Called to Be Inclusive
Adult 1 Sunday School Class Acts 10:19-33 August 27, 2017
Theme: Traditions and cultural understandings often shape our view of the world and others in ways that limit our interactions. How do we overcome the limitations of such understandings? Through a vision and the Spirit, Peter learned how and why to witness to Cornelius and his household.
Please explain the meaning or significance of the following verses:
Understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, the verses are in regular print, with responses are in BOLD print
*Acts 10:19 and 20, “while Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. 20. Arise, therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” Beginning with Acts 10:1-18, Luke, the author of Luke and Acts tells of a Roman soldier, Cornelius, who was God fearing, faithful, and friendly and compassionate to Jews. Peter has a vision from God that Cornelius of Caesarea will send men to see him, and God commands him to go with them when they come. “doubting nothing” means to do as God commands without question.
*v.21 and 22. “Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? 22. And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.” Here we see that God has also given Cornelius a vision to ask him to send his men to request that Peter come to visit him. All of this is arranged and implemented by God to achieve his goal.
*v.23 and 24, “Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24. And the morrow after they centered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and he had called together his kinsmen and near friends.” The men arrive at Peter’s house and he invites them to stay the night, prior to leaving in the morning. On the surface this would seem normal, but Jewish custom forbid Gentiles (especially of the hated Romans) to enter their homes. This cultural tradition is at the heart of Peter’s visit to Cornelius.
*v.25 and 26, “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” Upon entering Cornelius’ home, he fell to the feet of Peter, as if he were a divine being. Cornelius believed that he was a servant of Jesus, and that he could impart salvation to himself and his family and friends. Peter rejected the gesture and says that he is only a man, and asks him to stand up.
*v.27, 28, and 29, “And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28. And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?” It had long been a Jewish custom not to eat in the home of a non-Jew. This dated back to the Mosaic Laws which dictated all forms of Jewish life. What to eat, how to dress, who you can associate with, etc. So as not to offend, Jews were not to associate with Gentiles in any manner. Peter not only entered the home of a Gentile, and would not consider him unclean (without spiritual purification). Peter’s vision with God (Acts 10:9-16) showed that some customs with reference to discrimination due to ethnicity or religion was passé which is at the root of bringing Peter and Cornelius together.
*v.30. “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.” Cornelius relates to Peter the genesis of his vision. It points out how the adherence to Jewish customs by Peter; and faith in God by Cornelius, lead to God’s arranging for these two “opposites” to meet that would forego centuries of tradition as a result of this encounter. The vision set up a series of events that would lead to Cornelius’ salvation. The bright clothing is indicative of the presence of a divine being that brought the vision to Cornelius.
*v.31, “And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the
sight of God.” Luke shows Cornelius as a faithful, God fearing man who was sympathetic to the Jewish people. The angel in the vision was to let Cornelius know that God had heard his prayers. He was a convert of Judaism, but did not go as far as circumcision. This was a stumbling block to Jews accepting Gentiles’ conversion.
*v. 32, “Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.” Cornelius recalls his vision with God, and what it had to do with their meeting. God had also spoken to Peter about the same time. God’s plan would solve two needs simultaneously; 1) to have Peter present the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, and 2) lead Cornelius to salvation. Peter had been staying with his friend Simon, a tanner, who prepared the animal skins through chemical treatment for use as tent covers or clothing. The process is very hard to the senses, so that is why their operations were relegated outside of the city limits. The odor was so bad that tanners were not even allowed in the church services and were segregated from people, and looked down upon by the populace…
*v.33, “Immediately therefore I sent to thee and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” What Cornelius didn’t know was that before his men came to see Peter, God had given a vision to Peter to prepare him for this visit. In Peter’s vision, God’s angel discussed Peter’s prejudices toward Gentiles, and the changes that God was about to institute. That is why Peter invited the men to stay the night, and why Peter entered Cornelius’ home in Caesarea. Cornelius showed love for his family and friends, and had them all gather in his house to hear Peter relate the Gospel of Jesus Christ that leads to salvation. We as Christian should tell all our relatives and friends about the Gospel for those who do not know Christ.