The Men’s Visit to Joppa (10:17-22)
The vision did its job! Peter was puzzled. He lost confidence in his dogmatic interpretation of what should happen in the New Covenant period. God was teaching him how to live in light of a greater promise (see Romans 4 for more information).
Strange men called out for Peter
Do you believe in coincidences? This is not one of them! This is an answer to prayer. Most of the time when God answers prayer we are not looking for an answer and therefore miss the answer that God provides. In this case as he was asking God for an answer, the men called at the gate. The next time you ask for something, notice what happens when you are praying or immediately afterwards.
Spirit sent them; he is not to fear
Peter needed even more directions. God gave them. He is never short a miracle. Miracles are not as uncommon as we think. Miracles are commonplace workings of God in our world.
But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them with out misgivings; for I have sent them Myself. (Acts 2:20).
Peter asks them for the details
Peter was still unclear but his interest sure was piqued! He does not understand the significant implications of the vision yet. He soon will.
Peter lodged them and went with them
Already he was willing to lodge them and care for them. The choice of God for these people meant that he had to accept them too even if they were not Jews nor kept Jewish customs. Changes are not easy. A cross-cultural missionary must accept a whole set of unfamiliar and sometimes repulsive situations, sounds, and foods. They adjust their lives because God wants them to, not because they like it.
Peter’s Visit to Caesarea (10:23-48)
Christian men from Joppa accompanied him
The next day they made that 30-mile walk up the coast to Caesarea. As they approached this distinctively Roman place, Peter no doubt asked himself many a time if he was doing the right thing. He went back again and again to the vision and timing of the vision.
Relatives & friends waited with Cornelius
Cornelius wasn’t going to waste this special visit. If an angel had spoken to him, he got those that might be open to what message God might send to them. Already we read how he led his family in worship of the One True God. He also influenced friends. Verse 27 says that many people were there.
False worship rejected by Peter (10:26)
Cornelius didn’t know what to do. Perhaps he sensed that Peter had something to do with this angelic visit. He fell to the ground in worship at Peter’s approach. Peter like John in Revelation rejected that worship and simply said, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”
Peter’s explanation of the visit and vision (10:28-29)
Peter starts by explaining the reason he is there at all. In other words, Peter as a Jew typically would not have at all associated with a foreigner or visit one. But he relates,
God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for.
Peter is probably explaining the reason of his presence there to himself as much as to them. He probably still doesn’t know why he is there. He only knows God wants him there. We do see, however, that finally Peter understood the full meaning of his vision. What God had considered unlawful, in his perspective, has now changed. He cannot call any man holy or unholy by his background. Again, this is a powerful truth that should fully impact our lives. There is no room for prejudice.
For example, have you ever wondered why we as New Testament Christians do not need to keep the Old Testament ceremonial laws? God is showing us that there is a greater covenant that we are to abide by. The Book of Hebrews does a great job contrasting the old and new.
Cornelius’ explanation of his request and vision (30-33)
Now Cornelius didn’t know what was happening either. He stood by relating the facts. He spoke about what happened when he was praying. An angel appeared and spoke to him. His prayer was answered. That is why he invited Peter to his house. He is expecting a message from God via Peter.
We should note that the only prayer that God would hear from a non-Christian is to be saved. God answers prayer by leading this person to one where he can hear the gospel and become a child of God.
Peter’s impromptu message (34-44)
Peter is getting the point. He is familiar with God giving him a message now (see earlier in Acts). Before talking about the historical facts that Christianity is founded upon, he first catches up on this whole ‘Jewish meet Gentile’ scene. He now sees,
I most certain understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. (10:34-35).
His message will be focused on later in the next page.
Gift of Spirit on Gentiles (44-46)
An amazing thing happened after Peter briefly shared the gospel. The Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. The Holy Spirit is a special gift depicting God’s presence in a person’s life. If God chose to dwell in them, Peter and others then had to accept the Gentiles just as any other Jew that would believe. Peter described it like this,
The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also (Acts 10:45).
Cornelius and the others were speaking in different languages and exalting God. This is similar to the very outpouring upon the disciples in Acts 2. Many problems would later develop because the Judiastic believers were not willing to refrain from imposing their Judaism upon their fellow Gentile believers. Paul spoke strongly against them in the Book of Galatians.
Baptism of Cornelius and others (47-48)
Peter was now to take the boldest step of all which he would later need to explain over and over again. It is one thing to see God do something but now he went forward and baptized them. He said it in such a way that we can sense his deep and rich conviction about the matter.
Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he? (Acts 10:47).
The gift of the Holy Spirit then is normally received after salvation. In this case God reversed the sequence in order to give clear proof to Peter and the church of their acceptance as God’s people. Peter would soon return and relate this incident to the others. God now is saving Gentiles. God is reaching out to the nations.
We can imagine a pile of Old Testament quotes came to Peter’s mind affirming God’s purpose of reaching to the nations. In 10:48 Peter ordered that they be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.