Acts Part 9

Notes on Acts

Part Nine




Read chapter 10.


“Since man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-4), salvation cannot and does not begin with him (John 1:12-13; 6:37; Eph. 1:4; Acts 13:48). One such dead man, Cornelius, whom God was about to save, lived in Caesarea, an important city located on the coast roughly thirty miles north of Joppa. It was the capital of the Roman province of Judea, and the residence of the procurator. Naturally, a large Roman garrison was stationed there. Among them was Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort. A Roman legion at full strength consisted of 6,000 men, and was divided into ten cohorts of 600 men each. A centurion commanded 100 of these men, and each legion had 60 centurions, who were considered the backbone of the Roman army.”[1]


Although every aspect of salvation is initiated by the Spirit of God, even the seeking of God by lost persons, we can see some things that Cornelius did that placed him in a favorable situation. He feared God, he supported God’s people, and he prayed.


This is advice that can be given to any person who desires to escape hell and get right with the Lord. Some people we meet may mentally agree with the reality of hell and may even acknowledge that, if they should die, that is where they would go. Yet, they find no place yet for repentance.


We can read to them this story of Cornelius. We can encourage them to fear God. We can tell them that fearing God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). We can explain why we ought to fear God (Luke 13:1-5).


We can encourage them to pray. We can say that part of them will wish to avoid prayer, but that they should pray anyway. They can begin by being certain of praying each morning. They ought to thank God for each meal. They ought to talk to God about their day before they sleep at night. They ought to ask God to save them! What a good prayer that is!


We can encourage them to give to God’s people, both helping the needy and even contributing to the church because the church represents God’s people in this age. They can do this even though they themselves are not right with God, for these things please God (10:4).


Why didn’t the angel just proclaim the gospel to Cornelius? That would have saved travel and time. God uses humans to proclaim the good news! He uses you! (Or, he wants to!) God has used angels, but only rarely. It is a privilege and an honor to be used by the Lord to proclaim Christ.


God prepared Cornelius to receive the gospel. But he also prepared Peter to speak the gospel. On his own, Peter would not have done so, because Cornelius was a gentile. Peter entered into a trance. A trance, or vision, is when the person is awake and they receive a revelation from the Lord. God, of course, also communicates through dreams. A vision would be even more certain because a dream may or may not be from the Lord.[2]


In the vision Peter is told to eat animals that were forbidden to be eaten under the old covenant. Although a subsidiary reason for exclusion of certain “unclean” animals (and animal parts) from the diet may have been for health reasons,[3] MacArthur gives the primary reason for these laws:


“It was imperative that Israel be kept separate from her idolatrous neighbors and such restrictions would hinder social intercourse with them.”[4]


“Peter resisted strongly the message, so the voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ So ingrained were the dietary regulations into his life that he still could not comprehend what was happening. Finally, after this scenario was repeated three times, immediately the object was taken into the sky.


The vision left Peter greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might signify. That meaning was twofold. On the negative side, it signified the abolishing of the Old Testament dietary restrictions (Mark 7:14-23; Romans 14:1-3; Col. 2:16-17; I Tim. 4:1-5). Such separating features were now counterproductive, since God was bringing Jews and Gentiles together in the church, not keeping them apart. On the positive side, the vision pictured the inclusion of both the Gentiles, symbolized by the unclean animals, and the Jews, symbolized by the clean ones, into one body.”[5]


When Peter reaches the house of Cornelius there is a group of gentiles waiting to hear him. He preaches the gospel to them.


“In contrast to his indicting sermons on the Day of Pentecost and at Solomon’s portico, and his bold defenses before the Sanhedrin, Peter here is led by the Spirit to give a simple gospel presentation. Some situations call for a detailed apologetic and historic presentation before the hearers can understand the gospel message. Others, with divinely plowed hearts, require only the simple truths of the gospel. Cornelius and the other Gentiles gathered with him were such divinely prepared individuals.”[6]


Verse 43 proves that faith, or belief, according to the New Testament, is more than agreement or mental assent.


“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”[7]


“Through his name” means by the authority that Christ possesses. Those who “believe” receive forgiveness of their sins. However, we have seen earlier (Acts, Part Two) that repentance is what brings forgiveness. This shows that biblical faith includes repentance[8]. Biblical faith is placing one’s complete trust in who Christ is and what he has accomplished. He is Lord (of me) and Savior (of me). He died on the cross for my sins. He rose from the dead to empower me to live the life of a disciple.


In verses 44 through 48 we read that the Holy Spirit “fell on all who heard the word.” This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Obviously, as soon as they believed the word that Peter had spoken they were filled both inwardly and outwardly. This shows that the baptism of the Spirit can occur sometime after the exercise of faith (as it did with the original disciples in chapter two) but it can also occur at the same time.


And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. [9]


These new converts desired to learn more about the faith. They hosted Peter and his six companions so that they could be taught. Here is another evidence of genuine faith as opposed to a mere said faith. One who has been regenerated has a hunger for the things of God. They will desire to know what God has revealed and will go to great lengths to learn. Others will just make a profession, maybe even attend church, but have little interest in the truths that God has revealed. They must be prodded and cajoled to read the word of God. It holds only a mild interest to them. They would just as soon watch television or surf the internet.


The family and friends of Cornelius remind us of our Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount:


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [10]


If you hunger and thirst for righteousness then you are blessed! You have been regenerated! Two things will reveal to you whether you do hunger. How strong is your desire? “Hunger and thirst” are metaphors for strong desire.


Even more telling is what you do with your time. Remember the other words of our Lord in his mountain sermon:


But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [11]


What are you seeking first? Your needs? Your comforts? Or, God’s righteousness? Do not forget this biblical truth: We are what we do. Your true desires will be made known by what you actually do, not so much by what we feel, neither by what we say.


One who has been born again has a hunger for the truths that God has bestowed. Little or no hunger ought to be a warning siren for all those who think they follow Christ.


[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Acts, Vol. 1; (Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL; 1994) 293.

[2] A vision may come from another source, also. But, while our dreams often are generated by our own subconscience, visions are quite uncommon.

[3] For example, pigs are filthy animals that frequently have parasites that are life-threatening to humans. Shellfish have very high levels of cholesterol, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease. And blood, if ingested without treatment, can transmit any disease had by the animal from which it came.

[4] John MacArthur, TMNTC – Acts, Vol. 1, 295.

[5] Ibid, 296.

[6] Ibid, 300.

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ac 10:43). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[8] Occasionally, belief and repentance are considered separately in the NT. This is because belief can take the more narrow sense at times.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 10:48). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.