First Baptist Church Laredo
Wednesday Night Bible Study - 7/1/2020 - Acts 10:1-33
  • In this Bible study, we begin the story of Cornelius. This is a major turning point in the development of the early church. Luke understood its significance and dedicated 66 verses to deal with this narrative. Four times during this narrative, Cornelius’ vision is described and Peter’s vision is described twice. This event is a crucial step to the spread of the gospel.

    1. Who is Cornelius? (Acts 10:1-2)

    Acts 10:1–2 CSB
    1 There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. 2 He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

    A. Cornelius lived in Caesarea, a seaport on the Mediterranean cost.

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    Caesarea was rebuilt by Herod the Great and was named after Caesar Augustus. It was a center of Roman culture and life in Palestine. There was a temple dedicated to Caesar. There were more Gentiles than Jews in the city and the Jews would often denounce the city. In A.D. 66, the Jews rioted in Caesarea, which sparked a war against Rome. According to Josephus, the entire Jewish population of Caesarea, around 20,000 people were massacred.

    B. Cornelius was a centurion.

    He would have been in command of a hundred Roman soldiers.

    C. Cornelius and his family were devout and God-fearing.

    Usually, the designation of “God-fearing” normally meant they attended synagogue. They would have honored Jewish laws and customs, but they were not members of the Jewish community.

    D. Cornelius was generous to the Jewish people.

    E. Cornelius prayed to God regularly.

    It was during one of these regular prayer times that Cornelius recieved a vision from God.

    2. Cornelius’ vision (Acts 10:3-8)

    Acts 10:3–8 CSB
    3 About three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, “Cornelius.” 4 Staring at him in awe, he said, “What is it, Lord?” The angel told him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa and call for Simon, who is also named Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, he called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, who was one of those who attended him. 8 After explaining everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

    A. Cornelius was praying at about 3 p.m. when he received a vision from God.

    This would have been at one of the regular prayer times for Jewish people.

    B. Cornelius reacted with fear at the divine vision.

    Luke uses a word, translated in the CSB as awe, but really it is strong word which mean “fear”. We derive our word “phobia” from it. It is quite common for humans to respond to heavenly vision with fear.

    C. The messenger from God reassured Cornelius.

    God told him that his prayers and acts of charity had ascended before God. God viewed Cornelius’ actions positively. Cornelius was worshiping God through his actions.

    D. Cornelius is told to send for Peter.

    Notice, Cornelius isn’t told what would happen when Peter arrived. He is simply told to send for him. Cornelius obeys the heavenly vision immediately. He sends trusted people to send word to Peter in Joppa. Remember Peter was in Joppa, where Dorcas had just been raised from the dead.

    3. Peter’s Vision (Acts 10:9-16)

    Acts 10:9–16 CSB
    9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the roof about noon. 10 He became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.” 15 Again, a second time, the voice said to him, “What God has made clean, do not call impure.” 16 This happened three times, and suddenly the object was taken up into heaven.

    A. Around noon the next day, Peter was praying and fell into a trance.

    Jesus said that Peter would be a key figure in opening the doors to the kingdom of God.
    Matthew 16:19 CSB
    19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”
    He was influential in bringing the gospel to the Jews, and then to the Samaritans. Now, he will be called upon to open another door to the kingdom.

    B. In his vision, Peter is commanded three times to kill and eat what would be considered unclean by Jewish standards.

    It is noted that Peter was hungry. It was lunch time. He wanted to eat. In his vision, he sees the entire animal kingdom. All kinds of animals are present in this sheet which descended from heaven. Of course, as a Jew, it would be unacceptable for him to eat animals which are not kosher.
    Perhaps Peter viewed this as a test because he rejects the word from heaven to kill and eat that which was unclean. Maybe he though God was testing him.

    C. God clarified his message.

    He told Peter not to call unclean or impure anything that God has made clean and pure. It was Jesus himself who declared all food clean.
    Mark 7:19 CSB
    19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean).
    For more on what Jesus said in his declaration read Mark 7: 5-23.

    4. Peter visited Cornelius. (Acts 10:17-33)

    Acts 10:17–33 CSB
    17 While Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, right away the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon’s house, stood at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon, who was also named Peter, was lodging there. 19 While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, “Three men are here looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and go with them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.” 21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, “Here I am, the one you’re looking for. What is the reason you’re here?” 22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and to hear a message from you.” 23 Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. 24 The following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up and said, “Stand up. I myself am also a man.” 27 While talking with him, he went in and found a large gathering of people. 28 Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner, but God has shown me that I must not call any person impure or unclean. 29 That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. So may I ask why you sent for me?” 30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in dazzling clothing stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your acts of charity have been remembered in God’s sight. 32 Therefore send someone to Joppa and invite Simon here, who is also named Peter. He is lodging in Simon the tanner’s house by the sea.’ 33 So I immediately sent for you, and it was good of you to come. So now we are all in the presence of God to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.”

    A. Peter is confused about the vision he witnessed.

    He was thinking about it. It probably troubled him. He had to seriously consider the implications of what God was instructing him to do. While he was thinking about the vision, messengers from Cornelius arrive at Simon’s house.

    B. Cornelius’ messengers arrive at Simon’s house.

    They didn’t go in at first because they were Gentiles and did not want to defile the Jewish home. They were respectful of Jewish customs.

    C. Peter is instructed by the Holy Spirit to go to and with the visitors.

    Peter went downstairs and spoke with the messengers from Cornelius. They tell Peter why they have come seeking him. Peter invited them in as his house guests. This alone is a radical step. This was a great step forward for Peter.

    D. The next day, they leave together for Caesarea.

    Peter didn’t go alone. He took some of the brothers from the church with him. Witnesses and accountability is important.

    E. Cornelius was expecting their arrival and showed great humility when Peter arrived.

    There was a large group waiting for Peter’s arrival. Cornelius expected something to happen. When Peter arrived, Cornelius fell on his knees to worship Peter, but Peter would have none of it. Cornelius greeted him as if a hero has entered the view, but Peter would not accept any honor which is due to God alone. Peter would accept no glory. All glory belongs to God.

    F. Peter explained the situation.

    Verse 28 is a pivotal verse.
    Acts 10:28 CSB
    28 Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner, but God has shown me that I must not call any person impure or unclean.
    I wish we would all accept this into our vocabulary. Racism is evil. It is racist to define and divide people according to race. Any group or organization who would divide us, as believers, according to race or ethnicity is willfully ignoring the will of God for us to be unified. No one is ceremonially unclean or impure in who they are as a person. All people are created in the image of God. No person is to be considered “common”. There are words in our languages which we used which literally mean “common”. I am not going to use them because they are considered vulgarity. We must never label whole groups of people as “common” or “worthless”.
    A big shift has take place in Peter’s thinking. He no longer recognized the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. These division have been rendered null and void. Jews and Gentiles, all people are one race; the human race.
    It is interesting we are studying this passage at a time when our nation continues to grapple with an increasing racial divide. We must recognize, in our nation and in our churches, there are race baiters and hustlers who are not interested in healing. They are interested in fanning the flames of racial differences, past injustices, and prejudices.
    Notice this biblical teaching is an erasure of ethnicity and race. Cornelius was a Gentile and Peter was a Jew. These divisions are erased in Jesus Christ.
    Galatians 3:28 CSB
    28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    How do we break down the barriers of race and prejudice?

    1. Understand the nature of our identity in Christ.

    Human distinctions have no place in Christianity. Our identity and worth are defined by our relationship to the kingdom of God, not by any merit of our own. We are all recipients of God’s grace. No one is superior to anyone else. Grace makes superiority impossible.

    2. Address racism and prejudice as sin, in whatever form it takes.

    Do not allow sinful wordly distinctions to define our church. Do not allow secular verbiage to have a place in our assembly. We should not classify or define one another according to race or ethnicity. We are one race. Paul had to address Peter concerning his change in attitude.
    Galatians 2:11–13 CSB
    11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. 12 For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. 13 Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
    In the next lesson, we will look at the response Peter received to the gospel message.
      • Acts 10:1–2CSB

      • Acts 10:3–8NIV2011

      • Acts 10:9–16CSB

      • Matthew 16:19CSB

      • Mark 7:19CSB

      • Acts 10:17–33NIV2011

      • Acts 10:17–33NIV2011

      • Acts 10:28CSB

      • Galatians 3:28CSB

      • Galatians 2:11–13CSB

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