Cornelius Vision Part 1 of 4

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

April 8, 2014

Acts of the Apostles


Scripture (Acts 10:1-8)

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
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.
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.
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.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
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;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.


Introduction
We now begin a new chapter in the life of the early church. The door was opened to the Gentiles and the first representative Gentile entered the church. We cannot say with any assurance that no other Gentiles had accepted Christ and been born again into the church. We do know that thousands believed on Pentecost; and when the believers in Jerusalem met with persecution they fled to various parts of the Roman Empire and witnessed concerning the blessed Savior wherever they made their home. There was the preaching of Philip the evangelist, Peter, and Paul. In all probability, there were other Gentile Christians. However this is the record of the particular case that drew attention, provoked controversy, and finally brought the apostles and the church to a recognition of the larger meaning of the work of Christ.
Luke views the visit of Peter to the House of Cornelius, with such importance that he goes into the minute details and then repeats the story in Chapter 11. Indeed, it was the most significant event that we have witnessed thus far. The future course of the church depended on its acceptance of Gentiles into the fellowship.
In order to understand how important the conversion of Cornelius was to the growth of the church, we must know certain facts. The Christian movement was all Hebrew. Christ Himself after the flesh was a Hebrew. All of his chosen apostles were Hebrews. His ministry was exclusively among the Hebrews. There were times when He made that very evident by what He said. For instance, a Gentile woman whose daughter was demon-possessed asked Jesus for help; His response may sound a little brutal to our sensitive feelings: “It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs” (Matt. 15.26). But there were exceptions when He did minister to Gentiles, and the one already cited was such an exception; for although He said that His ministry was exercised among the Hebrew people exclusively, He nevertheless granted to the Gentile woman what she sought. All His ministry harmonized with His understanding that God’s intention in the Hebrew people was always that of reaching the people beyond that race; and so to bring blessing to them. Yet in order to understand the prejudices of the earliest members of the Christian church, we must remember that Christianity was an outgrowth of Judaism, a development of Hebraism, and the early disciples had heard Jesus speak of God as the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. He had distinctly told them that He had not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. They had heard Him insist upon it, that neither jot nor tittle of that law should pass till all was fulfilled.
After Pentecost, church growth remained almost exclusively Hebrew. There may have been exceptions, as scattered disciples preached Christ here and there, and Gentiles had heard and obeyed. But the general movement had been Hebrew. The disciples in Jerusalem, though professing faith in Christ, had not ceased to observe the worship of the Hebrews. They still gather in the courts of the Temple. Peter was still observing the Hebrew habit of prayer even in Joppa. He went up at the ninth hour of the day, which was the midday hour for prayer.
There had, however, been a gradual approach to a wider understanding. The inclusion of Samaria was remarkable, seeing that they were not a people having a pure Hebrew blood-line. When Philip reached Samaria and preached, and the news came to the apostles that the Samaritans had received the Word, there was an element of surprise in their attitude; but they recognized it as a movement of God.
Moreover, there had been the definite reception into the fellowship of a Gentile who was undoubtedly a proselyte, in the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch. The future apostle to the Gentiles had been apprehended, had spent those lonely months or years in Arabia, had gone back to Jerusalem, had continued the ministry of Stephen to the Hellenistic Jews, had been persecuted; and at the very time was at Tarsus of Cilicia. But so far, no gentile, entirely separated from Hebraism, had been admitted on apostolic sanction to the fellowship of the Christian Church.
The event we are going to study occurred about ten years after Pentecost. Why did the apostles wait so long before going to the lost Gentiles? After all, in his Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20){10], Jesus had told them to go into the whole world, and it would seem logical for them to go to their Gentile neighbors as soon as possible. But God has his times as well as his plans, and the transition from the Jews to the Samaritans to the Gentiles was a gradual one.
The stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution of the church marked the climax of the Apostles witness to the Jews. Then the Gospel moved to the Samaritans. When God saved Saul of Tarsus, He got hold of His special envoy to the Gentiles. Now was the time to open the door of faith (Acts 14:27){11] to the Gentiles and bring them into the family of God.
No Jew imagined that Gentiles could not be saved, but—quite logically as far as God had then revealed His thoughts—all were convinced that Gentiles must become Jewish proselytes if they were to share in Messianic blessings. God’s working and revelation in this crisis made it clear to submissive hearts that the cross opened the door of salvation to all mankind on equal terms, for all must repent and believe in order to be saved. Jews were thus put on a level with the “sinners of the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:14-17){20].

Commentary

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
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.

Before He could save the Gentiles, God had to prepare Peter to bring the message, since he had been an orthodox Jew all his life (Acts 10:14){14] and Cornelius had to be prepared to hear the message. Salvation is a divine work of Grace, but God works through human channels. Angels can deliver God’s messages to lost men, but they cannot preach the Gospel to them. That is our privilege and responsibility.

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius”
Remember that Paul had been in Caesarea (Acts 9:30){9] and probably some of the other apostles had been preaching the Gospel along the coast. Tel Aviv is really a part of old Joppa. As one travels up the coast from Joppa, the next place of any size is Caesarea, which was really a Roman city. It was the place where Pilate lived.
The fact that Cornelius is mentioned by name is perhaps suggestive that he was well known in the early Christian communities for whom Luke wrote. The place of his residence is of some importance, since Caesarea was from A.D. 6 the provincial capital and place of residence of the Roman governor. Unlike Lydda and Joppa, which were mainly inhabited by Jews, Caesarea was mainly a Hellenistic-style city with a dominant population of Gentiles. Originally, a small town named Strato’s Tower, it was rebuilt on a grand style by Herod the Great, complete with a man-made harbor, a theatre, an amphitheater, a hippodrome, and a temple dedicated to Caesar. The city was named Caesarea to honor Augustus Caesar. There was a substantial Jewish minority there and considerable friction existed between the Jews and the larger Gentile community. It is fitting that it should be the place where Peter came to terms with his own prejudices and realized that human barriers have no place with the God who “does not show favoritism.

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