First Cornelius Then Peter
Acts 10:1-23a – December 11, 2022
Acts 10:1. As a centurion Cornelius would draw 2x or more than the salary of a regular soldier. It normally took 15 years to rise through the ranks to the position of a centurion with command over 100 soldiers.
Acts 10:2. Cornelius was a worshipper of God who had renounced the gods of Rome. From a Jewish perspective he was “God fearer” or a worshipper of God as Luke describes him.
Acts 10:3-4a. When we read Cornelius stared at the angel in fear we don’t really get a feeling for what this battle-hardened Roman centurion felt. The Greek word enphobos is defined as terrified or full of fear.
Acts 10:4b. Can we simply pause here for a moment? Cornelius has just been told his prayers and gifts to the poor have been heard by God and recognized as a memorial before God. His prayers and his giving were seen as evidence his devotion and reverence toward God, and were accepted.
Then we come to the next two verses where the angel gives Cornelius specific instructions.
Acts 10:5-8. Had Cornelius heard of Peter? Had he heard of Jesus? We are not told. Nonetheless, he was going to follow God’s instructions given to him by an angel.
Acts 10:9-10. We find out by his actions that Peter like Cornelius was a man if prayer.
So, intending to pray and being hungry – really hungry, something happened, and Peter fell into a trance, from the Greek word ekstasis meaning bewilderment or ecstasy.
Acts 10:13-14. God is telling Peter to do two things that would be foreign and wrong to him so he says to the Lord, No! and probably thinking he just passed a test. Even permitted animals had to be slaughtered ritualistically as God had commanded.
But then God spoke again.
Acts 10:15. If God has made something clean, it has been consecrated, if it becomes unclean it has been desecrated.
Acts 10:16. What happened three times? Peter wonders about this as well as we read in v17
Acts 10:17-18. Look at what is going on here, Peter has been told three times what God has made clean, do not call it unclean or impure. Then two Gentiles and Roman soldier – also a Gentile show up.
Acts 10:19-20. Now Peter gets another instruction concerning three men, Do not hesitate to go with them
Acts 10:21. Peter is hesitating because he is likely thinking, what are you doing here, I am waiting for three men (Jews) sent for me by God.
Acts 10:22. Shock, absolute shock must have been Peter’s initial reaction. We don’t know if he knew of Cornelius the centurion or not. If not, he may have heard of a centurion from Caesarea who was God fearing. Now he was hearing a holy angel had told this centurion to ask Peter to go the house of a Gentile.
Acts 10:23a. He let three men who were ceremonially unclean into the house even though it was against Jewish law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. A miracle.
Bottom Line: We need to listen to God and what He tells us, not what our customs tell us. God’s word trumps it all.