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 helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man.” 27 While talking with him, he went on in and found that many had come together there. 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 common or unclean. 29 That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. So I ask: Why did you send 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 a dazzling robe 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 Therefore I immediately sent for you, and you did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him. 36 He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ —He is Lord of all. 37 You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. 39 We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. 40 God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
“So I ask: Why did you send for me?” … He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He’s the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.
—Acts 10:29b, 42-43
Just as Peter was puzzling over the vision he experienced while at the house of Simon the tanner, a group of men arrived at the house, asking for him by name. Immediately, God’s Spirit instructed Peter to accompany them as they asked, without hesitation. When Peter inquired as to the reason for their coming, they related a most improbable story. In Caesarea, a centurion named Cornelius was told by an angel to find Peter in Joppa, invite him to come, and to listen to whatever message Peter would share.
As believers, we cannot help but rejoice when we see God working so powerfully to accomplish His redemptive purposes. We are thrilled at Cornelius’ experience—the God of heaven had taken note of his intense desire to know and to please God. His deeds of charity to the Jews and his prayers had come before God as a memorial offering. Think of it! This Roman, so far outside Jewish society, had found favor with God.
Likewise, we rejoice with Peter, in whom the Spirit of God was also working powerfully to accomplish His redemptive purposes. He didn't leave Peter, or does He leave us in a state of confusion and error, but makes a way for us to receive the truth we so desperately need. Both visions set the stage for the transformation of Peter and Cornelius—a prelude of a powerful revelation that would transform so many others they could not be counted!
Note the heart condition of both. They were trying to connect with God, to make sense of their own lives, their experiences, and the context into which history placed them. But they were open, sensitive to God’s leadership and expectant. Cornelius knew something was coming from God. While he didn’t know what, he was eager to grasp it, to receive it, to appropriate it for himself. Isn’t this a beautiful picture of a believer? Would that we could all be described in this way.
The lesson Peter received via his vision—“Don’t call anything unclean that I (God) have called clean”—was about to be put to the test. An unnamed scholar wrote, “Let God be the judge, you be the servant. You will be helpful to others only if you see them as God does. You cannot be judgmental and redemptive at the same time.” Peter would never have been able to enter that Roman centurion’s home if he had not been able to see Cornelius in an entirely different light than his own cultural context. What a simple, yet amazing truth for us. We can never see the lost of our world—really see them—until we look through the lens of Jesus’ eyes.
Peter’s brief sermon brought the words of acceptance and forgiveness Cornelius and his invited guests were hoping for. Don’t you find Cornelius’ faith astonishing? At the direction of God’s Spirit, Cornelius assembled not only his extended family but also his close friends! He was expecting a good word from God. Who is expecting a good word from God through you?
Cornelius is likely the last person you and I would have sought with the Gospel message. A foreigner, a military leader from an army known to be hostile to Jews in a headquarter city of the Romans? Hardly. Yet the Spirit of God put all the pieces of this story together in Peter’s head so that he was able to grasp a profound truth: the Gospel is for everyone. Any person, of any stature, race, profession or culture is welcome to receive “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.” He isn’t solely Lord of Israel, but Lord of all. He is the One, and we are included in His offer of the Gospel!
When Peter obediently shared this glorious truth, the Holy Spirit appeared once again, coming down on all who heard! At their reception of the Gospel, Peter’s companions were “astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God.” They witnessed nothing less than a movement of God that mirrored Pentecost.
For believers of today, here is a word: If you’ll speak, God will help them hear. Do we assume that God is only going to use us to reach people like us? This account in Acts confirms that His Spirit can show us how to share the good news with people who are vastly different—culturally, racially, economically or whatever label we select. The Gospel is for all, and the One who makes it real, makes it understood, makes it available is God’s Spirit, working in us and in the ones we reach out to. This is my story, this is my song: He is the One.
- Can we really learn to look past the cultural, social, racial and economic differences between others and ourselves and see them simply as humans needing a Savior, or does it require a work of God in our hearts?
- How necessary was it for God to move simultaneously in the heart of Cornelius, a Roman centurion and Peter, the leader of the Twelve?
- Do you think the good news, “He’s the One” is just as relevant to people today as it was in Cornelius’ world? Why?