The Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, is the most valuable information ever revealed to the residents of this planet.
The Gospel has its beginning in Genesis 3:15 where God told the serpent (Satan, using the form of an attractive creature to entice Eve into sinning) that there would be perpetual enmity between her seed and Satan's seed. Satan would bruise her seed's heel but her seed would ultimateld deal the crushing blow to Satan.
Genesis 3:15, Revelation 20:10.
God brought the nation Israel into being as the family through whom he himself, in the form of his Son, would temporarily cast off his supernatural glory and wrap himself in a human body to be born into this world -- the predicted seed of the woman.. The purpose of his visit to earth was to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin. Satan has caused all to sin; the sinless Son of God is our substitute, paying our penalty out of his own resources (his human life) and purchasing redemption for all who believe on him.
Genesis 28:13-14, Matthew 1:20-23, Phlippians 2:6-11, Hebrews 7:24-27, Hebrews 9:24-28.
In accordance with God's eternal plan, Jesus Christ was crucified, then raised again by God, then returned home to Heaven to await the response to his sacrifice.
As people hear the Gospel and respond to Jesus Christ by believing in him, their sins are forgiven and they are adopted into the family of God.
Acts 5:29-32, Hebrews 1:1-3, Hebrews 10:1-14, Galatians 4:4-7.
Shortly before returning to Heaven Jesus instructed his followers that they were to be witnesses to him, proclaiming the Gospel in an ever widening circle beginning at Jerusalem and eventually reaching to the uttermost part of Earth. As the chosen people of God, the Jews were given the right of first refusal. In Acts chapter 10 we see the transition from the Gospel being a Jewish message for Jews only to the universal message for every person living on earth. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Acts 1:8, John 3:16-17, Acts 2:21.
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
[Caesarea] A seacoast city located about thirty miles south of Joppa and 75 miles southeast of Jerusalem. Originally called Stratos Tower, the city was given by Caesar Augustus to Herod the Great, the same Herod who attempted to murder Jesus Christ in infancy by killing the children of Bethlehem Matthew 2:1-18. Herod enlarged and modernized the city and renamed it in honor of his patron and friend, Caesar Augustus. Caesarea should not be confused with the city, Caesarea Philippi, which is located in the northern reaches of Israel and is always identified by the suffix Philippi.
[Cornelius, a centurion] A centurion was commander of a group of 100 Roman soldiers. He is described by Luke as a devout man, one that feared God. Unusual for a Gentile, but not unheard of. While Cornelius does not appear to be a proselyte, (an absolute convert to Judaism who underwent a ritual that included circumcision and baptism), he certainly was sympathetic to the Jews and had come to believe in and worship Jehovah with his whole household, including some of his personal military staff..
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
[Evidently about the ninth hour] Luke, the author of Acts, was not present when Cornelius experienced his vision but probably gathered information about it from subsequent interviews. The Roman 24 hour day was considered to begin at midnight while the official Jewish day was divided into night (beginning at sunset) and day (beginning at sunrise), each of which started at approximately 6 o'clock am or pm as appropriate according to our clocks. Ninth hour Roman time would be 9 am our time, but I think Luke consistently used Jewish time in his reports Acts 2:15, Acts 3:1, which would make it about 3 pm our time.
[What is it, Lord?] Cornelius studied the Scriptures and prayed regularly and was generous toward the poor, yet he never expected a personal visit from an angel of God. This must be serious! "What is it, Lord?"
[Send men to Joppa] The nearby city where Peter was currently preaching and teaching. Two trusted servants with a devout soldier for protection were dispatched immediately in compliance with the angel's instructions. The thirty miles from Caesarea to Joppa would be considered a full day's journey..
9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
[On the morrow, as they ... drew nigh unto the city] Since the sixth hour would be about modern day noon, it may be inferred that the messengers had travelled most of the night.
[Rise, Peter, kill, and eat.] Peter, although he was a Christian, was still an orthodox Jew. He carefully observed the laws of the Old Testament which had been given to the children of Israel. In this case, God used dietary laws to make his point.
Leviticus chapter 11
contained specific instructions regarding which kinds of flesh were clean (suitable for food) or unclean. To even touch the carcass of an unclean beast made a person unclean (therefore ineligible for religious activities) until evening.
The sheet contained all manner of animal life, so obviously many of them were unclean. Peter probably thought he was being tested for some reason so his initial response to the command to kill and eat was to refuse, asserting his adherance to the Law. Then the Heavenly voice stated clearly to Peter that the God who had declared certain animals to be unclean also had authority to redesignate them as clean.
With hindsight we know that animals were not the subject under discussion. The sheet represented the entire earth, the animals represented the multitude of ethnicities which dwell upon earth and God was telling Peter that people previously classified unclean were now being declared eligible to receive the Gospel of Christ. The conversation was repeated two more times to make certain that Peter, though he might not yet fully comprehend, would at least understand that the issue was important to God.
17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision that he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
[While Peter doubted in himself] Without question God had given him a significant message and, if Peter understood it correctly, it meant that God was about to introduce some new rules. But what? A change to dietary laws? Something bigger?
[Go with them, doubting nothing] What a day! First there was a mysterious vision, then three Gentiles appeared at the gate asking for him while at the same time the Holy Spirit was instructing him to break with tradition and go with them. Peter's thinking may have followed the line of, "What? You want me to go with those Gentiles? Lord, I have never ... OH! I SEE!"
21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
[Send for thee...and to hear words of thee.] Peter had information that God wanted delivered to Cornelius so God orchestrated all of these events.
What an encouragement it is for us to realize that the God of the universe is interested in us personally and works in the background arranging the circumstances of our life. How did you happen to first hear the Gospel? If you are married, how did you happen to meet your future spouse? Do you suppose that you may have information regarding salvation through Christ that God wants delivered to someone near you? Rather than resist and second guess God, we should yield to him and follow the instructions he gave to Peter, "Go ..., doubting nothing."
[Then called he them in, and lodged them.]Peter invited the messengers to rest overnight (apparently with Simon the tanner's blessing since Peter the apostle was his houseguest) and the following morning started out with them for Caesarea. Six other of the Christian brethren of Joppa Acts 11:12 accompanied Peter as observers. We often think of Peter as reactionary or impulsive, but in actual fact, he was very wise. Something extraordinary was about to happen and it was appropriate to have multiple verifications.
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
[Cornelius waited for them] Since Cornelius had been instructed by an angel to send for Peter, he knew that what Peter had to say would be of immense value. Cornelius gathered the people who were important to him so that they might share the good news.
[Stand up, I myself also am a man] To Cornelius someone so important that God had sent an angel to introduce him was surely worthy of worship. Peter would have none of it. It is the message that is important, not the man.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
[An unlawful thing] In accordance with Old Testament instructions and subsequent elaboration by religious scholars, honorable Jews avoided contact with Gentiles in every way possible. They avoided doing business with Gentiles, eating with Gentiles, even entering into their homes or public places. Any interaction with Gentiles carried the risk of inadvertent defilement due to their pagan practices. Leviticus 20:22-26, John 4:9, Acts 11:2-3. In fact, when Jesus was tried before pilate, the Jews would not even enter the Roman hall of judgement because it was passover. Pilate had to come outside to the courtyard to communicate with Jesus' accusers. John 18:28-38.
[For what intent have you sent for me?] Nevertheless, I responded to your request because the Holy Spirit told me to do so. How did you happen to send for me?
[He shall speak unto thee.] When the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples at Pentecost Peter was chosen by God to explain the background and meaning of the events of the day. Acts chapter 2. Now that the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ was about to be formally extended to the Gentiles Peter was once again selected by God to be the initial spokseman.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
[In every nation] The Jews had come to believe that since God had made his covenant with Israel God's ultimate blessing was also restricted to Israel. If a heathen (Gentile) were to become a believer in Jehovah and wished to enter into the covenant promise, it was considered necessary for that person to actually become a Jew, called a proselyte, by renouncing his Gentile heritage and voluntarily becoming subject to Jewish Law as described in the Old Testament. Since becoming a Christian (a believer in Christ) was the natural progression of the Jewish faith it seemed reasonable to Jewish Christians that the Gospel was also restricted to Jews and proselytes.
Under the influence of the Holy Spirit Peter was quickly coming to realize that while God had chosen to use Israel as the channel for his delivery of Messiah to the world the target of this great blessing was, "All the families of the earth."
Later the apostle Paul would make this concept crystal clear in his epistle to the Romans. Romans 10:12-13.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of 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 slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
An amplified paraphrase of Peter's sermon:
What I am about to tell you is the information which God provided to the children of Israel and is now making available to you. Peace with God comes through Jesus Christ, who is more than just a man or a famous prophet, he is God himself. You are aware of the history surrounding Jesus of Nazareth. John the Baptist announced the imminent coming of Messiah and and invited people to prepare themselves by renouncing sin and being baptized as public proclamation of their intended reformation. Jesus came on the scene and was pointed out by John as the Promised One. Indeed, Jesus fulfilled the signs that were predicted by the prophets. We are firsthand witnesses of all these things.
Israel, under the urging of its religious leaders, rejected Jesus and prevailed upon their Roman occupiers to crucify him. God resurrected Jesus on the third day. After that, the risen Savior appeared to selected witnesses, not as a ghost but as a real person, going so far as to participate with us in physical activities such as eating and drinking. Jesus instructed us to tell the world what we know, that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Son of God and ultimate judge of the world. (The inference is that submission to him is inevitable. The question is when? Voluntarily or involuntarily?)
Now we understand what the prophets were contending, that whosoever believes in him, Jew or Gentile, shall receive remission of sins.
John 1:35-42, Luke 4:14-21, Matthew 20:17-19, Luke 24:33-43, Luke 24:44-48, Romans 10:12-13.
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
[The Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard] Just as at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to the Jewish believers, the Holy Spirit was given to these Gentiles when they heard the Gospel and believed in Jesus Christ. There was no requirement to first become a Jew, then become a Christian. The event was triggered by faith not religious process. Romans 5:1.
To see these Gentiles be accepted directly by God without first submitting to Jewish Law was a shock to the Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter. It went against what they had been taught for a lifetime.
It is important to understand this. The purpose of the Old Testament ritual sacrifice was to point toward the sacrifice which the Son of God would offer for the sins of the world. Once Jesus had accomplished his permanent sacrifice there was no longer a need for the forward-looking sacrifice of animals. Jesus Christ had fulfilled the law. Therefore, from that point on, everybody enters into the saving relationship with Christ in exactly the same manner, by FAITH in him.
John 3:16-18, John 3:36.
This page updated 07/11/2008Copyright (C) 2008 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved