Acts 10: 23 – 48 Peter at Cornelius’ house
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: ‘You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?’
Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.” So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’
Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptised with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
* * *
Even before Peter had arrived, Cornelius had been telling all his friends. He was very excited by the visit. His house was packed with people. Peter introduces himself, and has Cornelius explain why he asked him to visit. Cornelius’ account confirms the revelations that the Holy Spirit had given Peter. Peter now knows that the vision he saw was an instruction from God to treat Gentiles in exactly the same way as he treats Jews. He understands fully that Gentiles are not a source of ritual impurity.
He responds with a speech to the assembled crowd.
Peter’s speech is a précis of the beliefs of the early church. Luke wasn’t present when Peter spoke the words, so they may not be verbatim, but that doesn’t really matter; this passage is an account of how God makes it known to the early church that Gentiles are acceptable, and the speech encapsulates what a Gentile should believe as a follower of Jesus. Indeed, you might call it a creed.
Let’s break it down into propositions.
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
The God Peter is speaking about is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached.
The events we are believing took place in Judea, beginning in Galilee. John the Baptist was the immediate forerunner of Jesus.
– how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.
The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power.
He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
The ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was doing good and healing all those who were under the power of the devil.
‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
This is an eye-witness account. You can trust it. It really happened – I was there, and I saw it.
They killed him by hanging him on a cross.
Jesus really died on a cross.
God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.
Jesus was visibly raised from the dead, three days after he had been crucified.
He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
Once again, Peter is saying, “Look, this is true. I was there and I experienced it.” He also tells us that it was a real man who had risen, not a ghost, because he had eaten and drunk with the witnesses.
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify
The reason Peter was with them that day is because the risen Lord Jesus told him to preach and testify.
that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
God has appointed Jesus as judge of the living and the dead. [Note: This appears to contradict “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him” (John 3: 17) and “For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12: 47)]
All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Peter got to this point in his speech and the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who heard the message. The assembly of new, Gentile followers of Jesus started to speak in tongues and praise the Lord. What an astonishing validation of Peter’s vision! How could there be any doubt that Gentiles were accepted by God just as much as followers of Judaism?
It’s noticeable how the followers of the Way, those who believe in Jesus, are becoming progressively more inclusive. They started in Judea, welcoming everyone including tax collectors and sinners. They spread out, welcoming those on the fringes of Jewish society; Peter was staying in the house of Simon the tanner. Now, they were baptising Gentiles, who were receiving the Holy Spirit. Followers of the Way are parting company with orthodox Judaism; they are becoming Christians.
One final thought. The “creed” that Peter preaches is simple. Your sins are forgiven if you believe in Jesus of Nazareth, who healed the sick, died on the cross, and was raised to life. There are no difficult theological concepts, like the Trinity, holiness, purity, or atonement. That creed is as valid today as it was then.
PRAISE THE LORD!
Thank you for the preaching of St Peter, as recorded by St Luke in the bible. Thank you for forgiving my sins through the name of Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.