Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
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.”
– Acts 10:23-33, New International Version
Scene Four: Peter and Cornelius Meet
Journey and Arrival
The next day Peter arose, took six (Acts 11:12) believers with him, and started on the journey to Caesarea. Luke says that “on the following day” the company arrived in Caesarea. Bruce (p. 222) says that “according to the natural sense” of this phrase, they did not arrive until the day after their departure from Joppa.
Upon their arrival, Cornelius and his relatives and close friends were waiting for Peter. Cornelius met Peter, fell at his feet, and reverenced or worshiped him. Whether we interpret the term as reverence or worship, it was more homage than Peter would allow. Peter lifted Cornelius up and quickly declared (Acts 10:26): “Stand up; I too am just a man.”
As Peter talked with Cornelius, he entered and found many people assembled. Peter spoke to the crowd, making several points. First, he reminded them how unlawful it was for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him. Robertson (p. 141) says: “there is no O.T. regulation forbidding such social contact with Gentiles, though the rabbis had added it and had made it binding by custom. There is nothing more binding on the average person than social custom.”
Second, he told them “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. These are the same words used in Acts 10:14. No man is common (koinon) or unclean (akatharton). As Bruce (p. 222) says:
Actually, the terms of his vision on the housetop at Joppa taught him to call no food common or unclean if God pronounced it clean; but he was quick to grasp the analogy between ceremonial food-laws and the regulations affecting intercourse with non-Jews. It was largely because of their carelessness in food matters that Gentiles were ritually unsafe people for a pious Jew to meet socially.
Third, Peter told them how he had come without raising any objection when he was sent for. As the Spirit directed, he had acted without misgiving. This was an enormous forward step for the church. The restrictions concerning Gentiles would be overcome. History was in the making!
Now, Cornelius spoke. He tells about his vision that he had experienced “four days ago.” This would be inclusive of the day he was speaking and the day that he had the vision. As he tells the story, a man in “shining garments” spoke to him. This man (Acts 10:3) was an angel. The angel instructed him to send for Peter, and he immediately obeyed. By telling this story, he helped the audience to understand that God was truly at work.
Cornelius complimented Peter for coming. Then, he concluded with this comment: “Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” The stage was set for Peter’s message and the outpouring of the Spirit.
Arndt, William F. and Gingrich, F. Wilbur. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Cambridge: The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
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.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
© Copyright 2003. GMF.