Acts 10:17-23 (A)

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

– Acts 10:17-23, New International Version


In Acts 10:1-11:18 Luke records the story of the breakthrough of the gospel among the Gentiles. It is a powerful story of God’s divine intervention. Nothing less would have sufficed to make the breakthrough. Ancient prejudices had to be overcome. The fact that the gospel was for all men had to be established.

An angel appeared to Cornelius in a vision (Acts 10:1-8) and instructed him to send some men to Peter who was staying in the home of Simon the tanner in Joppa. He did not hesitate but sent them right away. As they were approaching Joppa, Peter had a vision (Acts 10:9-16) concerning eating animals. A voice told Peter (Acts 10:15) “What God has cleansed, not longer consider unholy.”

Peter Perplexed

The message delivered by the voice directly opposed all of Peter’s past thinking. Although the voice repeatedly spoke to Peter, he was perplexed as to what the vision might be. According to Robertson (p. 138), Peter was “at a loss to know what road to take.” Now, Peter was no longer in a trance, but he was puzzled by the vision. He wondered what the vision “might be.” As Lenski (p. 405) explains, this means “‘What might this be if it were explained?'”

While Peter was in this perplexed state of mind, the three messengers sent by Cornelius arrived in Joppa, asked for directions to the home of Simon, and appeared at his gate. They called out, asking whether Peter was staying there.

Now, Luke further describes Peter’s frame of mind. While Peter was thinking on the vision, the Spirit spoke to him. Fernando (p. 321) writes: “The word translated ‘thinking’ (dienthymeomai), which appears only here in the Bible, means ‘to think about something thoroughly and/or seriously.'” Robertson (p. 138) says “Peter was revolving in his mind, through and through, in and out, to find the meaning of the strange vision.”

No doubt, we all identify with Peter’s position. Many times we are confronted with finding the will of God. God speaks to us in a variety of ways–through the Word, others, and circumstances. The Holy Spirit speaks inwardly to us. All the while, we give serious thought to all the indications that we have. We sincerely seek His will.

The Spirit Speaks

Then, the Spirit spoke to Peter. As Gangel points out, this was the third authoritative revelation in this story. He (p. 161) says there was “first an angel to Cornelius, then a voice from heaven to Peter, and now the Holy Spirit telling Peter precisely what to do. In Acts, the voice of Jesus, angelic messengers, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit all convey God’s Word with equal power and authority.”

The Spirit told Peter (vv. 19-20) that three men were looking for him. He was to get up, go downstairs, and “accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” He was not to have a divided mind (diakrinomenos), nor was he to waver. This called for an unfettered obedience which takes no time to fret over conscience.

The Spirit gives Peter the reason. It was the Spirit Himself who had sent these men to Him. An angel had spoken to Cornelius, but it was the Spirit who sent them. As Roland Allen points out (pp. 47-48), the apostles acted submissively to the impulse of the Spirit. They sometimes did not know what the result of their action would be, nor how to justify it intellectually, but they were certain they were directed of the Spirit.

This was not thoughtless action. The apostles simply put the “source” of their action above the “consequences.” Allen (p. 48) writes:

The apostles did not act thoughtlessly, because they did not base their action upon a nice calculation of the probable consequences. To calculate consequences and to act solely with a view to consequences is worldly wisdom. The apostles were not guided in their action by worldly wisdom. They were guided by the Spirit. Care and consideration are as clearly shown in consideration of the source as in consideration of the probably result of an action. It was this care and wisdom which the apostles showed. They did not consider consequences so much as sources.

How are we to apply this to our lives? Clearly, there are times when we must count the cost. Speaking about the cost of discipleship, Jesus asked the multitudes (Luke 14:28-29): “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” NASU Many times in life, we must weigh the cost of our actions. It is prudent to do so.

However, when we know the Spirit is leading, we must obey. We must obey regardless of the cost. The Spirit has weighed all consequences before He speaks! When Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit had revealed the cost (Acts 21:11). The apostle would suffer, but his response was (Acts 21:13) “‘I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'”

Peter Acts

Peter acted without hesitation because the Spirit had spoken to him. He went down to the men and told them that he was the person they were looking for. At this point he still did not know why he was being approached. So, Peter asked Acts 10:21), “What is the reason for which you have come?” The messengers then explained (Acts 10:22) that Cornelius “was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come in his house and hear a message from you.” Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.


Allen, Roland. The Ministry of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962.
Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975.
Fernando, Ajith. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.
Gangel, Kenneth O. Acts: Holman New Testament Commentary. General Editor: Anders, Max. Nashville: Holman Reference, 1998.
Haenchen, Ernst. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971.
Horton, Stanley M. The Book of Acts. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1981.
Lenski, R.C.H. The Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.

© Copyright 2003. GMF.

Next Lesson