Cornelius's Vision

Acts 10:1-8

Thirty miles north of Joppa was another coastal city, Caesarea, which had been built as a showcase of luxury and furnished with a splendid harbor by Herod the Great.1 In the days of the early church it served as the Roman capital of Judea. There lived Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman army. A centurion was so named because he was the officer in charge of a fighting unit called a century (from Latin centum, which means hundred), which contained about one hundred soldiers. The actual number varied greatly, but in the early imperial period, a typical century was eighty men strong.2

Delving Deeper

Centurions in the New Testament

Cornelius was a member of the Italian "band," better translated "cohort," designating the unit of 600 warriors forming a tenth part of a Roman legion.3 A whole legion, therefore, when fully manned, numbered about 6000 warriors.

The centurion was the backbone of the Roman army. Exercising personal supervision of all men under his command, he was chiefly responsible for good morale in the ranks. On the battlefield, he made many decisions that might turn the outcome to victory or defeat. As a class of soldier, centurions had a reputation for being unusually capable and dependable.4

All those mentioned in the New Testament appear in a good light.

  1. When Jesus was scorned by many in His own nation, a Roman centurion in Galilee sent Jesus messengers asking that He would heal a beloved servant near death. The officer stated that there was no need for Jesus to come to the house personally, for he was confident that Jesus could do the miracle just by saying the word. Jesus said of him, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Matt. 8:5–13; Luke 7:2–10).
  2. The centurion in command of the detail that carried out Jesus’ crucifixion was so moved by Jesus’ demeanor and by the signs accompanying His death that he "feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27:54). Also, "he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47). In his response he showed himself to be far more discerning than the religious leaders who also witnessed the Crucifixion.
  3. The centurion assigned to scourge Paul after he was arrested in Jerusalem held back when he heard that Paul was a Roman citizen. He then went to his commander and warned him against doing an injustice (Acts 22:25–26).
  4. The centurion with custody over Paul when he journeyed to Rome for trial was evidently sympathetic to the apostle, for he never kept him under close guard, instead allowing him to say and do virtually whatever he wanted (Acts 27:1–28:16).
  5. Finally, of course, the first gentile convert was a centurion.

It is an interesting question why the New Testament is so kind to officers of the army that held the Jewish nation in servitude. Perhaps they picture the kind of convert that Jesus was seeking in the gentile world. He was looking for all those in every nation who would be willing to serve as faithful and conscientious soldiers of the Lord.

Cornelius was a gentile, not a Jew. Yet Scripture describes him as a devout man, faithful in good works and in a life of prayer. How did it happen that a gentile with a background in the heathen religion of Rome came to worship the true God? Cornelius was not alone. In his day, the Jewish religion attracted many followers. There were synagogues throughout the Roman world, and in many the congregation was a mixture of Jews and gentiles. Among the gentiles were some known as proselytes because they had gone through all the rituals necessary to be considered full-fledged Jews. But most were not. Yet by separating themselves from paganism and keeping the moral law of God, they had achieved the status of being called God-fearers.5 Later, whenever Paul went to a new city, he preached first to the Jews, the proselytes, and the God-fearers in the synagogue. From those who believed he formed the nucleus of a new church.

Pondering a Question

If, as we will see, Jews avoided all contact with gentiles, why were gentiles allowed to attend the synagogue?

To gain the right of association with Jews, gentiles had to take certain steps to remove the worst forms of their uncleanness. The class known as God-fearers were not full proselytes with nearly the same status as Jews by birth, but adherents to Judaism of a lesser degree, known as proselytes of the gate.6 In William Ramsey’s judgment they submitted to all those provisions in the law of Moses applicable to "strangers" in the land; that is, to people of foreign extraction who came to live in the land of Israel.7 The law forbade strangers to offer sacrifices of worship at any place other than at the house of the Lord (Lev. 17:8–9), to eat blood (Lev. 17:10), and to commit sexual immorality of any kind (Lev. 18: v. 26 specifically extending the prohibition to strangers). Later, in our discussion of Acts 15, we will show that the obligations which the council at Jerusalem imposed on gentile converts to Christianity were essentially the same.

What place did God-fearers have in the synagogue? Alfred Edersheim argued that a typical synagogue was laid out to mirror the Temple itself. At the Temple, women were excluded from the inner court, known as the Court of Israelites. They could advance no further inward than the Court of Women on the east side. Edersheim inferred that because a synagogue must have been similar in arrangement, the women were required to sit in a section reserved for them at the rear.8 Some other scholars have suggested moreover that the women used a separate door, making their entrance to a rear gallery as soon as they arrived but remaining inside after the service until all the men had departed from the building.9

The evidence for Edersheim’s reconstruction of Jewish practice at ancient synagogues is meager, however.10 But if he is right, we can take his reasoning a step further and discover the place of gentiles at a synagogue, for at the Temple they were allowed to enter no further than the outer court, known as the Court of Gentiles, which was on the outer rim of the Temple complex. At a typical synagogue, it is therefore possible that gentiles were relegated to a place even farther from the front, perhaps in a sequestered portion at the back of the main room, and that they were the last to leave after a service.

Cornelius was a God-fearer so outstanding in his piety that God chose him to be the first gentile convert to Christianity. An angelic messenger from God appeared to him one day while he was praying. His natural reaction was to be afraid, but the angel calmed his fears by assuring him that God was pleased with all his prayers and good deeds. The angel implied that God was now ready to bless him, but to obtain the blessing, he had to follow instructions. First, he had to send men to Joppa for the purpose of fetching Simon Peter, who was staying with Simon the tanner. Then when Peter came, Cornelius had to follow whatever directions Peter gave.

Pondering a Question

Why did the angel refrain from rebuking Cornelius when Cornelius called him "Lord"?

The term is the Greek word kurios, which merely signifies someone with power or authority.11 It need not refer narrowly to God. Cornelius, as a Roman officer, was accustomed to treating his superiors with great deference. He had learned that his own commander-in-chief, the Roman emperor, should be viewed as no less than divine. Therefore, when he saw a being so lofty that his garments shimmered with heavenly glory, he did not hesitate to pay him the highest token of respect that he could devise on the spur of the moment. He called the angel "Lord." The angel understood that Cornelius was not identifying him as God, so he accepted the honor. In fact, as we learn from the message that Cornelius sent Peter, the centurion knew full well that the visitor was an angel (Acts 10:22). Viewing the angel as a superior was good for the centurion, because it assured his diligent obedience to the commands that the angel spoke as God’s mouthpiece.

Pondering a Question

Who was the angel?

He is not named, but on several other occasions the angel who delivered God’s message to a human being was Gabriel. He came to Daniel (Dan. 8:15–16; 9:21), Zechariah (Luke 1:19), and Mary (Luke 1:26–27). In every other record of an angelic visitation, Scripture declines to tell us the angel’s name, leaving the possibility that we are reading about another mission of Gabriel. Gabriel’s unique role in man’s experience suggests that he bears the heavenly office of divine messenger. Thus, in all likelihood he was the angel who appeared to Cornelius.

Pondering a Question

In what form did the angel appear?

Cornelius saw a being standing before him who appeared to be a man in bright clothing (Acts 10:30). If we examine all the Scriptural accounts of angels appearing to men, we find that without exception, at least in all cases where they are described, they assumed human form (Gen. 18:1–22; 19:1–22; Num. 22:22–35; 1 Chron. 21:15–30; Dan. 8:15; 9:21; 10:16, 18; Zech. 1:7–11; 2:3–4; Matt. 28:3; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12). Sometimes, like the angel that Cornelius saw, they wore white clothing with a brilliant luster (Matt. 28:3; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12). Sometimes they displayed their glory, letting their faces shine with dazzling radiance (Matt. 28:3). Sometimes they kept themselves indistinguishable from ordinary men (Gen. 18:1–22; 19:1–22; Heb. 13:1).

We have, however, included a few Old Testament stories about "the angel of the Lord" (Num. 22:22–35; 1 Chron. 21:15–30), a term that may refer to the preincarnate Christ.

As a good soldier, Cornelius hastened to carry out his orders to the letter. Immediately, he called three trusted servants, two from his household and one from the army. The soldier, doubtless the one who was appointed leader of the group, was a devout gentile, and perhaps the others were as well. After they all reported to their master, he sent them off to find Peter.

Peter's Vision

Acts 10:9-16

While Cornelius's men were walking to Joppa, Peter was having a quiet day at Simon's house.

Delving Deeper

Tanning as a trade

Simon was a tanner: that is, a leatherworker.12 For two reasons, the Jewish people regarded this trade as disreputable and disgusting.

  1. The process of turning animal hides into serviceable leather involved use of dog manure and chemicals such as lime that filled the air with a strong offensive odor.13 The smell was so bad that a tanner was forced to set up his workshop outside of town.14 If the wife of a tanner found that she could not live with the stench, her suffering was considered grounds for divorce.15
  2. A tanner’s work required that he surround himself with the bodies and skins of dead animals. To touch a clean animal slaughtered or hunted down by man did not make a person unclean (Lev. 18:10–16), but it was defiling to touch the carcase of a clean animal that died of itself (Lev. 11:39; 17:15–16). To touch the carcase of an unclean animal, however it died, also made a person unclean (Lev. 11:8, 11, 24–28, 31).16 Since it was hard for a tanner to make a good living if he altogether rejected skins from unclean carcasses (after all, one raw material for good leather is pigskin, and pigs were unclean), he was probably in a perpetual state of uncleanness. No wonder the Jews thought tanning an unclean business.17

The tanner’s house was outside Joppa along the coast of the Mediterranean. Toward noon (the sixth hour by Jewish reckoning) Peter went up to the housetop to pray. In an ancient Jewish house, the roof was much like the porch in a modern house. It was a good place to get away from others and enjoy the breezes.

Delving Deeper

A house by the sea

Scripture’s mention of the incidental fact that Simon lived by the sea would likely have prompted an ancient reader to nod his head and say to himself, "Of course." Not only would the saltwater have been useful in Simon’s work, but the sea breeze by day and the land breeze by night helped to freshen the atmosphere in the tanner’s house. These are the prevailing breezes at any coastal site due to the difference in air pressure over land and water.

Why would Peter have consented to stay in such a place? As an old fisherman, he probably welcomed a chance to look out at the vast waters of the Mediterranean and watch the boats plying back and forth outside Joppa's harbor, doubtless with some fishing boats among them. Going up to the roof would not only have afforded the view he desired, but also given relief from the smells below.

After spending some time with the Lord, Peter became hungry and called for food. While he sat waiting for the servants to prepare it, he fell into a "trance"—that is, God took control of his mind while he was awake.

Peter saw a strange vision. A large sheet appeared in the sky and descended before his eyes. It looked as though the sheet was suspended from cords tied to its four corners. Riding on the sheet was a whole zoo of animals. Among them were birds, mammals, and "creeping things"—a reference to reptiles and insects. When this strange cargo stopped before Peter, he heard a voice, saying, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."

Peter had no doubt that the animals were real, and such a command to a man waiting for his dinner was entirely reasonable. But Peter saw that all the animals were unclean. The law of Moses allowed the nation of Israel to eat meat, but only from certain animals. Many animals were labeled unfit for consumption. These included pigs, rabbits, camels, anything with paws like a cat or bear, birds of prey, snakes, insects (except locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers), and a host of others.

Delving Deeper

Unclean animals downstairs

It is no accident that Scripture tells us where Peter was when he saw the vision. Perhaps the visit to Simon’s workshop had raised in Peter’s mind the question of whether Old Testament restrictions against unclean animals were still in force under the new covenant. He could see the remains of dead animals all around, maybe some he had always loathed. As he pondered whether he could under any circumstances eat these untouchables, his first reaction was probably a decisive, no. The vision later given to him on the roof was therefore a stiff challenge to his own deep-seated preferences.

As a good Jew who had always kept the law, Peter refused to obey, even though he recognized the voice as the Lord's. Perhaps it was Jesus speaking in a voice similar to His earthly voice, very familiar to Peter. Peter protested, "Not so, Lord: for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean." The Lord rebuked him, saying, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." Again the voice commanded him to eat, again he refused, and again the voice rebuked him. The same dialogue occurred yet a third time before the sheet rose up and disappeared into heaven.

Pondering a Question

From whom have we obtained this story?

The only possible source is Peter himself. Luke informs us that Peter reported the whole incident just a short while later to the whole church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:5–10). Notice that his account neither hides nor justifies his disobedient response to the Lord’s command. He is telling us the truth, even though it places him in a very bad light. It would not be an exaggeration to say that what he said was stupid, almost blasphemous. Imagine telling the Lord, "Not so."

But the candor of this account should not surprise us. The Gospels are full of stories that show Peter acting foolishly. When Jesus walked on the water, Peter tried the same feat but, when the sight of waves undermined his faith, he fell in (Matt. 14:25–31; Mark 6:45–51; John 6:16–21). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter inflicted one minor casualty in a swashbuckling but ineffectual attempt to defend Jesus with a sword. He tried to split Malchus’s head, but cut off his ear instead (Matt. 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50; John 18:10). During the Transfiguration, Peter blurted out stupid irrelevancies (Matt. 17:4; Mark 9:6; Luke 9:33). When Jesus on one occasion desired to know who touched His garment, Peter rebuked Him by pointing out that He was surrounded by people (Luke 8:45). Worst of all, while standing outside the house where Jesus was on trial before the religious authorities, Peter thrice denied being Jesus’ follower (Matt. 26:69–75).

Why is the picture of Peter so often unfavorable, sometimes even comical? We can be sure that no other leaders of the early church would, on their own initiative, have circulated stories that seemed to belittle the chief apostle. They knew that for believers to respect and follow him was in the best interests of the church. The account of Peter’s vision on Simon’s roof, coming obviously from Peter, gives us strong reason to suspect that he was the one who encouraged the telling and retelling of all the other unflattering stories about himself. He must have been a man of humble mind who did not hide his grievous sins in the past, who readily confessed his lesser faults as well (as James advises us to do; Jas. 5:16), and who could even laugh at all the bygone moments when he was simply absurd. Probably both in private discussions and in public sermons, he rehearsed his own failures as a way of teaching others that nobody, including the chief apostle, is exempt from the need to grow and learn. Seeing that he was once immature and unwise encouraged them not to be overly distressed about their own lapses into foolishness. They were not hopeless cases who had forfeited God’s love. By pressing on, they, like Peter, could still be greatly used by God.

Pondering a Question

Why did the Lord not chasten Peter for arguing with Him?

The Lord was patient because Peter’s objection was based on conscience, and his conscience in this matter was shaped by his understanding of God’s law. Within the limits of his own thinking, Peter was trying to do right. Still, his refusal to obey may be faulted for lack of humility and good sense.

Pondering a Question

What was the meaning of the vision?

Afterward, Peter considered the vision, but failed to understand it right away. Its meaning became clear only after he received the summons from Cornelius. The vision expressed God’s desire to break down a barrier that was hindering Jewish Christians from reaching the gentile world.

This barrier was the Jewish attitude toward gentiles. A good Jew thought gentiles were disgusting, and he went out of his way to avoid them. He never entered one of their houses.18 He viewed as unclean even the sod and the air connected with their land.19 The body of a gentile was, from the standpoint of ritual purity, also unclean, as well as anything he "lies, sits, or rides on."20 Many foods including milk, bread, and oil were defiled in Jewish eyes if they or their containers had passed through gentile hands.21 With such an attitude, Jewish Christians found it hard to fulfill the Great Commission, commanding them to share the gospel with the whole world. Many could not imagine that God really wanted them to bring gentiles into the church. To overcome Jewish prejudice against other races, God gave Peter a vision showing that the time had come to stop treating gentiles like unclean animals.

Delving Deeper

Dual purpose in the vision

In Peter’s vision, God expressed Himself symbolically, using animals to represent people, because He was simultaneously canceling restrictions against both. He was declaring that gentiles should not be treated as unclean, and also He was nullifying the dietary laws in the Old Testament. Putting these laws aside was necessary to enable the church to reach gentiles. An evangelist or missionary cannot be fussy about the food he eats. If he wishes to show love for the people he is seeking to win for Christ, he must be willing to join with them for a meal and accept their food without qualms. If the food customary in some cultures does not seem healthy or appetizing, eating it is a small sacrifice for the sake of winning souls.

God could terminate the dietary laws because they were provisional, not absolute—appropriate as a public health measure under certain circumstances but unrelated to any moral necessity. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating pork, for example. God probably forbade it as well as meats derived from horses, bears, foxes, rats, and lions because any of these might contain larvae that, in a human being, cause the disease known as trichinosis.22 Yet to eat a food once labeled unclean is not necessarily incompatible with love, which is the true grounds of all righteousness.


Acts 10:17-20

As Peter pondered the vision, the messengers from Cornelius reached Simon’s gate. They announced their presence by calling out a greeting. Then when someone responded, probably by coming from the house to find out their purpose, they asked whether a man named Simon Peter was lodging within. Peter himself did not hear the voices outside, but the Spirit alerted him to the arrival of visitors. He told Peter to go down and meet them. They would summon him to another place, and he should go, confident that God had sent them.

Going to Caesarea

Acts 10:21-24

When Peter came to the men at the gate, he asked their purpose. The messengers identified themselves as messengers from Cornelius, a Roman centurion, but they quickly made it clear that Cornelius was no ordinary gentile. He was a God-fearer highly respected by the Jews. They did not say why he was held in high esteem, but perhaps, like the centurion who summoned Jesus to heal his servant, he had made generous donations to the local synagogue (Luke 7:2–10), or perhaps he was known as an officer who restrained his men from abusing Jewish people. To explain why they had come, the messengers said that an angel had commanded their master to call for Peter and hear his message.

Peter raised no objection, although he put off any travel until the next day. He bade the men to stay with him until the time came for departure. Here was the first sign of Peter’s change of heart toward gentiles. Evidently with Simon’s permission, he welcomed gentiles to share his lodgings.

On the next day, Peter accompanied the messengers back to Caesarea. Several believers from Joppa came along to observe. At Cornelius’s house, Peter found that the centurion had assembled a large company, including many of his relatives and close friends.

Getting Practical

Model of good leadership

The story of Cornelius makes it clear that he did not view his faith as a strictly private matter. Just as we should, he endeavored to persuade his family, friends, and acquaintances to follow God.

In his bold testimony, he exemplified a good leader, for he understood that within his realm of responsibility, he should not only direct the practical affairs of home and squadron, but also serve as a spiritual guide.

Jew Meeting Gentile

Acts 10:25-33

Cornelius himself met Peter at the door and threw himself at his feet, intending to worship him. But Peter immediately corrected the error. Insisting that he was only a man, Peter helped Cornelius to his feet.

Pondering a Question

Why did Cornelius try to worship Peter?

"Worshipped" is the usual word for tribute directed to God.23 Here is a conundrum. Why would a God-fearer well tutored in Jewish monotheism seek to worship a being that, in every visible attribute, was clearly just a man? The mystery deepens when we consider that Cornelius recognized the glorified being who came to him earlier as less than divine. We can only speculate, but perhaps the centurion had already heard something about what the early church believed—especially, that God had become a man and that this man was the way of salvation. The angel told Cornelius that Peter would make salvation available to Cornelius and all his house (Acts 11:14). The news might have left Cornelius in some perplexity as to the nature of this man Peter. He might have wondered whether Peter was another divine savior in human form.

Peter went further into the house and found a large gathering of people. Imagine how awkward Peter felt when, for the first time in his life, he entered the home of a gentile. Feeling that his remarkable departure from Jewish custom required an explanation, he said that his own outlook on gentiles had changed. God showed him that it was wrong to consider any man unclean. In essence, he was admitting that he had formerly harbored a sinful distaste for gentiles.

Getting Practical

The right approach when witnessing

It was appropriate that Peter should preface the gospel with confession of his own sin. A secondary purpose (perhaps of Peter, but certainly of the Spirit guiding his words) was to underscore Peter’s denial of divinity, but the main purpose was to set an example of repentance, which the gospel would also require of his hearers.

It is never wise when witnessing to present ourselves as holier-than-thou. We reach the heart of a lost person by presenting ourselves as one sinner helping another.

Peter asked why Cornelius had sent for him. Cornelius replied by reviewing the words of the angel. The answer to Peter's question was that the angel commanded Cornelius to summon Peter. Cornelius then asked Peter to share whatever message God had given him.

Peter's Message

Acts 10:34-43

Peter began by marveling at God’s perfect justice. The Jews held themselves to be superior to other peoples, but God does not accept a man just because he is a Jew. Nor does He reject a man just because he is a gentile. As Peter said, "God is no respecter of persons." In other words, when God judges a man, He gives no weight to such externals as race, national origin, wealth, power, and appearance. He looks only on the heart. Peter was reaffirming a principle often stated in the Old Testament (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Job 34:19) and stated again in Peter’s own first epistle (1 Pet. 1:17).

Peter then used surprising language to describe how a man gains acceptance with God. He said that the requirements are to fear God and work righteousness.

Pondering a Question

Did Peter mean that we are saved by our works?

No. Peter was explaining why God singled out Cornelius for the privilege of hearing the gospel. By his devotion and good works, Cornelius showed that he wanted to be right with God. His good works in themselves did not save him. Rather, they showed that he wanted to be saved. He was a true seeker after God, and Scripture promises that anyone who seeks God with his whole heart will surely find Him (Jer. 29:13; Matt. 7:7). Cornelius’s seeking was itself evidence of grace operating in his life, both to prepare him for the moment when he heard the gospel and to assure that he would hear and receive it gladly.

There is a larger meaning here, however. Peter was also explaining why God was sending the gospel to the whole world. He does not wish salvation to be a privilege restricted to Jews. Rather, He desires to give life forever to anyone, in any nation, who meets the requirements of fearing Him and living righteously. Both may be seen as the results of salvation.

Yet although Cornelius and perhaps other gentiles listening to Peter had won a measure of acceptance with God, they were lacking a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To be saved, they needed to put their faith in Jesus. Therefore, Peter started his sermon by demonstrating that Jesus deserved their faith.

The facts about Jesus' life and death were already well known to Peter's audience, as they were to everyone in Palestine. Peter said of Jesus' message, "That word, I say, ye know." Yet Peter stated some of these facts anyway. As he summarized the life and ministry of Jesus, he emphasized that Jesus was not just a famous man whose ministry was the talk of the whole country. He was the Christ promised by the prophets. More than that, He was the Lord of all.

Then Peter stressed the strange contrast between Jesus' life and Jesus' death. His life was devoted to doing good. Through the power of God's Spirit, He cast out demons from those under the power of Satan. Yet the life of this good man came to what end? He was taken by the authorities and hung on a tree. In the words Peter chose to describe crucifixion, he emphasized that Jesus’ manner of death was especially disgraceful. Paul, paraphrasing the law of Moses (Deut. 21:23), said, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3:13).

But the injustice in Jesus' death did not stand. God overturned it by raising up Jesus on the third day after His burial. Jesus then showed Himself to His disciples and appointed them to be witnesses everywhere of His resurrection. Peter himself had no doubt that he saw the risen Christ. What he saw was no ghost, for they ate and drank together.

Briefly, Peter spoke of God's direction for his own life. The risen Christ charged Peter and the other apostles to go about preaching. Their message—the message that Cornelius and his loved ones wanted to hear—was simple:

  1. God will not overlook sin. If a sinner fails to obtain God's forgiveness, he will someday stand in judgment and receive the just penalty. The Judge of all men will be Jesus.
  2. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament. Therefore, He must be the Savior from sin that God promised to send into the world.
  3. The one way of salvation is to believe in Jesus. Whoever believes in Him will receive remission (forgiveness) of sin and gain everlasting life.

Descent of the Spirit

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit descended upon his hearers. The proof of the Spirit's coming was that the gentiles began to speak in tongues. Again, these were actual human languages, for the Jewish observers from the church in Joppa could pick out enough familiar words to understand that the speakers were praising and magnifying God. The observers were amazed. They never expected God to give the Spirit to unclean gentiles as well as to Jews.

Peter's mind was no longer clouded with Jewish pride. He realized that if God baptized the gentiles with the Spirit, he could not refuse to baptize them with water. Without delay, they were baptized in the name of the Lord. Afterward, in response to their pleas for further teaching, Peter remained several more days.

Cornelius and his loved ones were the first gentile converts to Christianity. At the first moment of believing in Christ, the Holy Spirit came to indwell them. He did not delay His coming until they especially prayed for Him, or until they went through some ritual. Likewise today, the coming of the Spirit is simultaneous with salvation.

The year of Cornelius's conversion was probably in the late 30s (see Appendix 1).

Getting Practical

Rising above social prejudice

The prejudice that kept Jews from witnessing to gentiles was obviously foolish. But do we have any similar prejudices? Do we exclude anyone from the gospel because he triggers our dislike? The prejudice common in churches today is of two kinds.

  1. We may fail to reach people beneath our level in society. We are clean; they are dirty. We are well dressed; they are ragged. We live in nice houses; they live in shacks. But James warns against disdain for the poor (Jas. 2:1-4).
  2. We may draw back from foreigners because the gap in culture and language seems too hard to bridge. But to deny anyone the truth because he has a strange name and speaks broken English is a direct violation of the Great Commission, which says that the gospel is for the whole world (Matt. 28:18-20).


  1. Longenecker, 382, 384.
  2. N. S. Gill, "The Size of the Roman Legions," ThoughtCo., Web (, May 12, 2017; "Imperial Roman Army," Wikipedia, Web (, May 12, 2017.
  3. Bruce, Acts, 3rd ed., 252.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., 118, 252-253.
  6. W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908), 43; Longenecker, 363, 385.
  7. Ramsey, St. Paul, 43.
  8. Edersheim, Sketches, 258, 261.
  9. Gower, 346.
  10. "Synagogues," in Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, ed. Avraham Negev (Jerusalem: The Jerusalem Publishing House, 1972), 301.
  11. Vine, 688.
  12. Gower, 160.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.; Mish. Baba Bathra 2.9.
  15. Jeremias, 308.
  16. S. H. Kellogg, Studies in Leviticus: Tabernacle Worship and the Law of the Daily Life; orig. title, The Book of Leviticus (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1891; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1988), 288-291.
  17. Bruce, Acts, 3rd ed., 250.
  18. Mish. Oholoth 18.7; John 18:28; Edersheim, Life, 3.546–547; Bruce, Acts, 3rd ed., 259.
  19. Elijah, the Gaon of Wilna, Eliyahu Rabbah, a commentary on the Division 'Tohoroth' (1720-97), 5a, 19b, in Herbert Danby, trans., The Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933), 801, 803; Segal, 200.
  20. Elijah, 20, in Danby, 803.
  21. Mish. Abodah Zarah 1.6; Bruce, Acts, 3rd ed., 259.
  22. "Trichinosis," Stanford University, Web (, May 16, 2017.
  23. Berry, 463; Arndt and Gingrich, 723–724.