Key Verse: 10:13
“Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’”
1. Read 10:1-8. What kind of man was Cornelius? What does it mean that he
was an Italian Centurion? Describe his vision. How did he respond? What
does this event reveal about him? About God? (Dt 4:29; Mt 7:7,8)
2. Read 10:9-16. Where was Peter and what was he doing? Describe his
vision. Why did he cringe at the thought of obeying God's command? (14;
Lev 11) How is this command (13) related to Jesus' command in Mark
3. Read 10:17-23a. How were the guests who arrived related to Peter's
vision? What did Peter do? Read 10:23b-26. What did he find at
Cornelius' house? Read 10:27-35. What was the revolution that had
taken place in Peter's heart?
4. What is the good news? Why did God anoint Jesus with the Holy Spirit?
(36-39) What does this tell us about people's real needs? What can
we learn about Jesus' beautiful life? About his death? (Jn 1:29)
5. Read 10:39-43. What was God's great victory? (40; 2:24) What are
the evidences? What does it mean that Jesus is the Judge? (Rev 5:9)
Why is forgiveness of sins so important? (43)
6. Read 10:44-47. What was the response to Peter's message? What did
7. Read 11:1-3. Why did the Jewish believers criticize Peter? How did he
defend his actions? How did the apostles and brothers respond? What
is the significance of this event in God's world mission plan?
Today's passage is a story about two persons who could see God's
vision: one is Peter, a Jew, and the other is Cornelius, a Roman soldier.
God moved Peter's heart through a vision to visit Cornelius. God also
moved Cornelius' heart through a vision to welcome Peter and accept the
gospel of salvation. The gospel of Jesus, which began in Jerusalem, had
not yet reached Rome. But it reached to a Roman soldier. In this way,
a new landmark in church history was made. Let's learn how Peter and
Cornelius could see God's vision, and the contents of their visions.
First, Cornelius' vision (1-8). Look at verse 1. "At Caesarea there was
a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian
Regiment." Cornelius was a Roman soldier stationed at Caesarea,
the headquarters of Roman government in Palestine. Cornelius was a
centurion of the Italian Regiment. Mostly, Roman soldiers were Africans
drafted or hired by the Roman government. But there were a minority
of Italian soldiers--crack units of the Roman army. Cornelius was a
genuine Italian centurion with one hundred Italian soldiers under his
command. Centurions were the backbone of the Roman army, and they were
expected to win victories or otherwise, to stand fast and die at their
posts. Therefore, Cornelius must have been a well-disciplined Roman
officer with the spirit and loyalty of a Roman soldier. At that time,
the world was a Roman world, and Cornelius was a Roman centurion. Humanly
speaking, he was a lucky person. It seemed that he didn't need anyone's
help, and that he didn't have to seek God. He could claim to be his own
man. But to our surprise, Cornelius sought God earnestly until he learned
of God Almighty from the Jews. The prosperity of the Roman Empire and
being recognized as a man of Roman spirit made him happy from time to
time, but these human conditions could not satisfy his soul. His soul
was thirsty for the holiness of God. His soul was hungry for the truth
and grace of God. He was a pompous Roman soldier, but he longed for his
heavenly Father because he was made in the holy image of God.
In the New Testament times, there were many thirsty souls. For
example, the Ethiopian eunuch was the treasurer for the Ethiopian queen.
He lived in a palace, but he came to Jerusalem to seek and worship God.
Probably he was tired of all the luxury and immorality and emptiness of
palace life. He was suffering from deep fatigue and boredom. He came to
Jerusalem to seek and worship God.
Commonly, soldiers are very wild and enjoy the fleeting pleasures
of life in order to forget about present realities. But Cornelius was
different. He was a very pious man. He was also a good influence to his
family members. Because of his good influence, his family members were
also devout and God-fearing. He was a blessing to the people around him.
Cornelius also gave generously to those in need. His love for God made
him love others. And he was a man of prayer. Obviously, he learned how
to pray regularly from the Jews. In brief, he was a Roman centurion,
but he had the fear of God in his heart. He was a man of integrity;
he was not far from the kingdom of God. However, he needed to hear the
good news about Jesus.
Once, in the afternoon at the regular prayer time, Cornelius prayed
earnestly. Then God visited him in a vision. Look at verses 3-5. "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!' Cornelius stared
at him in fear. 'What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel answered, 'Your
prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before
God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called
Peter.'" So many people calculate this and that and are finally swallowed
up by the worries of life. But Cornelius prayed and saw a vision of God.
There were so many things to seek, but he sought God (Dt 4:29; Mt 7:7,8).
God saw this man Cornelius and told him in a vision to welcome Peter and
hear the message of salvation. It is amazing to know that Cornelius saw
a great vision of God while he was praying.
Second, Peter's vision (9-23a). About noon the following day as Cornelius'
servants were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. As
usual, he was hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being
prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like
a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained
all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and
birds of the air. Then a voice from heaven told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill
and eat." In this short phrase, "Kill and eat," all of God's plan for
world salvation is passionately summed up, and it was revealed to Peter.
How did Peter respond to the voice? Look at verse 14. "'Surely not,
Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.'" We
understand why Peter protested. He was brought up in a society where food
laws were strictly kept. According to Leviticus 11, the Jews could eat
only animals that chewed the cud and whose hoofs were cloven. Peter had
never eaten pigs or lizards or squirrels. He had never eaten animals that
were unclean. Because of these food laws, the Jews despised the Gentiles,
who ate raw and rare meat of any kind. The Jews thought that the Gentiles
were like unclean animals because they ate all kinds of unclean animals.
The Jews felt nauseous even to think about the Gentiles because of their
way of eating.
The Jews also despised Gentiles because they thought they were
not God's chosen people. They thought God's favor was not extended to
Gentiles and that the law of God could not be applied to them. The Jews'
view of Gentiles was blindly prejudiced and traditional; it lacked
the universality of God. So Peter, who was brought up in these rigid
traditions, could not accept God's voice, "Kill and eat." In order to
proclaim the gospel of Jesus, Peter had to unlearn the old habits and
traditions of the Jews. According to the voice, Peter had to kill and
eat. But his stomach was too weak to digest all kinds of reptiles and
animals wiggling on the sheet.
What did God do with this man who had such a weak stomach? Look at
verses 15 and 16. "The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call
anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times,
and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven." In these verses,
all kinds of animals represent all kinds of peoples on earth. "Kill
and eat," meant, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to
all creation" (Mk 16:15). World evangelization was an impossible task
as long as Peter called anything impure that God had made clean. Peter
needed to change his outlook on the Gentiles. He needed to train his
stomach until it could eat deliciously any kind of food. Above all,
he needed to obliterate the solidarity of Jewish exclusivism from his
heart so that he could rise above his own culture and traditions and
learn the universality of God's love.
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men
sent by Cornelius found Simon's house. While Peter was still thinking
about the vision, the Spirit told him to go downstairs to meet them and
go with them without hesitation. In this way, Peter and the men from
Cornelius met together at the house of Simon. Peter was not really ready
to invite them into the house as guests. But the Holy Spirit helped him
to do so. Although Peter only thought about delicious food, God showed
him a great vision of his world salvation plan.
Third, Peter's message to Cornelius (23b-48). The next day Peter arrived
in Caesarea. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him, together with
his close friends, and he fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made
him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself" (23b-26). There
was a large gathering of people inside the house. Peter said to them,
"You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate
with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call
any man impure or unclean" (28). Again Peter said in verse 34, "I now
realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism..." At this
point Peter realized that God is not only the God of the Jews but also
the God of the Gentiles. A great revolution had erupted in his heart. As
soon as Peter finished telling the whole story of how he had come to
their house, Cornelius asked Peter to speak God's message to them. In
verses 34-43 Peter spoke of the good news of peace through Jesus Christ,
who is Lord of all. In this message we learn several things about Jesus.
(i) Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 38.
"...how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power,
and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the
power of the devil, because God was with him." Why did God anoint Jesus
with the Holy Spirit? It was because God, through his Son Jesus Christ,
who was anointed with the Holy Spirit, wanted to deliver all those who
were under the power of the devil. Mankind seems to have many problems.
But the root problem of mankind is that they are suffering under the
power of the devil. Jesus is the only one who saves people suffering under
the power of the devil because Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit.
(ii) Jesus died on a tree. Look at verse 39. "We are witnesses of
everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed
him by hanging him on a tree..." Jesus was sent by God. While on earth,
he healed the sick and preached the good news of the kingdom of God. His
life was truly beautiful, so much so that during the last 2,000 years many
people have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to walk in his footsteps.
Even now there are so many people who want to follow in his footsteps.
Everything he did was life-giving, and an invitation to God's kingdom,
where there are no more tears. But evil men killed him by hanging him
on a tree. They did not like Jesus because they were so sinful and
Jesus was so beautiful. They killed Jesus simply because Jesus was so
beautiful. But he was not just a victim of sinful men; his death was
for the sin of the world. John 1:29b says, "Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!"
(iii) Jesus rose again. Look at verse 40. "...but God raised him
from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen." When Jesus was
crucified on a tree and died, the power of sin and death seemed to win the
victory over the good Jesus. But this was not true. "God raised him from
the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible
for death to keep its hold on him" (Ac 2:24). Through his death Jesus
destroyed the power of sin and death. Through his resurrection he won
an eternal victory for us. There is victory for all who believe in him.
(iv) God appointed him as judge of the living and the dead. Look at
verse 42. "He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that
he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead." No
man is worthy to be a judge over others because we are all the same sinful
human beings. But Jesus is worthy to be the judge of all men because with
his blood he purchased men for God from every tribe and language and
people and nation (Rev 5:9). Death is not the end of everything. After
death, each of us must stand before the Judge to receive a report card.
(v) Jesus is the giver of forgiveness of sins. Look at verse
43. "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in
him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." No one can be happy
when he is sick with sins. No one can enter into a new relationship with
God without the forgiveness of sins. No one can enter the kingdom of God
except through Jesus' grace of forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the only
one who gives the grace of forgiveness of sins to those who come to him.
What was the response to Peter's message? The Holy Spirit came
on all who heard the message from their hearts. Cornelius' attitude in
listening to the message was so sincere that the Holy Spirit began to
work in him as well as in his people. The circumcised believers who had
come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had
been poured out even on the Gentiles and that they spoke in tongues,
praising God. Peter said to the circumcised believers in verse 47,
"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have
received the Holy Spirit just as we have." In this Peter was saying that
since the Gentiles had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they
could be baptized with water and declare that they too were God's people.
Fourth, Peter defends himself (11:1-18). Look at 11:1-3. The
circumcised believers were boggled on the inside because of Peter's
visiting Cornelius. Because of this incident, Peter became a target of
criticism. They criticized Peter that he went into the house of a Gentile,
and that he ate with Gentiles. Their criticisms were so funny. They were
slaves of their own traditions.
How did Peter explain his actions? In verses 4-16, Peter told them
the whole story once again about how he saw a vision of unclean animals,
and how he met Cornelius, and how he spoke to him and what happened
after his message. In conclusion, Peter said, "So if God gave them the
same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who
was I to think that I could oppose God?" (17) After listening to Peter,
the Jewish Christians agreed to accept Gentiles as the same human beings
and as the same fellow Christians. Look at verse 18. "When they heard
this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then,
God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'"
In this passage we learn that Peter and Cornelius saw a vision of
God when they prayed. Let's pray earnestly until we meet God personally
and see God's vision. It is the time for all young men to see God's
vision. Sometimes we think, "What's the use of the life of faith in this
generation?" But this is not right. God used the lives of faith of Peter
and Cornelius when they saw the vision of God. God used them to make a
bridge between Jerusalem and Rome for future world evangelization. May
God bless you to be men and women of God's great vision through prayer.