by Greg Williamson © revised 2022
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation*

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Cornelius Calls for Peter; Peter's Vision (Acts 10:1–8; 9–23a) | Peter at Cornelius's House; Peter Explains His Actions (Acts 10:23b-48; 11:1-18)

Peter at Cornelius's House (Acts 10:23b–48)

Conversation, clarification, and conversion (Acts 10:23b-48)

(23) And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. (24) On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. (25) When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. (26) But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man." (27) As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. (28) And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. (29) That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me."

(30) Cornelius said, "Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, (31) and he said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. (32) Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.' (33) So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord."

(34) Opening his mouth, Peter said:

"I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, (35) but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. (36) The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) -- (37) you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. (38) You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (39) We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. (40) God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, (41) not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. (42) And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. (43) Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

(44) While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. (45) All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. (46) For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, (47) "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" (48) And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

  A. The conversation with Cornelius (Acts 10:24–35)
    1. The reception (Acts 10:24–26): Cornelius attempts to worship Peter but is prohibited from doing so.
    2. The review (Acts 10:27–33): Peter reviews the circumstances that have brought him to Caesarea.
    3. The realization (Acts 10:34–35): Peter now understands the meaning of his vision -- namely, that God doesn't show partiality.
  B. The clarification to Cornelius (Acts 10:36–43): Peter preaches a sermon.
  1. He talks about the message of the gospel (Acts 10:36–37): It is the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.
  2. He talks about the Messiah of the gospel (Acts 10:38, 43)
  3. He talks about the ministers of the gospel (Acts 10:39–42): Peter says he and the other apostles are eyewitnesses of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection!
  C. The conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10:44–48)
  1. The heavenly baptizer (Acts 10:44–45): Upon Cornelius's belief in Jesus, the Holy Spirit falls upon him.
  2. The earthly baptizer (Acts 10:46–48): Convinced that Cornelius and his family have received the Holy Spirit, Peter has them baptized. [ref]
  • (Acts 10:23b-29) Larkin: "Because of the precedent-setting nature of Peter's visit to Cornelius (compare Acts 15:7) or possible trouble the visit would cause Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem, Peter sets out with a delegation of six brothers who can serve as witnesses (Acts 10:45; 11:12)." [ref] And so Peter and his entourage travel from Joppa to the home of Cornelius in Caesarea -- "the headquarters of Roman occupation in Israel" and thus "enemy territory." [ref] Cornelius has gathered together several of his relatives and close friends and everyone is waiting "eager[ly] to hear Peter's message." [ref] Peterson: "This shows that Cornelius anticipated hearing a message of great importance for himself and for those he loved. Perhaps, as one familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, he was genuinely looking for the coming of the Messiah and already knew something of Peter's claims about Jesus." [ref] What's more, as noted by Witherington: "We may suspect, since Philip had probably already evangelized at least some in this city (cf. Acts 8:40), that the audience assembled were not totally unprepared or ignorant of what they were about to hear and see." [ref] In any event, Peter begins by explaining to his Gentile audience that he is violating the well known Jewish custom against associating with foreigners/Gentiles only because God himself had revealed to him that he should not call any man unholy or unclean. Witherington: "Here it becomes evident that Peter has now concluded that his vision was not just about food but also or perhaps primarily about persons. No person should be called common or unclean." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:25-26) When Peter enters Cornelius's home, Cornelius falls prostrate at Peter's feet in an act of reverence or worship.
    ■ Bruce explains: "When Peter arrived, Cornelius hurried out and paid him the respect which he judged fitting for a messenger of God, prostrating himself at the apostle's feet in an attitude of homage and supplication. A messenger of God was supposed to have some godlike quality himself ... It is unlikely that Peter had ever had such reverence paid to him before, and no doubt it embarrassed him considerably: 'Please get up,' he said, helping his host to rise to his feet; 'I am only a mortal myself.'" [ref]
    ■ While we certainly should give due respect and honor to the great men and women of God who have gone before us, "we need to guard ourselves carefully that we never cross that line to veneration and detract anything from the glory of God, about which God says, He will not give to another (Isa. 48:11)." [ref]
Worship God Only
■ Charles Swindoll:
When Peter saw the centurion bowing down and worshiping him, he said, "Stand up; I too am just a man." Wasn't that a beautiful response? He didn't say, "Here, my son, kiss the ring of the big fisherman."

As fallen creatures, we tend to worship the people we highly respect. If you hold a position of authority or respect, you have a duty to discourage inordinate admiration and any form of over-the-top reverence. Do everything you can to keep people from putting you on a pedestal. It's a precarious position for you and a long fall when you eventually topple. You don't want to block their vision of God, and you don't want to be responsible for their disillusionment with Him when they finally do see your clay feet.

If God uses you significantly in a particular sphere of influence, it is your responsibility to keep the eyes of the people on the Lord. Meanwhile, let them see the cracks in your own life. Let them know that you're one with them, that you struggle with many of the same issues as they do, and that you have no corner on spiritual truth.

Be like the kids who built a summertime clubhouse in the backyard and established three rules of conduct:

#1: Nobody act big.
#2: Nobody act small.
#3: Everybody act medium. [ref]
  • (Acts 10:29) While Peter's vision had cleared the way for him to visit the home of a Gentile [ref], still he was not entirely certain as to "why in particular he was summoned. He may, for instance, have thought he was being called upon to pray for, lay hands on, and help heal someone, as he had for Aeneas. Thus in [Acts 10:30-33] Cornelius is given an opportunity to explain why Peter was summoned." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:30-43) Cornelius recounts how God had directed him to send for Peter, and Peter goes on to share the gospel with his Gentile audience. Wiersbe: "Cornelius rehearsed his experience with the angel and then told Peter why he had been summoned: to tell him, his family, and his friends how they could be saved (Acts 11:14). They were not interested Gentiles asking for a lecture on Jewish religion. They were lost sinners begging to be told how to be saved." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:33) Cornelius tells Peter that he (Cornelius) and his people are all here present before God to hear all that Peter has been commanded by the Lord. (NLT: "Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.") Witherington: "In other words, God had told Cornelius, but not Peter, that Peter was to address him and his folk when he came. The language that Cornelius uses suggests a gathering prepared to worship God (see 1 Cor. 5:4), and possibly there is deliberate echo of Acts 1:13–14 where the believers await Pentecost. Luke may be suggesting that we are to see this story as the "Gentile Pentecost," the catalyst that would send forth a worldwide mission to Gentiles, just as Acts 2 indicated such a venture for Diaspora Jews and proselytes." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:34-43) Regarding Peter's gospel message:
    ■ Stott: "Focusing on Jesus, Peter presented him as a historical person, in and through whom God was savingly at work, who now offered to believers salvation and escape from judgment. Thus history, theology and gospel were again combined, as in other apostolic sermons. As Cornelius, his family, relatives, friends and servants listened, their hearts were opened to grasp and believe Peter's message, and so to repent and believe in Jesus." [ref]
    ■ Barclay notes how Peter's sermon represents
    the very essence of the first preaching about Jesus.
    1. Jesus was sent by God and equipped by him with the Spirit and with power. Jesus therefore is God's gift to men. Often we make the mistake of thinking in terms of an angry God who had to be pacified by something a gentle Jesus did. The early preachers never preached that. To them the very coming of Jesus was due to the love of God.
    2. Jesus exercised a ministry of healing. It was his great desire to banish pain and sorrow from the world.
    3. They crucified him. Once again there is stressed for him who can read between the lines the sheer horror in the crucifixion. That is what human sin can do.
    4. He rose again. The power which was in Jesus was not to be defeated. It could conquer the worst that men could do and in the end it could conquer death.
    5. The Christian preacher and teacher is a witness of the resurrection. To him Jesus is not a figure in a book or about whom he has heard. He is a living presence whom he has met.
    6. The result of all this is forgiveness of sins and a new relationship with God. Through Jesus the friendship which should always have existed between man and God, but which sin interrupted, has dawned upon mankind. [ref]
  • (Acts 10:34-35)
    ■ Bruce: "The expression 'Then Peter spoke up' (literally, 'Peter opened his mouth') is one that is used to introduce some weighty utterance." [ref]
    ■ Witherington: "Anyone from any nation who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God. ... The question is -- What does 'acceptable' [NASB: 'welcome'*] mean? It appears it refers to a person being in an acceptable state (of repentance) to hear and receive the message of salvation and release from sins. Luke is not advocating that Cornelius, because of his piety, is already saved, apart from having faith in Christ (cf. Acts 10:43 to Acts 4:12). [ref] (*welcome => "dektos: pertaining to that which is pleasing in view of its being acceptable -- 'pleasing, acceptable.'" [ref])
The Man Who Fears Him And Does What Is Right
Regarding "the man who fears him and does what is right" (Acts 10:35):
■ John Stott: "The emphasis is that Cornelius' Gentile nationality was acceptable so that he had no need to become a Jew, not that his own righteousness was adequate so that he had no need to become a Christian." [ref]
■ William Larkin:
What Peter is saying is the same thing that the writer to the Hebrews points out: "anyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Heb 11:6). In turning away from idols to the one true God, Cornelius demonstrated belief in God's existence; in turning away from pagan immorality to doing what is right according to the Old Testament ethic, he showed his earnestness in seeking God. He had made the first steps of repentance, which did not save him but made him a proper candidate to hear the good news, according to a "more light" principle (compare Acts 11:18).

In a day of religious pluralism, when compassionate Christians seek to guard against prejudicial bias and see the good in all religions, Peter's speech clearly teaches us that though God does not play favorites with nations, he does make distinctions in matters of religion. Only those who worship him, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent can know eternal life (Jn 17:3). [ref]
  • (Acts 10:36) The gospel (The word), says Peter, produces peace -- that is, "reconciliation with God and neighbour" [ref] -- through Jesus Christ because He is Lord of all. While historically the gospel began with Israel, the fact that Jesus is "Lord of all" means that the peace he offers is for everyone -- Jew and Gentile alike -- with the end result being "a worldwide witness and a worldwide fellowship of believers free of all cultural prejudice." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:38) Peter says that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power; and He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him. Keener: "'Doing good' is literally 'benefacting' -- the sort of thing a ruler, deity, or some other powerful person would do when bestowing gifts or mercy on those of lower status (often cities or groups). ... [T]he present allusion is to Isa 61:1 in Luke 4:18." [ref]
At Peace And Doing Good
H. A. Ironside: "['Peace through Jesus Christ'] epitomizes the message of the gospel. Into a world torn by the effects of sin, trouble, distress, bloody warfare, grief, pain, sorrow, and death, God sends His messengers, 'preaching peace by Jesus Christ.' When we trust that blessed Saviour, we have peace with God; and when we learn to bring our daily troubles to Him, the peace of God keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. This is the message the world needs today— peace through Jesus Christ. ... ['He went about doing good'] epitomize[s] the life of Jesus. He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps. Let us never be content with a mere intellectual faith or the thought that we belong to this or that church; but be sure that ours is the faith which worketh by love— and let us, too, 'go about doing good.'" [ref]
  • (Acts 10:39-41) Toussaint:
    Peter affirmed that he and his associates were personal eyewitnesses of all Jesus did. They, that is, the Jews … killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, an ignominious form of execution. Earlier Peter had told Jews in Jerusalem, “You killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:15); to the rulers he said, “You crucified” Him (Acts 4:10); and to the Sanhedrin he replied, “You killed” Him “by hanging Him on a tree” (Acts 5:30). And Stephen too told the Sanhedrin, “You … have murdered Him” (Acts 7:52). On five occasions in Acts, the apostles said they were witnesses of the resurrected Christ (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:41; 13:30–31). After Christ’s resurrection the disciples ate and drank with Him (cf. John 21:13). This was proof that the resurrected Lord Jesus was no bodiless phantom and it explains how Christ was seen (Acts 10:40). [ref]
  • (Acts 10:41) Peter refers specifically to witnesses ... us who ate and drank with Jesus after He arose from the dead. Fernando: "A unique feature of Peter's sermon is the point that Jesus even ate and drank with the apostles after his resurrection (Acts 10:41). Luke's Gospel is the only one that records this fact (Luke 24:41-43), and to Luke it must have been one of the 'many convincing proofs that he was alive' (Acts 1:3)." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:42-43) Peter tells how Jesus had ordered him and the other apostles to proclaim Jesus as the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead -- and thus the only one who can provide pardon for guilty sinners (forgiveness of sins). Toussaint: "Peter made it clear that Christ’s ministry results either in judgment (Acts 10:42) or salvation (Acts 10:43). The key phrase is, Everyone who believes in Him. This Greek construction consists of a present participle with an article, which is almost the equivalent of a noun (in this case “every believer in Him”). The key element in salvation is faith, belief in Christ. This message of forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38; 5:31; 13:38; 26:18) through faith in the Messiah was spoken of by the prophets (e.g., Isa. 53:11; Jer. 31:34; Ezek. 36:25–26)." [ref]
Jesus The Judge
R. C. Sproul:
We think that the gospel is to preach Jesus as the Savior of all, and that is part of it, but Peter said that after Jesus was risen, He had commanded them to preach that Jesus is the judge of everybody. This runs counter to contemporary evangelical lingo. Today people say, "I gave Jesus permission to be the Lord of my life," but that is arrogant patronage. We do not give Jesus permission to be the Lord of our life -- He is the Lord of our life. He is the One who gives permission, not we. We are a narcissistic culture such as the world has never seen before. We think that salvation is all bound up in what we do and what we allow. Today we do not tell people what Christianity is really about: Jesus is our judge, not just after we die but right now. How popular is that gospel? That doesn't sound like good news because it isn't. It is bad news unless He is also our advocate, our defense attorney, our redeemer -- unless we put our trust only in Him for our salvation. Then the Judge becomes our friend and advocate. Then the Judge gives remission of sin; that is, He removes from the record all charges against us. But until or unless we put our trust in Christ alone, He is our judge, and our sins are written large in front of Him. If we do not submit to Him, the gavel will come down, and there will be no mercy. We will stand on the basis of our righteousness, or lack thereof, before that Judge. [ref]
  • (Acts 10:44-48) In what some describe as a "second/Gentiile Pentecost," The Holy Spirit falls upon Peter's audience and he gives the order for them to be baptized.
    ■ Bruce: "The event was not so much a second Pentecost, standing alongside the first, as the participation of Gentile believers in the experience of the first Pentecost. What was involved was later summed up by Paul: 'in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks' (1 Cor 12:13)." [ref]
    ■ Dunn: "[T]he Spirit 'fell upon all who were hearing the word', that is, those who heard with assent, who believed in the one proclaimed in the word." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:45-46) Bruce: "The descent of the Spirit on those Gentiles was outwardly manifested in much the same way as it had been when the original disciples received the Spirit at Pentecost: they spoke with tongues and proclaimed the mighty works of God. Apart from such external manifestations, none of the Jewish believers present, perhaps not even Peter himself, would have been so ready to accept the reality of the Spirit's coming upon them." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:47-48) Peterson: "Even after the gift of the Spirit, baptism remains an important means of calling upon the name of Jesus with repentance and faith and identifying with the community of believers. The initiation sequence is not complete without water baptism, because of its character as a public act of commitment and reception of the gospel promises." [ref]
  • (Acts 10:48b) Following their double baptism -- first in the Holy Sprit and then in water -- Cornelius and the other freshly reborn believers request that Peter stay on for a few days. Stott: The new Christians need to be nurtured "in their new faith and life. The gift of the Spirit was insufficient; they needed human teachers too. And Peter's acceptance of their hospitality demonstrated the new Jewish-Gentile solidarity which Christ had established." [ref] An added benefit of the delay is that it allows word of what has happened to reach Jerusalem before Peter does. [ref]
God Can Save Anyone
R. Kent Hughes:
I once had the wonderful privilege of leading a collegian to Christ. He began to blossom and developed a great concern for his father and his family. His father was an intimidating man, and when I met him I felt like I was on military inspection. One day my young friend asked, "Would you tell my dad how to know Christ?" So, my heart pounding, I visited that man's home. It took me forty-five minutes to get around to what I wanted to say. But as I shared the good news of Jesus Christ, tears began to course down his face, and he said, "Do you think God could save an old sinner like me?" He trusted Christ that day and went on to become a very outspoken Christian.

If we do not believe the gospel is inclusive, if we are not optimistic about what it will do, if we are not a little aggressive about sharing it, people will not come to Christ.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)

There is no one whose life God cannot turn inside out. The Lord can even change an entire family. There is power in the blood! [ref]

The Sin of Prejudice (Acts 9:32-10:48)
We should sincerely ask God to help us evaluate our attitudes and actions in order to make sure we are free from any form of prejudice. (Video link) [ref]



Peter Explains His Actions (Acts 11:1-18)

Accusation, argument, and acceptance (Acts 11:1-18)

(1) Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. (2) And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, (3) saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." (4) But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, (5) "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, (6) and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. (7) I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' (8) But I said, 'By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' (9) But a voice from heaven answered a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' (10) This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. (11) And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. (12) The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man's house. (13) And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; (14) and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' (15) And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. (16) And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' (17) Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" (18) When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."

  A. The accusation (Acts 11:1–3): Peter is criticized by some legalistic Jewish believers for fellowshipping with Cornelius and other Gentiles at Caesarea.
  B. The argument (Acts 11:4–17)
    1. Peter reviews his case (Acts 11:4–16): He tells them about his vision from God and his visit to Caesarea.
    2. Peter rests his case (Acts 11:17): He says God has given the same Holy Spirit to those Gentiles as the Jewish believers had previously received.
  C. The acceptance (Acts 11:18): Peter's critics believe him and offer praises to God for saving the Gentiles also. [ref]
  • (Acts 11:1-3) The apostles and other Jewish Christians hear of the Gentiles accepting the gospel (the word of God). Peter goes to Jerusalem and is met by accusations of wrongdoing because of his close association with Gentiles.
    ■ Keener: "No one objected to Peter preaching Christ to Gentiles; the issue is that he ate with them even though as Gentiles they were ritually unclean (Acts 10:28; cf. Gal 2:12)." [ref]
    ■ Toussaint: "Eating with someone was a mark of acceptance and fellowship (cf. 1 Cor. 5:11). This problem could have caused a serious break in the church." [ref]
    ■ Dunn: "As usual with these initial breakthroughs, Luke makes a point of noting that the news came back to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8:14; 11:22). It was always his concern that they should not be seen as any kind of breakaway from Jerusalem, since the unity of the new movement and its continuity with the heritage represented by Jerusalem was fundamental to his understanding and portrayal of Christianity. Luke mentions both apostles and brothers, the one denoting the Jerusalem church's leadership, the other its membership at large." [ref]
  • (Acts 11:4-17) Because "Peter's best defense of his conduct [is] a straightforward narration of his experience" [ref], he provides "an orderly, reliable, factual account" [ref] ("instead of the fragmentary and possibly garbled reports that they had already received" [ref]) of what had happened, including his vision, the visit to Cornelius's house and learning of his vision, and the fact that the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles who were gathered there.
    ■ Wiersbe: "Peter presented three pieces of evidence: the vision from God (Acts 11:5-11), the witness of the Spirit (Acts 11:12-15, 17), and the witness of the Word (Acts 11:16). Of course, none of these men had seen the vision, but they trusted Peter's report, for they knew that he had been as orthodox as they in his personal life (Acts 10:14). He was not likely to go to the Gentiles on his own and then invent a story to back it up." [ref]
    ■ Toussaint: "In recounting what happened next, Peter made an important identification of the day of Pentecost with the Lord’s prediction of Spirit baptism (Acts 1:4–5). Luke did not state specifically in [Acts 2] that Pentecost was that fulfillment, but Peter here pointedly said so by the phrase at the beginning (cf. Acts 10:47, 'just as we have,' and Acts 11:17, 'the same gift as He gave us'). The Church Age, then, began on the day of Pentecost." [ref]
    ■ Peter concludes with his own personal "conviction about not standing in God's way (Acts 10:17; cf. Acts 10:47)" -- which also serves as a "challenge to his audience about the attitude towards Gentiles which at least some of them have expressed (Acts 10:3)." [ref] Toussaint: "Peter’s defense did not rest on what he himself did, but on what God did. God had made no distinction between Jew and Gentile, so how could Peter?" [ref] Swindoll: "Just in case they missed the point, Peter underscored it for them (Acts 11:17). When God poured out His Spirit on the Gentiles, He validated them as authentically Christian, just like all the others who had believed and were baptized. Peter said, in effect, 'Gentlemen, it doesn't matter what you or I think; God has spoken, and that puts an end to the debate.' When Peter saw the power of the Holy Spirit fill the Gentiles, he knew enough to get out of the Lord's way." [ref]
Agent Of Change
Charles Swindoll:
The leading apostle immediately recognized the problem. He didn't berate his colleagues or flout his progressive attitude or shame them for being prejudiced and backward. He met them where they were so he could vicariously walk them through the transforming process he had experienced. He said, in effect, "A short time ago, I saw things as you do. Let me tell you what changed my mind."

When God wants to make a change within the church or a Christian organization, He rarely communicates it to the masses. More often, He prompts an individual -- most often the leader -- to become His agent of change. Depending upon the health of the organization, this individual receives either respect or ridicule -- rarely anything in between. Truth be told, change is always challenging. If the vision for change comes from God, the proposal will not contradict Scripture; on the contrary, the new direction will help the organization become more obedient to the Word of God. Whether or not others recognize it, the future of that organization will depend upon its response to the Lord's agent of change. [ref]
  • (Acts 11:9) Peter's vision had included a voice from heaven proclaiming What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. Peterson explains the "profound implications" of these words:
    The divine words that interpret the vision have profound implications for mission, for the doctrine of the church, and for a Christian perspective on the law of Moses. Holiness in terms of ritual cleanness is now replaced by cleansing and sanctification through faith in Christ (cf. Acts 10:15-16; 15:9; 20:32; 26:17-18). Consequently, Jewish evangelists can offer salvation to Gentiles on the same basis that they themselves received it. Moreover, Jewish and Gentile believers can have table fellowship together, as an expression of their shared holiness in the new community of God's people. Finally, the law of Moses can be seen to have been fulfilled and replaced by Christ's saving work. The reality that it anticipated has come, and so the laws which formerly functioned as a way of identifying the people of God can no longer be allowed to separate Jew and Gentile (cf. Gal. 2:11-18; Eph. 2:11-22). [ref]
  • (Acts 11:18) Peter's explanation satisfies his critics, and this episode ends with them glorifying God for granting to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life. Larkin: "The phrasing indicates that the Jewish believers understand the 'revolution in principle' that has occurred. It is not just an isolated God-fearer's household but the Gentiles, all non-Jews, to whom the door of salvation is wide open. Further, this repentance is not a precondition produced by human effort. It is a gift from God to the Gentiles, just as it was to the Jews (Acts 3:26; 5:31)." [ref]
Breaking Down The Barriers
■ Warren Wiersbe: "Christians are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction (Rom. 14-15). Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews, and some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles! This attitude can create serious division in the church even today, so it is important that we follow the example of Acts 11:18 and the admonition of Romans 14:1, and receive those whom God has also received." [ref]
■ David Peterson: "In practical terms, this narrative challenges Christians to be wary of allowing any cultural, social, or inherited religious barriers to hinder the acceptance of new converts into the church. At the same time, it is an encouragement to recognize when a work of God's Spirit is taking place -- perhaps in unexpected ways, in unexpected quarters -- and a warning not to be found opposing that work. Sadly, history shows that some of the greatest opposition to gospel initiatives has come from church officials." [ref]

Creativity, Criticism, And Community
Ajith Fernando:
When Peter took the revolutionary step of baptizing those at Cornelius's home, he faced criticism from a segment of the church (Acts 11:2-3). This is natural, for those other Christians had not gone through the spiritual pilgrimage of discovery that Peter had before he came to accept Gentiles as full believers. Criticism is something any creative person who leads the church into new areas of obedience and ministry will face.

But when the church criticized Peter, he did not reject the church and go out working alone. Instead, he did everything he could possibly do to gain their approval. This is why he took six Jewish brothers with him (Acts 10:23; 11:12). He wanted them to witness what was happening and testify to the church about it. This is also why he "explained everything to them precisely as it had happened" (Acts 11:4). He wanted the community to accept what he had done, so that they would be united over this new direction the church was taking. That is what happened, for the members of the church "had no further objections and praised God" (Acts 11:18).

From the space Luke gives to the process of Peter's receiving the approval for what he had done, we can see how important these events are. Many facts are repeated. Thus, while this passage teaches that criticism from Christians is inevitable in creative ministry, it also teaches that we should regard the wider community, especially our critics, with utmost seriousness and work hard to win their approval for what we are doing. [ref]

Addressing Prejudice (Acts 11:1-18)
We should never hesitate to share our concerns regarding prejudice. (Video link) [ref]


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.