Peter Meets Cornelius

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Peter Meets Cornelius

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2023 · 12 February 2023

This is a very important juncture in the history of God’s redemptive unfolding. Peter unlocks the door to the Gentiles. And we will begin our study in verse 20. Carnal pride in the early church had warped the outreach of the Jew toward the Gentile. And prior to that, the Jewish standards of interaction for the Gentile was zero. You should never have anything to do with Gentiles.

So not only in the early church was there a problem in reaching out to the Gentile, but in Judaism itself there was an isolation from Gentiles. The Jews were proud of their law-keeping. In Romans Paul says that they think they’re saved because they possess the law. They considered Gentiles to be pagans. They had nothing but contempt for them, and the years had only widened the gulf.

Even in the birth of the church it was very difficult for the early Christians to reach out to the Gentiles. It demanded special preparation from God. The exclusiveness which had been designed by God for Israel for the purpose of holiness and witness had become a point of pride. Not only did the Jews hate the Gentiles, but it came back the other way. The Gentiles equally hated the Jews.

The Spirit of God had to move in and eliminate that kind of attitude. In Ephesians 2:13-14, “But now in Christ, you who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”

The temple was composed of a series of courts, and by definition only certain people could go into certain courts, the closer you were to God. And if you are a priest, the further in you could get. Gentiles could only come in the outer court. Women could only come into the next court. Then the court of the men. Then the court of the priests. Then the holy place, then the Holy of Holies.

Paul is saying, the wall that always separated in the temple the Gentile from the Jew, Jesus Christ has smashed. When Jesus Christ died, He just eliminated the whole temple and left the Holy of Holies standing free and clear. And every man can enter directly in the Holy of Holies where God is. That’s what Hebrews says. “Let us come boldly into God’s presence.” The veil is ripped.

Now Paul knew about that wall. Remember when Paul was arrested in Acts 21? The arrest that led to Paul’s final imprisonment was based on the accusation that he brought Trophimus, who was an Ephesian Gentile, beyond the wall of the court of the Gentiles. That’s why they captured Paul, because he brought a Gentile further than a Gentile was allowed to go in the temple.

Here in Acts 10, we find the first Gentile who is called by God to enter into the fullness of all the promises of God. God directs this historical event when the church extends itself from the Jews and the half-breed Samaritans to encompass Gentiles. This is the final phase in the expansion of the church. But you know what else it is? This is also the day Cornelius got saved.

Cornelius is important because Christ chose him before the foundation of the world. So as we look at the history, we’re also going to see the sequence of salvation as illustrated in the life of Cornelius. And this chapter has not only history for us which has passed, it has timeless principles which are active today. Now the first point in the sequence of salvation is the sovereign call.

The first twenty verses illustrate to us the sovereign call. It all is initiated by God. God just picked him out of all the available Gentiles. God not only chose Cornelius, the receiver, God chose Peter, the messenger; and we learned something else about sovereignty and salvation. And God chooses how it is done. Now this is not apart from man’s will, but it is in conjunction with man’s will.

Then God began the preparation of Peter. Now how you going to get a traditionalistic, nationalistic Jew to open up his heart and his arms to a Gentile? Well God had to do a lot of work on Peter to get him to the place where he was available. But God had to prepare him; so He gave him a vision. The vision broke down all of his prejudice and prepared the way for the meeting with the Gentile.

Isaiah 65:24 says, "And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer.” Before Cornelius knew what he was looking for, God was giving it to him. Isaiah says, “While they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Luke 24:45 says, “Then God opened their minds so that they might understand.” You see, salvation is sovereign, and understanding of any spiritual truth, as well, is sovereign.

Second point of salvation is submissive will. Now sovereign call is not opposite to submissive will. They fit together. Both Peter and particularly Cornelius, he responded by his will actively. We must respond. God requires obedience. This is true at salvation; it’s true the rest of your life as a Christian. We are saved by faith; we walk by faith. God expects a faith kind of obedience continuously.

Believing is only valid faith if it follows in obedience. The devils believe and tremble. So there must be an active faith in response. Now in John, this is repeated over and over again. John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Verse 21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” Verse 23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”

The Pharisees were saying, “Yes, God,” but never doing it. The harlots might say, “No,” but God was changing their life, and they wound up doing His will. It’s not the talkers, it’s the doers. There’s an active part where willing obedience is involved. In fact Paul used to talk about himself as a bond slave. What is the one word that would characterize the life of a slave? Obedience.

Verse 21, “Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?” Remember one soldier and a couple servants. He’s got this whole vision about clean and unclean being no longer a problem. Jew and Gentile are one in the mind of God and so forth. And here he faces three Gentiles.

Verse 22, “And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” Well, Cornelius is one of these who, in his heart, saw the God of Israel as the true God and had lived up to as much information as he had.

And so Cornelius wanted more, and God gave him more. Verse 23, “Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” This just shows that the barrier was coming down. No self-respecting Jew would have done this with Gentiles, but least of all was it done with despised occupying Roman soldiers.

Peter treated them like they were guests. This must have been something else for them to experience, and God hadn’t even told him to do that. It was too late to travel back to Caesarea at that hour, so they decided to just stay, and Peter just showed the walls had come down. Well after all, he was living in the house of Simon the tanner, one of the most despised trades imaginable.

Verse 23 says, “Certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” It’s amazing, because they went with those Gentiles. It’s amazing because that became the very key point to what was going to happen was the accompanying with these guys. Peter took them without a direct command from God, yet their presence in the house of Cornelius was a tremendous key to everything that happened.

There were six orthodox Jewish Christians that he took according to Acts 11:12. We know they were orthodox Jews, because verse 45 says they were of the circumcision. This became very important. God not only led Peter through the direct voice of the vision, but God led Peter through Peter’s own desires and Peter’s own ideas. God knew it was crucial to have them there.

This is a great introduction as to how God works in the life of a believer. How does God lead now? He leads through our desires. It was just as important to have those guys there as it was for Peter to see that vision. But one of those came by God’s direct media, the other came by His indirect media, which is as He works in our hearts by His Holy Spirit to bring what He wants to do.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight in the Lord, and He’ll give you the desire of your heart.” That doesn’t mean He’ll only fulfill it. That means He’ll put it there to start with. If you’re the right person, God will give you the right desires, and then He’ll fulfill the desires. So Peter had the desire to take along these guys. All the time, just working out the will of God though his desires.

So here come seven Jews to meet a whole house full of Gentiles. Verse 24, “And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.” Verse 25-26, As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.”

Imagine a Gentile Roman centurion worshipping a fisherman, a Jew no less. Peter grabbed him, “Cornelius, don’t worship me.” Here, we must know the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, from Ludwig Ott’s Catholic Theology, which says. “Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first of all the apostles, and to be the visible head of the whole church.” However Paul says Christ is the head of the church.

Peter was the first pope. It says this in the same theology, “According to Christ ordinance, Peter is to have successors in his primacy over the whole church for all time. If anyone denies that, in virtue of the decree of our Lord Christ Himself, blessed Peter has perpetual successors, let him be anathema,” which means accursed. If you don’t believe in the successive popery, you are accursed.

Then it went on to say this, “The pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra.” That is on the subject of faith and morals. The last quote, “The source of his infallibility is the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit who protects the supreme teacher and church from error.” Now, if the Holy Spirit is protecting the church from error, how did they ever come up with that doctrine?

It is wrong to worship Peter. He is no pope. He is nothing to be worshiped. He is a man. Isaiah 42:8, says this, “I am the Lord. That is My name, and My glory will I not give to another.” There’s only one in the Bible who ever accepted worship, God. There’s only one in the New Testament who ever accepted worship. Jesus Christ. Then who is He? God. Peter didn’t want the worship of anybody.

Verse 27, “And as Peter talked with him, he went in and found many that were come together.” Here Cornelius had brought a group together too, and again, you have the same principle. Nobody told Cornelius to do this. God had worked through the desires of Cornelius, and he had brought other Gentiles in, because it was important that not just one Gentile got saved.

Verse 28, “Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The Old Testament ceremonial law, of course, didn’t say that, but the rabbis added that. The rabbis said that defilement by going into a Gentile home was a seven-day defilement.

That’s why the people gathered at the crucifixion of Christ wouldn’t go inside to Pilate’s house. They stayed outside lest they be defiled. Can you imagine killing the Messiah and worried about getting defiled? But here is Peter, who goes into Cornelius’ house with no problem at all. Verse 29, “Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

Psalm 119:60 says, “I made haste and did not delay to obey Your commandments.” Are you a hurry to obey God? That’s what’s known as the spirit of obedience. Spiritual maturity is eagerness to do what God wants. Verse 30, “So 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,”

Verse 31-33, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33, So I sent to you immediately, and you did well to come. Now we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

A man’s salvation is no accident. God orders the whole sequence, but men’s submissive will must move in. Where do you see the submission of Cornelius? In the word immediately. There are the first two things in salvation: Sovereign call and submissive will. You know what I love about that verse 33? Cornelius says, “Peter, give us the whole story. We want it all.” Let’s pray.


© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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