Good News for All

Acts 10:34-47

SS Lesson for 11/28/2021

 

Devotional Scripture: Luke 2:10-14

Lesson Background and Key Verse

Background from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

According to the Deaf Bible Society, only 2 percent of people who are deaf worldwide have been introduced to the gospel. As a result, the deaf constitute one of the largest and least-reached demographics. A man who was deaf recounted his story of attending church while he grew up, but never understanding what Jesus had done. Although there are estimated to be several hundred sign languages in use worldwide, only recently has there been an effort to begin Bible translation among these communities. As of this writing, not a single sign language has a complete Bible translation, not even American Sign Language (ASL)! But wait—since deafness is not a visual impairment, why do people who cannot hear need a Bible translation just for them? By one estimate, the great majority of children who are deaf cannot read. Thus having a video Bible translated into sign language overcomes a barrier. We should not assume that everyone is aware of the good news of Jesus. That was the situation for many in the first century AD. And many or most Jews who were aware of the gospel thought that Gentiles didn’t need to know because non-Jews were, by and large, excluded (see Acts 10:45; 11:1–18). But God had a different idea, as today’s lesson demonstrates.

Today’s passage is an excerpt from a longer story that extends from Acts 10:1 to 11:18. The length of this account, which comprises more than 6 percent of the book of Acts, reflects its significance. This turning point in history occurred after the day of Pentecost, when the apostle Peter had declared in his gospel message that “the promise is for you and for all who are far of, for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). Given Peter’s surprise in today’s passage, he may have presumed that “all who are far off” referred only to all Jews who were far off (compare addressees in James 1:1). Our lesson text has Peter standing before a Gentile audience, poised to share the gospel. This was a huge step for Peter. To observant Jews, Gentiles were unclean pagans, who might endanger the apostles’ own religious and moral purity. Any sharing of faith beliefs by Jews to Gentiles would have been “clean” ones testifying to “unclean” ones. But God was changing that mind-set. The correction began with two visions that occurred about 21 hours apart: the first to a Roman centurion named Cornelius (Acts 10:1-6) and the second to the apostle Peter (10:9-16). The respective locations were the cities of Caesarea Maritima and Joppa, about 30 miles apart, on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. Cornelius was no ordinary Gentile. He had a track record of praying to Israel’s God and modeling generosity to his neighbors (Acts 10:2). There is no indication, however, that Cornelius had fully converted to Judaism. Luke (the author of Acts) refers to individuals like Cornelius as fearing God and/or being “devout” (10:2; 13:26; 17:4, 17). This was in contrast to “proselytes”, those who had converted to Judaism fully (6:5; 13:43). Even so, God, recognizing the sincerity of Cornelius’s faith, chose this man to be the starting point for extending the gospel to Gentiles. God reached out to Cornelius by means of an angel, who instructed him to send for Peter (Acts 10:3-8). Next, God gave Peter a vision in which the apostle was commanded repeatedly to eat food forbidden to Jews (10:9-16). This conveyed a message that what had been declared unclean was no longer so. Immediately following Peter’s vision, messengers from Cornelius arrived and invited Peter to the Gentile’s house (Acts 10:17-23). Upon arriving, Cornelius and Peter shared their experiences (10:24-33). This takes us into today’s text.

 

Key Verse: Acts 10:34-35

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

 


Commentary from the Bible Knowledge Commentary

10:1. By separate visions both Peter and Cornelius were prepared for this momentous happening. Cornelius and his vision are described first. Cornelius was a centurion, a Roman officer in charge of 100 soldiers, in the Italian Regiment, consisting of 600 soldiers. In the New Testament centurions are consistently viewed in a favorable light (cf. Matt. 8:5-10; 27:54; Mark 15:44-45; Acts 22:25-26; 23:17-18; 27:6, 43). Centurion Cornelius became one of the first Gentiles after Pentecost to hear the good news of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness.

10:2. From the description of Cornelius as devout (eusebēs, used only here and in v. 7; 2 Peter 2:9) and God-fearing (“righteous and God-fearing,” Acts 10:22), it can be inferred he was not a full-fledged proselyte to Judaism (he had not been circumcised, 11:3), but he did worship Yahweh. Evidently he attended the synagogue and to the best of his knowledge and ability followed the Old Testament Scriptures. Nevertheless, he had not entered into New Testament salvation (cf. 11:14).

10:3-6. The time reference, 3 in the afternoon, may refer to a Jewish time of prayer (cf. 3:1). If so, the Lord approached Cornelius by means of an angel while he was at prayer (cf. 10:9). Later Cornelius called this angel “a man in shining clothes” (v. 30). Cornelius responded to the angel by asking, What is it, Lord? Perhaps “Lord” (kyrie) here means “Sir” (cf. 9:5). This soldier’s piety was evidenced by his prayers and his generous giving to the poor (cf. 10:2). The angel instructed him to send for Simon... Peter at the home of Simon the tanner (cf. 9:43).

10:7. When the angel who spoke to him had gone, the centurion called three of his men—two servants and a military aide, also a devout man (eusebē; cf. v. 2). Undoubtedly these three had been influenced by Cornelius’ devotion.

10:8. He told them everything that had happened. Related to the Greek participle used here (exēgēsamenos) is the English noun “exegesis.” The verb means he “explained” everything. The three went off to Joppa, some 33 miles south of Caesarea (v. 24), to bring Peter back to Cornelius.

10:9. That Peter prayed morning and evening may be assumed, for those were normal times of prayer. In addition he prayed at noon. Prayer three times a day was not commanded in the Scriptures, but Peter followed the example of pious men before him (cf. Ps. 55:17; Dan. 6:10). Peter went up to the (flat) roof to pray; this would have given him privacy.

10:10-12. While hungry, Peter fell into a trance in which God gave him a vision of a sheet coming down to earth with all kinds of... animals... reptiles... and birds.

10:13-14. When God commanded Peter to eat of these animals, his response was, Surely not, Lord! Significantly his refusal (“surely not”) was mēdamōs, a more polite and subjective term than oudamōs (“by no means,” used only in Matt. 2:6). This was the third time in Peter’s career that he directly refused God’s will (cf. Matt. 16:23; John 13:8). Peter knew from the Law that he should not eat unclean animals (Lev. 11). But could he not have killed and eaten the clean animals and left the unclean? Probably Peter understood the command to include them all. Or possibly the large sheet contained only unclean animals.

10:15. Do not call anything impure that God has made clean. This rebuttal gives Mark 7:14-23 more meaning (cf. 1 Tim. 4:4). It is generally recognized that Mark wrote down Peter’s words. In retrospect Peter must have recognized that Jesus as the Messiah cleansed all goods from ceremonial defilement.

10:16. Why did Peter refuse three times to eat the unclean foods? For one thing, this indicated emphasis. But more than that it revealed certainty and truth. Here was one place where Peter was being scrupulous beyond the will of God. His intentions were good, but he was being disobedient. Also, was there some link here with Peter’s threefold denial (John 18:17, 25-27) and with his three affirmations of his love for the Lord? (John 21:15-17)

10:17-22. In marvelous timing and by the coordination of the sovereign God the three messengers and Peter met. The Holy Spirit, who told Peter about the arrival of the three men, may have been the One whose unidentified voice Peter heard earlier (vv. 13, 15). The men... from Cornelius spoke highly of him (cf. vv. 2, 4) and conveyed to Peter their purpose in coming.

10:23a. Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. Since Peter had been waiting for his noon meal (cf. v. 10), he undoubtedly now shared it with his visitors. Perhaps he was already beginning to discern the lesson of his vision!

10:23b. By the time Peter and his guests finished lunch it must have been too late to start back to Caesarea that day. The next day they began the almost-two-day trip. (Cornelius’ emissaries had left Caesarea after 3 p.m. one day [vv. 3, 8] and arrived at noon two days later [vv. 9, 19]. Cf. “four days ago” in v. 30.) Peter took with him some of the brothers from Joppa. The two-by-two motif is common in the Gospels and Acts; Christian workers often went out by twos. In this debatable situation at least six people accompanied Peter (11:12). So there would be seven witnesses to attest to what would transpire.

10:24. Cornelius was so confident that Peter would come and he was so expectant of Peter’s message that he called together his relatives and close friends.

10:25-26. When Peter arrived, Cornelius prostrated himself before the apostle in worship. The verb prosekynēsen means “he worshiped” and is here translated in reverence. Peter, refusing this kind of obeisance, urged Cornelius to stand up, for, he said, I am only a man myself.

10:27-29. Peter was well aware of the consequences of his fellowshiping with Gentiles in their homes (cf. 11:2-3), but he had learned the lesson of the vision well. The command to eat unclean animals meant he was not to call any man impure or unclean. So he came without protest.

10:30-33. After Cornelius recounted the circumstances that brought Peter to his house he said, Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us. What a divinely prepared audience!

10:34-35. These words of Peter were revolutionary. They swept away the prejudice and indoctrination of generations of Judaism. However, Gentile salvation certainly was a doctrine known in the Old Testament (cf. Jonah; Gen. 12:3). In the Old Testament the Jews were God’s Chosen People, the special recipients of His promises and revelation. Here Peter stated that God’s program was reaching out to the world through the church. There is considerable debate about Peter’s words that God accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. This does not teach salvation by works because a person’s first responsibility before God is to fear Him, which is tantamount to trusting Him and reverencing Him. It is the New Testament parallel to Micah 6:8. Furthermore, God’s acceptance of such people refers to His welcoming them to a right relationship by faith in Christ (cf. Acts 11:14).

10:36-37. Peter then outlined the career of Christ (vv. 36-43), the sovereign Lord of all, through whom God sent... the good news of peace. Bible students have often observed how this parallels the Gospel of Mark almost perfectly. Mark began with John’s baptism and traced the ministry of the Lord Jesus from Galilee to Judea to Jerusalem and finally to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and the Great Commission.

10:38. The word Messiah means “Anointed One”; so when Peter said, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth he was saying, “God declared Him the Messiah” (cf. Isa. 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21; Acts 4:27). This declaration occurred at the Lord’s baptism (cf. Matt. 3:16-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34). Isaiah spoke of the Anointed One performing great deeds (Isa. 61:1-3), and as Peter declared, He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.

10:39-41. Peter affirmed that he and his associates were personal eyewitnesses of all Jesus did. They, that is, the Jews... killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, an ignominious form of execution. Earlier Peter had told Jews in Jerusalem, “You killed the Author of life” (3:15); to the rulers he said, “You crucified” Him (4:10); and to the Sanhedrin he replied, “You killed” Him “by hanging Him on a tree” (5:30). And Stephen too told the Sanhedrin, “You... have murdered Him” (7:52). On five occasions in Acts, the apostles said they were witnesses of the resurrected Christ (2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:41; 13:30-31). After Christ’s resurrection the disciples ate and drank with Him (cf. John 21:13). This was proof that the resurrected Lord Jesus was no bodiless phantom and it explains how Christ was seen (Acts 10:40).

10:42-43. Peter made it clear that Christ’s ministry results either in judgment (v. 42) or salvation (v. 43). The key phrase is, Everyone who believes in Him. This Greek construction consists of a present participle with an article, which is almost the equivalent of a noun (in this case “every believer in Him”). The key element in salvation is faith, belief in Christ. This message of forgiveness of sins (cf. 2:38; 5:31; 13:38; 26:18) through faith in the Messiah was spoken of by the prophets (e.g., Isa. 53:11; Jer. 31:34; Ezek. 36:25-26).

10:44-45. Peter’s message was rapidly concluded by the sovereign interruption of the Holy Spirit who came on all those who heard Peter’s message about Jesus and believed. The six (cf. v. 23; 11:12) circumcised believers... were astonished (exestēsan; “they were beside themselves”; cf. 9:21) at this evidence of equality of Gentiles with Jewish believers.

10:46. The sign which God used to validate the reality of Gentile salvation was speaking in tongues. (For the significance of tongues-speaking in Acts, see 19:1-7.)

10:47-48. Peter quickly discerned at least three theological implications of what had happened: (1) He could not argue with God (11:17). (2) Cornelius and his household, though uncircumcised (11:3), were baptized because they had believed in Christ, as evidenced by their receiving the Holy Spirit. The order of these events was believing in Christ, receiving the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and being baptized in water. (3) The reality of Cornelius’ conversion was confirmed by Peter’s staying with him several days, probably to instruct him more fully in his newfound faith.

 

Major Theme Analysis

(Scriptural Text from the New King James Version; cross-references from the NIV)

The Witnessing of the Good News (Acts 10:34-43)

 

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.

36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all — 

37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:

38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.

40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly,

41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."

 

Witness to the impartialityof God (34-35)

Witness that God is above all and does not need to show partiality (Deut 10:17) 

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

Witness that God deals with truth, not swayed by man (Matt 22:16) 

They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.

Witness that God does not show favoritism (Rom 2:11)  

For God does not show favoritism.

Witness that God judges by the inward man not outward (Gal 2:6) 

As for those who seemed to be important-whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance-those men added nothing to my message.

Witness that to God, there is no difference, just Jesus Christ in all believers (Col 3:11) 

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Witness that God judges impartially (1 Peter 1:17) 

Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

 

Witness to the supremacy of Jesus (36-38)

Witness that all authority is in the hand of Jesus (Matt 28:18)  

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Witness that Jesus has the authority and right to give life to whom He pleases (John 5:21) 

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Witness that Jesus and God are One (John 10:28-30) 

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

Witness that Jesus was glorified with power from God (John 17:1-2) 

1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Witness that Jesus has all thing under His control (Phil 3:20-21) 

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Witness that Jesus made all things and in Him all things exist (Col 1:17-18) 

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Witness that Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings (1 Tim 6:13-16) 

13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time-God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Witness that Jesus is superior to all things (Heb 1:3-4) 

3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Witness that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:8) 

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

 

Witness to the Gospel of Jesus (40-43)

Witness to the Gospel because it is the good news of God (Luke 2:10-11)

10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Witness to the Gospel because it proclaims that Jesus died for sins (1 Cor 15:2-4)

2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Witness to the Gospel because it is the blessing of Jesus (Rom 15:29)

29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

Witness to the Gospel because of its call (2 Thess 2:14)

14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Witness to the Gospel because of its establishment (Rom 16:25)

25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past,

Witness to the Gospel because it provides chance to be saved (Rom 1:16)

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

 

Power of the Holy Spirit in the Good News (Acts 10:44-47)

 

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

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

47 "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

 

Holy Spirit’s reception (44-45)

Received to become a child of God (Gal 4:6-7)

6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Received to help us understand what God has given us (1 Cor 2:11-12)

11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Received to obtain the hope of righteousness promised (Gal 5:5)

5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.

Received to obtain the glorious inheritance promised (Eph 1:18)

18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Received to become one in Him (Eph 4:4-6)

4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

Holy Spirit’s power displayed (46)

Power to obey God (Ezek 36:27)

27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Power that provides spiritual life (Rom 8:11)

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Power that guides us in truth (John 16:13)

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Power that teaches us how to live (Gal 5:16)

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Power that is the conduit of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 

Holy Spirit’s baptism (47)

Baptism that is received at the time of repentance and rebirth (Acts 2:38)

38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism that is a deposit guaranteeing ownership of God (2 Cor 1:22)

22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Baptism that signifies being a child of God (Gal 4:6)

6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

Baptism that is a seal until redemption (Eph 1:13-14)

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of his glory.

Baptism that strengthens and empowers (Eph 3:16-17)

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

 

Conclusion and Other Thoughts

Commentary Thoughts from Bob Deffinbaugh

The Gospel (10:36-43)

“Proclaimed by Peter, Accepted by the Gentiles, and Witnessed to by the Spirit

36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. 39 “And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 “God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name every one who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Recently a friend suggested to me that I attempt to summarize the gospel in a paragraph. It is a noble task and well worth the effort. Peter has done just that in the paragraph above. He has distilled the essence of the gospel in but a paragraph. What is it that one needs to know in order to be saved? Well, here it is. Let us look at the gospel as Peter has summed it up.

Characteristics of Peter’s Message

As we pause to consider Peter’s message as a whole, several important characteristics of this sermon should be noted and then kept in mind when interpreting and applying it:

(1) Peter is preaching the gospel. At the beginning of this episode, Peter seemed only to know that he was to go to the house of Cornelius and that he was to speak whatever God commanded him to say. But from Acts 11:14 we know that Cornelius was told that Peter would speak those words which would explain to him how he and those of his household could be saved. Peter’s words, recorded in Acts 10:36-43, are the gospel. We are assured of this because it was immediately after hearing these words that the Spirit fell upon those gathered as proof of their salvation. Peter’s words were the gospel.

(2) Peter is preaching the gospel to Gentiles. These were Gentile “God-fearers,” men and women who recognized that the Messiah and God’s salvation would come through Israel. But they were “uncircumcised men” (Acts 11:3) whom the Jewish believers felt were not an appropriate audience for Peter’s preaching, something which they will be sure to let Peter know about when he returns to Jerusalem.

(3) Much of the gospel Peter preached was material that was not new to his audience. Peter’s words, “you know” in verse 37, supplied again by the translators of the NASB in verse 38, indicate that some, perhaps much, of what Peter was saying was not new. The question which these Gentiles had was, “What must we (as Gentiles) do to be saved?” They had some knowledge of what the Jews in Jerusalem had seen and heard, but the gospel for the Gentiles was an uncertain thing.

(4) The gospel Peter was preaching was exactly the same message which was preached to the Jews. This is not a “Gentile version” of the gospel, but the “Jewish version” of it. Peter is repeating that gospel message which he had been preaching to Jews alone (Samaritans included here, as half-Jews). We shall later learn (in Galatians 2) that there is no separate gospel for Jews or Gentiles, but one gospel, by which all come to Christ. Peter was preaching the same message he had preached everywhere, but especially to the Jews in Jerusalem and to the Samaritans. There were no changes made for the Gentiles.

(5) The gospel Peter preached was received before Peter had any chance to finish his sermon. I have marveled at the brevity of this message of Peter’s. How concise he was, I thought. And then I realized that this was only his introduction. Look at Peter’s words of explanation to his Jewish brethren as recorded in Acts 11:

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15).

Peter did not get to finish this sermon! This brief summary of the gospel was merely his introduction, merely his beginning place. He began by summarizing the gospel, much of which his audience knew. He seems to have been planning to go on from here, spelling out and explaining the points he had summarized as he developed his message. He never got that chance. Who knows what Peter would have said had he continued? But what he did say was enough. He summarized his gospel preaching as he had proclaimed the good news to the Jews, and that was all that the Gentiles needed to know and to believe in order to be saved. They heard Peter, they believed the message, they were saved, and thus the Spirit descended upon them.

Conclusion

As we come to the end of this chapter, we must realize that we are not yet at the end of the episode, which concludes in chapter 11. But we can come to some preliminary conclusions. Let me highlight some of these as we close this lesson.

(1) While the conversion which the gospel produces may, in some ways, produce instant changes, other changes come harder and over a longer period of time. When we are saved we move from darkness to light, from judgment to salvation, from death to life. But we must also note that even in the case of the apostles (Peter, in particular), his theology changed gradually, and some of his sins and prejudices lingered on for a long period of time—longer than we would like to admit. Salvation changes our status with God instantly, but it does not instantly eradicate all sin or error or prejudice. Peter is now an apostle, but he is not infallible, nor is he free from all of the errors of his past. So it is with us. God changes some things instantly, and others gradually (through the process of sanctification). Let us reckon with this reality in our own lives and also as we deal with others.

(2) God does not distinguish between Jews and Gentiles in the church. Jewishness and Gentileness is not an issue in the gospel. Gentiles do not have to become Jews or proselytes to become Christians. The gospel is the same, for Jews and Gentiles. Christians are Christians, and there should be no artificial distinctions such as, “Jewish Christian” and “Gentile Christian.”

(3) One of the great barriers to the proclamation of the gospel today, as in the days of the New Testament church, is racial prejudice. That was the problem with Israel, as personified in the prophet Jonah. That is still the problem today.

(4) If we are to be saved from the wrath of God on sinners, the gospel which Peter preached (along with all the rest of the apostles and the saints of all ages) is the only gospel by which we can and will be saved. This word from Peter to the household of Cornelius is the gospel. Any deviation from it is a deviation from the true gospel. Let us beware if our “gospel” differs from Peter’s gospel.

Have you received the gospel, my friend? Have you acknowledged your sin and the frightening reality that this Jesus whom we find in the gospels is going to return, to judge all who have rejected His gift of salvation? Have you received Him as Israel’s Messiah, and more importantly, as God’s Messiah, predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament, and witnessed to by the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the apostles? Have you come to believe that He died for your sins, and that He was raised from the dead for your justification? If so, God does not distinguish you from any other saint, of any other race or social status. But the one distinction God will make is the distinction between those who have trusted in His Son and those who have not. This is the most important distinction of all. Which are you, a forgiven sinner, who has trusted in Jesus as your Savior, or one who has rejected Jesus and who awaits divine wrath? I pray that you are, like Cornelius, a saint, saved by the blood of Jesus.

                            (Adapted from URL:https://bible.org/seriespage/16-conversion-cornelius-acts-1036-48)

 

Concluding Thoughts from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

The scope of God’s salvation is highlighted in today’s pivotal text, when Gentiles received an outpouring of God’s Spirit as Jews had earlier. Questions remained regarding what role former identity markers of God’s people—markers such as circumcision, dietary laws, and observance of special days—would continue to play. Such questions were settled at the famous Jerusalem Council of Acts 15: these external markers were no longer essential to the people of God. God’s plan was to spread the news of salvation through his old-covenant people, the Jews (John 4:22). Jesus was Jewish, as were his closest disciples. All people who were not Jewish were lumped into a single category: Gentiles. (Samaritans could be a complicating additional category.) To devout Jews, Gentiles were regarded as complete outsiders unless they adhered to the Law of Moses (Exodus 12:48–49; etc.). Today’s passage overturned all this. We can do no better than allow the apostle Paul to summarize this change: Christ Jesus [set] aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:13-18).

The good news of God’s kingdom is now available to all who believe (see Romans 1:16). We should be on the lookout for people such as Cornelius​—​individuals who may be open to hearing the gospel, but who have never had it explained.

 

Concluding Thoughts from the Echoes Commentary

Faith for Gentiles - About 10 years after the day of Pentecost, God prepared Peter's heart for those outside the Jewish culture. He briefly outlined the good news about his Savior's life, death, and resurrection as Peter visited the home of Cornelius, a Gentile. Cornelius practiced Jewish rituals, although he had not converted to Judaism. The Gentile obeyed the Jewish law, gave to the temple, and prayed. God sent an angel to instruct Peter to seek out the household of Cornelius. Peter ended up traveling 30 miles to the city of Joppa. God prepared Peter for this task. He used a vision about food to enlighten Peter. God communicated clearly to Peter that Gentiles and Gentile food were not unclean. Peter's vision made it clear that God loved both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus died on the Cross for the sin of all humanity.

 

Jewish Hostility toward Gentiles - The Jews knew that God loved and had chosen the Jews, but they wrongly believed that He hated the Gentiles. A typical prayer for a Jewish man entailed thanking Jehovah for not making him a slave, woman, or a Gentile. Jewish midwives were not permitted to help Gentile women bring a Gentile baby into the world. If a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish family had a funeral for that Jewish family member and considered the person dead. Even to enter a house of a Gentile was considered unclean. Peter's message at Cornelius's house erased these misconceptions. The apostle concluded his sermon by saying it does not matter because all who believe, including Gentiles, receive the promise of salvation.

 

Another Interruption - In the middle of Peter's sermon, the Holy Spirit interrupted the meeting. The Holy Spirit came just like on the day of Pentecost. The Jewish believers stood in awe. The group who accompanied Peter heard the Gentiles speaking in tongues and magnifying God. Peter commanded baptism as a demonstration that they were accepted followers of Christ. Gentiles becoming Christians fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. God's heart is for the entire population of the world to believe in His Son. That is why we must spread the Gospel for everyone. Praise God, He loves and wants all of us in His family!