23 So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.” 30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
The next day they traveled to Caesarea. But notice that Peter takes 6 Jewish men of good standing (Acts 11:12) with him. Why did he do this? He knew that he was going to take some heat for walking into a Gentiles house. The law required, that under these circumstances to take two or three. Peter double the number just to be sure. Peters need to protect the integrity of the Gospel was serious. I don't think that he was so concerned about protecting himself so much. He had a vision and the Holy Spirit told him to go.
He arrives to a house full of people. Cornelius acted by faith here. Anticipating his arrival, he has everyone ready to receive. WOW what great faith!
When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls down at his feet and bows on his knees before him. This probably caught Peter off guard. He stands him up and declares that he is a man too. Peter, again in the name of integrity, does not want a personality to outshine the church.
Still Peter is surprised to find so many people gather together to hear him. He openly declares, "You know that this is very unusual, don't you?" The law of Moses prohibited a Jew from entering into a relationship with a foreigner / unbeliever. This idea of exclusion was originally intended to protect Israel from being tempted to adopt unlawful ways and from worshipping false gods. However, it was never intended to be a law that prohibited Jews from influencing their world for God. Do you think that some followers of Christ today exclude people from their lives because they are not "spiritual or holy enough?" Because their lifestyle doesn't line up with their expectations or idea of what a Christian is? What we see here is a great example of how the church is suppose to be IN the world but not OF it.
Cornelius not recounts the events that have led up to this moment. He doesn't take any credit for himself other than obey what the angel told him to do. He is very pleased that Peter is there and they are ready to receive his instruction. Bottom line, they don't care about laws and regulations, they just want to hear the good news. Isn't it amazing how the Holy Spirit will simplify everything and just get to the point?
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses 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, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Now everything comes together. The vision on the rooftop makes sense. God shows no partiality to one people group or another. That anyone (from any tribe, nationality, etc.) who will worship God and obey Him will be accepted into the Kingdom of God.
Peter proceeds to tell them that the good news was sent to Israel, through Jesus Christ who is Lord of All. This phrase has to take on new meaning in light of what is happening. Jesus is the Lord of the Jew and the Gentile.
He emphatically says, "you yourselves know". Peter recognizes the fact that they know about Jesus. Someone has been teaching them somewhere. But the central message he shares is Jesus. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus healed the sick and helped the needy, Jesus cast out demons and delivered those that were oppressed.
We (The Apostles) have seen all of this. We lived with Him, we were there when He was arrested and put to death. We were there on the third day when He came back to life. We were there with Him for the 40 days following eating and drinking with Him. (It was a physical resurrection) He commanded us to share this good news with everyone and tell them that He (Jesus) will be the judge of everyone for all time. (Past, present and future). Peter goes on, as he usually does, to bring in the prophets, how they had promised us that this would happen. Then he finishes by saying that everyone who places their faith (in heart and deed) in Jesus will have their sins removed from them, never to be called against them again.
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
There is only one conclusion that Peter and his friends can make at this time. The Gentiles were now a part of the church. You see, up to this point and time the followers of Christ were Jewish. This event though is now taking places years after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Peter, who is probably still reeling from what has happened asks if there is any reason why these people cannot be baptized in water? They are and he stays a few days with them, probably to give more instruction and develop relationship with them.
When was the last time that the Holy Spirit placed you in a situation that #1 Amazed you, #2 Changed peoples lives and #3 Changed your world? Don't think that it can't happen - because it can. The question is - don't you think that it should happen?
English Standard Version (ESV)