The Doors of the Kingdom Opened to the Gentiles.
SUMMARY.--The Centurion Cornelius.
His Messengers Sent to Joppa.
Peter's Vision the Next Day.
Peter Directed to Go to Cæsarea.
Peter Preacheth Christ to Cornelius and His Household.
The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles.
The Gentiles Baptized.
1. A certain man in Cæsarea named Cornelius.
Cæsarea, at this time the chief seaport of Palestine and the
Roman capital, was their military headquarters. Cornelius, a Gentile, a
Roman officer, is one of three
centurions named favorably in the New Testament: Julius
the centurion at the cross,
and the centurion who built the synagogue at Capernaum
The office corresponded to the modern captain.
The Italian band. A cohort, composed of about 600 men. Many of
the conquered races served in the Roman armies, but this cohort was
made up of Italians. At the residence of the Roman procurator would be
placed a body of troops on which he could rely.
2. A devout man. This is stated of Gentiles in several places in
and always means those who had abandoned heathenism and turned to
Jehovah. They had not become Jews, but were trying to worship the One
God. The greater part of the first Gentile converts were made up of
this class. He was benevolent and a man of prayer.
3. He saw in a vision evidently. "Openly," distinctly.
About the ninth hour. Three o'clock. One of the Jewish hours of
4. What is it, Lord? Filled with awe, he inquired the meaning of
Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial. He was
heard because he was yearning for light and using all the light he
5. Send men to Joppa. He is not told to go, because a soldier
could not leave his post without orders, but to send. Joppa is about
thirty miles south of Cæsarea.
6. Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea-side. See notes on
Tanners were required, by the ancient sanitary laws, to live outside
city walls, and had to be near plenty of water (Hackett).
Tell thee what thou oughtest to do. As the angel says that his
prayer was heard, he had surely prayed that he might know what to
7. Two of his household servants, and a devout soldier. The
first were his personal servants, the second of his military household;
all, no doubt, "devout."
9. On the morrow, as they . . . drew nigh to the city. Starting
in the evening, after three o'clock, they could be near Joppa, thirty
miles distant, the next day, "at the sixth hour," or about twelve
Went up upon the housetop to pray. To the flat roof of the
house, surrounded by the usual balustrade about four feet high, a place
of retirement, and often the sleeping place of the family in the warm
required balustrades to the roofs. See also
1 Sam. 9:25.
10. Fell into a trance. A rapt condition, when he was
transported out of himself into a mental condition that fitted him to
see divine things. See
2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 1:10.
11-15. Saw heaven opened. The meaning of the vision is plain.
Peter was hungry.
He saw, let down from heaven, all kinds of animals, those ceremonially
unclean and prohibited by the Mosaic law, as well as others, and was
told to kill and eat. When he answered that he had never eaten anything
common (as opposed to holy) and unclean, that is,
forbidden by Moses, he was told that what God had cleansed was not
common or unclean. This could only mean that the ceremonial
distinctions of the law
(Lev. chap. 11, and Deut. chap. 14)
were abrogated. It was at this time that the messengers from a Gentile,
one of a class, with which even Peter would not eat, yet for which
Christ had died, presented themselves.
The object of the vision was to show Peter that it was the will of the
Lord that he should go.
16. This was done thrice. The voice spoke three times. See
17-23. While Peter doubted. Doubted, not what the Lord had said,
but what was the special object. It was while he was thinking over the
matter that the messenger came. The Spirit told him their purpose and
what he must do. He, therefore, called in the men, took care of them
till the next day, and then returned with them. Six Jewish brethren
from Joppa went with him
24. And the morrow after. Parts of two days were employed on the
Cornelius . . . had called together his kinsmen and near
friends, who were like-minded with himself.
25, 26. Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet. Meeting
him, as he entered, he cast himself at his feet as God's messenger.
Observe Peter's conduct: Instead of receiving worship, as the popes who
claim to be his successors, he forbade him, as he was "only a man." Not
even an angel ought to be worshiped
28. Ye know that it is unlawful. Contrary to Jewish customs.
Moses prohibited intermarriages
and religious intercourse, but the Jews carried their restrictions
beyond both the letter and the spirit of the law. They would not eat
with the uncircumcised
33. We are all here present before God to hear. It was an
assembly of "devout" men
who recognized the fact that Peter had a message of the Lord for them;
the first Gentile audience that ever listened to a gospel sermon.
34, 35. Then Peter opened his mouth. The same preacher who, on
the day of Pentecost, declared the conditions of salvation to the Jews
now declares them for the first time to the Gentiles. To him Christ
gave the keys
of the kingdom, and with them he opened its doors to both Jew and
I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. It has just
dawned on him that Jew and Gentile are on the same footing in God's
sight. Those who fear the Lord in any nation, of any race, will be
36-38. The word which God sent to the children of Israel. The
message of Christ.
That word . . . ye know. Have heard of, but not fully.
After the baptism which John preached. Christ's ministry began
from his baptism by John.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth. At his baptism, and made
him the Anointed.
He gives a condensed summary of the ministry of Jesus. Luke has only
preserved the substance of what Peter said.
39-41. We are witnesses. Not only of his life and power, but of
42. He commanded us to preach. In the Great Commission.
43. To him give all the prophets witness. By their testimony of
the Christ, which is so prominent a feature of prophecy. See
Isa. 53:11; 55:1-3; Joel 2:32.
That through his name, etc. Three important facts are stated: (1)
that remission of sins is in the name of Christ; (2) that it is only
granted on condition of belief upon him; that is, trust in his name;
(3) that whosoever believes thus, Jew or Gentile, shall receive
remission of sins.
44. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all
them which heard. The kinsmen and intimate friends of Cornelius, as
well as on him
45. They of the circumcision. The Jews who went with Peter. They
were astonished that the Holy Spirit should fall on Gentiles. This
miraculous outpouring was extraordinary, and the object is plain,
viz: to convince Peter and his fellow Jews that God had accepted the
Gentiles; the same reason for which Peter's vision had been given. This
is the only instance recorded of the Spirit falling on unbaptized
persons. This exception is made to convince the Jewish Christians that
uncircumcised Gentiles were fit subjects of baptism. Peter had to
recall this fact in order to convince the church at Jerusalem that he
had done right
(Acts 11:2, 3, 15).
As on Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell on Jews, so now when Gentiles
receive the gospel they are baptized with the Holy Spirit
47. Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?
Peter's scruples were overcome. He was now satisfied that the gospel
was for Gentiles as well as Jews. God had made no difference in the
baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asks his Jewish brethren if any man can
give a reason why they should not be baptized. Wesley says: "How easily
is the question decided if we take the word of God for our rule. Either
men have received the Holy Spirit, or not. If they have not, then
Repent, saith God,
and be baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
If they have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, then who can forbid
48. Commanded them to be baptized. All who heard and upon whom
the Holy Spirit fell.
In the name of the Lord. In acknowledgment of his authority. All
the baptisms of Acts are in his name, but
into the names of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy