Event(s): Cornelius sends a delegation; Peter’s vision; Peter is Summoned to Caesarea
Today’s Text: Acts 10:1-23
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 10:24-48
After Dorcas was restored to life, Peter remained at Joppa, which was located just south of modern-day Tel Aviv. It was very common for people to open up their home and allow traveling guests to stay. Peter stayed in such a home as the guest of Simon, a “tanner”.
A tanner was one who processed animal hides and turned them into finished leather. This work was considered quite foul due to the smelly materials that had to be used, as well as the process itself of handling the skins of dead animals. In general, the Jewish people looked upon this as an undesirable occupation and typically distanced themselves from anyone who did such work because they were considered ceremonially unclean. By receiving this man’s hospitality, Peter was not only modeling acceptance; it showed that God had indeed broken down the wall of separation that once divided the Jew and the Gentile.
Acts 10:1 “Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment.” In the story of Cornelius, we see the Gospel piercing through yet another long-standing prejudice. As a Roman centurion, and part of the Italian Regiment, Cornelius was an Italian Gentile who served as a commander in the army that occupied Israel. Religiously, he would have been considered an outsider. Occupationally, he would have been considered an enemy.
Acts 10:2 “a devout man” Cornelius had a good heart, one of compassion towards the less fortunate. He had a reverence towards God, lived generously, and prayed often. He lived a moral life, a religious life, but there was still something missing. In the same way, we cannot assume that because someone is benevolent or a humanitarian, that they know God as LORD. There may be many who consider Jesus a great Teacher, a Prophet, a Healer, there may be many who just have a heart that knows it is good to be generous and compassionate towards the less fortunate. But what transfers us into the Kingdom of Heaven is when we acknowledge Jesus as LORD (Matthew 7:21-23).
Acts 10:3 “he saw clearly in a vision” Cornelius had received a vision and now Peter received a vision. Throughout the Bible, there are different types of visions and various words used to describe them. A vision is a sight that is divinely granted; they are the picture language of God. Here, the word for vision is the Greek word, “horama”. It carries the particular sense of a “spectacle, sight, or appearance.” It’s a message that is being communicated via a picture that is perceived spiritually and mentally.
Both times, (as with the time Ananias and Saul had visions in chapter 9) the vision(s) came in a time of prayer. We can all receive visions, if God should choose to communicate with us in this fashion. But the goal is always to seek intimacy with the Communicator, not just His methods of communicating.
Acts 10:5 “now send for Simon, whose surname is Peter.” Think about this for a moment. God sent an angel to tell Cornelius to go get Peter and then Peter would tell him what he must do. Why the extra steps? Couldn’t the angel have just shared the message of the Gospel with Cornelius himself? No. It’s not the job of angels to share the Gospel; God reserves this incredible privilege for us, His children.
Acts 10:10 “he fell into a trance” The Greek word for “trance” refers, literally, to “a state in which a man stands outside himself” (from which we also get the English word, ecstasy). It includes the ideas of deep amazement and wonder. It is a visionary state wherein the conscious mind, and perhaps the body, is overridden by divine purposes. However, and most importantly, it is not at all self-induced or hypnotic; instead, we get the sense of God overshadowing us and communicating something to us. The result should always be a sense of awe towards Him.
A vision from God, whether received in a trance or in a dream, etc, will always:
- Be in agreement with the revealed Word of God.
- Conform to God’s principles and nature.
- Inspire awe and reverence
- Promote passion and obedience for Christ.
Acts 10:13 “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter’s Jewish cultural prejudices were overriding the Word of God in his thinking. For this reason God repeated the vision two more times, so Peter would be sure he understood God’s command correctly.
“Three times Peter saw a vision of ritually unclean animals, and each time a heavenly voice insisted that he eat the in violation of his Jewish convictions. This triple vision was intended to show Peter that God is not a respecter of persons (vs 34) and that he should readily accompany the strangers downstairs to the residence of their Gentile master. Peter probably would not have visited Cornelius’ home if God had not spoken to him so directly.” – New Spirit Filled Life Bible
Out attitude towards people who are least like us will determine the extent of our reach and impact for God. We simply cannot impact those we are offended by. And on the flip side, the reality is that many times, God uses the most unusual and unexpected of packages to deliver a gift into our lives that is beyond all comprehension. In short, our lives will either expand or shrink based on our ability to accept, love and value all various types of people.
Today is a good day to be honest before God and ask ourselves, are there any “lines drawn in the sand” between us and other people groups? Whether it be because of racial divide, religious differences, political affiliations, or even just appearance – Who would our “Cornelius” be? And what would define the wall that divides us? In all honesty, if there is something in us that causes us to shun or turn from another, this is an issue of our heart that needs to be healed. Remember, Peter’s Jewish cultural prejudices were overriding the Word of God in his thinking. Many times, we can experience the same thing. But we must let God break down the wall of any preconceived ideas or prejudices, even, so that we can walk in freedom and love and see people the way God sees them.