Acts 10


1 “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the

band called the Italian band,”  Now there was (two last words in italics) for

there was (in roman), Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; Cornelius by

name for called Cornelius, Authorized Version.  A glance at the map will show

that Caesarea (see note to ch. 9:30) was but a short distance, some thirty miles,

from Joppa. It was doubtless with a view to Peter’s momentous errand to

Caesarea that Luke recorded his previous visit to Lydda and his residence at

Joppa, consequent upon the restoring of Dorcas to life: the origines of Gentile

Christianity being the prime object of the Acts. The Italian band;

(σπείρα speiraband; cohort). The σπείρα was used in two senses.

When spoken of strictly Roman troops, it meant the tenth part of a legion,

and consisted of from four hundred and twenty-five to five hundred or six

hundred men, according to the strength of the legion. Its commander was

called a chiliarch, and it was divided into centuries, each commanded by a

centurion. But when spoken of auxiliary provincial troops, it meant a

regiment of about a thousand men (Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ 3:42). It is in this

last sense probably that it is used here. Josephus, in the passage above

quoted, speaks of five such auxiliary cohorts coming from Caesarea to join

Vespasian’s army, and he tells us in another place (‘Bell. Jud.,’ 2:18, 7)

that the principal portion of the Roman army at Caesarea were Syrians. It

is pretty certain, therefore, that the Italian cohort here spoken of were

auxiliaries, so called as being made up in whole or in part of Italians,

probably volunteers or velones (Farrar, vol. 1:278, note). Another reason

for this conclusion is that it does not seem likely that one of the divisions

of a legion should have a name (though it was very common for the legions

themselves to be distinguished, in addition to their number, prima, secunda,

decima, etc., by such names as Italics, Parthica, Augusta, etc.), but that

separate regiments would naturally have appropriate names for the same

reason that the legions had. Thus, besides the Italian cohort here named,

we have the Augustan cohort in ch. 27:1. It might be important for

the security of the procurator, in so turbulent a province as Judaea, to have

at least one cohort of Italian soldiers at the seat of government. Renan

(‘Apotres,’ p. 202) thinks the full name of the cohort may have been

Cohors prima Augusta Italica civium Romanorum;” and adds that there

were in the whole empire not fewer than thirty-two cohorts bearing the

name of Italian.


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.” Who for which,

Authorized Version. A devout man (εὐσεβής eusebaes); and in v. 7.

It is an interesting question as to what was the precise religions status of

Cornelius, whether he was a proselyte in any technical sense. But the

whole narrative, in which he is spoken of simply as a Gentile and

uncircumcised, seems to indicate that, though he had learned from the Jews

to worship the true God, and from the Jewish Scriptures read or heard in

the synagogue to practice those virtues which went up for a memorial

before God, yet he was in no sense a proselyte. It is pleasant to think that

there may have been many such in the different countries where the Jews

were dispersed (compare ch.13:16, and probably ch. 11:20).


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.”

Openly for evidently, Authorized Version; as it were about for about,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; unto for to, and to for unto,

Authorized Version. Openly; or, evidently (φανερῶς phanerosevidently;

clearly; mainfestly), indicates the distinctness and certainty of the vision. It

was a clear angelic appearance; there was no indistinctness or confusion about

it, and consequently it left no kind of doubt in the mind of Cornelius. An

angel; or rather, the angel; the addition of God defines it (see ch. 5:19, note).


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.”  He, fastening his eyes upon for when he

looked on, Authorized Version (ἀτενίσαςatenisas looking intensely, as

ch. 3:4, etc.); and being affrighted for he was afraid and, Authorized Version;

gone for come, Authorized Version. For a memorial; i.e. thy prayers and thine

alms are set in the sight of God, and are the cause of His now remembering

thee and sending this message to thee. Cornelius’s good works were the

fruit of his faith in God as revealed in the Old Testament.


5 “And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname

is Peter:”  Fetch for call for, Authorized Version; one (in italics) for one

(in roman), Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; who is surnamed for

whose surname is, Authorized Version. Peter is always used by Luke, rather

than Cephas.


6 “He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea

side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”  The last clause in the

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus, “he shall tell thee,” etc., is

omitted in the Revised Version.



The Intimacy of Divine Knowledge (vs. 5-6)


This is a striking passage when thoughtfully considered. The doctrine of

Divine omniscience we may accept without having any adequate

conception of it, or feeling any practical impression attending on our faith.

The ease with which a general truth or principle may be held, while it yet

remains ineffective on the life, has often been urged on us. The skilful

teacher seeks to set forth the general truth in some particular instance, and

expects that the truth will thus be seen clearly and grasped firmly. We have

an instance in the passage before us. Cornelius had some appropriate ideas

concerning God’s omniscience and omnipresence, yet we may be sure that

they had never been practical, real, and searching thoughts to him, until the

angel showed that God knew all about him and all about Peter, his name,

lodging, host, etc. In our childish days we were often frightened by being

reminded of the words, “Thou God seest me.” It is well if in our manhood

we can have such a revelation of the marvelous minuteness, yet more

marvelous tenderness and graciousness, of the Divine inspection. David’s

joy in the omniscience and omnipresence of God, as indicated in Psalm 139,

may be referred to. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” (II Timothy 2:19)

We may notice the points in the passage which suggest the intimacy and

exactness of God’s daily knowledge of us.


·         GOD KNOWS OUR NAMES. Our surname, by which we are

commonly known to the world, and even our Christian name, by which we

are known to our intimate friends. He knew Peter the fisherman, but he

knew him as Simon. This includes God’s knowledge of all that our fellow

men, with whom we have to do in daily business, know of us; and His

further knowledge of all that our most intimate relatives could tell of our

character and disposition. There may be some things of private thought or

conduct which we would gladly keep from God; even these are “naked and

open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)


·         OUR EMPLOYMENT. God knew that this other Simon was a tanner

by trade. We somehow dissociate the common occupations of life from the

thought of God, but He watches us in daily work. And we may surely feel

that He judges day by day the spirit in which our daily work is done.

“Whereunto a man is called, therein let him abide with God.”

(I Corinthians 7:24)


·         THE SITUATION OF OUR HOUSE. God knew that this tanner’s

house was by the seaside, placed there, probably, for the conveniences of

his trade. So God knows our precise circumstances and surrounding, and

the exact influence which these things bear upon us. And if He knows all

this, we may confidently rest assured that He is ready and willing to be the

power that helps us to overcome our disabilities, and master our

difficulties, and live for Him “even where Satan’s seat is,” if our lot should

be cast in such scenes.  (Revelation 2:13)


·         OUR RELATION TO THE FAMILY. Bringing His inspections to bear

on the family circle, He knows the place of each one. He knew that Peter

was only a lodger. Then He can give each one the needed grace for

worthily occupying his place, and faithfully maintaining his relations and

doing the consequent duties. Apart from the revelation of the humanity and

sympathetic brotherhood of Christ, as “God manifest in the flesh,” so

minute a Divine knowledge would only appall us, crushing down energy,

effort, and hope. Now we glory in the thought of the perfect knowledge,

for He who besets us behind and before is our Father, whom we know well

through His Son and our Brother, the “Man Christ Jesus.”


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;”  That for which, Authorized Version;

him for Cornelius, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Two of

his household servants (see ch.9:38, note). Cornelius’s faith and

piety were like Abraham’s — he taught his household to keep the way of

the Lord, and to do justice and judgment (Genesis 18:19).


8 “And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.”

Having rehearsed for when he had declared, Authorized Version; all things

for all these things, Authorized Version.



Piety, Its Place, Its Associations, and Its Reward (vs. 1-8)




look for piety in certain quarters where it may be supposed to flourish; in

others we do not look to see it; yet in these latter it may be found. Who

would have expected that a centurion in a Roman regiment would prove to

be a worshipper of God — one that feared God with all his house”? He

and his family must have been living in a way that contrasted strangely with

the great majority of those in a similar position. We must never conclude

that men are irreligious because of the class to which they belong or of the

occupation in which they are engaged. Sometimes, in spite of the most

uncongenial surroundings, and sometimes taking part in avocations which

few godly men could possibly embrace, there are found simple-hearted and

sincere Christian men. Christ has His servants, not only on the exposed

hillside and the open plain, but in the most secluded glen, hidden where no

eye can see them, living in the very last place where we should go to find



  • Cornelius was “a devout man .... who gave much alms to the people” (v. 2).

In certain lands and at certain times, as in the country and at the period to

which our text belongs, devotion and almsgiving were very closely conjoined

in the public mind. It is quite possible, as was then too painfully evident, that

these may be found existing together in outward form, with no acceptableness

to God. But it is not the less true that God demands of us that reverent thought

directed toward Him should be found in close connection with generous

thought directed toward our brother (see I John 4:20). Christian charity

should be both deep and broad.


Ø      It should spring from a deep sense of the worth of human souls whom

Christ pities and seeks to save.


Ø      It should extend beyond occasional gifts to those who are in extremity

of want. It should include an intelligent endeavor to do that which is

really best for the lasting well-being of the people.



GENUINENESS IN RELIGION. Taking the expression, “Thy prayers…

are come up for a memorial” (v. 4) with “he shall tell thee what thou

oughtest to do” (v. 6), we conclude that Cornelius was deeply conscious

that he needed to know more of God than he knew, and that he was

prayerfully endeavoring to find his way into the path of truth and heavenly

wisdom. This is a mark of reality. Those who complacently conclude that

they know all that is to be known, that wisdom dwells with them as in its

chief home, that they have no need for spiritual solicitude as to themselves,

— these are they whose piety we may distrust. But the humble and earnest

seeker after more light and truth is the man about whose moral integrity

there cannot be two opinions. He bears the stamp of sincerity on his brow.



SEEKING AND STRIVING. God gave to this devout inquirer that which

he sought. He granted him a vision, and instructed him how to obtain the

further truth he needed that he might find rest unto his soul (vs. 3-6).

Thus He will treat us also. Only we must fulfill His Divine and constant

conditions, viz.:


Ø      Earnest, repeated, patient inquiry (Matthew 7:7-8).


Ø      Living up to the light we have (John 7:17). Half-hearted or impatient

prayer will wait in vain for the door to be opened into the kingdom.

Inconsistent piety will never know the doctrine which is of God. But

let a man seek with his whole soul and let him live according to the

known will of God, and then let him “rest in the Lord, and wait

 patiently for Him,” and God will give him his heart’s desires

(Psalm 37:4, 7).



The Pious Centurion (vs. 1-8)


  • THE SCENE OF THE STORY. It was at Caesarea. Hitherto we have

heard of Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee. Here the fiery baptism had

descended, and here the martyrs had sealed their testimony in blood. Now

the second part of the early Church history begins, and the great thought of

the gospel, the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ, begins to be an

accomplished fact.




Ø      A centurion; a captain; a soldier. An old proverb says that “There is no

faith and piety with men who follow the camp.” Not always so, and

Cornelius is an early type of those who have united the calling of the

soldier with simple faith and loyalty to a Divine Master. Whatever view be

taken of the military profession, such an example makes it clear that God

has His chosen in places, as it may seem to us, the most unlikely, in callings

the most unfavorable, as we may think, to the growth of piety. But in

reality, religion shows its power in transmuting the raw material of external

circumstance. Were piety dependent on happy external circumstances, it

would be merely a matter of grace of manners. We cannot expect elegance

of the boor, refinement of savages and roughs, but the sparks of Divine

love may be struck from the roughest flint of human nature. Those

characters which present naturally the greatest resistance to the gospel

become often its brightest illustrations when subdued by the power of the



Ø      Moral preparation for the gospel. He was pious, recognizing the reality

of religion, reverencing God in the life of the household, and practicing

known duties with diligence and zeal. Almsgiving, it is well known, was

commended and enjoined by the rabbis as the chief duty in religion. And

this was connected with the habit of constant devotion. Not to self-neglected

hearts does God come; not on eyes unused to watch does the vision of

heavenly forms beam. The oratory is the reception-room for God,

and the heart is the true oratory.


Ø      Fulfillment of secret yearnings. He sees and hears that which satisfies

deep desires of his heart. He beholds an angel of the Lord coming in to

him, and hears his name pronounced, Cornelius! Let us not distract

ourselves by considering whether this was a dream. The point is not how

the centurion saw and heard, but what he saw and heard; not the mode but

the matter of the revelation. Evidently here was a Divine visit — a personal

and particular visit — a visit of Divine recognition, sympathy, and blessing.

We may notice:


o        The invariable fear excited in the soul by Divine revelations. The brave

soldier feels it, no less than Moses the stern leader of men, or Isaiah the

leal-hearted prophet, or Peter the rock-like and bold. “Woe is me; for

I am a man of unclean lips;” “Hide thy face, or I die” — such is the

language of those to whom God appears and speaks.


o        This is followed by inquiry, “What may God’s will with one so

selected and singled out be? What is it, Lord?” So Isaiah, after

the vision in the temple, expresses his readiness for service,

“Here am I; send me.”


o        Clear directions of providences. “Send men to Joppa, and cause

Simon Peter to be fetched.” Here, again, is the ministry of man to

man. That Cornelius is bidden to send for Peter, and that Peter is

bound to follow him, shows, not that Cornelius is turning to

Judaism, but that the kingdom of God is turning to the Gentiles.

Cornelius, with prompt and soldier-like dispatch, sends two

servants under the escort of a soldier to Joppa. We should be

ready to meet our mercies half-way, as unhappily we are too

ready to meet our troubles.



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:”

Now on for on, Authorized Version; were for went, Authorized Version.

The house top; the quietest and most retired place in an Eastern house

(compare I Samuel 9:25-26). It is not inconsistent with this that the house-top

could also be made a place of special publicity, from its height and open space

(see Luke 12:3). About the sixth hour. Noon, the second of the three

hours of prayer among the Jews, called “the midday prayer.” The last was

the ninth hour (ch. 3:1) and the first the third hour, nine in the morning

(ch. 2:15). See Psalm 55:17.


10 “And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they

made ready, he fell into a trance,” Hungry for very hungry, Authorized Version;

desired to eat for would have eaten, Authorized Version. Hungry. The word so

rendered (πρόσπεινος prospeinosravenous; hungry) occurs nowhere else either

in the New Testament or in any other writer. Possibly he, like Cornelius (v. 30),

had been fasting till the time of prayer. A trance (ἔκστασις ekstasisecstasy;

trance) expresses a state of transition from the ordinary state into a new or

different state. Applied to a man, it denotes that state in which the external

senses and the volition are suspended, and all his impressions are derived from

within (see ch.11:5; 22:17). It is also used to express great astonishment

(3:10; Luke 5:26; Mark 5:42). In the Septuagint of Genesis 2:21 it is spoken of

Adam’s deep sleep, and in 27:33 of Isaac’s exceeding trembling, and elsewhere

of strong emotions.


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:”  He beholdeth the for saw, Authorized Version; descending for

descending unto him, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; were for had been,

Authorized Version; let down by four corners upon the earth for knit at the four

corners and let down to the earth, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.

The vessel coming down from the open heavens implied that the command to

eat what was contained in it was given by revelation. The things sent were

from God, and the command to eat was from God. Peter’s hunger had prepared

the way for the particular form of the vision.


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.”  Beasts and creeping things of the

earth for beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; heaven for air, Authorized Version.

The distinction between clean and unclean was very sharply drawn in the

Levitical Law (Leviticus 11; see especially vs. 41-44 and 20:25;

Deuteronomy 14:3-20). Peter’s astonishment must, therefore, have

been exceeding great at the command to slay and eat. And so his answer in

v. 14 shows. And yet our Lord had taught him the same truth

(Matthew 15:10-20, or still more distinctly Mark 8:14-23).


14 “But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that

is common or unclean.”  And unclean for or unclean, Authorized Version

and Textus Receptus. It is rather a striking testimony to Peter’s religious

character as a Jew before his call to the apostolate, that, poor Galilaean

fisherman as he was, unlearned and ignorant, he had yet always conscientiously

obeyed the Law of Moses in regard to things clean and unclean (compare Daniel

1:8-15). The address, Lord (Κύριε - Kurie), seems certainly to recognize the voice

as that of Christ, which also agrees with the descent of the vessel from heaven.

The answer is very similar to the refusals in Matthew 16:22; John 13:8.


15 “And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God

hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”  A voice for the voice, Authorized

Version; came for spake, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; make not

for that call not, Authorized Version. What God hath cleansed, etc. “The Law

was our schoolmaster [‘tutor,’ Revised Version] to bring us to Christ.” (Galatians

3:24)  But now, under the gospel of faith, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

There is neither Jew nor Greek. “Old things are passed away, and all things are

become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)


16 “This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into

heaven.” And this for this, Authorized Version; straightway the vessel for the

vesselagain, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. This was done thrice;

i.e. as is clear from the previous “the second time” (v. 15); the same voice

addressed to him the third time a direction to eat. The repetition three times of

the same injunction was to give certainty (compare Genesis 41:32). For the

repetition of the same words, compare Matthew 26:44. The receiving of the

vessel again into heaven  merely indicated the termination of the vision. The

interpretation of it was to follow v. 19 and following verses (see especially v. 28),

and was further emphasized by what is related in vs. 44-46 and ch.11:15-17.


17 “Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had

seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius

had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,”

Was much perplexed for doubted, Authorized Version; the for this, Authorized

Version; might for should, Authorized Version; that for which, Authorized Version;

by for from, Authorized Version; having made inquiry, stood for had made enquiry,

and stood., Authorized Version. The gate (πυλώνα pulonagate; protal); the

porch or gate into the court of an Eastern house. In ch. 12:13 we have “the door

 of the gate” (see Matthew 26:71; Luke 16:20, etc.).



The Ecstasy and Vision of Peter (vs. 9-17)


  • THE ATTITUDE OF PRAYER.  How constantly is the act and the

habit of prayer mentioned in the course of this history — on the part of the

community and on the part of individuals! Peter and Cornelius, the Jew and

the Gentile, are in communion with God at the same moment; and it is thus

shown that true fellowship between man and man on earth is conditioned

by fellowship with God. Souls far apart in space are near and at one by

means of this mystic tie. It was the calm noonday hour, when, as the

ancients were wont to say, “Pan sleeps.” All the mighty heart of nature is at

rest, and the very houses of Joppa at His feet might seem to be asleep. But

the living God slumbers not; watching over His faithful ones and listening

to their prayers. Fixed hours of prayer may be useful and blessed. The

thought of uniting with others at the same hour may strengthen devotion.

But it is an abuse if the fixed hour only is employed in prayer, so as to

make devotion outside it superfluous.




Ø      Its character is determined both by the physical and the natural state of

the apostle. The rapture of his spirit in devotion causes a drain on the

forces of the body, and, like the Lord in the desert, he is hungry. The

noonday meal is preparing. At this moment the ecstasy comes upon him,

and the earthly need is stilled by the heavenly revelation. The food of the

spiritual man is to know and do God’s will, and he can learn, with Paul,

how to be full and to be hungry, how to abound and to suffer need.

(Philippians 4:12)


Ø      Its particular features. The vast vessel, like a sheet let down by its four

corners from heaven, contains a miscellaneous collection of quadrupeds,

reptiles, and birds. Thus the first impression is shocking to a strict believer

in and observer of the Mosaic ritual. The confusion of the clean with the

unclean, the profane with the holy, is that which he abhors with all his soul.

It is, in fact, the visible presentment of the feelings of repugnance with

which Peter must secretly have viewed the drawing of the Gentiles with the

Jews into the kingdom of God.


3. The Divine voice. “Slay and eat.” Here the Divine resistance to natural

and acquired prejudice reaches its height. If we would be followers of the

Truth, and make progress in the knowledge of God, we must be prepared

to meet with such rebuffs. Prejudices we have thought to be a clear and

integral part of our faith must be overcome when the call comes to us to

emerge into larger views and clearer light. The most mysterious elements in

such struggles is that we seem to be placed in strife with the holiest

traditions and best associations of our earlier life. But it is when the fight

begins within the man that he becomes worth nothing. And never do ideas

become clear, never is the higher generalization grasped, except as the

result of such struggles. As Saul, in the zeal of the old faith, kicked against

the goads of his new convictions, so was Peter now repugnant to that new

truth which was breaking in with so much power upon his mind. In both

cases it was a wider view of the kingdom of God, a more loving

interpretation of his purposes to mankind, which was struggling for

admission to the intellect and heart. Never let us fear the generalization of

our ideas and feelings of the truth. The change, in uprooting the old, gives

us something far better to put in its place. The resistance of Peter on this

occasion is so like him — sharp, stubborn, peremptory. “Never, Lord!”

When Peter spoke thus it was a sign that he was about to give way, either

on the side of good or evil. So had he said on former occasions: “I will

never forsake thee.” “Thou shalt never wash my feet!” And we know what

followed. So in this instance. In each case there was a right feeling

combined with a wrong or ignorant thought.


o        Ignorance of self precipitates into rash resolves;

o        ignorance of the grace of Christ and of the power of

truth leads to mistaken obstinacy and resistance.


Ø      The repeated voice. This time in explanation of the command. What

God has cleansed, men are not to deem common. This is a deep and

pregnant word. The distinction of clean and unclean animals was:


o        a sanitary distinction;

o        a ceremonial distinction founded upon that;

o        therefore a relative and temporary distinction.


Apart from the special purposes for which the distinction holds good, the

general truth of universal and eternal application obtains — that all

creatures of God are good and to be received with thanksgiving. So deeply

important is this truth, it is repeated over and over again, that it may not

possibly be forgotten, that it cannot henceforth be ignored.


o        Ceremonial, local, national distinctions are for a time; truth and love

are universal.

o        The local must give way gradually before the universal; the truth

which reveals differences before the truth which reconciles.

o        The truth for which a sect contends, once clearly established,

cannot be lost. But the universal truth of the gospel absorbs

both it and all partial definitions of truth with itself.


18 “And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter,

were lodged there.”   Lodging for lodged, Authorized Version.


19 “While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold,

three men seek thee.” And while for while, Authorized Version. Thought

(διενθυμουμένου dienthumoumenoubrooding; consider deeply, Received Text),

stronger than the  ἐνθυμουμένου enthumoumenoureflecting on; ponderin -  of

the Textus Receptus; thought over through and through; considered in all its

bearings. It only occurs here and two or three times in Cyril and other Church

writers. The Spirit (so ch.11:12). In ch.13:2 it is τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἄγιον to pneuma

to hagion the Holy Spirit.


20 “Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting

nothing: for I have sent them.” But arise for arise therefore, Authorized Version;

nothing doubting for doubting nothing, Authorized Version. But arise. The but

answers the unexpressed idea — Do not hesitate, do not delay, but go at once.

For I have sent them.  This is one of the many passages which distinctly mark

the personality of the Holy Spirit (compare ch.8:29; 13:2; 20:28, etc.). Here, too,

we may notice the working of God’s providence, under whose direction Peter’s

thoughts and Cornelius’s message meet at the same point, like men

working from opposite ends of a tunnel and meeting at the same spot.


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?”  And for then, Authorized Version; the men

for the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus.


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.”  A centurion for the centurion,

Authorized Version; righteous for just, Authorized Version;

well reported of for of good report among, Authorized Version; of God

(in italics) for from God (in roman), Authorized Version; a holy for an holy,

Authorized Version; from thee for of thee, Authorized Version. Righteous;

as Matthew 1:19 (compare the description of Cornelius in v. 10). The mention

here of his being well reported of by all the nation of the Jews is an additional

trait (compare Luke 7:2-5). For the expression, “of good report” (μαρτυρούμενος

marturoumenosbeing attested; good report), see ch. 6:3, note. Of God. The

rendering, “warned from God,” however, fairly represents ἐχρηματίσθη

echraematisthaeis apprized, because χρηματίζομαι chraematizomai

does not mean “to be warned,” but “to be divinely warned.” See the frequent

use of the word in the New Testament (Matthew 2:12; Luke 2:26; Hebrews 8:5;

11:7, etc.). Josephus frequently uses the verb in the active voice in the same

sense. To hear words from thee. A Hebrew turn of expression.



Devout Heathen (vs. 2-22)


To correct the tendency to limit the operations of Divine grace to

particular sections, classes, or nations, the Scriptures record instances of

true devoutness and sincere piety both before and outside the Abrahamic

covenant. The comforting and inspiring truth of the Divine call and election

man has too often changed into a doctrine of Divine favoritism, involving

the sovereign and groundless choice of some, and the consequent

repudiation and hopeless condition of many. We should ever seek to hold

the truth which God is pleased to reveal with a jealousy of ourselves, lest

we should unduly apply it to the disadvantage of others. Our God has said,

“All souls are mine;” He maketh “His sun to rise upon the evil and upon the

good.” And if He claims the right to judge all mankind, He must have given

them all knowledge, opportunities, and measures of grace. While fully

realizing that the only book revelation has been made to the Jew and the

Christian, and that the great revelation of God to man has been made in the

person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that this revelation is the key to, and

the completion of, all others, we need not refuse to admit that God has had

gracious access to the minds and hearts of heathen peoples, and has

guided, in measures that seemed wise, their groping and seeking after

Him. One of the remarkable cases is that of Cornelius the Roman centurion,

a man declared to be of pious character, and to have won the Divine

acceptance. As illustrating the above statements, mention may be made of

Melchizedek, Balsam, Araunah, etc. Accepting the fact that there may be

genuine religion among the heathen, we may ask by what signs may we

hopefully recognize it, and then turn to the story of Cornelius for aid in

making answer.


·         The first sign is BELIEF IN GOD, as distinguished from the gods. The

conception of one supreme Being is more common among the heathen than

we are wont to admit. It is often lost sight of by the prominence that is

given to subordinate divinities, and the elaborate worship rendered to

them. It is often sadly limited and deteriorated by the notion of a second

being, who is regarded as a rival of the supreme Being, and energetically

destroying His work. Polytheism and dualism represent the two evil

tendencies of man’s religious nature; but we may reasonably hope that not

a few of the heathen have, like Cornelius, risen above the prevailing

sentiments, and held firmly their faith in one supreme God. And we must,

in all charity, assume that there may be a personal trust of heart on the

living God, when the intellectual conceptions of Him, and of His relations

with men, are very imperfect and unworthy. To be acceptable, a man’s

religion must include faith in one God; and we must remember that this

was the first great fact and truth revealed to men, and, however men may

have blotted it over in their souls, BUT THEY HAVE NOT BLOTTED



·         The second sign is SUCH APPREHENSION OF GOD AS BRINGS

FEAR. The Bible use of the word “fear” should be carefully explained. It is

the word which most suitably expresses the proper attitude of men towards

God. It includes:


Ø      awe,

Ø      reverence,

Ø      worship, and

Ø      obedience,


and may be best illustrated by the feelings entertained by a good child towards

a good and noble parent. The sense of Divine authority should make us fear to

do wrong, and the sense of Divine holiness should make us fear to approach

unpreparedly His presence or to take His Name in vain. “Fear,” as an

equivalent for “worship,” needs explanation, and, rightly explained, it will

be seen that it is the very essence of religion, so far as religion affects

man’s feeling. Wrong senses of the term fear may be considered. Fear

which crushes hope and keeps us from God must be wrong; as is also fear

that makes us unwilling to accept THE GRACE HE OFFERS!


·         The third sign is SUCH APPREHENSION OF GOD AS LEADS TO

PRAYER. Not merely to prayer as a sudden act, forced on by calamity or

distress, but to prayer as the daily expression of the cherished spirit of

dependence on God — a daily leaning on God and waiting for Him, which

is indicated by the description of Cornelius as a “devout man.” Miss Cobbe

strikingly says, “Our belief in the personality of God is in a peculiar manner

allied to the moral side of religion. In proportion as that moral side is

developed in us, so, we may almost say, is the clearness of our conviction

that it is indeed a living God who rules the world, and no mere creative

intelligence. Now, this moral side comes out only in its full luminousness in

prayer. Prayer is in its essence the approach of the finite and fallible moral

agent to its infinite moral Lord, to whom it is conscious of erring

allegiance, and to whom it comes for forgiveness and strength. In such

prayer all the moral life bursts into vivid consciousness. In prayer there

comes to us the true revelation of the personality of God.” This can be

illustrated by the characteristic feature of the converted Saul of Tarsus,

“Behold, he prayeth!”


·         The fourth sign we may speak of as the RESULTS OF TRUE

RELIGION IN PRACTICAL CHARITIES. These are signs, because they

are the natural and necessary fruitage and expression of true piety. Right

ideas of God tone our relations with our fellow-men, so that we can be

“kind even to the unthankful and the unholy” Cornelius is marked as one

who “gave much alms to the people.” The more internal features of true

piety are, of necessity, beyond our reading; but our Lord taught us that by

men’s fruits in conduct we might know them, and that, if there is ever the

Divine life in souls, it will force its way out into practical charities and

goodness of conduct. When, therefore, we find those we call “heathen”

exhibiting Christian virtues, we may reasonably hope that there is a

right-heartedness towards God of which these are the expressions. By the

story of Cornelius we are taught that God may make more or less open

responses to such devout and prayerful souls by visions, revelations, or

inward communications, witnessing thus their acceptance, and guiding the

open soul to righteousness and truth. It is true for all the world that if any

man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.”  (John 7:17)  While

this subject needs to be treated with great prudence, and strongly dogmatic

statements should be avoided, we may gain from it some relief from the

pressure of our questioning as to the salvability of the heathen, and we

may conceive how the heathen state may become a moral preparation

for Christianity. It is an important feature of modern missionary enterprise

that those who preach Christ’s gospel seek to find points of contact in the

heathen mind and religious sentiments, and expect to discover that God

has been beforehand with them, preparing men’s hearts to receive the

wonderful message of Divine salvation by A DIVINE SACRIFICE!


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.”

So he called for then called he, Authorized Version; he arose and went forth

for Peter went away, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; certain of the

brethren for certain brethren, Authorized Version. And lodged them is rather a

feeble rendering of ἐξένισεν exenisenhe lodges.  The same word is rendered

entertained in Hebrews 13:2, which is nearer the sense; “to entertain as a guest.”

The word carries with it that he showed them hospitality, and thus broke down

the wall of partition between him and them. “He gave them friendly treatment,

and made them at home with him” (Chrysostom). (For ξενίζεται xenizetai

he lodges; is lodging, see v. 32.) He arose and went forth. This was on the

morrow of their arrival. It was two days’ journey from Caesarea to Joppa,

and two days’ journey back again, the distance being thirty miles. They would

probably stop the night at Apollonia, which was half-way, on the coast road.

Certain of the brethren. The ready missionary spirit of the first disciples is

here apparent (compare ch. 20:4).



Peter’s Visit to Caesarea (vs. 17-23)



FAITH. Peter was in perplexity at this astounding vision of the sheet let

down from heaven. Every Jewish prejudice was confuted by it, and a new

view of the purpose of God in the gospel, quite dazzling to his

unaccustomed sight, was opened. Well might he hesitate. But when God

gives us a new view of truth and duty, it is not long before He calls us to

act upon it. So in this case. Often do feelings in the mind thus coincide with

outward occurrences. They join hands and irresistibly indicate the will of

God. While Peter is inquiring the meaning of what he had seen, he is being

inquired for by the strangers at the door. Then comes the inward intimation

of the Spirit: “Lo, three men are seeking for thee.”



“Arise, go down, go with them, doubt nothing; I have sent them.” Happy

for us when the path of duty is made equally clear. Let us remember that

the light is given to those who are sincere, and serve God in simplicity of

heart. And when the clear call is heard, unhesitatingly must be the

obedience. “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

(Galatians 1:16)  The habit of conferring with flesh and blood, i.e.

with inclination and disinclination, obscures the conscience, and,

perhaps, destroys our hope of future inspirations. “I never rise so high,”

said Cromwell, “as when I know not whither I am going,” that is, in

obedience to the Divine call. So Peter went forth to meet the men.



centurion, has sent for him. A just and pious man is he, the servant says.

Here, then, the vision begins to explain itself. What has the Roman to do

with the Jew? Everything, if God brings them together. And that this was

here the case was too evident to be ignored. For while God was revealing

His will in one way to Peter in a vision, drawing the thought of the apostle

toward the Gentile, in another way he was speaking to the Roman,

impelling him to send to the apostle, that he might listen to his teaching.

What secret attractions of Providence bring lives together! Do we

sufficiently consider this? The great lesson reflected both from the conduct

of Peter and that of Cornelius is that we should be prompt to obey Divine

calls, whether to do good or to seek good. Willingness to receive and to

give is the great condition of being rightly led. To speak good words to

others may be, for some, the noblest function; to listen to them, for others,

the greatest means of blessing. It is the Divine will to bring the speaker and

the hearer together, the teacher and the disciple. Let each, then, be true to

the voice within.


24 “And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius

waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near

friends.”  On the morrow for the morrow after, Authorized Version; was waiting

for waited, Authorized Version; having called for and had called, Authorized

Version and his near for and near, Authorized Version. On the morrow. The

addition of after in Authorized Version makes the sense clearer. They entered

into Caesarea. A memorable event, being the first invasion of the Roman empire

by the soldiers of the cross. His near friends. We have hero a proof of the strong

faith of Cornelius. He did not doubt the angel’s promise (vs. 5 and 6). We see his

brotherly love. He invited his friends to come and hear the message of salvation;

those whom, as Chrysostom suggests, he had himself brought to a better mind.


25 “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at

his feet, and worshipped him.” When it came to pass that Peter entered for as

Peter was coming in, Authorized Version. The commentators all notice the

ungrammatical phrase, ἐγένετο τοῦ εἰσελθεῖν - egeneto tou eiseltheinbecame

to be entering, of the Received Text. It seems to be a mixture of two constructions

ἐγένετο τοῦ εἰσελθεῖν τὸν Πέτρον - egeneto tou eiselthein ton Petron -  and ὡς δὲ

εἰσῆλθενΠέτρος hos de eisaelthen ho Petrosand as Peter was comin in. But

probably the Textus Receptus is right. Worshipped him; not necessarily as a god,

because προσκυνεῖν proskuneinworships him (with a dative or an accusative,

or, as here, without any case, Hebrew הִשְׁתַחֲוֶה) is constantly used to

express that prostration which Orientals practiced before those whom they

wished to honor; e.g. Genesis 23:7, 12; 33:3, 6-7, etc. But Peter’s

answer shows that he saw in it greater honor than ought to be paid by one

man to another (see ch.14:15).


26 “But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”

Raised for took, Authorized Version.


27 “And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were

come together.” Findeth for found, Authorized Version; many come for many

that were come, Authorized Version.


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.”  Ye yourselves for ye, Authorized Version; to join

himself for to keep company, Authorized Version; and yet unto me hath God

showed for but God hath showed me, Authorized Version. Ye yourselves know.

It was notorious among the Romans that the Jews kept themselves aloof from

other people. Hence the accusation against them, in common with Christians,

of being haters of the human race. Tacitus says of them that they hated all people,

except their own countrymen, as their enemies, and refused to eat or intermarry

with them (“Separati epulis discreti cubilibus;” ‘Hist.,’ 5:5). The word

ἀλλοφύλῳ - allophuloanother tribe, one of another nation, occurs only here

in the New Testament, but is common in the Septuagint often as a synonym for

“Philistines” (see Judges 3:3, etc.).


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?”

Wherefore also I came for therefore came I unto you, Authorized Version;

when for as soon as, Authorized Version; with what for for what, Authorized

Version; ye sent for ye have sent, Authorized Version.


30 “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and

at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before

me in bright clothing,” Until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer

for I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour I prayed, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; apparel for clothing, Authorized Version.

Four days ago. This was the fourth day (see v. 23, note). Until this hour, etc.

The reading of the Revised Version is unintelligible. The Authorized Version

seems to give the meaning clearly and accurately. Until this hour probably

denotes the sixth hour, midday, as in v. 9. Peter’s journey would naturally have

been taken in the cool of the early morning. Starting at 5 or 6 a.m., five hours,

with perhaps an hour’s halt, would bring him to the end of his fifteen miles’

journey by 11 or 12 a.m. Apparel. The same phrase, ἐσθὴς λαμπρά - esthaes

lampragorgeous robe; garment shining, is used by Luke (23:11). In the

description of the  transfiguration a stronger expression is used, ἐξαστράπτων

 exastrapton  glistening; dazzling.  (Luke 9:29)


31 “And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in

remembrance in the sight of God.” Saith for said,.


32 “Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is

Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea

side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.” Unto thee for hither,

Authorized Version; who is surnamed for whose surname is, Authorized Version;

lodgeth for is lodged, Authorized Version. (ξενίζεται  - xenizetaiis lodging - in

the middle voice; for the active, see above, v. 23); Simon for one Simon, Authorized

Version. The clause which follows in the Authorized Version, “who when he cometh

shall speak unto thee,” is omitted in the Received Text and Revised Version.


33 “Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that

thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God,

to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” — Forthwith for

immediately, Authorized Version; we are for are we, Authorized Version; in

the sight of for before, Authorized Version; have been for are, Authorized

Version; the Lord for God, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.



The Indenture (vs. 1-33)


The meeting of Peter and Cornelius is one of those hinges upon which,

small as they seem at the moment, vast interests turn. It was one of those

moments when revolutions in the whole state of human society are at the

birth; when that is being unconsciously enacted by the doers which will

powerfully affect mankind to the end of time and beyond it. From the call

of Abraham to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the

covenanted mercies of God had been restricted within the narrow bounds

of the Hebrew race. The very ordinances which were necessary to preserve

them as a separate people, able to have the custody of the great truth of the

unity of God, and of the great promise of a Messiah which should come,

erected an impassable barrier between them and the rest of mankind. But

this state of things was designed to be only temporary, and to pass away

when it had accomplished the purpose for which it was set up. The time

was to come when that knowledge of God which had been confined in the

narrow reservoir of the Jewish people was to burst its embankment and

flood the whole world with truth. But the embankments were very strong.

The institutions which were intended to isolate the seed of Abraham had

done their work well. The mind of the Jew was built in by a wall of

prejudice, which it might have seemed impossible to break down. But it

was to be broken down, and that by the hand of God. The manner of doing

it was remarkable. Among the things which powerfully persuade the human

mind coincidences occupy a foremost place. An event which, happening

alone, might not have any very commanding power, happening

concurrently with another event which has distinct marks of special relation

to it, acquires enormous influence. And when all possibility of human

agency in producing the coincidence is removed, the sense of a Divine

purpose falls irresistibly upon the mind, and with a peculiar energy of

conviction. The edges of two events, wholly independent as far as the will

of man goes, fitting into one another with the precision of the two edges of

an indenture, produce the absolute certainty that the two events were

foreordained of God, and have their unity in His eternal purpose. Such a

coincidence broke down the barrier in Peter’s mind between Jew and

Gentile, and was the first beginning of that wonderful movement which

transferred the religion of the Jews, purified and spiritualized, to the

possession of the Gentile, and brought Japheth to dwell in the tents of

Shem. Little did the good men whom Cornelius sent to Joppa think what

would be the results of their embassy to Simon; and even Simon Peter,

when he went with them to Caesarea, probably scarcely understood the

magnitude of his errand. He opened the gates with the keys of his apostolic

office, but scarcely realized the multitudes who would enter through them

to the kingdom of heaven. To us there is something wonderfully instructive

in standing where we can see the simultaneous events on both sides of the

wall. The messengers of Cornelius wending their way to Joppa, to find the

unknown teacher. Peter praying and seeing his vision, and perplexed about

its meaning, in utter ignorance that the Italians were approaching his door

and bringing its interpretation with them. Their arrival makes the vision

plain, and the voice of the Spirit within him concurs with the voice of the

men without. One sees at once the irresistible effect of such a coincidence

in overcoming the strongest prejudices, and forcing upon a reluctant mind

the conviction that duty lay in a hitherto untrodden path. “Then hath God

also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” was the just conclusion

to which all who heard it were brought. And even so in our own lives, if

we watch with a careful eye, shall we see many coincidences of a like

nature giving us the clearest evidence of God’s watchful care for us,

revealing distinctly His hand and His purpose, and making our own path of

duty clear in the light of His providential ordering. Sometimes it will be a

coincidence between our thoughts and feelings and the events which come

unexpectedly upon us; sometimes a coincidence between our own thoughts

and the thoughts of others previously unknown to us. It may be some word

of wisdom coming home to us at some crisis in our life; some guide sent to

us at the very moment when we were in danger of losing our way; or some

comfort poured into our heart by a stranger “in his simplicity;” but anyhow

a coincidence in which the two edges of the indenture so manifestly fit into

one another that we are constrained to hold our peace and to glorify God,

and say, “This is God’s work.”


34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that

God is no respecter of persons:” — And for then, Authorized Version.

“God is no respecter of persons.”  A great truth exemplified in fact becomes

like a new revelation.  One gospel for rich and poor, cultivated and uncultivated.



Peter and Cornelius (vs. 23-34)



GENTILE CONVERT. Here were Jew, Gentile, and Christian visibly

brought into juncture and unity in the persons of these two men.


Ø      The Roman officer gives a noble reception to Peter, at once a true Jew

and a true Christian, by calling together his kindred and friends. He desires

that others may partake of spiritual gifts and blessings — a true mark of

love. We become poor by giving earthly goods away; rich by imparting of

those that are spiritual. Perhaps there is commonly too much reserve in

such relations. We assume reluctance where we might meet with a ready

response on the part of friends to such invitations.


Ø      Cornelius feels deep reverence for the person of the apostle; fell at his

feet on his entrance, to do him homage. The Romans were an intensely

religious people in their way. They recognized the numen, or Divine

power, presiding over a thing or place., in all the great objects of the

creation. It was a profound mystical instinct, needing only proper




GENTILE CONVERT. “Rise! I also am a man.” “Depart from me; for I

am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)  It had been his confession to Jesus;

and on this he had been appointed fisher of men. Perhaps he remembers that

incident now, and, in view of the respect and preparations of Cornelius,

repeats, “I am also a man.”  Cornelius does too much in his reverence

towards a living and genuine saint; then how can prayer to the images of

saints be justified?  No true successor of Peter is he, nor has he Peter’s

humble mind, who suffers his feet to be kissed. The worship of the

instrument obscures the honor of the Divine Agent. The word of Peter

rebukes, not only the worship of saints, but all excessive hero-reverence

and worship paid to great men in the Church.




Ø      There was a great prejudice to be overcome. (v. 28.) The prejudice of

the Jew against interaction with the stranger. No barrier in nature, no

mountain to be crossed or traveled, river to be forded, waste to be

reclaimed, is comparable to the obstinacy and difficulty of prejudice, most

of all of religious prejudice. And where in all the pages of history do we

find a prejudice equal in strength to that of the Jew against the Gentile?


Ø      The Divine victory over prejudice. God had shown that “no man is to be

called common or unclean. Immense word! Not yet has its meaning been

exhausted; not yet, perhaps, begun to be truly unfolded. How profound the

strength and the comfort which flows from such a clear word of God? For

the preacher, teacher, missionary, every kind of worker for the good of man,

it is a clear light, a clue to hand and heart alike. The ideal human nature is

pure and beautiful, for God made it — whatever actual human nature in the

individual may be. ‘Tis this thought gives inspiration. Peter will not hesitate

to come to the Gentile’s house when he is filled with it; and we may face

the facts of the life of the nations, as they are now being so abundantly

unfolded to us by scientific inquiry, with intelligent interest and cheerful

hope, with the light of THE GOSPEL resting broadly over the whole field

of inquiry. Such is the impulse which has brought Peter hither. But why

have they sent for him? The answer will disclose:


Ø      Further coincidences. Cornelius now relates his vision. He, too, had

been praying and seeking. To him, too, an apocalypse had been given; and

the Divine finger had pointed Jew-wards, as to Peter it had pointed

Gentile-wards. Equally Divine is the call; with equal promptness obeyed.

Cornelius has sent, Peter has done well to come. Happy meeting, divinely

brought about, and pregnant with Divine consequences! Such a series of

events indicates God’s hand, prepares the mind to listen to God’s voice.

The inarticulate voice of events is His voice, and it prepares us to listen to

that which is clear and definite.


35 “But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness,

is accepted with Him.” — Acceptable to for accepted with, Authorized Version.

As regards the truth that God is no respecter of persons, which the present incident

had brought home so vividly to Peter’s apprehension, there can be no difficulty in

understanding it. Cornelius was devout, he feared God, he was fruitful in

prayer and almsgiving. God did not say to him, “All this would have been

accepted in a Jew, but cannot be noticed in a Gentile.” But, Gentile as he

was, his prayers and alms went up for a memorial before God. If the things

done were good in themselves, they were equally good whoever did them.

God is no respecter of persons to accept or reject one or another, because

of who he is, and not because of what he does (Ephesians 6:8). The

rule is glory, honor, and peace to every one that worketh good, to the Jew

first and also to the Gentile, for there is no respect of persons with God

(Romans 2:10-11). The word προσωπολήπτηςprosopolaeptaes - respecter

of persons) occurs only here at all; προσωποληπτέωprosopolaepteo

to accept or respect persons), once only, in James 2:9; προσωποληψία

prosopolaepsia - respect of persons, Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9;

Colossians 3:25; James 2:1.  The same idea is expressed by πρόσωπον

λαμβάνειν porosopon lambaneinacceptest thou the person, by which

the Septuagint render the Hebrew נָשָׂא פָּנִים , and by πρόσωπον θαυμάζειν

prosopon thaumazeinaren’t partial to anyone, by which they also render

it and the kindred phrase, חַדַר פָנִים (see Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 10:17, etc.).

The first phrase occurs in Luke 20:21 and Galatians 2:6; the latter only in Jude 1:16,

where it is rightly rendered in the Revised Version, “showing respect of persons.”

Another phrase is ἀπροσωπολήπτωςaposopolaeptos - without respect of persons,

I Peter 1:17, and βλέπειν εἰς πρόσωπον blepein eis prosopon - to regard the person,

Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14.


36 “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching

peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:)”  He for God, Authorized Version;

preaching good tidings of peace for preaching peace, Authorized Version.



The Universal Proclamation (v. 36)


“Preaching peace by Jesus Christ” is a message of peace:


Ø      Peace between man and God in atonement.

Ø      Peace rising up as a wellspring of new life in the heart.

Ø      Peace ordering the life.


Jesus preached will instill a peaceful revolution which shall totally change the world.

“Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.”  (Isaiah 9:7)

Christianity preaches peace in states and among the contending nations, not by

substituting spiritual principles for laws, because it is not the preacher’s province

to legislate, but by proclaiming the Word of Jesus Christ.  “And the work of

righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and

assurance for ever.”  (Isaiah 32:17)  One of the profound statements which I

have heard in my life is “The sole purpose of Christianity is to  SANCTIFY

the SECULAR.  (C. H. Spurgeon – CY – 2016)


The mission of the Church to the homes of men, not the peace of blind

submission, intellectual and moral death, but the peace of Jesus Christ

(“which passeth understanding” – Philippians 4:7), the life of God

in the soul of man, flowing out into the surrounding world. Is this

peace in us or without us?


37 “That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea,

and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;”

That saying ye yourselves know for that word, I say, ye know, Authorized Version;

beginning for and began, Authorized Version. The construction of vs. 36-38, is

somewhat difficult, but by far the easiest and most natural way, both

as regards grammar and sense, is to make ὑμεῖς οἴδατε humeis oidateye know;

ye are aware of -  govern τὸν λόγονton logon – the word -  directly: You,

Gentiles, well know the word which God sent to the Israelites, when He caused

the gospel of peace to be preached to them, the word, namely, which came

[τὸ γενόμενον ῤῆμα – to genomenon rhaemathe becoming declaration; which

was published - compare especially Luke 3:2] throughout all Judaea,” etc. (v. 38),

“about Jesus of Nazareth, how that God anointed him,” etc. In the above sentence,

τὸ γενόμενον ῤῆμα is in apposition with τὸν λόγον, but amplifies and

explains it; and again Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἀπὸ ΝαζαρὲθIaesoun ton apo NazarethJesus

of Nazareth, with all that follows down to the end of v. 39, is a still further

explanation of the ῤῆμα, and a summary of that gospel which, as Cornelius already

knew, had been preached to the Jews by Jesus Himself. The parenthesis, “He is

Lord of all,” is most opportunely inserted, that his hearers might know that Jesus of

Nazareth was Lord of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. The words

λόγος and ῤῆμα are synonymous, as in v. 44 and in I Peter 1:23, 25

(see Luke 3:2; Ephesians 6:17), and are better both expressed by

the English word, as in the Authorized Version, than by word and saying,

as in the Revised Version.


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.” Even Jesus of Nazareth, how that God anointed him for

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth. The reference to the anointing (Isaiah 61:1;

Luke 4:18, 21; Matthew 1:16-17; ch. 4:27) was necessary to represent Him as God’s

Christ (see ch. 9:22). For the designation, of Nazareth, compare ch.2:22; 3:26; 4:10;

6:14; Luke 24:20. Oppressed of the devil. This ascription of disease to Satan agrees

with Job 2:7 and Luke 13:16. The word rendered (καταδυναστευομένους

katadunasteuomenousoppressed; ones being tyrannized over) occurs in the

New Testament only here and James 2:6, but, with its substantive καταδυναστεία

katadunasteia - , is found repeatedly in the Septuagint and the Apocrypha, and in

classical Greek, though rarely. A good example of its force is Exodus 1:13, and

of the substantive Exodus 6:7. It means “to rule over oppressively, and by

force.” In the explanatory addition, For God was with Him, Peter teaches

what our Lord himself and John in his Gospel so constantly do, that our

Lord’s miracles were wrought by the power of God (see e.g. John 5:17, 19, 30;

7:28; 8:28; 9:3-4; Luke 11:20, etc.). The unity of the Son with the Father would

be taught later.



The Imitable and Inimitable in Jesus Christ (v. 38)




Ø      God sent Him on a mission altogether higher than our own. He

anointed Him” to be the Redeemer of a world, to be its Savior by

suffering and dying in its stead, by revealing truth which it could not

possibly have discovered.


Ø      God dwelt in Him as he does not and could not do in us. He was

anointed with the Holy Ghost,” and God “gave not the Spirit by

measure unto Him.”  (John 3:34)


Ø      He was armed with a power which was irresistible: the “winds and the

waves obeyed” Him; sickness fled at His touch; death itself was obedient to

His voice; the spirit-world owned His presence and yielded to His authority;

He “healed all that were possessed of the devil.” Our function in the world,

our possession by God, our power over the forces around us, — this is in

striking contrast with the work and present power of Jesus Christ.




Ø      We are charged with a holy and benign mission; we are “anointed” to do

a good if not a great work in the world (see John 20:21). We are “sent”

by our Lord to “bear witness unto the truth,” both in word and deed; “to

work and speak and think for Him;” to “serve our generation by the will of



Ø      We are to be those in whom God dwells by His Spirit (see I Corinthians

3:16; II Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22).


Ø      We are to be possessed of spiritual power (Ephesians 3:16, 19; 6:10;

Colossians 1:11).


Ø      We are to be the sources and channels of blessing; we are to “go about

doing good” (Hebrews 13:16). We may “do good” everywhere and



o        the smile of encouragement,

o        the look of love,

o        the sigh of sympathy,

o        the touch of kindness,

o        the word of truth,

o        the act of integrity,


every manifestation of the Spirit of Christ is “doing good.” And all is to be

done under the same condition. For:


Ø      We are to have the continual presence and sanction of our heavenly

Father: “God was with him.”



The Great Philanthropist (v. 38)


“Who went about doing good.” The true criterion by which Christianity

must be tried is its adaptation to the world’s necessities. The text of Peter’s

sermon was Jesus Christ. “We are witnesses” of what He was, what He did,

how God testified His authority.




Ø      Deeds, not words. Failure of all mere human schemes of philanthropy.

Ø      A Divine hope at the root of all effort. The kingdom of heaven was what

Jesus proclaimed. Not relief merely, but restoration.

Ø      A Perfect Example. The character of Christ acknowledged even by

opponents to be unique. Its influence on his disciples inexhaustible. The

method of Jesus a great guiding fact — “He went about doing good


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:”

Country for land, Authorized Version; whom also for whom, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; hanging him for and hanged, Authorized Version.


40 “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly;”

Gave Him to be made manifest for showed Him openly, Authorized Version.


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.”

That were chosen for chosen, Authorized Version. Peter here again brings

forward the special apostolic office of being witnesses of Christ’s

resurrection (see ch. 1:8, 21-22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 13:31; 26:16,

as well as vs. 39 and 42 of this chapter). This constant reference to the

testimony of eye-witnesses is an indication of the thoroughly historical

character of Christianity, and of the importance of Christian evidences. The

new matter which Peter was to bring before Cornelius and his company

begins at v. 40, but with the prefatory remarks in v. 39, which both attest the

truth of what Cornelius already knew and prepare for the following revelation.

Who did eat and drink (see Luke 24:30, 41-43; John 21:12, etc.).


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.”  Charged for commanded, Authorized Version; this is He which

is for it is He which was, Authorized Version. To be the Judge, etc. This

statement involves the resurrection of the dead (compare John 5:21-29;

Revelation 20:11-12). It is easy to see how the creeds would be formed

from the repetition of short doctrinal statements like this (see I Corinthians




The Savior’s Charge to His Ministers (v. 42)


“He commanded us to preach unto the people.”  There are no secrets in the

Christian religion. Apostles are His witnesses for the sake of others. The key

opened the door, and then was flung away. Baptism of the Holy Ghost preceded the

universal message.



Teaching can never be dispensed with. The root of a true faith is

knowledge.  Christianity must be preached to men, both conscience

and heart.  Preaching is the most simple and pure channel of connection

from soul to soul. The Spirit flows through the Word.


43 “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name

whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.

44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them

which heard the word.”  Bear for give, Authorized Version; every one that

for whosoever, Authorized Version; on Him for in Him, Authorized Version.

Here we have another article of the Creed, the forgiveness of sins, preached

too in immediate anticipation of baptism, on the profession of faith in Jesus Christ

(v. 48). Compare ch. 8:37 (Textus Receptus) and 38.



The First Trumpet-Sound of the Gospel in the Heathen World  (vs. 23-43)




Ø      Cornelius, his kinsmen, his near friends, probably some of them

devout soldiers.


Ø      Peter, his brethren from Joppa. The different states of mind. Inquiry

after truth, perplexity as to duty. The helplessness of the heathen world

well set forth in Cornelius’s salutation. The sense of darkness and spiritual

want a temptation to worship men instead of God. The false Church

accepts such worship. The true says, “Stand Up! I myself also am a man.”


·         THE LIGHT OF GOD the only true light in which differences are

removed and blessings are recognized. Peter brings into that light his

Jewish prejudice, and it vanishes. Cornelius brings into it his desire for

knowledge and equality with all God’s children, and it is abundantly

satisfied. So in the controversies of men, let them meet together “in the

sight of God,” and to hear His voice, and all will be well.




Ø      The personal Redeemer.

Ø      The witnessing Church.

Ø      The universal invitation. The true evangel — the true liberty, equality,

and fraternity. The work of the Holy Spirit!




Discourse of Peter at Caesarea (vs. 34-43)


·         THE EQUAL JUSTICE AND LOVE OF GOD. He is no respecter of

persons. The conditions of acceptance in His sight are everywhere and for

all men the same, viz. reverence and rightness of moral conduct. Does this

imply, it matters not what a man believes, so long as he fears God and does

what is right? Certainly, belief is not immediately under the control of the

will. But indirectly it so far is that we are bound to keep our minds open to

the light, and to seek some belief that may guide conduct. The truth is that

the reverence and the moral rectitude spoken of cannot exist apart from the

root of faith in a super-sensual order and Divine Law. Indifferentism is not

recommended nor excused. But the truth that it is only the genuine

qualities of the heart, the real disposition of the will, not external

associations nor advantages of birth, which constitute true worth in God’s

sight. And any other principle of Divine dealing than this would shock the

conscience as unjust.




Ø      It was a good message of peace sent to the sons of Israel. He says

nothing about natural religion and the universal conscience, on which

Paul dwells in the Romans. The gospel is pre-eminently a message by man

to man; by a selected people as ministered to the race. It was diffused

through the Holy Land, and its substance was well known.


Ø      Its substance — Jesus: His person, His sanctified character, and His

mighty deeds. His life of perpetual beneficence, his healing of those under

the bondage of disease and of ignorance. It was manifest to men that God

was with Him, setting the seal of power upon His character and deeds.


The existence of living witnesses to those truths. The apostles were

witnesses of the facts in the physical world on which Christianity was

founded. Christian teachers and Christian men now are witnesses of the

facts in the moral world which are eternal, and which interpret the physical



Ø      The death and resurrection of Jesus. The suffering and the triumph of

love; here lies the very kernel of the gospel. This triumphant Christ has

been made manifest to chosen witnesses — to His close companions and

intimate associates during His earthly life. And they have a commission to

make proclamation of these truths to the people, and to testify that He is

appointed Judge of the living and the dead. Finally, the gospel has the

confirmation of prophecy; and all who believe on Him may receive the

remission of their sins. Here, then, is a useful summary of the gospel.


o        Peace through Jesus Christ, who has lived, suffered, and

risen for men.

o        This is a message to ALL MEN, and A CALL TO SALVATION!

o       Its aim is universal human blessedness.


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.”  Amazed for astonished, Authorized Version. They of the

circumcision would doubtless be the brethren from Joppa who accompanied Peter

(v. 23). A more striking confirmation of Peter’s vision cannot be conceived than

this descent of the Holy Ghost upon the uncircumcised. How could they any

longer be reckoned common or unclean whom God thus cleansed with his

Holy Spirit?


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

answered Peter,”  For they heard them, etc. This was the incontrovertible

evidence of their reception of the Holy Ghost (see ch. 11:15-18, and

2:4 and 11, and note on v. 4).


47 “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which

have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”  The water for water, Authorized

Version. They actually had the Spirit, which God Himself supplied; could any one

object to their having the water also, which was the part of the sacrament which it

rested with man to supply, in order to complete the new birth (John 3:5)?


48 “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”  Jesus Christ for the Lord,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. No one forbidding or

objecting, Peter immediately ordered that they should be baptized. He does

not appear to have baptized them himself, any more than Paul did his

converts (I Corinthians 1:13-17). They prayed him to tarry with them,

no doubt that they might receive fuller instruction in the faith of the Lord

Jesus Christ, into which they had been baptized.



Divine Impartiality (vs. 9-48)


The incident of the conversion of Cornelius is suggestive of some important truths,

but of one in particular, viz. the perfectness of THE DIVINE IMPARTIALITY!



SPIRITUAL. Peter went up to pray (v. 9); but he was very hungry and

desired bodily refreshment (v. 10). This state of body was probably

favorable to his “falling into a trance” (v. 11); however that may be, it

evidently had something to do with the character of the vision which he

beheld. The contents of the great sheet, the invitation to “kill and eat,

answered very closely to his physical cravings. In truth, our spiritual

apprehensions depend in no small degree on our bodily condition. We may

safely conclude that:


Ø      Fasting, as such, has a very small place, if it have any at all, in the

Christian dispensation. (It had only the very smallest in the Law,

though Pharisaic accretions had made it a prominent feature of

Jewish piety in our Lord’s time.)

Ø      Abstinence rather than indulgence is favorable to spiritual apprehension.

Ø      Bodily health is the best condition for religious service.




first perceive the full significance of the vision, in which he was bidden to

partake of anything before him: he “doubted what this vision should mean”

(v. 17). But the coincidence of the vision with the coming of the

messengers of Cornelius, and the statement of the centurion himself,

removed all difficulty and doubt, and he used the noble words recorded

(vs. 34, 35). Not that he meant to say that God was indifferent to the

consideration whether men believed what was true or what was false; that

is a gross perversion of his language, which the apostle would have

resented with the greatest indignation. He meant that God regarded with

equal acceptance all who held and loved the truth, whether they were sons

of Abraham or whether they stood quite outside the sacred circle. The

lesson for us is that most valuable one, viz. that no physical distinctions of

any kind affect our position in the sight of God. “The accident of birth” has

no bearing on our place in His kingdom. Neither age, nor sex, nor class, nor

race has anything whatever to do with the estimate He forms of us or with

the sphere He will assign us. This absolute indifference on God’s part to

distinctions of which we make so much, applies:


Ø      To the remission of sins now; that depends wholly on our spiritual

relation to Jesus Christ (v. 43).

Ø      To His judgment of us after death; that also will be decided by our

attitude towards Him (v. 42).

Ø      To his communication of special gifts (vs. 44-45). This impartiality

should be copied by us and, particularly, made applicable to the

standing we give to men in the visible Church (vs. 47-48).



HUMAN SACREDNESS. “What God hath cleansed, call not thou

common” (v. 15). Probably or possibly it may have been intended by this

vision to confirm and illustrate the words of our Lord when He “made all

things pure” (new rendering). But, however this may be, the words

certainly denote that we are not to consider common or profane those

whom God has redeemed from profanity. And who are these? Not only


Ø      those of our race who have been actually redeemed and renewed —

those who are “washed and cleansed and sanctified by the renewing of the

Holy Ghost;” but also — and this is the main thought —

Ø      all the children of men in virtue of their common relation to the Divine

Father and Savior. As those who are “all His offspring,” and who are all

free to become His sons and daughters by spiritual resemblance; as those

for whom the Son of God shed His blood and to whom He sends His

message of love and life, — all are worthy of our “honor” (I Peter 2:17);

none are to be “lightly esteemed.”



The Great Surprise (vs. 34-48)


How seldom do things turn out as we expect! What frequent proofs we have

that God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways!

(Isaiah 55:8)  And yet we are always making iron cages in which we think to

confine the operations of God’s Spirit, as well as the thoughts of men, and

are surprised when either God or men refused to be confined within their

bars. The pride of caste is perhaps that which, more than any other one

cause, tends to mislead our judgment and to narrow our conceptions. The

Jews thought that all God’s grace and favor was reserved for themselves

alone. The Pharisees thought that true holiness was confined within the still

narrower circle of their own sect. The Romanist conceives of salvation as

tied within the four corners of the Church of Rome. Each narrow sect

thinks of itself as being exclusively the people of God. Even various parties

in the Church can hardly think of grace being found in any party not their

own. The great truth that burst upon Peter’s mind, that God is no respecter

of persons, is one which we are all very slow to admit. Peter and his

companions learned it with astonishment when the Holy Ghost fell upon the

mixed multitude in the house of Cornelius. They were, perhaps, half

surprised at their own liberality in sitting in the same room with the

uncircumcised soldiers of the Italian cohort, when lo! all difference

between them was swept away in an instant, and, to the utter amazement

of the condescending Jews, those Gentiles spake with tongues and

magnified God. They had received the very same gift of the Holy Ghost

which the Jewish disciples had received on the day of Pentecost. They were

on an equal footing with them. The middle wall of partition was fallen to

the ground. There was not any longer Jew and Gentile, bond and free —

they were ALL ONE IN CHRIST!   “One body, and one Spirit, even as they

were called in one hope of their calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one

God and Father of all, who was over all, and through all, and in all.” (Ephesians

4:4-6)  It was a great surprise, but it was a great and new discovery of the hidden

mind of God, a blessed manifestation of the width of that saving grace which

embraces all who believe those glorious truths which Peter opened his

mouth to declare to the assembled company.



Descent of the Spirit at Caesarea (vs. 44-48)


Let us notice the following particulars in connection with this visitation:



WITH THE RECEPTION OF THE TRUTH. So at Pentecost; so here.

The falling of the rain from heaven is concurrent with the germination of

the seed. It can hardly be said that either is first or second. Each is the

necessary condition of the other. If we desire to secure the heavenly words,

we must preach the Word — “be instant in season and out of season.”

(II Timothy 4:2)



ASTONISHMENT AND PERPLEXITY. The believing Jew could not

understand this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the heathen; nor how

they could be found speaking with tongues and glorifying God. To us it

seems natural enough that the great purpose of God, the generous germ-

thoughts of eternal truth and love, should break forth into larger meaning

and wider development. But there is a lesson for us here. We are all slow

to see the large consequences of the truth we hold and teach. It surprises

us, and alas! not always with a joyous surprise, when we find people

accepting the consequences of our own doctrines, and proving that they

have taken seriously what perhaps we preached with only half a heart.




personification of the Jewish and exclusive spirit, who now pleads for the

reception of the new converts. We never understand a truth till we have

striven against it. Then we become enthusiasts for it when it has conquered

our own heart and intelligence. The representative of the circumcision, that

is, of the exclusive or Jewish view of the gospel, is now the very champion,

not merely of toleration, but of a free and loving reception of the heathen

converts to the fellowship of Christ. The case of Peter, like that of Paul,

shows how the best advocates of a holy cause are often, it may be always,

to be found amongst those who have been its sincere opponents. Thus do

extremes meet; thus out of weakness comes strength, from bitterness

sweetness; thus does the gracious and gentle will of God select foes to turn

them into friends. But we shall see in the next section the further victory of

Divine love over the narrowness and hate of the human heart.



Broadening Foundations (vs. 1-48)


The promises of God to “Abraham and his seed for ever” are not going to

be diminished now, but something of the extent of them is to be made more

plain. Nothing shall be taken from the Jew which he is willing to have and

to keep; but much is going to be given, with a manifestation unknown

before, to the Gentile. With some form of vision, of dream, of angel appearance,

the covenant of long ages ago was made with the patriarch,

and it seems that now, some nineteen centuries later, similar august

realities shall be graciously put into movement, to inaugurate the abundant

entrance of the whole Gentile world to the blessings of revealed religion.

Diverse as the detail of this chapter is, it is knit together by strongest

bonds. It is one in spirit and in subject, and its impression is one. It is the

moving drama-like representation of a very real and very significant

transition in universal history. We are in the presence of a landmark that

shall be seen far and wide and to the end of time. And we may observe:



Confessedly indications of it had not been wanting, while Jesus lived on

earth, in the eulogy He pronounced upon the faith of such as the centurion

whose servant was ill, and the Syro-phoenician woman. And within the

actual ministry of Peter as an apostle, the Ethiopian eunuch, his conversion

and baptism, had given similar indications. But more than indications are

now arrived. The time is ripe for manifestation. And the illustration, nay,

the full and. distinct announcing, of the universal privileges and universal

blessings of the gospel of Christ are made in the personal history of



Ø      He is a Roman. No larger, better type of the world could be chosen.


Ø      He is a Roman of the profession of arms. No profession could be chosen

fitter to yield in fullest surrender to the message of the Prince of peace.


Ø      He is a man of large and liberal heart, of large and open eye. One detail

after another of this history betrays it.


Ø       He is already of a religious and devout disposition. He is held in honor

for his practical goodness among the people. His character as a religious

man is regarded by them as a consistent character. But past these, he has

been a genuine seeker after God in prayer. Though a Gentile, he had a soul

like that of the true Israelite. His gaze was to the East; he would not bow

down to the West. Some of the gospel’s grandest triumphs are, and are set

forth in Scripture as, over the worst lives. But signally the grandest

revelations of truth and of things to come have been vouchsafed to the

pure and the watchful, those devout in heart and devoted in life — ay, from

Enoch to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and on by the Ethiopian and

Cornelius to John of Patmos.



The one great effect is that we are impressed with the Divine initiative and

the Divine conduct in even the details of what took place. The Divine purpose

shall be carried out with Divine attention.


Ø      A vision, and an angel in the vision, appear to Cornelius. Instruction lies,

no doubt, both in what is said to Cornelius in this vision, and what is left

even to him to fill up.


o        He is graciously and approvingly advised that his prayers, though he

was not of the favored nation, and his “alms” have been noticed of

Heaven, and have been accepted. They have availed — even as though

they had been “incense” and the “evening sacrifice.”


o        He is told to send to a certain place for “Peter,” whose name, possibly

enough, he had heard by this time; whom, however, it is evident he did

not personally know, both from the mode in which the angel described

him, and from what we read of the way in which Cornelius received

him (vs. 5-6, 25).


o        He is left to gather that Heaven’s own clock has signified that the time

is ripe for some event on earth worthy of its marking, and, with

exemplary promptitude, he does to the letter what he is commanded —

and waits the issue. Let alone what was left to Cornelius to surmise,

it is left to us also to imagine how this interval was passed by him —

how devoutly he mused, how surely he expected what was divinely

worth the having from the manner in which communication had been

made to him, how he talked about it with any like-minded, and invited

such together, that with himself they might share the privilege and

responsibility of receiving the illustrious visitor, and hearing his



Ø      A trance, and a vision in the trance, a voice distinctly repeated, and the

direction of the Spirit (v. 19), are given to Peter. These were to act as:


o        strong impulse to him;


o        deeper instruction in the understanding of the one universal God and

Savior, and one large family of mankind “of one blood,” though

spread among many a nation of the earth;


o        literal guidance in the path of duty, and especially when the close of

the trance and vision was timed to the hour of the arrival of the

embassy from Cornelius. A wondering and awed and asking mind

in Peter is in some measure satisfied as well as relieved by the

errand and practical work to which he is immediately challenged

by the three messengers. We may note that all this is mere myth

and idle tale on the page of Scripture, or that it strongly begs our

study of providence and a very grateful faith in such providence.

Though the age of vision and trance be passed, the age of

providence and of the Spirit has not passed and NEVER WILL



Ø      A designed and manifestly adapted meeting of instructor and instructed

carries on what may be designated without irreverence the divinely planned

program of the occasion. Companions and witnesses go with Peter, who

has already entertained for one night in the same “lodging” with himself the

strange messengers of Cornelius, and arrived at the abode of Cornelius the

next day but one after the “trance.” Peter finds a little congregation of

Gentiles to see him and receive, not so much him, as God’s Word by him.

All these things must be viewed as the arrangements and preparation for

that which was to follow, and to prove itself the great object in the Divine

purpose. Forces long estranged are led toward one another in happiest and

most impressive omens, and very soon they find themselves one in One

“Lord of all.” Often have there been larger congregations to hear Peter and

brother apostles and the true successors of these to the present; rarely have

there been more expectant or more rightly and devoutly prepared.


Ø      God’s own great sermon to the world is now spoken by lips prepared to

speak to hearts prepared to receive. The text is that God accepts every man

who is ready “to walk humbly with him, to do justice and to love mercy”

(Micah 6:8). And the real sermon consists of this, that JESUS CHRIST IS

THE ONLY WAY THERETO!  His Name, His anointing, His unwearied

goodness, His oneness with God, His crucifixion, His rising from the grave,

His charge to the apostles in that mystic forty days that they now should

preach Him “to all the world,” as Judge of living and dead, — these are the

touching, thrilling, inspiring heads of Peter’s discourse, a summary of the

way of life. (ch. 5:20)  And the practical exhortation in the conclusion

amounts to this, that to Jesus all men are to have recourse — He, the one

object of faith for the forgiveness of sins: Every one that believeth on

Him shall through His Name receive remission of sins.” With these

words the errand of Peter was very nearly finished. The visions and the

trance, the intimations of the Spirit, and the journeying to and fro of

messengers, the expectant Cornelius and friends, have all found their

meaning face to face with one another. Men might little think today what

lay in that brief address of Peter, or that matter of such precious import

could lie in so simple a rehearsal.  Yet it was so. Those few words of Peter

were even burdened with the material of hope, comfort, joy. They were

like the charter of liberty, of right, of wealth, to a household and a nation.

They were really such a charter to THE WORLD!



CONFIRMED AND CROWNED. This consisted in the descent of the

Holy Ghost, with His wondrous powers. It was another scene of Pentecost;

nay, it was the other scene of Pentecost, its counterpart. Pentecost in its

divinest significance, let us say, in the Divine eye itself, awaited this

perfecting. The world, it is true, does not yet lie at the feet of Jesus, but

“this day is salvation” proclaimed to the world, and “the Son of man” is

announced as “come to seek and to save that which was lost,” of

whatsoever nation, tribe, or tongue. Again, “there was great joy in that city”

and in that house. Notice:


Ø      The stress that is laid on “those of the circumcision” being witnesses

of the effects of the descent of the Holy Spirit “upon the Gentiles.”


Ø      The respect shown to the administration of the initiatory rite of baptism.


Ø      The little stress that is laid upon the matter of who should be the

administerers of that rite. It is only said that Peter uttered forth the

deciding word that this congregation of Gentiles, upon whom the gift of

the Holy Ghost had fallen, and who were showing manifestly forth His

“gifts,” “should be baptized in the Name of the Lord.” We are reminded

of the words of Paul, “I thank God I baptized none of you, save,” etc.

(I Corinthians 1:14). The apparent abstinence on the part of Peter now, and

the language of Paul subsequently, whatever else may possibly underlie

them both, may certainly be justly understood to “magnify the office” and

the work of preaching. In how little honor do we sometimes hold that

which was now honored so highly alike by the anxious longing and

attention of Cornelius and his friends; by the conduct of Peter; and by the

Divine preparation of vision, trance, the Spirit, and some coincident

providences! The “words” of Jesus are spirit and are life.” Near the

fount itself they were sometimes honored as such. They spread light

and life.  They have lost nothing of their own force as time has gone on,

nor ever will to time’s end, though men may NEGLECT or REJECT.




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Vers. 14, 15.

Nothing common in God’s sight.

Introduce by an account of St. Peter’s vision, observing how it affected the

mind of one who was so thoroughly imbued with Jewish notions. In our

Lord’s time the laws of the clean and unclean were scrupulously observed,

and the apostles had not yet realized how the new spirit of Christ’s

kingdom was to set them free from the bondages and the limitations of the

Jewish ceremonial. God would, by this vision, correct two of the prevailing


1. That his favor was granted only to certain defined classes and individuals

of mankind. He “so loved the world.

2. That his service was found in the obedience of merely external

regulations, that once had their usefulness and their meaning, but were not

necessarily expressions of heart-love and devotion. The first mistake was

corrected, in the vision, by the outstretched sheet, which was a figure of

the wide world, and the four corners as the directions into which the gospel

was now to be borne forth into all the world. The second mistake was

corrected by the obliteration of all formal distinctions in the announcement

that what God has cleansed man may not call common, for God will

receive the love and trust and worship of “whosoever will.” Dean Plumptre

says, “In the interpretation of the vision, all that belongs to humanity had

been taken up into heaven,

(1) when man’s nature was assumed by the eternal Word in the Incarnation

(<430114>John 1:14), and

(2) when that nature had been raised in the Ascension to the heaven of

heavens.” We may consider —


ILLUSTRATED. “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”

God affirms that the whole earth is free to receive the message of the

gospel, all disabilities and barriers are for ever removed, and he recognizes

no longer the distinctions of elect and non-elect; “To the Gentiles also is

granted repentance unto life.” It may be shown

(1) that God, as Creator and Preserver, cares for his whole world;

(2) that, as the fatherly Ruler, he is concerned for the moral well-being of

the whole world;

(3) that, as dealing with willful and rebellious children, we must conceive

that he seeks to accomplish the salvation of all. This truth is the very life of

our missionary labor. We are bidden to preach the gospel “to every

creature,” with a perfect assurance that God would have “all men to be

saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This truth is often

embraced with difficulty, after strong conflict with limiting prejudices; it is

often held as mere sentiment; and perhaps on few men is it the inspiration

to noble labors and sacrifices that it was designed to be. How it would urge

us to missionary work, if we really believed that Christ wants every man to

come to him, and would have us bring them!


Special favor to one particular race — or, as we may better express it, the

special call of one race to a particular work or witness — does not assume

or involve the Divine indifference to the rest; we might more wisely say

that all special calls of the few were made for the sake of the whole, and

God’s love to the world made him commit a special revelation to the trust

of the Jew. The distinction between “clean and unclean” in the food

represented a distinction of clean and unclean between Jew and Gentile.

But “unclean” things were still God’s, and used by him for other purposes,

though not just for food. They were not despised or rejected things, but

each had its mission. And so Gentiles were not out of God’s care and favor

because Jews were in. They too occupied the places he assigned and did

the work he willed. It may further be shown that the Jewish limitations

were designedly

(1) temporary,

(2) educational —

preparatory to the advent of Christ, in whom and by whom the Divine

thought for the whole race could be fully revealed.


CHRISTIAN SYSTEM. Which deals with man as man, apart from any

local and temporary distinctions of

(1) nationality,

(2) class,

(3) genius,

(4) location, or

(5) ceremonial cleanness.

The gospel is for the “sons of men.” Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman,

bend and free, meet as sinners at the feet of Christ, to receive the

forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting. Now there is nothing common

in God’s sight. Every soul is a priceless soul, for it has been bought with

precious blood, the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God. — R.T.

Vers. 17, 18.

Providences may translate revelations.

The effect of the vision on the mind of St. Peter is indicated in the simple

expression, “doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should

mesa.” He was puzzled and set anxiously thinking by it. He realized Divine

teaching in it, but was not sure about the scope of it. He saw clearly

enough that it obliterated, for him at least, the old distinction of meats; but

he was set questioning whether there was not some deeper, some

underlying meaning, for the sake of which it had been granted. Was it not

like a parable, simple enough, at first sight, for a child to understand, but so

rich in meaning and suggestion that a man might meditate therein day and

night, and find rich reward? St. Peter might well be puzzled, for there

seemed to be nothing that could give him the key to the further and more

spiritual meanings. That key came in the events of the day — came by the

orderings of Divine providence. Following along the line God marked out

for him, St. Peter came naturally upon the unfolding of the mystery, and

understood the vision and revelation. This we may show more fully.


Jew, familiar with the varied visions and direct communications of God

granted to his fathers, this vision of the descending sheet would suggest no

such doubts as would trouble our minds. He would not be likely to wonder

over whether it was a delusion, or the dream of a disordered frame. St.

Peter would accept it at once as a gracious revelation of the Divine will to

him. His only anxiety concerned its true and proper interpretation. Two

things need careful illustration.

1. The various modes of Divine revelation to individuals, for the general

good, in all ages. It should be pointed out that

(1) the mode adopted, whether voice, personal appearance, angelic

ministry, dream, or vision, was exactly suited to the individual

communicated with, and the time and circumstances of the communication;

(2) that the message, though sent to individuals, was never sent for the

sake of the individual alone; it was always designed for others, to whom he

must become the minister. Just as (it has often been pointed out) our Lord

never wrought his miracles for himself, only for the immediate physical, or

ultimate moral and spiritual good, of others.

2. The receptivity of St. Peter, who, by a season of loneliness, meditation,

and prayerful communion with God, was in a state of mind and feeling that

fitted him to receive such a vision. Still it is true that the inward

communications of God’s love and truth demand an openness of soul such

as St. Peter cherished. If we do not know them, in forms and ways suited

to our thoughts and our times, it must be because in us there are no

fitnesses and preparations.


This may not have been a prolonged state of mind, nor was it a distressing

state. Explain how many moods of mind are expressed by the single term

doubting. There is the doubting:

1. Of simple uncertainty; the proofs are not reasonably sufficient to lead us

to a conclusion, and the matter must be held in suspense.

2. Of criticism, which must get to the root of a matter, and test and try the

reasoning by which any fact or truth is declared.

3. Of skepticism, which has a bias or prejudice, and by it is led to require

unreasonable tests and proofs; such a spirit persists in doubting when a

matter is fairly and adequately explained.

4. Of infidelity, which makes a foregone conclusion a basis for doubt and

denial. This spirit is usually most credulous in some matters, and

stubbornly unwilling to believe in other matters. St. Peter’s was the simple

but earnest questioning of a man who really wanted to get at the truth and

the meaning of his surprising vision.


DOUBTINGS. Often the best cure for doubting is a call to present action.

It is good advice that bids troubled souls do Christian work. Light on the

most puzzling questions often comes to us when engaged in works of love;

and, if the light does not come, the burden of the questions ceases to press

heavily on us. St. Peter, in his doubtings, was called to meet the

messengers from Cornelius, and to arrange as soon as possible to return

with them on their journey. Activity stopped the brooding and doubting,

and God made it the very way to the mastery of the doubts.


COMES LIGHT. He followed God’s providential leadings, responded to

the inward voice, obeyed in all simplicity, went, not knowing quite for

what purpose, and, in the line of God’s providence, found the unfolding of

his vision, and learned the deep truth about which he had been so anxiously

questioning. Led to the house of the devout heathen, who was a man

accepted of God, he was delivered from the Jewish bondage of the “clean

and the unclean;” he saw that the gospel of life in Christ Jesus was for

Gentile as well as Jew; and he delivered this testimony: “Now I perceive

that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him,

and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” In ways quite as clear,

in fact, though it may be not so sensibly plain to us, God’s providences still

unfold God’s Word and will; and he who will obediently follow as God

leads shall surely find the heart-rest of spiritual apprehensions of the Divine

truth. — R.T.

Ver. 33.

Good hearers.

Picture the company assembled in Cornelius’s house. It was composed of

the God-fearing, devout people in the neighborhood; and, in their attitude,

interest, and openness of heart, we may find the example of the “good

hearer” to whom God’s Word may come with power, and in whom it may

be made fruitful The following are the marks of the “good hearer,” of

which we may be reminded by the text: There will be —

I. THE DUE SENSE OF GOD’S PRESENCE. “We are all here present

before God.” Though that presence now finds no outward or symbolic

expression m cloud or flame, it is inwardly realized, and has now on men’s

hearts its due solemnizing effect. The true worshipper can say, “Surely

God is in this place.”

II. FULL RESOLVE AND INTENT. The company had not gathered

according to custom or merely to please each other; all were purposed to

come, and had set their minds upon hearing what St. Peter might have to

say. Cornelius had awakened this earnestness by telling of his vision.

III. DUE OPENNESS OF HEART. They were prepared to put all

prejudice aside, “and hear all things commanded of God.” The openhearted

listen to all, receiving what God sends, not merely what may please

them or accord with their doctrinal views or prejudices.


HAVE TO BE DONE. The only good listener is the obedient listener, who

goes forth to life prepared to carry out God’s will as it may be revealed to

him, and determined to tone all life by the principles which God may

announce. Illustrate by the parable of the Sower and the seed. — R.T.

Vers. 34, 35.

Believers outside Judaism.

Several important and interesting cases, taken from the old Scripture

histories, may serve to illustrate this conviction which now came to St.

Peter, and found suggestive expression in our text. The point of his

testimony is that the one living and true God of the whole earth has been

and is graciously concerned in the religious life of the human race as a

whole, apart from any special revelations which he may be pleased to make

to any portions of the race. From the religious point of view, the “God of

the whole earth must he be called.”


little about the religious condition of Palestine in the days of Abraham.

Hastily we say that doubtless the Canaanite idolatries absolutely prevailed,

for “the Canaanite was then in the land.” But the figure of Melchizedek is,

as it were, thrust into the Scripture narrative as if on purpose to correct

such hastily formed notions. Abraham is clearly the elect of God, separated

from his Chaldean surroundings in order to witness to the great truths of

the Divine unity and spirituality. And yet, coming into the lard that was

promised to his descendants, he finds believers in the Most High God,

presided over by a king-priest, to whom Abraham feels that he must pay

homage and give tithes. It has been well said that “when Abraham received

the blessing of Melchizedek, and tendered to him his reverent homage, it is

a likeness of the recognition which true historical faith will always humbly

receive and gratefully render when it comes in contact with the older and

everlasting instincts of that religion which the ‘Most High God, Possessor

of heaven and earth,’ has implanted in nature and in the heart of man, in

‘the power of an endless life.’” So, in the very starting of Judaism, in the

very lifetime of its founder and father, we find God directing our attention

to real and acceptable religious life outside the Abrahamic election.


Without attempting to form a full judgment of Balaam’s religious standing,

we must admit that he was a prophet of God, to whom God made

communications; and whatever may have been his religion, it was certainly

distinct from Judaism. “In his career is seen that recognition of Divine

inspiration outside the Jewish people, which the narrowness of modern

times has been so eager to deny, but which the Scriptures are always ready

to acknowledge, and, by acknowledging, admit within the pale of the

universal Church the higher spirits of every age and of every nation.”


room for doubting that, whenever Job himself may have lived, the book

bearing his name was written in the Solomonic age, and represents the

religious sentiments of that time, And the book represents the man Job as

good, perfect, upright, fearing God, and eschewing evil; but he is not a

Jew, he is an Arab chief or the wealthy prince of some city in distant Uz;

the very selection of such a hero for the story plainly showing belief in vital

godliness outside the Jewish limits. Not a trace of Mosaic religion has been

found in the book, and therefore it is evident that the writer accepts the

fact that true and acceptable piety may exist apart from the Mosaic



DECLINE. We place these two together, but they may be treated

separately. Naaman is a Syrian, but God’s prophet makes no difficulty

about recognizing the sincerity of his religion, and he requires of him no

conformity to Jewish regulations. The Ninevites are penitent before the one

living God, and their repentance is even set on record as an example to the

willful Jews. So again and again did God, in the olden times, correct the

exclusiveness of his people’s feeling, and force them to think of him as the

God of the whole earth. And when our Lord Jesus came among men as the

Divine teacher, we find him also correcting the same exclusive spirit by

blessing Roman centurions, Samaritan villagers, and Syro-phoenician

women; commanding that his gospel should be preached to the whole

world; sending Paul “far hence unto the Gentiles;” calling Cornelius into

the fellowship of the redeemed; saving the eunuch of an African queen; and

moving Paul to witness for the universal redeeming love of God, in

Athenian agora and before Roman tribunals. That the heathen had some

religion God did not make a reason for withholding from them his fuller

revelation; neither should we so argue. Our very sympathy with heathen

souls groping for the light should increase our longing to give them what

we have in our trust, the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the

face of Jesus Christ.” — R.T.

Vers. 37-43.

The gospel for the heathen.

Under the Divine inspiration, St. Peter preached the gospel to this

company of devout Gentiles; and we can find both

(1) what is the essence of the gospel message, and

(2) what are the points of it specially suitable for presentation to the

heathen mind, by a careful study of St. Peter’s speech on this occasion. As

the points are very simple, and the illustration of them very abundant and

familiar, we need only briefly state the several headings. The gospel is the

declaration to men of the personal Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the

demand of instant acceptance of him and yielding the will and heart and life

to him. It must deal fully and efficiently with —

I. THE CHRIST WHO LIVED. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the

Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good.”

II. THE CHRIST WHO DIED. “Whom they slew and hanged on a tree.”

III. THE CHRIST WHO LAWS. “Him God raised up the third day, and

showed him openly.”


believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Upon this gospel,

believingly declared to men, even to the heathen, we may still be assured

that the power of the Holy Ghost shall rest, and it shall prove, as to the

company in the house of Cornelius, a word of “eternal life.” — R.T