Acts 10:9-43 Peter, Cornelius, And The Great Commission.
At about noon in Joppa, as Cornelius’ servants and devout soldier were approaching, Peter, as was his likely custom, went to the housetop to pray. Being about noon he was also hungry, but while he was waiting for the meal to be prepared he fell into a trance. While in this trance he saw heaven open and a sheet full of unclean animals was lowered, and a voice spoke to him saying, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (v. 13). Peter objected to the Lord because the creatures were unclean. He knew it was the Lord speaking, and when the Lord spoke to him a second time He said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (v. 15). This was confirmed to Peter by being repeated three times before the sheet was taken up back to heaven. While he still wondered about this vision, the men sent by Cornelius arrived asking for Peter.
At the same time the Spirit spoke directly to Peter telling him that it was He who sent the men, and that he should not doubt. Peter then proceeded to meet the men and asked them the reason for wanting to meet him. At this point they explained that Cornelius had sent them, what kind of man he was, and that he was following divinely revealed instructions. These men then lodged the night and Peter and some other brothers went with them to Caesarea, where Cornelius was waiting for them, along with his relatives and close friends. When they met, Cornelius fell down and wanted to worship Peter, but Peter said, “Stand up; I myself am also a man” (v. 26). It must have seemed odd to Peter to be greeted this way, but the Lord had sent him with a mission.
Finally, Peter speaking to all who were assembled, explained how it was contrary to Jewish custom for a Jewish man, that is, a circumcised member of the covenant community, to keep company with those of other nations (Cf. 11:3; Gal. 2:12). He then explained how he also received a vision, and God showing him that he was no longer to call any man common or unclean. Therefore he asked again why Cornelius had sent for him. Cornelius then recounted how an angel had appeared to him while he prayed, informing him that God was going to answer his prayer through the message to come from Peter. Peter then began to preach the gospel to them, that God shows no partiality, that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (v. 35).
True faith shows itself in a proper fear of God-who He is and what He has done. It also shows itself in deeds done. Just as God’s works reveal who He is, even so a man’s works reveal who he is. However, this peace with God cannot come but through the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 36). Jesus was preached as the anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ. He began his public ministry after the baptism of John, and was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. He healed people and cast out demons because God was with him, of which Peter and the other apostles were witnesses (v. 39). He was also crucified, at the instigation of the Jews, but He then rose from the dead, to which they also witnessed, as they sat and ate and drank with Him.
It was this same risen Lord who commanded the apostles to preach the gospel to all nations that, “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (v. 43). This entire encounter involving Cornelius and Peter was and remains a reminder that the gospel call is to go out to all peoples. This was clearly a hard lesson for Peter and others to learn. He should have gathered as much from what was promised in the scriptures, and added to this was the practice of Jesus Himself, and the great commission which He had given (Cf. Mt. 28:18-20). Even after this encounter, Paul indicated that he had to rebuke Peter for still separating himself from Gentile believers for fear of the Jews (Gal. 2:12). “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (v. 43).