IV. THE INAUGURATION OF THE GENTILE MISSION
The Vision of Cornelius.
#a. [10:1–8] 10:30–33. 1#The narrative centers on the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile and a “God-fearer” (see note on Acts 8:26–40). Luke considers the event of great importance, as is evident from his long treatment of it. The incident is again related in Acts 11:1–18 where Peter is forced to justify his actions before the Jerusalem community and alluded to in Acts 15:7–11 where at the Jerusalem “Council” Peter supports Paul’s missionary activity among the Gentiles. The narrative divides itself into a series of distinct episodes, concluding with Peter’s presentation of the Christian kerygma (Acts 10:4–43) and a pentecostal experience undergone by Cornelius’ household preceding their reception of baptism (Acts 10:44–48). Now in Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Cohort called the Italica,#The Cohort called the Italica: this battalion was an auxiliary unit of archers formed originally in Italy but transferred to Syria shortly before A.D. 69. 2devout and God-fearing along with his whole household, who used to give alms generously#Used to give alms generously: like Tabitha (Acts 9:36), Cornelius exemplifies the proper attitude toward wealth (see note on Acts 9:36). to the Jewish people and pray to God constantly. 3One afternoon about three o’clock,#About three o’clock: literally, “about the ninth hour.” See note on Acts 3:1. he saw plainly in a vision an angel of God come in to him and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4He looked intently at him and, seized with fear, said, “What is it, sir?” He said to him, “Your prayers and almsgiving have ascended as a memorial offering before God. 5Now send some men to Joppa and summon one Simon who is called Peter. 6He is staying with another Simon, a tanner, who has a house by the sea.”#b. [10:6] 9:43. 7When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier#A devout soldier: by using this adjective, Luke probably intends to classify him as a “God-fearer” (see note on Acts 8:26–40). from his staff, 8explained everything to them, and sent them to Joppa.
The Vision of Peter.
9#The vision is intended to prepare Peter to share the food of Cornelius’ household without qualms of conscience (Acts 10:48). The necessity of such instructions to Peter reveals that at first not even the apostles fully grasped the implications of Jesus’ teaching on the law. In Acts, the initial insight belongs to Stephen. The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime.#At about noontime: literally, “about the sixth hour.” 10He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. 11#c. [10:11–20] 11:5–12. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. 13A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” 14But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.”#d. [10:14] Lv 11:1–47; Ez 4:14. 15The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”#e. [10:15] Mk 7:15–19; Gal 2:12. 16This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into the sky.
17#The arrival of the Gentile emissaries with their account of the angelic apparition illuminates Peter’s vision: he is to be prepared to admit Gentiles, who were considered unclean like the animals of his vision, into the Christian community. While Peter was in doubt about the meaning of the vision he had seen, the men sent by Cornelius asked for Simon’s house and arrived at the entrance. 18They called out inquiring whether Simon, who is called Peter, was staying there. 19As Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said [to him], “There are three men here looking for you.#f. [10:19] 13:2. 20So get up, go downstairs, and accompany them without hesitation, because I have sent them.” 21Then Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your being here?” 22They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, respected by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear what you have to say.”#g. [10:22] Lk 7:4–5. 23So he invited them in and showed them hospitality.
The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. 24#So impressed is Cornelius with the apparition that he invites close personal friends to join him in his meeting with Peter. But his understanding of the person he is about to meet is not devoid of superstition, suggested by his falling down before him. For a similar experience of Paul and Barnabas, see Acts 14:11–18. On the following day he entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25#h. [10:25–26] 14:13–15; Rev 19:10. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. 26Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” 27While he conversed with him, he went in and found many people gathered together 28#i. [10:28] Gal 2:11–16. and said to them, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.#Peter now fully understands the meaning of his vision; see note on Acts 10:17–23. 29And that is why I came without objection when sent for. May I ask, then, why you summoned me?”
30Cornelius replied, “Four days ago#Four days ago: literally, “from the fourth day up to this hour.” at this hour, three o’clock in the afternoon, I was at prayer in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling robes stood before me and said, 31‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your almsgiving remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter. He is a guest in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33So I sent for you immediately, and you were kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to listen to all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
#Peter’s speech to the household of Cornelius typifies early Christian preaching to Gentiles. 34Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,#The revelation of God’s choice of Israel to be the people of God did not mean he withheld the divine favor from other people. “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.#j. [10:34] Dt 10:17; 2 Chr 19:7; Jb 34:19; Wis 6:7; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9; 1 Pt 1:17. 35Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. 36#These words are more directed to Luke’s Christian readers than to the household of Cornelius, as indicated by the opening words, “You know.” They trace the continuity between the preaching and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and the proclamation of Jesus by the early community. The emphasis on this divinely ordained continuity (Acts 10:41) is meant to assure Luke’s readers of the fidelity of Christian tradition to the words and deeds of Jesus. You know the word [that] he sent to the Israelites#To the Israelites: Luke, in the words of Peter, speaks of the prominent position occupied by Israel in the history of salvation. as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,#k. [10:36] Is 52:7; Na 2:1. 37what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached,#l. [10:37] Mt 4:12; Mk 1:14; Lk 4:14. 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth#Jesus of Nazareth: God’s revelation of his plan for the destiny of humanity through Israel culminated in Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, the ministry of Jesus is an integral part of God’s revelation. This viewpoint explains why the early Christian communities were interested in conserving the historical substance of the ministry of Jesus, a tradition leading to the production of the four gospels. with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.#m. [10:38] Is 61:1; Lk 4:18. 39We are witnesses#We are witnesses: the apostolic testimony was not restricted to the resurrection of Jesus but also included his historical ministry. This witness, however, was theological in character; the Twelve, divinely mandated as prophets, were empowered to interpret his sayings and deeds in the light of his redemptive death and resurrection. The meaning of these words and deeds was to be made clear to the developing Christian community as the bearer of the word of salvation (cf. Acts 1:21–26). Hanging him on a tree: see note on 5:30. of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. 40This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, 41not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.#n. [10:41] Lk 24:41–43. 42He commissioned us#o. [10:42] 1:8; 3:15; 17:31; Lk 24:48; Rom 14:9; 2 Tm 4:1. to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.#As judge of the living and the dead: the apostolic preaching to the Jews appealed to their messianic hope, while the preaching to Gentiles stressed the coming divine judgment; cf. 1 Thes 1:10. 43To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Baptism of Cornelius.
44#p. [10:44] 11:15; 15:8. While Peter was still speaking these things, the holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.#Just as the Jewish Christians received the gift of the Spirit, so too do the Gentiles. 45The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, 46for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, 47“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?”#q. [10:47] 8:36. 48He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 49Then they invited him to stay for a few days.