Cornelius and Peter – Part 1

Read: Acts 10:1-33

Luke provides an extensive passage to capture the interaction between Cornelius, a Centurian, and Peter. In this part, we read about two visions: one for Cornelius and one for Peter followed by immediate action based on the vision. Given the details, the repetitive style of writing, there must be something significant about this interaction for us to consider.

Scene 1: Cornelius’s Vision – Acts 10:1-8

It’s interesting that we read another story that includes a Roman Centurion as the central figure. Cornelius and his family were devout, God-fearing, generous people who prayed regularly. During a particular afternoon prayer:

One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Acts 10:3

In our Protestant zeal to distinguish ourselves, we’ve moved away from dedicated times for prayer. It’s interesting that one of the distinctive traits of Muslims is their devotion to prayer time, yet that cannot be said of Christians. We’re so diverse, there’s hardly any attribute that fits the plethora of Christ-following denominations (or not). I’m not necessarily advocating for a checklist religion, it’s just interesting.

Cornelius sees a vision that gets his immediate attention. One of the things I like about this event is his immediate reaction to do something.

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. Acts 10:7-8

Scene 2:  Peter’s Vision – Acts 10:9-16

The next day, Peter had a vision of eating unclean animals that seemed repulsive to him, though he knew this was a vision from God.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”  “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Acts 10:13-15

Peter’s personality still hasn’t changed, he still has the tendency to react first, though perhaps not as extreme as he would have earlier. Still, it’s comforting to see he is still Peter. The voice tells him what to do, then rebukes him with the notion that there are no unclean animals. That’s a revolutionary thought for Jews, even today.

Scene 3: Peter Meets the Messengers – Acts 10:17-23a

Peter was still trying to figure out the meaning of the vision when Cornelius’s servants showed up. The Spirit told Peter to go downstairs and receive these Gentiles. I love the fact that Peter is so attuned to the Spirit that his actions are in step with the arrival of the men. Sometimes we call these events a coincidence, he just happened to go downstairs when the men arrived. How many meetings have we had that seem like this? I wonder how many divine appointments I’ve missed by not listening to the prompting of the Spirit. I know for certain that I have had many “coincidental” meetings. I just pray I’ll pay more attention in the future!

Peter didn’t hesitate:

Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests Acts 10:23

Scene 4: Peter At Cornelius’s House – Acts 10:23b-33

The men spend the night at Peter’s house before heading to Caesarea. Cornelius was certain his servants would fulfill their mission. After all, he’s a centurion. Servants understand their role. He had no doubt, so he sent word to his relatives and close friends to come over in anticipation of Peter’s arrival. This is going to be a great day!

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.” Acts 10:25-26

Peter shows no desire to be put on a pedestal. He is a humble servant of Christ and demonstrated we must not think too highly of ourselves. I really appreciate that! Then something truly significant happened:

God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. Acts 10:28

With that statement, Peter opens the door to the entire world. The Gospel will now begin to permeate all of society.

Cornelius accentuates this moment with a resounding, YES!

Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us. Acts 10:33

This is a great and glorious day!

The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, will be captured in part 2.

Lord, may we listen to the Spirit and open our minds to divine appointments that are right in front of us!

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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