In ACTS 10 God intercedes directly in the minds of 2 men with unique visions that forever changes the meaning and makeup of the Christian church. What does this mean for us? ◊
What does a soldier have in common with a fisherman? Not much it would appear. What if they are from differing nations and religious upbringing? As they run in completely different social circles, their lives would typically never intersect.
An Intriguing Story
In Acts 10, God uses a peculiar series of miraculous encounters and visions to continue to grow the emerging church of early Christ-followers. This chapter involves a Roman soldier, a captain or centurion named Cornelius, and the Jewish fisherman named Peter, one of the original disciples of Jesus. This intriguing passage includes 4 distinct but sequential episodes that lead to the explosive growth of the new Christian faith and presents a lesson about the universal availability of God’s gift of salvation to anyone, even those outside the Jewish faith.
It all happens within a few short years after the first century death and resurrection of Christ.
1. Here’s the story of Cornelius’ vision:
Cornelius was a Roman soldier based in Caesarea. He was a God-fearing gentile, not a Jew. One afternoon while praying, he had a vision of an angel who told him that he was to send men to Joppa (about 30 miles away) to find and bring back a man named Simon (Peter) who would be staying at the house of a tanner named Simon. Cornelius did what he was told and sent three of his men to Joppa.
Take a moment to read Acts 10:1-8 and note the very particular level of detail that is in the vision.
2. Here is the story of Peter’s vision:
At the same time in Joppa, God was preparing Peter’s heart to minister to his coming Gentile visitors. The next afternoon, while praying, God gave Peter a vision of an assortment of animals, both clean and unclean. Though Peter heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat,” he resisted because as a devout Jew he had never eaten non-kosher food before. But the voice replied, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This vision was repeated three times.
While Peter was pondering the meaning of his vision, he heard the Spirit saying that three men were waiting for him at the gate of Simon’s house and that he should go with them without hesitation. Peter then met the men Cornelius had sent from Caesarea the day before. The men told Peter of Cornelius’s visitation by an angel and asked him to come and speak to Cornelius. Peter invited the men to stay the night, and the next day Peter and the men returned to Caesarea.
Now carefully read Acts 10:9-23 and again note the specifics of what Peter heard and saw when he went to his housetop to pray.
3. Here is the story of Peter’s visit to Cornelius’ House:
Now Cornelius was waiting for them with his family and close friends. When Peter saw Cornelius and the larger gathering, he reminded them that it was against Jewish law for Peter to be associated with Gentiles. But that God had shown Peter a vision to not call any person common or unclean.
Peter now understood that the animals in his previous vision were symbolic of the Gentiles (non-Jews), to whom God was preparing to give the gospel. Then Cornelius told Peter about his vision in prayer and angel who told him to seek out Peter in Joppa. Both Peter and Cornelius saw that God had moved through the Holy Spirit to bring them together. Cornelius then said, “Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” (See Acts 10:24-33)
4. Here is Peter’s Sermon to Cornelius and his family:
Then Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.” Peter then preached the good news gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone gathered in Cornelius’s house. He spoke of Jesus’ baptism and anointing by the power of the Holy Spirit, and how he and the apostles were eyewitnesses to all Jesus did and his death and His resurrection and life on the third day. Peter then told them of Christ’s command for them to preach to the people and testify that Jesus is the “one ordained by God to be judge of the living and dead” and “that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”
Finally, as Peter was speaking this message, the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by speaking in tongues, and were baptized with water. Peter and all who were present that day now saw the beginning of something new God was doing: “…[they] have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
This miraculous series of events was evidence for all that the gospel of Christ was for all people, not only for the Jewish people. (See Acts 10:34-48)
God loves all mankind and would have than none should perish or be apart from Him. We put up the walls between ourselves and God. But the Scriptures once again show us that God does change hearts and minds and goes to great lengths to do so. The Bible is full of incidents of people being transformed by the evidences and encounters with the living God and His Spirit among us.
Cornelius and his family were fine and happy with their standard religious belief practices. Peter was pretty set in his ways as well. They probably would have argued and debated their particular positions and perspectives if they’d ever had the opportunity to state their stance against each other.
But God changed them both and showed the world that true Christ-following faith is open to everyone. It’s a credit to each of them that they opened their eyes, hearts and minds when their eyes, hearts, and minds were opened to a new set of beliefs, ideas, and truths different from their own set standards.
Do you understand that Christianity is for everyone?
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. – Acts 10:44-46