What is the Meaning of Acts 9.32-10.48

“To The Ends of the Earth”

Acts 9:32-10:48

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Now, we begin the third major section in Acts.

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  1. Gospel Authentication and Church Expansion to the ends of the earth (9:32-28:31)
    1. Antioch (9:32-12:25)
    2. Asia Minor (Acts 13:1-16:5)
    3. Aegean Area (16:6-19:20)
    4. Rome (Acts 19:21-28:31)

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Now in verse 32, we shift back to Peter. And the focus of the end of chapter 9 into chapter 11 is the preparation for the Gentile mission. Peter is prepared for this mission in chapter 10 and then the leaders of the Jerusalem church as well as those in Antioch are prepared for this in chapter 11.

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Acts 9:32

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Lydda was a city northwest of Jerusalem on the way to Joppa. It was about 10.5 miles (17 km) southeast of Joppa.

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Luke wants to encourage Theophilus in his devotion to the Lord as he comes underneath the leadership of the apostles. He highlights Paul in most of chapter 9 and now he transitions to Peter and demonstrates the effectiveness of the Lord’s ministry to him as well. Peter will be involved in the Gentile mission and his apostleship is proven through his healing of Aeneas (9:32-35) and raising Dorcas from the dead (9:36-43).

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So from chapter Acts 9:32 until 11:18, we have three stories about Peter. His healing of Aeneas, Dorcas, and the Cornelius episode in two parts (the events themselves in chapter 10 and the justification of those events in chapter 11).

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The first two stories (Aeneas, Dorcas) are miracles stories. Each have this structure…

  • Problem
  • Cure
  • Reactions

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Peter finds a paralytic (problem) and heals him (cure) with result that two whole towns are converted to Christ (reactions). Acts 9:32-38

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Second story is in Joppa, on the coast. There is a dear disciple named Tabitha and she dies (problem), but is raised from the dead (cure). And many come to believe in the Lord in Joppa (reaction).

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How do these stories function in the narrative? They get Peter out of Jerusalem and into Joppa, where he will be able to meet up with the Gentile Cornelius. This is setting the stage again for the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles.

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Also, we can see that miracles continue to authenticate the gospel message.

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Verse 43 the end of chapter 9 is interesting. Acts 9:43.

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Peter is in Joppa with a man who is a tanner. Tanners are always touching the carcasses of animals. Leviticus 11:39-40.

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Naturally, Jews avoided even Jewish tanners because they would be perpetually unclean. The Jews had strict rules when it came to how to handle a tanner. Peter therefore is coming to conclusions regarding these Old Covenant cleanliness laws. He is already starting to lean toward the position that he’ll be thrust into in the next chapter.

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Peter in Caesarea with Cornelius

The salvation of Cornelius is especially important for Luke. We know that because of the amount of space given to the story. First, the events are narrated in verses 1-48 and then they are recounted in chapter 11:1-18 and are again recalled in chapter 15.

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This reminds us of the apostle Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 and then is later used again in chapter 22 and 26.

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The point of the emphasis with Cornelius is to demonstrate the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles (11:18; 15:7-9).

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There are two issues to deal with before the Jewish apostles and disciples can see that the Gentile mission is God’s plan.

1. The laws of cleanliness: how can Jews who follow the laws of cleanliness in the Old Testament be brought together with those who are unclean?

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2. Does God even want the Gentiles included at this point? Acts 11:1-3

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First, we have Cornelius’s vision and obedience to the vision Acts 10:1-8

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Second, we have Peter’s vision (10:10-16), the Spirit’s command (10:19-20), and Peter’s obedience (10:23-29).[1]

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Third, Cornelius recounts his vision and his obedience to it (10:30-33).

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Fourth, Peter obeys the command to preach the message to the Gentiles (10:34-49) and baptizes them (10:44-48)

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Cornelius’s vision and obedience to the vision Acts 10:1-8

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Introduction (10:1-2)

The setting is in Caesarea, a largely Gentile city and the main location of the Roman army. So it’s no wonder that we see a Centurion there, named Cornelius.

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A Centurion commanded 100 men and was one of six such men in the cohort. The cohort was made up of 600 soldiers. 10 cohorts combined made a Roman legion.

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Cornelius was a “God fearing” Gentile. He followed Jewish practices but was not a full proselyte. He would’ve prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, and would have practiced some of the Jewish customs.

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It is interesting that he did not go as far as he could have by becoming a full proselyte and with circumcision. But nevertheless God sent his angel to him to give him additional light.

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Cornelius Sees an Angel (10:3)

Cornelius was observing the regular time for prayer, 3 PM. Cornelius’s vision was clear. It was an angel of God who had just come in and spoke his name…

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He reacts with fear (10:4)

Cornelius fixes his gaze on the angel and being very alarmed speaks to the angel and the angel says …

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the Angel speaks the command of God (Acts 10:4-6)

… that his prayers have not been forgotten, but have ascended as a memorial before God. He wasn’t more righteous than others; he could have participated more in the Old Covenant. And yet at the same time his prayers have ascended as a memorial before God! God remembers and does not forget prayers! That ought to be an encouragement and a warning.

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He was commanded to send some men to Joppa to call for Peter. The angel gives to Cornelius Peter’s location.

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Cornelius obeys (10:7-8)

Cornelius obeys the vision after the angel had left him. Cornelius chooses two servants and a devout soldier, who were his personal attendants.

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Acts 10:9…

It was 30 miles to Joppa so they left early the next morning so as to avoid traveling through the night.

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Second, we have Peter’s vision (10:10-16), the Spirit’s command (10:19-20), and Peter’s obedience (10:23-29).

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Peter’s vision (Acts 10:10-16)

Now the setting shifts to Peter in Joppa at Simon the tanner’s house. The time is noon on the next day as the servants of Cornelius are on their way and approaching the city.

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At this time, Peter is on the housetop at noon praying. ….

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That’s interesting place for prayer. These homes have flat rooftops, often protected by a canopy of sorts.

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It’s lunchtime, and Peter becomes hungry. As Peter was waiting for the food to be prepared, he falls into a trance.

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It is interesting to note that both Cornelius and Peter received an angelic visitation while praying. Luke often displays prayer as the means by which God makes his will known and accomplishes his plans (Luke 3:21–22; 6:12–16; 9:18–22; 9:28–31; 22:39–46; Acts 1:14; 13:1–3).

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Keep in mind, as a Jew, Peter would have had prejudices against gentiles. And yes, he’s a Christian now, but like any Christian, there are issues to get over. And the question of receiving the Gentiles is an issue.

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…remember … There are two issues to deal with before the Jewish apostles and disciples can see that the Gentile mission is God’s plan.

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1. The laws of cleanliness: how can Jews who follow the laws of cleanliness in the Old Testament be brought together with those who are unclean?

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2. Does God even want the Gentiles included at this point? Acts 11:1-3

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So these issues have to be worked through before the early church can begin to preach to the Gentiles and receive them into the church. And this chapter is key on how God is overcoming these prejudices in his people in order that they might receive the Gentiles into the church.

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… And so back to the trance. Peter sees (vision) and he hears (audition)…

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The vision consists of lowering and raising of something like a sheet from the sky containing both clean and unclean animals. This happens three times. It contains birds of the sky and reptiles (“crawling creatures”).

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The audition is our Lord Jesus saying “Get up, Peter, kill and eat.” Peter understands this that he should eat the unclean creatures. He responds as if he is being tested concerning his devotion to the Old Covenant.

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The response comes in Acts 10:15…

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Peter is considering this vision and he’s perplexed about it (Acts 10:17, 19).

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What could it mean? Could it mean that the food laws are no longer in effect? Romans 14:14; Mark 7:15; 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Or was there a deeper meaning?

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Food Laws?

… Approaching Your Bible…from my dispensationalism lectures …

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In Logos, I have a Bible reading plan. I was [very loosely] following the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. Every day, there is are Old Testament and New Testament readings.

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For example, on April 15, the plan says to read Leviticus 19. I read down and approach Leviticus 19:19. It says…

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Leviticus 19:19 ‘You shall keep My statutes. You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.

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And so you think to yourself, “does this apply to me today?” And then you read on the same day 1 Timothy 4:1-3 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

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We start to think… “Wait, aren’t there Old Testament food laws … ?” What about shrimp and pork? Leviticus 11:9-12 9 ‘These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers–that you may eat. 10 But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. 11 They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. 12 Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales–that shall be an abomination to you.

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What’s going on? Don’t I have to obey the Bible? That’s in the Bible right? How many times does God have to say something before it’s truth! Are you going to make God tell us something no longer applies before we don’t do it anymore? He said it in the OT; isn’t that enough?

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For example, Christ saved me when I was attending Southern Illinois University. I was new believer and I had a friend who believed that he couldn’t eat pepperoni pizza.

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The reason he believed that he could not eat pepperoni pizza was because he said the pepperoni has pork in it and that would violate Deuteronomy 14:8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.

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I ate the pepperoni pizza in his presence with great delight! Perhaps I violated…

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Romans 14:1-4 1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

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Confused?

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So how do you approach these matters? How do you approach the reading of your Bible?

Overall question: How should we describe the state of the OT and its laws? What should my relationship be to it?

TURN TO MATT 5.

  1. Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses (Mt. 5:17)
    1. What Christ came to do –Fulfill. Fulfill for Christ was “to reveal the full depth of meaning that the Old Testament was intended to hold, in the person and work of the Messiah. This includes the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the Messiah.”
    2. What Christ fulfilled: Law and prophets.
      1. Notice he does not say “the ceremonial and civil laws.” The Bible makes no division between ceremonial, civil, and moral laws. It’s common to say that Christ fulfilled the civil, ceremonial, not moral (thus rendering it still in effect)–if He didn’t fulfill the moral law, then we’ll all in trouble! That undercuts Christ’s work on the cross! If He didn’t fulfill the moral laws, someone still has to for me, because I know it is not going to be me! I have failed.

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  1. What does this all mean? All of Christ’s teaching and what He explains in the Sermon on the Mount is not in contradiction to anything in the OT. In fact, in His teaching he rightly exposited its meaning and in his life he revealed the fulfillment of its prophecies.

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What does that mean then concerning the state of the OT and its individual laws? You could think that the Law is abrogated, it’s annulled, or it’s abolished. But that’s not exactly true, since Christ said Matt. 5:17 that “I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” Through His earthly ministry, Christ fulfilled Law and Prophets (the OT). That is its present condition: fulfilled. Fulfilled to the point that one might conclude it is abolished/eradicated.

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TURN to Col 2:16

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  1. When did Christ fulfill it? When He died on the cross (context of Col 2:16-17). Paul here exhorts the Colossians not to be deceived by Judaizers. Then he gives a wonderful description of Christ and His work, v.8ff. Food, drink, festival, new moon, Sabbath, how many passages is that? How many OT laws does that cover? Then, we’re given a little more information regarding our relationship to it: “No one is to act as my judge” …. “So, Paul if that’s the case, how would you describe the Christian’s relationship to the OT? I feel like I know where you’re going, but just come out and say it! …He does state it quite plainly in Eph. 2 ….

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TURN to Eph. 2:14-15

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  1. So in Eph. 2, he just says it “The Law is inoperative.”

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Eph. 2:14-15. (e.g., 1 Co. 13:11). For He Himself (Christ) is our peace, who made both groups (Jew/Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, (how did he do that?)

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Verse 15… by abolishing (that’s the word, meaning to render inoperative) in His flesh the enmity [between the Jews/Gentiles], (where does that enmity come from?) which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” So Christ rendered the “Law of commandments” inoperative (law is the direct object of to make inoperative), referring to the whole OT law. It is no longer operating and, therefore, it no longer has jurisdiction over you.

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  1. Paul also teaches that Christ is the end and the goal of the whole law for believers (Ro. 10:4)

Everything was leading up to Him and His fulfillment of the Mosaic Law and the Law has it’s “end” and “goal” in Him. For believers, when Christ came, the whole Old Testament Law came to its “goal” thus its “end.”

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  1. Paul: We are no longer under the tutor of the law Galatians 3:25. In fact …
  2. We have died to the law Romans 7:1-6.

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So, should you not obey any laws in the Mosaic Covenant? Rubber meets the road, here. Obey only those laws as they are restated and repackaged in the New Testament. Remember, the Old Covenant has been done away/inoperative/ineffective. Christ fulfilled it, it is no longer operative.

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Does this mean that we are completely without law now? By no means! Paul was opposed to antinomianism, for he states that he is under the law of Christ, 1 Co 9:21. So Ephesians 2:15 Christ made inoperative the Mosaic Law of commandments. The Law of Moses, having been rendered inoperative, is thus fulfilled in the law of Christ.

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“You are not under the authority of the Mosaic Law anymore” (Ga. 5:18). This might be radical to you, but again Christ indicated that you could possibly come to the conclusion that He actually did come to destroy the Law … it might actually seem that way to some! But don’t think that, He came to fulfill it. There is a difference. No one is to act as your judge regarding food, drink, and the Sabbath day b/c Christ died on the cross (Col 2:16). He made the Law to be inoperative, no longer in operation (Eph. 2:15) and Christ himself made the Law of Moses come to its completed end (Ro. 10:4).

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It is the Old Covenant. Notice how Paul treats the Mosaic Covenant in the context of 2 Co. 3.

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Also, Heb. 8. Notice especially Heb. 8:13.

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But don’t forget 1 Co. 10:6, 11.

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The OT is relevant; it still applies, but we are not under its jurisdiction or power.

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Why else can we sing “Free from the Law oh happy condition!” Is that just the fact that we don’t have to offer sacrifices anymore? No, we’re free from being required to obey anything of the Mosaic covenant; today, we are under the Law of Christ, what Christ says goes, since he made the Law come to its completed end (Ro. 10:4).

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Regarding Peter’s trance again …

What could it mean? Could it mean that the food laws are no longer in effect? Romans 14:14; Mark 7:15; 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Or was there a deeper meaning?

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If the food laws are not valid, there’s no reason to avoid social contact with Gentiles and demand that they obey the Old Covenant law.

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Peter understands later in Acts 10:28 that this vision refers to people. Like any special revelation, you must interpret it within the context. In Peter’s case, interpret it within the historical context….

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Narration: Acts 10:17-18

If you see this vision around lunchtime and then there are these men who are coming to your house and are about to tell you about an unclean Gentile, you should put “two and two together.” God is not so much concerned about food, is he?

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So these three men arrived from Cornelius…

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Spirit’s Command (Acts 10:19-20)

There should be no misgivings no doubting about going down there and accompanying these men. If you see this vision and the Spirit instructs you concerning these three men and not to doubt anything… We now have more reason to know God is not so much concerned about the food.

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Narration: Acts 10:21-22

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Peter’s Obedience (Acts 10:23-29)

Peter, doubting nothing, received these three men and invited them in and gave them lodging … At Simon the Tanner’s house, anyway!

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On the next day they leave and take some of the brethren to accompany him. And on the day following, they enter Caesarea. And at Cornelius’s house now, are Cornelius along with his relatives and close friends.

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Cornelius then falls reverently at his feet. Cornelius knows right well that Peter was the one whom the angel had told him to get. Likely, he’s not worshiping him as if he is God… But merely falling at his feet. At any rate, Peter refuses this reverence in Acts 10:26.

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As Peter enters his house, he finds that many people are assembled (10:27). Peter addresses the crowd Acts 10:28…

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He concedes the point that it is technically unlawful for him to be visiting a Gentile. But he understands now, through his vision, that he should not call any person unclean…. He came, doubting nothing.

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So Peter obeys the Lord by disregarding the Old Covenant laws, out of a desire to obey the Lord and to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Much of this ministry that Jesus began to do is found in the first account (Luke 5:12–15; 5:29–32; 7:36–50; 10:29–37; 11:37–41; 15:1–2; 19:1–10). Luke’s account in his gospel is a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do in the book of Acts.

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So recapping … first, Cornelius’ vision and obedience (10:1-9)

Second, we have Peter’s vision (10:10-16), the Spirit’s command (10:19-20), and Peter’s obedience (10:23-29).

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Third, Cornelius recounts his vision and his obedience to it (Acts 10:30-33).

Now we shift back to Cornelius. He recounts his vision and his obedience to the vision…. This is recounting this vision number three!

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(Acts 10:3-6, 22; 30-32). Cornelius then shifts the focus back to Peter in verse 33. Cornelius is saying “I have obeyed God now it’s your turn to be obedient to God.”

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Fourth, Peter obeys the command to preach the message to the Gentiles (10:34-43) and baptizes them (10:44-48)

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Gentile inclusion

What Jesus did and done to him

Witnesses

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Acts 10:34-43 34 Opening his mouth… [sounds scary!]… Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

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Gentile inclusion

What Jesus did and done to him

Witnesses

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So Peter begins and ends his message with Gentile inclusion. He describes what Jesus did on the earth, what was done to him in the death and resurrection, and explains how Jesus ordered the disciples to preach the gospel.

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He begins his message with God showing no partiality, but including the Gentiles (“every nation”). God does not save people based on their appearance or race. This is not foreign to the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:19. God does not show partiality, but verse 35, the man in any nation who fears God is welcome to him.

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Verse 36 begins the work of Jesus. God sent his word to the sons of Israel. God was preaching peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all.

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God is preaching in the person of Jesus Christ. He preached throughout all Judea beginning in Galilee. Peter describes his ministry in verse 38 being anointed by God the Holy Spirit with power doing good and healing all oppressed by Satan.

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Luke transitions in verse 39 to what the people did to Jesus: they put him to death by hanging on a tree…. But then Peter explains what God did for Jesus: God raised this man from the dead on the third day and He appeared to many witnesses, and he notes that he even ate and drank with them.

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Verses 40-41 include the theme of witnessing…

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Then in verse 42, Peter includes the fact that they were ordered to preach and solemnly testify that Jesus is the Judge of all Acts 10:42.

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Peter’s early apostolic preaching included teaching verse 43 that all the prophets bear witness to Jesus that everyone who trusts Jesus has forgiveness of sins (verses?).

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So Jesus as Judge verse 42 and Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy in the Old Testament verse 43.

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So here we have the example of apostolic preaching…

  • Jesus is Lord of all (Ro. 1:8)
  • Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit empowered to do good and to heal all (search Luke for the Holy Spirit)
  • Jesus was crucified (luke’s story)
  • He was raised from the dead (ditto)
  • He appeared to many witnesses (ditto)
  • Jesus is the one appointed by God as the judge the living and the dead (here)
  • Jesus fulfills prophecy: the prophets bear witness that those who believe in Jesus receive forgiveness of sins. (eg., Isa. 53.)

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Response is to “believe” to trust Jesus. Not believe in…like believing in a concept, but trusting a person.

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And Peter’s message ends with the note of inclusion when he says, “everyone” who believes. For those who are near and for those who are afar off, as his said in Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38-39.

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Well, the story continues and the Holy Spirit falls upon everyone listening to the word, verse 44.

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Again Peter is interrupted, this time not so rudely. Cf. Acts 4:1-4. Acts 10:44-48

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The Holy Spirit falls upon all who are listening to the word as Peter is speaking. And the Jewish Christians (those of the circumcision, verse 45)… Are amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Gentiles… And they knew that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, verse 46, because they could hear that the Gentiles had the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned foreign language.

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They saw the correspondence with Acts chapter 2. Peter says in verse 47 that these Gentiles “have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” And Peter knew that because of what happened when tongues happened the last time in the second chapter. The receiving of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 is “just” like the receiving of the Holy Spirit here.

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Differences: There are differences with how Holy Spirit was received as compared to previously. You’ll notice there was no public confession recorded of receiving Christ. Nobody prayed for the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands. The Holy Spirit is coming was not dependent on the water baptism. Evidently, as they listened with receptive hearts, Christ baptized them with the Holy Spirit and filled them with the Holy Spirit (tongues).

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If you compare the instances in the book of Acts describing salvation or the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the common denominator is faith.

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Tongues was a miraculous ability to speak an unlearned foreign language and likely some of the brethren who were there could understand what they were saying because it was their mother tongue.

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Point: Their speaking in tongues is a sign to the Jews that God is saving Gentiles, even apart from adherence to customs of the Mosaic Law.

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Peter rightly commands them to be baptized in the name of Christ and he stays with them for a few days.

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Through this story from Peter in Acts 9:32 to the end of chapter 10, we’ve had Peter’s preparation for the Gentile mission. Peter was in Western Judea in Lydda and Joppa working miracles and then in Caesarea with Cornelius. With the Gentiles’ believing response and the clear response of Christ baptizing those Gentiles with the Holy Spirit, Peter is prepared for the mission to the Gentiles.

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Now, the leaders of the Jerusalem church will be prepared for the Gentile mission as they hear about what has transpired with Peter and the Gentiles.

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from What is the Meaning of Acts 9.32-10.48

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  1. The verses left out are narrative transitions or repetitions.

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