculous knowledge in part (1 Cor. 13:9). Even when they spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sometimes they did not fully understand what they were saying until later, which proves that they were speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
A great example of this can be found on the day of Pentecost when Peter said: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
Notice, the promise of salvation was for both Jews and Gentiles because those who are afar off are Gentiles (Eph. 2:13, 17).
However, we learn that neither Peter nor any other Christian had taught the gospel to the Gentiles up to this point, which proves that Peter did not fully understand what he said on Pentecost, but he is about to. Just as these unclean foods were no longer unclean under the new covenant, the Gentiles are no longer unclean or unacceptable to hear the good of news of Jesus. Peter’s vision taught him this.
Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you."Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them." Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, "Yes, I am he whom you seek.
For what reason have you come?" And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you." Then he invited them in and lodged them (Acts 10:17-23).
Peter was perplexed at what he saw, and he was trying to figure it out as these men from Cornelius’s household began asking for him at Simon’s gate. While Peter continued to go over this vision in his head, the Holy Spirit told him: “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” The Holy Spirit’s message teaches us that He was the one that sent the angel to Cornelius. Now He is telling Peter to go with these three men without doubting. Peter obeys the Holy Spirit, and he goes down and talks with these three men.
Peter wanted to know what these men wanted, and they began to tell him about Cornelius and how he was divinely instructed to send for him. Apparently Peter was beginning to understand his vision because he invited these Gentiles into Simon’s house to stay the night, which was unheard of for a Jew.
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.
But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man." And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. "Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me? (Acts 10:23-29).
On the third day, Peter went with these Gentiles, and he took along six Jewish brethren (Acts 11:12). Since Jews learned from an early age not to associate with Gentiles, it must have been hard for them overcome their prejudice and go with Peter, which shows how these men were willing to overlook their traditions and allow God to be their guide. They broke their thirty mile trip into two days, and they arrived at Cornelius’s house on the fourth day. Cornelius was excited about seeing Peter, and he gathered his relatives and close friends because he wanted them to hear the words that would save them. This shows that Cornelius was not just concerned about his own soul. If you have ever waited on someone to arrive at your house that you really wanted to see, then you have a general idea of how Cornelius felt as he patiently waited for Peter.
When Peter entered Cornelius’s house, Cornelius fell down before him and worshipped him. However, Peter would not allow him to continue to do this. Instead, he told him to stand up because he is only a man. Peter knew that only God deserved worship like that (Rev. 22:8-9). When we compare Peter’s humbleness to the pope of the Catholic Church, there is a big difference because the pope never keeps people from bowing down and worshipping him.
Peter saw that many had come together at Cornelius’s house, and he told them it was unlawful for a Jew to keep company with a foreigner. There is nothing specifically stated in the Old Testament that teaches this that I am aware of. However, this had become part of the Jewish tradition (Acts 11:2-3;
22:21-22; Jn. 4:27; 18:28). Even though this teaching was part of Peter’s life, he overlooked it because God was telling him not to call any human common or unclean. Again, Peter wants to know what Cornelius wants from him.
So 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, and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.' So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (Acts 10:30Cornelius told Peter about the events that happened four days ago at 3 P.M. This time, he described the appearance of the angel as being in bright clothing. As we discussed earlier, Cornelius’s prayer was heard, but he was still lost because he still had to hear the words that would save him (Acts 11:14).
Now Cornelius and those with him were ready to hear the message and learn what they must do to save their souls.
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ
-- He is Lord of all -- that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:34-38).
Peter began to preach to them. It was a hard lesson for Peter to learn, but he realized that God does not show partiality between Jews and Gentiles. Those who fear Him and work righteousness will be accepted by Him. Those who teach there are no works involved in our salvation have missed the mark because Peter has taught us that we must fear God and do works of righteousness. Works of righteousness are works of obedience and not works of merit (Phil. 2:12; Acts 26:20;
Now Peter knows that the gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles because “He is Lord of all.” Peter teaches us that Cornelius had some knowledge of Jesus since His ministry had been proclaimed throughout Judea. When we consider all the miracles and signs Jesus did, including the people He healed and the demons he cast out, we can understand why all of Palestine would have heard something about Him including Cornelius.
“And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.
And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:39-43).
Peter confirmed that Jesus is the Son of God and that he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of all the things that Jesus did during His ministry. He pointed out that Jesus was hung on a tree, which refers to His crucifixion, and how God raised Him up on the third day. Jesus was seen alive by over 500 witnesses after His death (1 Cor. 15:6). Next, Peter taught them how Jesus will be the judge of the living and the dead, and how all the prophets from the Old Testament “witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” When we examine the Old Testament prophets, we can see how all them talked about the coming
Messiah and what He would do, which is why Paul said:
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24), and “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4, see also Acts 3:24).
Some will take verse 43 and try to make it teach the “faith only” doctrine. If we are willing to say this verse is teaching that belief alone saves a person, then we must exclude grace, repentance, confession, and baptism. The word believes is used as a synecdoche, which means a part that stands for the whole. So, believes represents an obedient faith, which includes everything that is necessary for salvation.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days (Acts 10:44-48).
We find out that Peter was still preaching these words when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Since this happened, some have determined that Cornelius’s household was saved at that moment, which would mean that a person is saved before he is water baptized. However, this is not true. First, no one can produce a verse in the Bible that states that Holy Spirit baptism saves a person. Second, Holy Spirit baptism is only recorded two times in Scripture, once here and at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Third, we need to remember that these men had to hear the words that Peter had to say so they could be saved (Acts 10:6; 11:14).
However, we learn that Peter was not finished preaching to them about Jesus (Acts 10:44). When we look at Acts 11, which is a chronological account of these events (Acts 11:4), we discover that Peter had just began speaking when it was interrupted by this event (Acts 11:15). The word began comes from the Greek word archo, which: “Indicates that a thing was but just begun when it was interrupted by something else...
Acts 11:15” (Thayer).