Acts 10:1-23

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 4, 1998


Weíve been looking again at the ministry of the apostle Peter and how a lame man named Aeneas was healed in the town of Lydda, and how a woman by the name of Tabitha, or Dorcas, was raised from the dead in the city of Joppa. Peter is still in Joppa.

We are now going to move into a new era for the Christian church, when God will open the door of salvation to the Gentiles.

Two things to keep in mind:

1) Up to this point, every believer has also been Jewish.

The entire Christian church was Jewish. Itís funny that some people who call themselves Christians are prejudiced against Jews, yet the early church up to this point is entirely Jewish!

2) The Jews hate the Gentiles.

To a Jew, there is nothing worse than a Gentile.

They felt that the only reason God made Gentiles was so there would be fuel for the fires of hell.

Acts 10:1-8 Corneliusí Vision

:1 Caesarea

Caesarea and Joppa (where Peter was staying) were both cities on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Caesarea was 33 miles to the north of Joppa.

Caesarea was a city first founded in the 4th century BC by a king of Sidon. Later in itís history, Caesar Augustus placed it under the authority of King Herod in 30 BC, who rebuilt the city into a magnificent seaport. By 6 AD, it was made the capital of the province of Judea and served as the official home of the Roman provincial rulers, known as the Procurators.

We often think if Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but at this time, under the rule of the Romans, the seat of government for the entire area was in Caesarea.

It seems very appropriate that the first place the gospel goes out to the Gentiles, is the Gentile seat of government, in Caesarea.

:1 called Cornelius, a centurion

centurion - hekatontarches Ė lit., "ruler of a hundred"; an officer in the Roman army

Jesus too had an encounter with a religious centurion (Luke 7:1-10), where the centurion felt unworthy of Jesus even coming to his house to heal his servant, so he simply requested that Jesus command the healing from a distance and he knew his servant would be healed.

This was most likely not Cornelius, but we see some of the same tension here, a Gentile man asking help from Jesus, yet aware that he was somehow unworthy of this Jewish Rabbi coming to his house.

Yet with Peter, itís now time for the gospel to go to the Gentiles.

:1 of the band called the Italian band,

No, this is not a rock band. Nor a marching band.

band Ė speira Ė the tenth part of legion, from 600 to 1000 men.

These soldiers stationed at Caesarea were from Italy, meaning that they would have been the most loyal men to the Roman governor (or, procurator) for this restless province of Judea. Corneliusí men would have been about a sixth of this "band" of men from Italy.

:2 devout

devout Ė eusebes Ė (eu "well" + sebes "worship) pious Ė he was a "good worshipper".

:2 one that feared God

Apparently, Cornelius feared the God of the Jews, but he himself was a kind of outsider, only able to worship from afar.

:2 with all his house

This would included his family and the servants that lived in his house. He was a family man who considered it important to have God be a part of his home life.

:2 which gave much alms to the people

alms Ė eleemosune Ė mercy, pity; a donation to the poor, alms

We saw this word last week in the life of Tabitha, who had done "deeds of mercy", apparently taking care of the widows of the city of Joppa.

Cornelius didnít just show a little mercy to people, but "much" mercy.

:2 and prayed to God alway

Cornelius was a man of prayer.

:3 about the ninth hour of the day

The ninth hour in Jewish standard time is around 3:00 p.m.

There was no specific law that said how many times a person was to pray. But the Jews eventually developed a tradition of praying three times each day, morning, noon, and evening. These were the third hour (9:00 a.m.), the sixth hour (noon), and the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.).

Cornelius is most likely praying when receiving this vision.

:4 Thy prayers and thine alms Ö a memorial before God

Two things of Corneliusí life that kept coming up before the presence of God to remind God of Cornelius Ė his prayers and his deeds of mercy.

:6 Simon a tanner

A tanner was a person who took animal hides and turned them into leather. Tanners werenít very popular guys. To deeply religious Jews, a tanner was an "unclean" person, because they always handled dead things. It also probably means that Simonís house wasnít exactly a fragrant place to be staying either.

:6 whose house is by the sea side

Could this mean that Peter did indeed spend his free time surfing? J

Actually, Simonís house would have been outside the city walls, and near the ocean to use the salt water for his tanning work.

:6 he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

The angel isnít going to give anymore instructions than this. Itís going to be up to Peter to take it from there.


God prefers to use people in sharing the gospel.

God could simply use angels to preach the gospel, and apparently, there will be a day during the Tribulation when this will happen (Rev. 14:6).

But for now, it seems that Godís instrument of choice is simple people, like you and me.

Sometimes we just hope that God would use somebody else to talk to that person weíre concerned about, but what if God chooses to send them to us and God were to tell them, "theyíll tell you what to do"?

:7 he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier

Two of his regular household servants (remember that his whole house feared the Lord like he did) and one of soldiers assigned to him, a man who was a worshipper of God.

:8 he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

declared Ė exegeomai Ė (our word "exegetical") metaph., to draw out in narrative, unfold a teaching. Cornelius did more than just tell these people about the angel and the words, apparently he went further with a kind of explanation to go along with it, so they would better know the importance of what they were about to do.

Peter later recounts part of what he told his servantsĖ

(Acts 11:13-14 KJV) And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; {14} Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.

Note: Cornelius was a very religious man, yet he was still unsaved.


From Warren Wiersbe: In many respects, John Wesley was like Cornelius. He was a religious man, a church member, a minister, and the son of a minister. He belonged to a "religious club" at Oxford, the purpose of which was the perfecting of the Christian life. Wesley served as a foreign missionary, but even as he preached to others, he had no assurance of his own personal salvation.

On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a small meeting in London where someone was reading aloud from Martin Lutherís commentary on Romans. "About a quarter before nine," Wesley wrote in his journal, "while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." The result was the great Wesleyan revival that not only swept many into the kingdom, but also helped transform British society through Christian social action.


Are you just religious, or are you saved?

God isnít satisfied with you just being "religious", He wants your sins to be paid for, He wants you saved and transformed.

Even to Nicodemus, a very religious Jew, Jesus said, "Ye must be born again!"

A person who is saved is one who has come to trust that Jesus has died for their sins.

A person who is saved is one who has opened their heart to Jesus, and has given their life to follow after Him.

Acts 10:9-16 Peterís Vision

:9 Peter went up upon the housetop to pray

Houses in those days had flat roofs, and there was typically a kind of patio up on the roof.

:9 about the sixth hour:

Or, about noon.

:10 And he became very hungry Ö he fell into a trance

This is the difference between Peter and me. When I get very hungry, I just get grouchy. Peter falls into a trance. Maybe I could use this one next time Deb asks me to help with dinner? "Sorry dear, Iíve fallen into a trance, and I canít get up Ö"


God can use your hunger.

We might say to Peter, "Donít be making such a big deal over this, you were just hungry, thatís all." Yet God is going to use a simple thing like Peterís stomach to be able to speak to him.

Donít be too quick to discount Godís ability to use natural things around us to move us in the direction of His will for us.

After all, didnít someone say that the best way to get to a man was through his stomach?

:12 all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth Ö

Back in the Law (Lev. 11), God had given the Jews a list of what kinds of food were okay to eat, and what kinds were "unclean".

The picture is that there a lots of different kinds of animals caught up in this sheet, both clean and unclean.

:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord Ö

Peterís reply is something like, "Iíve never eaten anything unclean, and Iím not about to start!" Peter had been raised a good Jewish boy, and he intended to stay that way!

Dr. W. Graham Scroggie wrote, "You can say ĎNo,í and you can say ĎLordí; but you cannot say ĎNo, Lord!í"

:15 What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

(Acts 10:15 NLT) Ö "If God says something is acceptable, don't say it isn't."

Jesus had begun to hint at this in His ministry:

(Mark 7:14-19 NNAS) After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: {15} there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. {16} "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." {17} When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. {18} And He said^ to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, {19} because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

This is being done with Peter in relation to food, but the principle is to be applied to people.

Lesson #1:

Accepting others.

Those God has cleansed are no longer common.

Let God change some of those preconceptions you might have about people.

I have to admit, I sometimes forget that some of you face all kinds of horrible discrimination out in the world either because of your race, your past, or some kind of money or class issue.

May it NEVER be so here.

Peter had been able to learn to accept some who were "unclean", after all, he was staying in a tannerís house! Yet he was having a hard time letting loose of all his prejudices.


A deplorable incident occurred in the life of Mahatma Ghandi. He said in his autobiography that during his student days he was interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday he went to a church to see the minister and ask for instruction on the way of salvation and other Christian doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back. "If Christians have caste differences also," he said to himself, "I might as well remain a Hindu."

May it NEVER be so here.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Lesson #2:

Accepting yourself.

For some of you, this goes a little further than what you think of others.

For some of you, you feel like YOU are the unclean one. You need to open up your heart and stop fighting the truth.

What God has called "clean", donít call "unclean".

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

:16 This was done thrice

The vision is repeated partly to make sure that Peter understands that it is important, but itís also partly repeated because Peter was simply being a little stubborn in receiving what the Lord was telling him.

The Lord kept saying "Kill and eat", and Peter kept saying "no".


How many times until you get it?

In a way we can all relate to Peter at times, because we all get a little "thick headed".

Have there been things that the Lord has been saying to you, but youíve been dragging your feet on?

I think itís a little ironic that Cornelius immediately obeyed his direction from the angel, while Peter had to be shown three times, and still was a little puzzled by the whole thing!

Acts 10:17-23 The Messengers Arrive

:17 Peter doubted in himself

doubted in himself Ė diaporeo Ė to be entirely at loss, to be in perplexity

Peter was still having trouble, even after the vision repeated itself several times, of accepting what the vision was about.

:20 go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

doubting nothing Ė diakrino Ė to separate, make a distinction, discriminate

The Lord is telling Peter to go with these men and not to discriminate against them!

I have sent them Ė just as the animals on the sheet came down from heaven, these men have been sent by the Holy Spirit to Peter.

:21 what is the cause wherefore ye are come?

Peter was told by the Spirit not to hesitate to go with the men, but that doesnít mean he canít at least ask a few questions, does it? Heís curious what this is all about.

:23 and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him

Peter doesnít go alone on his trip to Caesarea, but has six (Acts 11:12) of the Jewish believers from the church at Joppa accompany him. As it will turn out, itís a good thing these guys went along, because Peterís going to need them as backup witnesses to what amazing things are going to happen among the Gentiles.