God Accepts the Upright Gentile – Acts 10:1-11:18


Read Acts 10:1 ? 11:18

Let?s look at the details of this scripture so that we would have a good perspective and proper context of the entire account.? What do we know about Cornelius?

  1. Cornelius was a Gentile.? He was also a centurion of the Italian Regiment.? A centurion is an officer in the Roman army who has command over at least one hundred soldiers.? The Italian regiment was a cohort stationed in Caesarea that consisted of about six hundred men and was commanded by a tribune (a representative elected by the Roman common people)
  2. Cornelius was a devout man who feared God with all of his households
  3. Cornelius gave alms generously to the people
  4. Cornelius prayed to God always

Typically a Roman centurion would be part of pagan religion and not subscribe to the monotheistic religion of the Jews (or Christians).? However, Cornelius perhaps represented those who were tired of the pagan gods and took interest in the monotheistic God of the Jews and Christians.

Overall, Cornelius was a gentile that was a good man who feared God.

Cornelius? Vision

God came to Cornelius with a message in a vision presented by an angel at about three o?clock in the afternoon (the ninth hour).? Cornelius was afraid and asked, ?What is it, lord??? Notice that the word ?lord? is not capitalized to indicate a reference to Jesus Christ or God.? Cornelius used the word in a more general form to mean ?sir.?? I found it very interesting that the angel told him that his prayers and alms came up for a memorial before God.? That means that Cornelius? prayers and good deeds had meaning to God even though he was not a Jew or a Christian.? God heard the prayers of a gentile.? However, we have to remember that Cornelius was a devout man who helped people generously.

Cornelius was instructed by the angel to send for Peter who was in Joppa in the house of Simon a tanner.? Cornelius sent his household servants and a devout soldier to Joppa to get Peter.

Peter?s Vision

Peter had a vision the next day at about the sixth hour.? In his vision, a blanket of those foods considered unclean was presented to him with a declaration to kill and eat.? Peter refused because he did not eat those things that were common or unclean.
Peter meant well, but he was being disobedient.? He knew he was not supposed to eat unclean animals (See Leviticus 11) so he refused to eat.? Perhaps the blanket contained only unclean animals.? God told him three times that whatever God had cleaned should not be considered common or unclean.

We note that Peter had to have an attitude adjustment because obviously, he thought that salvation was only for the Jews.? God had to specifically instruct an apostolic father that gentiles were welcomed into the family of Jesus Christ.? This is important that even those who are considered leaders in the body of Christ may not be one hundred percent accurate all of the time.? Church leaders may have their own issues that need to be corrected.

Peter contemplated the meaning of the vision and it was about that time that the men that Cornelius sent arrived at Simon the tanner?s house acquiring about Peter.? The company from Cornelius explained the situation with Peter and departed the next day to return to Caesarea.

The Message to Cornelius

Cornelius was waiting for Peter and he had invited family and friends to hear the word from Peter.? Here we see that Cornelius was totally confident that Peter would actually come to meet him that he invited his friends and relatives.? Cornelius fell down to worship Peter when he saw him coming and had run to meet him.? Peter?s response to this was admirable.? He said, ?Stand up; I myself am also a man.?? The only one who should truly be worshipped is God.? However, we do understand Cornelius? excitement at seeing Peter knowing that he would hear the word of God.

Acts 10:28 (NKJV) — {28} 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.

Peter knew that Jews were not supposed to have any dealings with gentiles such as he was having with Cornelius (See John 4:9; 18:28; Acts 11:3; Gal. 2:12).? However, evidently, Peter learned his lesson from God very well.

Acts 10:33 (NKJV) — {33} 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.?

Cornelius and his household were ready to hear the word of God. ?Now I find this to be very interesting and something to ponder.? It was the angel that told Cornelius to get Peter so he would hear the word of God.? Why couldn?t the angel simply tell him the word of God?? Why didn?t God just talk to Cornelius to tell him the story of Jesus Christ?

Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius.

Acts 10:34-35 (NKJV) — {34} Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ?In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. {35} But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Now, this is very interesting and something we should all think about.? Consider what Peter said.

  1. God shows no partiality
  2. God accepts whoever fears him and works righteousness

Cornelius was not saved and yet God accepted him.? God heard his prayers and remembered his good deeds.? This is why he had Peter go to him to preach the word to him.? Here again, we see the importance of ministers of the gospel.? God works through people to minister to people (See Romans 10:15).

Consider the gospel that Peter preached to Cornelius? household (See 10:36-43).

  1. Peace was preached through Jesus Christ
  2. Jesus is Lord of all
  3. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power
  4. Jesus? went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil
  5. God was with Him
  6. Peter and the apostles were witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem
  7. Jesus was killed by hanging on a tree
  8. God raised Jesus up on the third day
  9. Jesus was seen by many witnesses
  10. Jesus was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead
  11. Through the name of Jesus, all would be saved who believed in Him and would have remission of sins

The Gift of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius? Household

The Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household while Peter was speaking to them.? The Jews that were with Peter were astonished because of this.? They too evidently thought that salvation was only of the Jews.? They didn?t think that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on Gentiles as well as Jews.? It just goes to show you that even the most well-intentioned people may have it wrong or misinterpret what God is doing.? That is why we thank God for his divine providence as well as him directly intervening in our lives to straighten us out.

Peter commanded that Cornelius and his household be baptized since there was no reason why they shouldn?t have been.? God had already shown that he accepted them and saved them so they had a right to be baptized as any Jew who was converted to Christianity.

Defending Salvation to the Gentiles

Now here is something very interesting.

Acts 11:1-3 (NKJV) — {1} Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. {2} And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, {3} saying, ?You went into uncircumcised men and ate with them!?

What is interesting here is that the concern of the apostles in Jerusalem was not that people were saved.? They were more concerned about the fact that Peter and company broke the rule by going to commune with the Gentiles.? They heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God, but instead of rejoicing at the preaching of the gospel they criticized Peter for eating with Cornelius.

Peter then explained the entire situation to them.

Acts 11:18 (NKJV) — {18} When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ?Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.?

God had accepted the gentiles and there was, therefore, no argument.? It wasn?t Peter that broke a law, but rather Peter who was obedient beyond his own prejudices.? We think of Jonah for example who allowed his own prejudices to get in the way of him obeying God?s command to go to Nineveh.? God reached Nineveh through Jonah just as he reached Cornelius through Peter.
It was therefore declared by the apostles that God had indeed granted the Gentiles salvation.

Lessons Learned

  1. God sent a message through dreams.? Will God do this today?? I suppose so since there is no reason to believe that he won?t.? However, we may not always understand the meaning of the dream until perhaps the event for which the dream applies occurs.
  2. God accepts those who fear him and do good works
  3. God works through people to spread the gospel even though he could do so himself.? He spoke to Cornelius directly to instruct him to send for Peter so he could have likewise instructed Cornelius in the gospel.? However, he chose to have Peter do it.? God is sovereign and that is just the way that he does it.
  4. Even religious leaders can be corrected
  5. God is not partial
  6. We should not allow our prejudices to get in the way of obeying God and understanding what he is doing

Just because someone is not saved does not mean that God has nothing to do with him.? God is indeed reaching out to him just as he reached out to you.? He uses ministers of the gospel to reach people with the message of salvation.? This means that our preaching of the gospel is indeed very important especially to those who desperately want to hear it as Cornelius did. Amen.


God Accepts the Upright Gentile
By William R. Cunningham
Sunday, June 10, 2007



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