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Summary of Act’s chapter 10 and the salvation of Cornelius

Acts 10

 

Chapter 10 of the book of Acts is a pivotal point in the great commission. We all know that initially, the gospel message was for Israel. This is not to imply that the outreach to the gentiles was an afterthought. In the great providence of God, the gospel was to the elect of God, which always included peoples from every tribe, tongue and nation.

We can see in the gospel accounts where Jesus makes it plain that He had come, at that stage, for the lost sheep of Israel.

Matt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.[1]

Matt 15:24 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.[2]

In the midst of all of this, we do see some accounts where Gentiles are brought in by their faith; obviously elect individuals. But by and large, the commission had not gotten to that place where it would move forward.

We see many instances in the OT where the idea is murmured about. Only the dispensationalists would argue that it was an after thought because of the hardness of Israels heart and rebellion.

Summary:

What do we know of Cornelius?

 

  • Description of Cornelius v1

 God seems to use the most unlikely candidates to expand his kingdom, i.e. fishermen and laborers, a murderer, a Roman officer.

Cornelius was a Roman Centurion; one of the officers.

Considered to be one of the first gentile converts to Christianity.

The vulgate describes him as a soldier in the Cohors Italica. ‘The Italian Band’. The Italian regiment. It would have been typical for the cultural Jew to despise him and all he represented.
Lenski writes: “Thirty-two such Italian cohorts were stationed in the different provinces of the empire. They were made up of Italian volunteers and were considered the most loyal Roman troops.”

Cornelius was well schooled in the Roman Gods, Jupiter, Augustus, Mars, Venus, etc. His relationship to the Jews, professionally had an impact on him. It worked it’s way into his heart and mind and obviously he became inclined. Gods word never returns void! Copies of the Torah in this age were rare and were solely for the priests and kept in the temple. Initially, one might wonder how Cornelius came onto the information from the scriptures. Most likely by listening to conversations and interrogations. Third hand. How could a gentile have gotten the information that was specifically for Jews otherwise?

He was stationed in Caesarea, the capital of Roman Iudaea province.

He is devout: He was revered among his country men;

In the Greek: ‘Eusebeis’. It is used in various NT writings to describe the pious-believers and unbelievers. Many people have devotions; some people are devout football fans, i.e. the Miami Dolphins. Devotion as used in scripture does not necessarily imply a believer in the true God. In the case of Cornelius, we can verify that he was a proselyte. The devotion moved past curiosity to a real love for God and His people. Considering that he was a Roman soldier w/ many responsibilities, he was most likely a ‘proselyte of the gate’:

  1. Proselytes of the Gate 
    Proselytes of the Gate were Gentiles who recognized their place in subordination to the Nation of Israel, and desired to worship God via the mediatorial agency of Israel. They were uncircumcised, and were required to obey only the laws set forth in Acts 15.
  2. Examples
  3. Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:29-38
  4. Cornelius the centurion in Acts 10
  5. The Canaanite woman in Mt. 15:22-28
  6. The elect nations of Mt. 25:31-46 comprise proselytes of the gate.
  7. Laws for Proselytes of the Gate
    James’s edict in Acts 15:29 is in accordance with Noachian revelation: Gen 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which isthe blood thereof, shall ye not eat (cf. Le 3:17 7:26 17:10-14 19:26 De 12:16,23 14:21 15:23 1Sa 14:34).
  8. Proselytes of Righteousness
    Proselytes of Righteousness were Gentiles who desired to become Jews.
  9. Submitted to Mosaic Law
    They were circumcised and submitted to all the ordinances of the Mosaic Law according to Ex. 12:48,49.
  10. Assigned a tribe
    Proselytes of Righteousness were called “strangers” and to Israel they were as those “born in the country.” These Gentile converts to the God of Israel would then be assigned a tribe. Ezek 47:22-23
  11. Jews of other nations
    In Acts 2:5, Luke makes reference to Jews who were dwelling at Jerusalem during the Pentecost observance. Later, he describes them as “Jews and proselytes” (v. 10) who were born Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Cappadocian, etc. (vv. 8-11).

4339 proselutos {pros-ay’-loo-tos} from the alternate of 4334; TDNT – 6:727,943; adj. Four occurrences in NT.

The Rabbis distinguished two classes of proselytes, proselytes of righteousness, who received circumcision and bound themselves to keep the whole of the Mosaic law and to comply with all the requirements of Judaism, and proselytes of the gate, who dwelt among the Jews, and although uncircumcised observed certain specific laws, esp. the seven precepts of Noah, i.e. against the seven chief sins, idolatry, blasphemy against God, homicide, unchastity, theft or plundering, rebellion against rulers and the use of “flesh with the blood thereof”. — Notes from the Online Bible, s.v. #4339

*The above descriptions of proselytes taken from: http://www.biblestudiesonline.info/TGF/topical/proselytes.htm

V2 He is described as ‘God fearing’. Can a man truly fear God outside of Christ?

He was generous with what the Lord had given him-he gave ‘alms generously’.

He was a praying man-he prayed ‘always’. Only two accounts in scripture where this idea is attributed to individuals (that I know of).
One of the questions that comes to mind at this point is, is Cornelius a true believer or is he like Paul was prior to his regeneration and conversion? In other words, was Cornelius just a devout, Jewish proselyte? We know that Paul had these same characteristics. Nowhere, however do we see the attributes that are applied to Cornelius’ character to Paul, prior to conversion. Consider what is said of Noah and Job:

Gen 6:9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.[3]

Theologically speaking, there are too many problems with the passage if we think that Cornelius was not yet regenerated and converted. For instance, it gives a level of credence to Monotheism. That cannot work. That is destructive to the theological construct of the bible. No consideration can be given to monotheism-it is completely destructive to the gospel.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God….

After much study, I am more comfortable in believing that Cornelius had the whole of truth and was most likely regenerated and converted prior to this chapter. Some of my thinking for that is that what we have spoken of above. Yes there are instances in scripture where unbelievers are given insight into the things of God so that God’s decrees are fulfilled and accomplished, but in this case, I feel confident that Cornelius was a Jew like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah and Job were.

I find many references to this chapter in commentary as it being the conversion of Cornelius. Later on in this chapter, Peter gives the gospel to the household of Cornelius. Many people are there, not just his household. Some of these people are regenerated and converted at this point. The hearers receive the HS and then, subsequently, baptized with water. The last piece of scripture tells us that the HS fell on ‘all’ that were there. Keep in mind that the apostles had separate events with the holy spirit earlier in the gospel account. They are filled upon regeneration and conversion and later receive the paraklete that was promised. Certain characteristics follow when the paraklete is involved, i.e. speaking in tongues, tongues of fire etc. Can all of these things happen simultaneously? Yes. In this case, after Peter preaches. In Cornelius case, I believe he had the HS already, just not the amplification that Jesus had promised, i.e. the paraklete. In the gospels, the Apostles had the HS first, then the amplification when he arrived at Pentecost. Same case here w/ Cornelius. The following may help ……

 

  • V3 Cornelius has a vision from God via Angel

He trembles at the sight. V4

He calls the Angel Lord-kurios; not because he thinks the angel is God-he is aware that God is spirit, but that he acknowledges this as a vision from God and gives it its proper attitude.

 

  • V4 His prayers and alms are memorialized. God remembers this mans prayers.

How could an unregenerate man have access in prayer. It is impossible to consider that an unregenerate, an enemy of God’s prayers are memorialized.

‘Calvin Institutes 3.17.4

4. They quote the saying of Peter as given by Luke in the Acts, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34, 35). And hence they infer, as a thing which seems to them beyond a doubt, that if man by right conduct procures the favor of God, his obtaining salvation is not entirely the gift of God. Nay, that when God in his mercy assists the sinner, he is inclined to mercy by works. There is no way of reconciling the passages of Scripture, unless you observe that man’s acceptance with God is twofold. As man is by nature, God finds nothing in him which can incline him to mercy, except merely big wretchedness. If it is clear then that man, when God first interposes for him, is naked and destitute of all good, and, on the other hand, loaded and filled with all kinds of evil,–for what quality, pray, shall we say that he is worthy of the heavenly kingdom? Where God thus clearly displays free mercy, have done with that empty imagination of merit. Another passage in the same book–viz. where Cornelius hears from the lips of an angel, “Thy prayer and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God,” (Acts 10:4), is miserably wrested to prove that man is prepared by the study of good works to receive the favor of God. Cornelius being endued with true wisdom, in other words, with the fear of God, must have been enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom, and being an observer of righteousness, must have been sanctified by the same Spirit; righteousness being, as the Apostle testifies, one of the most certain fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:5). Therefore, all those qualities by which he is said to have pleased God he owed to divine grace: so far was he from preparing himself by his own strength to receive it. Indeed, not a syllable of Scripture can be produced which does not accord with the doctrine, that the only reason why God receives man into his favor is, because he sees that he is in every respect lost when left to himself; lost, if he does not display his mercy in delivering him. We now see that in thus accepting, God looks not to the righteousness of the individual, but merely manifests the divine goodness towards miserable sinners, who are altogether undeserving of this great mercy.’

J.R. Miller writes:

‘ The golden incense-altar, was the altar of prayer; just as the altar of burnt-offering, was the altar of atonement and consecration. So every believing, loving heart, is now a golden altar from which rise up to God sweet fragrances, bathing his very throne in fragrance. In John’s Apocalyptic visions, we find again the emblem of incense as a feature of the heavenly state. The redeemed are represented as “holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8.’

 

  • V5 He is told to contact Simon Peter in Joppa

Did Cornelius know who Peter was?

 

  • V8 Cornelius sends his servants and one soldier to Joppa.

The soldier was probably his protector or bodyguard. The scripture tells us that Cornelius ‘explained’ all these things to them. This word in the Greek is the same word we use in the English language to describe exegesis. Cornelius exegeted the information; I am sure that if heaven visited us today, the amount of information would fill books.

 

  • V9 At the hour of prayer, Peter goes up on the roof to pray Israel was commanded to pray 3 x’s a day. We can hear David say so in Psalm 55:17: Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and He hears my voice. Third, sixth and ninth hour. Psalm 119: 164 says ‘seven times a day it is my care to give due praise to thee’. Pentecost event took place at the 3rd Peters vision 6th hour. Cornelius’ vision the ninth hour. The observance of the threefold prayer by the early Christians is taught in the didache. The crucifixion of Christ makes mention of the 3 hours. The Talmud makes mention of the rituals.
  • V10 He prays so fervently that he builds an appetite. He could have been fasting; prayer is exhausting. Intercession is never easy; Consider the apostles when Jesus was in the garden, they fell asleep:

Luke 22:43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.[4]

 

  • V10 cont While dinner is being prepared, he falls into a trance.

This makes me think of a diabetic coma of sorts. Why do you think Luke makes mention of Peter becoming hungry? Possibly, it is relevant for the vision he is about to witness.

He has a vision where the heavens are revealed.

In scripture, seven people are blessed with heavenly visions:

1) Elisha and his young servant saw horses and chariots of fire—a heavenly army—all around them that were protecting them. 2 Kings 6:15-17. (2)

2) The heavens were opened to Ezekiel as he was by the river Chebar, and he saw visions of God. Ezek. 1:1 (3)

3) After Jesus was baptized he saw the heavens opening and He saw the Holy Spirit like a dove descending upon Him. Mark 1:9-11 (4)

4) Stephen, as he was about to be stoned, saw into heaven. Acts 7:55-56 (5)

5) God allowed John to see through a door into heaven. Translated Rev 4:1-11 (6)

6) Paul was caught up to heaven and heard wonderful words. 2 Cor 12:2-4 (7)

  • V 11 The great sheet w/ 4 corners v11

Why the sheet? How do you interpret this?
The sheet may be an allegory of the gospel message coming to all nations, an expression of the universal church or the law of God, possibly. 4 Cornered items are amplified in scripture. For example, the breastplate of judgement in Exodus 28. The Heavenly city in Revelation 21:15 and 22. The Heavenly city is foursqared; There is mentioned a north, south, east and west designation. The dimensions are a perfect square.

The Dimensions of the City (21:15-17)

21:15-17 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth; and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

Was it an actual sheet or something that would give an impression? The Greek word is defined as a piece of linen.

It was ‘bound’ at the four corners. Four corners is significant to God for some reason. These bindings are significant. They can be interpreted along the lines of the Shema. Most likely they were knots. Num 15 describes these knots as a ‘lock’ of sorts.

Consider the Holy Spirit as it descended upon Jesus, ‘like a dove’. It was probably symbolic, figurative and enigmatic.

Tzitzit– Numbers 15:38

37 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: 39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: 40 That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.[5]

Tallit: Deut 22:11-12 Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together. 12 Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself.[6]

The woman who had an issue of blood reaches out to touch the hem of Christ’s garment. This is the tzitzit on Christ’s tallit that she reached for.

This vision, for some reason, uses these passages as an example to Peter.

Prayer shawls and body coverings:
“The symbolism of all this has been variously interpreted. Thus, on one view, the Hebrew word tzitzit has the numerical value of 600 (tzaddi = 90; yod = 10; tzaddi = 90; yod = 10; tav = 400; = 600 in total). When the eight threads and the five knots are added there is a total of 613, corresponding to the 613 precepts of the Torah.

In another version, the eight threads correspond to the eight days that elapsed from the Israelites leaving Egypt until they sang the song of deliverance at the sea (Exodus 15). The five knots correspond to the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch). The numerical value of the Hebrew for ‘the Lord is One’ in the Shema is 39 and this is represented by the total of the windings (7+8+11+13=39).”

*The above taken from: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tzitzit/

 

  • V 12 Beasts, bugs and birds

See Leviticus ch 11. The imagery is specific to a change in diet, conduct and civil law of Israel;
Diet in that the Jews had specific dietary laws they were to follow. This command wouldn’t be received graciously as it goes directly against everything they had been told previously for 1600 years.

Conduct in how the Jews were now to treat the gentile population from hence forth.

Civil Law: Israel’s theocracy is still intact in the moral aspect; the ceremonial law is done away with.

 

  • V 13 Peter is commanded to eat things a Jew would not eat

Leviticus ch 11

Daniel and his cohorts get the furnace

Roman Catholicism and their abstinence from certain foods.

  • V 15 God rebukes PeterWhat God has cleansed, do not call common.
    We are now free in Christ from the dietary restrictions
    Freedom does not imply abuse; gluttony vs freedom
  • V16 The sheet imagery repeats 3 x’s to make sure he gets it-sheep are dumb.
  • V 17, 18 Cornelius’ servants arrive and seek out Peter
  • V 19 Peter is left meditating on the vision

I am sure that all of us would be speechless…what was it that Paul said about his particular vision? 1 cor 12:1-9 ‘Things that could not be uttered’.

  • V 19 God tells Peter visitors have arrived
  • V 20 Doubt not –John 20:29
  • V 21 Peter presents himself to the travelers
  • V 22 The servants, fearful, proceed to present their master’s cv1) a Centurion

2) A just man-is this an implication on justification?

3) Fears God

4) Divinely instructed by an angel-the bible has 20 examples where angels visit with humans.

 

  • V 23 A Jew invites gentiles to ‘lodge and eat’ w/ him

Consider the culture shock for Peter at this point. There is no doubt in his mind what God had just conveyed to him. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The Holy Spirit being a breath of fresh, lively true air, taking up residence in a believer; for myself, it was unmentionable. When God delivers a message it is understood well beyond the physical realm. It is something that is much more than a thing that can be described at the level of the senses.

 

  • V 24 Cornelius prepares for the meeting-invitations-‘kinsmen and friends’ and household.
  • V 25 Peter arrives at Cornelius’ home
  • V 26 Cornelius honors Peter-Peter rebukes him
  • V 28 Peter tells the hearers that they are not common
  • V 33 Cornelius beckons Peter to tell them what God has delivered
  • V 34-42 Peter delivers the history of grace and the gospel message
  • V 44 The arrival of the Holy Spirit
  • V 45 Those who travelled with Peter are astonished-they recall Pentecost
  • V 46 Tongues of fire-baptism of the Holy Spirit
  • V 47 Water baptism-who can refuse water-Acts 8:36
  • Oikos- The sign is placed on whole family units.

 

  1. The household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48; 11:13-18)
  2. The household of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15)
  3. The household of the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:30-34)
  4. The household of Crispus (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:14)
  5. The household of Stephanus (1 Cor. 1:16)
  6. The household of Gaius (1 Cor. 1:14 – by implication)

 

 

  • Tarry! Discipleship.

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mt 10:5–6.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mt 15:24.

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Job 1.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Lk 22:43–46.

[5] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Nu 15:37–41.

[6] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Dt 22:11–12.

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