Acts 10:24-33 The Gospel Is Carried To The Gentiles.
Cornelius is an excellent example of the transition which was taking place for Peter and the church, as the gospel was spreading to the Gentiles. What is also of interest is the covenantal continuity that was and is present in this transition. We read of Cornelius that he was of “the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household” (vv. 1-2). So he was an Italian believer whose household also feared God. Every member of his house are here included-understood up to this point as what is now the old covenant. Cornelius, with his household, gave evidence of their faith in the alms he gave to the people and also in prayer (v. 2). It is to this man that an angel of God appears and speaks to, assuring him that his prayers are answered (v. 3).
What follows are instructions for him to send men to Joppa and ask for Peter (vv. 4-8). So we know that what Cornelius was praying about had something to do with the need for Peter to come to him. The next day, as these men were journeying to Joppa, Peter also engages in prayer (v. 9). Then in a vision he learns that he is to regard no nation or people as unclean (vv. 9-16). This knowledge was necessary for Peter to know before his encounter with Cornelius’ messengers, and Cornelius and his household. When the men arrived with their request, the Spirit also confirmed to Peter that this was a journey he needed to make (vv. 17-23). So we see, that God used prayer, and faithful messengers, to accomplish His will and purposes. God predestines the means as well as the end (vv. 32-33).
It was through these means that Cornelius and Peter finally meet. Cornelius was not only concerned about his own state or that of his household, he also “called together his relatives and friends” to hear what Peter had to say (v. 24), with Peter finding “many who had come together” (v. 27). However, when he bowed down to worship Peter, Peter immediately informed him that he was not the Lord, but only his messenger, only a man like him (vv. 25-26). Peter nevertheless reminded his audience that it was “unlawful” for a Jewish man, such as himself, “to keep company with or go to one of another nation” (v. 28a Cf. Jn. 4:9). It was the reality that they were uncircumcised (Cf. 11:3; Gal. 2:12). However, God in His mercy, had now taught Peter that he should regard no person as unclean simply based on race, nation, ethnicity, nor indeed in the absence of the old covenant sign (v. 28b).
So, having been taught by God, he responded obediently to His call to visit Cornelius and those with him. However, he still asks them why they sent for him (v. 29). It is at this point that we learn that Cornelius had also been fasting as he prayed to God, something usually done with matters of great importance, and while he prayed “a man stood before” him, “in bright clothing” (v. 30). This man was earlier described as “an angel of God” (v. 3). Could this have been the Lord Himself? He is not rebuked when he addresses him as “lord” (v. 4). Might this explain Cornelius’ initial reaction to Peter? In any case, he did not doubt the word of the Lord to him, and hence the actions which followed. He was assured that his prayer had been heard, and his alms remembered (v. 31).