15 August 2021
Series: Acts
Topic: gospel

Acts 10 Cornelius calls for Peter

Speaker: Andy Yip


Today’s passage starts with a place called Caesarea; Caesarea was built by King Herod the Great. It was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was an influential city, perhaps the largest and the most important port city in Palestine. In the days of the Roman Empire, it served as the capital of the Roman province of Judea. Because it was the centre of the Roman administration of the province, the Jews hated Caesarea as a Gentile’s city. And there was a centurion, that was, a military commander called Cornelius. Century means 100 years, and a Centurion is a commander of 100 Roman soldiers. He was a Gentile soldier serving a city composed dominantly of Gentiles. But his entire family worshipped the Lord God. The Scripture told us that he and his family were devout and God-fearing. He regularly prayed to God and gave generously to the poor. He was seeking God, but he hasn’t heard of the gospel yet.


1) The gospel is universal. God does not show favouritism.

One day in the afternoon, God sent an angel to visit Cornelious in a vision. The angel called out Cornelious’ name like the Lord had called to Paul on the road to Damascus. Cornelius answered in the same manner, “What is it, Lord?”, he said (Acts 10:4). The angel replied that Cornelious’ prayers and gifts to the poor had gone up as a memorial offering before God. Everything that we do in this life, God sees it. And in this story, God will give Cornelious and his household divine grace from heaven, and Apostle Peter will also have a part to play. The angel told Cornelious about Peter in Joppa, so the centurion immediately sent two of his servants and a soldier to Joppa to meet Peter. Cornelious told his servants everything that had happened. And the servants arrived in Joppa after noon the next day. From Cornelious’ actions here, we learn that step-by-step obedience to God’s guidance is the key in this story. People who act upon the revelation they have will be given more revelation, leading them to the truth of the gospel.

Also, this is not a normal case, as Apostle Paul argued in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Paul argued that the majority of people receiving this natural revelation and knowing God in some form ‘neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” People generally don’t like what God told them to do and do the opposite by perverting God’s relation. But not with Cornelius. Whatever had brought him to this point, whatever influences God had used in his life to ready him for the gospel, Cornelius, as a Gentile who was out of God’s covenant to the Jews in the Old Testament, has now responded correctly to God’s revelation to him, in obedience to make that final step, bringing Peter to his home, to the truth of the Gospel of Christ, that leads to salvation. He will embrace God’s grace and Christ’s mercy to receive the Special Revelation of the Gospel of Christ, being one of the first Gentiles believers in Caesarea in the Book of Acts.

Then in verse 9, the story switched to Peter’s point of view. Peter was in Joppa on the following day, and he went up on the roof of a house to pray. Notice that just like Cornelius, Peter prayed regularly. Prayer is the only possible way for us humans to get close to God. It is not how we serve the church, what good deeds we do, or whatever achievement we did on earth, but only through direct communication through prayer. Prayer will bring a believer to come to know God and be close to Him. As we all know, the Sydney lockdown will continue this month, and the same with many parts of the world. It is one of the best time for all of us to learn how to get closer to God through regular daily prayers, pray for the city, pray for your family, pray for those you love and those you don’t know who not yet know Jesus. God wants us to pray and repent so that we will be obedient believers like Cornelius and Peter in today’s passage.

And in the story, Peter became hungry, like most of us do, and he wanted something to eat, and he fell into a trance. According to the English dictionary, a trance means a half-conscious state characterised by an absence of response to external stimuli. In the original text in Greek, this status is called ‘έκσταση‘. It is where the English word ecstasy came from. The term has a meaning of trance, a vision, or an amazement. Let us see what God has shown to Peter in this vision. In verse 11, “11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”  In this vision, the large sheet that came down from heaven indicates that the message is divine from God in heaven. And it was let down to earth by its four corners. Someone with a scientific mind might laugh about the Scripture explaining the earth as a square like a map as a flat earth. But in the ancient text, the term “four corners of the earth” was a Hebrew idiom, indicating four dimensions: North, South, East, and West. The four corners of the earth mean the end of all directions on earth, suggesting the gospel of Christ will spread to all the world. This divine message has been revealed to Peter through a vision.

This heavenly sheet contains all kinds of animals and reptiles, and birds, indicating all types of people, races or nations from the entire earth are involved. However, in the Old Testament Jewish mindset and the Old Testament Law, many types of animals, reptiles and birds are not clean according to the Law to remind the Jewish people that God had set them apart from all the nations as God’s people. Certain food was forbidden to be eaten, as written in Leviticus chapter 11, or they will risk defilement of God’s Law. So the chosen people under the Old Testament Covenant, like Peter, will not eat these unclean animals. He replied to the Lord in verse 14, “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” But God replied to him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15b) It happened three times before the sheet was taken back to heaven. Peter’s vision means that under God’s grace, in the New Covenant made by the blood of Jesus Christ, salvation is given to the unclean Gentiles, who were not part of the Old Testament Covenant with Israel. So God gave Peter a vision and tell him that he should not look upon the Gentiles as inferior people whom God would not redeem.

Many long-time Christians in the church might have experienced the same thing, not associating or isolating other people who were not part of the church or people who did not grow up with the same Christian background, thinking that they are sinners. We might overlook some people who are genuinely seeking God’s grace and wanted to be part of our Christian community, but find it difficult to do so because we did not accept them or associate with them with open arms like the way we act toward other long-term church members whom we are familiar with. The Jewish people have a very similar mentality toward non-Jewish people. But when Christ came, everything has changed. It is God’s will and mercy to bring eternal hope of Christ through the message of the Gospel of Peace, to be proclaimed to everywhere on earth. Before having the vision, Peter would have thought that a Gentile Roman officer could not become a follower of Christ. But after the divine vision has awaken Peter, he understood that it was his responsibility as Jesus’ disciple to go with the messengers into a Gentile place, to a Roman officer’s home and tell Cornelius the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. What we can learn from this encounter is that when God speaks, we must not challenge what he says. Doubting God is the rebellion of Eden. The point that every nation and every race, not only the Jews, or only Chinese, or only local people in Australia with similar backgrounds who you hang out with should be brought into God’s Kingdom and to join our community of faith, but people from every nation, every suburb, every racial background or political views who are different to yours, should hear the gospel of truth.

Last Monday night I was honour to join a prayer Zoom meeting by the Harvest movement, with over 560 people from 50 nations, joining together to pray and praise God in hymns and songs online. Our Father in Heaven loves people from every nation. God has made his point clear through the vision of Peter, and God’s will for you is the same today. God wants his church to be welcoming to people from all backgrounds or nationalities, to all people on earth. The blood of Christ and His Holy Spirit can make clean of everyone, no matter what they did, no matter what culture they grew up with. I am glad that our English Congregation has started support missionaries who bring the gospel overseas. By the guidance of the Spirit, all churches of Christ should be mission-minded.

God said to Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15) Jewish Christians might have doubts about defying themselves with unclean food. Still, God is encouraging Peter to step out of his comfort zone to welcome the Gentile Romans to the non-Christian people outside our own cultural and religious background. And Peter obeyed the divine guidance. The Holy Spirit tells Peter that He had sent three men who were looking for Peter from Cornelius. He commanded Peter, “Do not hesitate to go with them.” And again, Peter is in obedience to God’s call and welcomed the messenger from Cornelius, he went with them to Caesarea as a guest at Cornelius’ place.

Peter knew that they knew the position of Jewish rabbis regarding this gathering; Peter was breaking the Law by going into a Gentile’s house. But Peter spoke to a large gathering of people there at Cornelius’ large house, in verse 28, “He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our Law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” This was a crucial moment in the church history because the gospel will spread to the Gentiles from there to Rome, where is the centre of the Roman civilization 2000 years ago. Just as Christ has commanded in the Great Commission, that the gospel will go into all the world.

This is God’s will that his Kingdom and eternal salvation of Christ will reach every nation. As we read in the Book of Revelation chapter 5, where Apostle John saw a heavenly vision seeing the four living-things and twenty-four elders before the throne of God praised Christ, “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Similarly, Apostle Peter proclaimed the same message to Cornelius and his guests. In verse 34, “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Remember, God does not show favouritism in his divine election. God has chosen you to believe in the gospel message of Christ from the beginning. Cornelius was chosen before he met Peter. The truth is, whoever God has chosen, they will believe in the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. All who are elected by God and hears the Good News will put their faith in Jesus Christ, which is God’s grace, that is, God’s gift to humankind. They will accept him as their personal Saviour; they will give their lives to Him who gives us salvation, no matter their race, nationality, language or culture. It is a comfort that no matter the situation we are facing, always remember: God loves us all! Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.


2) The heart of the gospel message

And what is the gospel message to all nations? If you don’t know how to articulate and share the good news with non-believers, you can memorise and learn from Peter in the following passage. Understanding the heart of the gospel message can help us better witness Jesus Christ in front of non-believers when we share the gospel with them.

From verse 37 onward, Peter said, “You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – 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. 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 cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 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. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”


Peter’s gospel message has four points

  1. God anointed Jesus to be the Messiah, but he was killed on the Cross.
  1. God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.
  2. God has appointed Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead.
  3. Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.


Let us look at each of these 4 points:

  1. God anointed Jesus to be the Messiah, but he was killed on the Cross.

– The first point is easy, Jesus is the Son of God, he is anointed by the Holy Spirit as the King, that is, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world who died on the Cross.


  1. God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.

– There is no point in our faith if Jesus did not rise from the dead. Jesus is sinless, and death is the curse of sin. Death cannot hold onto Jesus, who has no sin, and Jesus has conquered death by the power of the Holy Spirit on the third day. That is why Jesus, who died and lived again, can also raise up all who believe on the Day of Resurrection.


  1. God has appointed Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead.

– When Jesus went up to heaven after He was raised from the dead, he will return to earth one day to judge us all. So each of us must give an account of our record on the Day of Judgement. God has appointed Christ as the Judge, no matter you are living or you have died, all will be raised for the Final Judgment when he returns. And I can assure you that not everyone on earth will be raised to receive eternal salvation; that is why the Gospel message is so important to everyone on earth. Blessed are those who believe in Jesus Christ.


  1. Everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

– There is no other name on earth or in heaven or under the earth that you will receive forgiveness of sins on the Day of Judgment. Only Jesus, and through his holy name that whoever believes will have forgiveness of sin from God’s wrath. God is just, and sin must be punished. But everyone who believes in Jesus will be forgiven and receive eternal life.

Peter has given a clear summary of the gospel in only six verses, and that is enough for those who believe in receiving eternal salvation. In verse 44, we read that while Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on to all who heart the message. Both Jews and Roman Gentiles receive God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. Their salvation is secured. And they speak in tongues and praising God. And then immediately Peter baptised all of them in the name of Jesus Christ. How wonderful is that! Both Jews and Gentiles together are received into one big family of God. All equally receive the citizenship of heaven and the divine gift of eternal life through believing in Jesus Christ as their Saviour!


3) God invites every nation to trust in Jesus for eternal salvation.

So today, our final point is this: God invites every nation to trust in Jesus for eternal salvation. Peter and his visitors witnessed what some bible scholars called “the Pentecost of the Gentile world”. Just like what happened in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 2, now all the Gentiles also receive the Holy Spirit in the same way in Cornelius’ house at Caesarea. God works precisely as he chooses. We also see Spirit baptism and water baptism comes together, no matter which one comes first. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ should be baptised in water and the Spirit. As John the Baptist has prophesied in Gospel of Matthew 3:11, “I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” And this story had told us the radical breakthrough in God’s Kingdom, transitioning from Old Testament Covenant to the Era of the New Testament Covenant, the Gentile equality with Jews in every way under God’s mercy. Since Peter has already eaten with Cornelius’ three messengers, staying on with the centurion and his family for a few days no longer posed any problem for this liberated apostle. The barrier between Jews and Gentile has been broken. The gospel goes to all nations. So what can we learn from this today’s passage? Anyone who trusts Jesus is welcomed to his body, the church, for God shows no favouritism in the invitation of the gospel.

We all have to do the same and lead by the same Holy Spirit. When God sends you to do his work, go without hesitation. Cornelius sent his messengers to Peter immediately, and Peter went with the messengers to Cornelius’s place immediately. And never think that we are too good to break bread or hang out with someone different from us, no matter whether the person is a believer or an unbeliever. God might lead us to someone who turns out to listen and receive the gospel when we are least expecting it.

So, as we finish today’s sermon, I am going to give you time to think about three questions in response to today’s message:


Responsive Questions:

  1. What people has God brought unexpectedly into your congregation? How did you and your church respond? Why?
  2. Are there some groups of people whom you think your church would hesitate to accept as fully participating members? How are these people different from the majority of your membership? What causes hesitancy in accepting them?
  3. What are you doing to help your church avoid showing favouritism in its efforts to witness for Christ and bring new members into his church?


Memory Verse

Acts 10:39-40 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.”

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