Acts Ten

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,

man in Caesarea. It had been in Caesarea that Pontius Pilate had his palace, and also in Caesarea that Philip the evangelist had settled down. Cornelius undoubtedly was aware of Pilate's role in the execution of Jesus. Whether he had met Philip or heard him preach is unknown. In any case, he was a worshipper of the true God and was open to Peter's message when he came.

Cornelius. Cornelius was Roman by nationality, but had apparently become a believer in the true God of creation, as revealed in nature and in the Scriptures. It is very doubtful, however, that he was a full proselyte to the Jews' religion. Peter's call to witness to Cornelius may be regarded as the official divine extension of the blessings of Israel to the Gentiles.

Acts 10:2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

Acts 10:3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

Acts 10:4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

Thy prayers and thine alms. Even though Cornelius had not known about Christ, nor was he even a practitioner of the Jewish system of sacrifice and worship, he nevertheless was a “devout man, and one that feared God … which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:2), and God was pleased with this. While these actions were not capable of earning salvation, his sincere acceptance and practice of the limited spiritual light that he had received resulted in God sending more light to him. It may be that this is a model of how God may deal with those men and women of any time and nation who do accept and follow such light as they have.

Acts 10:5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

Acts 10:6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

Acts 10:7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

Acts 10:8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

Acts 10:9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:

Acts 10:10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,

Acts 10:11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:

Acts 10:12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.

Acts 10:13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

Acts 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

Not so, Lord. Such a response to a command of the Lord is a self-contradiction. “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Acts 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

What God hath cleansed. The cleansing work of Christ on the cross applied not only to the forgiveness of sins, but even to the distinction between clean and unclean animals (compare Leviticus 11, 1 Timothy 4:4-5). Most especially it removed the barrier between Jew and Gentile, as was made plain to Peter by this vision. Note particularly Ephesians 4:11-22.

Acts 10:16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Acts 10:17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,

Acts 10:18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.

Acts 10:19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.

Acts 10:20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

Acts 10:21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?

Acts 10:22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.

Acts 10:23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

Acts 10:24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.

Caesarea. Caesarea was a large and attractive city on the sea coast about sixty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem. It was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea, where Pontius Pilate had his palace. Its remains are a popular tourist attraction today. An inscription actually bearing a reference to Pilate was excavated in 1960.

Acts 10:25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.

Acts 10:26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.

Acts 10:27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.

Acts 10:28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Acts 10:29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?

Acts 10:30 And 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,

Acts 10:31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.

Acts 10:32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.

Acts 10:33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

no respecter of persons. This principle is frequently stressed in Scripture (e.g., 2 Chronicles 19:7; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25). Sometimes the reference is to personal wealth or position; here it refers to the relation between Jews and Gentiles. Before our Creator, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Colossians 3:11).

Acts 10:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

accepted with him. This is an extremely significant revelation. Before Christ, the Gentile nations were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). It was possible for a Gentile to become a proselyte to Judaism, but most Gentiles never even had any knowledge of this possibility. With the substitutionary death of Christ for the sins of all men, however, both Jews and Gentiles can be saved simply by grace through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, multitudes of people through the centuries since have lived and died without ever hearing the gospel, and the same is true today. A perennial question has to do with the possibility of salvation for such people, and Peter's testimony to Cornelius seems to suggest a possible answer. Almost three thousand years ago the prophet Hanani said that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). No one can ever be saved simply by working righteousness, for, as Solomon said: “There is no man that sinneth not” (1 Kings 8:46). Nevertheless, God so loved the world that He sent His Son! He would “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Consequently, God honors those who come to fear the true God of creation and sincerely try to “work righteousness” in accord with the witness of God's law in their own conscience (Romans 2:15) and any other true light they may have received (note John 1:9). Although this in itself was not sufficient to attain salvation, in either the case of Cornelius or that of others in similar situations, nevertheless God in grace sent Peter to Cornelius to give him full understanding of the saving work of Christ, and Cornelius responded with true faith. Although it is not possible to be dogmatic, it may be that God will respond in similar fashion to others who respond to the light that God has provided for all men in nature (John 1:9; Romans 1:20), as well as conscience.

Acts 10:36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

Acts 10:37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

baptism which John preached. John's baptism, accompanied by his preaching of repentance and salvation through the coming Lamb of God (John 1:15-34), marked the beginning of “that word” (compare Acts 10:36-37) which came “preaching peace by Jesus Christ.” Note also Acts 1:22.

Acts 10:38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

went about doing good. The modern world tends to ridicule “do-gooders,” but if Jesus is our example (1 Peter 2:21), we also should go about doing good. “To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

Acts 10:40 Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly;

Acts 10:41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.

Acts 10:42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Acts 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,

magnify God. Just as had occurred with the Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost, the new Gentile believers were miraculously enabled by the Holy Spirit to “magnify God” in other languages than their own. Unlike the case at Samaria (see note on Acts 8:17), there were probably people in this Gentile crowd who knew various languages, especially Latin, Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew (Cornelius had invited his friends and relatives—Acts 10:24), so the sudden manifestation would be recognized by all as supernatural, and as a duplicate of that which had occurred in Jerusalem. This was clear confirmation of the truth revealed to Peter in his dream, namely, that there was no longer to be any distinction in the church between Jews and Gentiles. The same special outpouring had been given at the spiritual baptism of both “local churches,” and therefore the same water baptism followed in both cases. Another important principle may also have been illustrated here. Because of the faith and concern of one man who responded to the limited light he had, God sent a messenger not only to lead him to full saving knowledge of Christ, but also to lead many of his friends and relatives to the Lord as well.

Acts 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.