Chapter ten records a major turning point in the history of the Church. To this point, the Church was still primarily Jewish, even after about ten years. When Luke gave his second progress report, he mentioned only the areas of “JUDEA, GALILEE, AND SAMARIA” (Acts 9:31). In this chapter, we find the first intentional gospel presentation to Gentiles. (The Ethiopian in chapter eight was probably a Jewish proselyte, someone who had converted to Judaism.)
God took two steps of preparation that made this transition from Jew to Gentile work smoothly. First, he chose a specific Gentile. Cornelius was “A DEVOUT, GOD-FEARING MAN,” a Gentile who had come to faith in the true God but did not fully convert to Judaism (Acts 10:2). God told Cornelius to send for the apostle Peter, who would come and preach to him (Acts 10:3-8, 30-33).
The second requirement was to prepare Peter for his new audience. Because he certainly would not violate God’s laws of cleanliness except at God’s command (Acts 10:28), God had to show Peter that the Mosaic Law was no longer in force. He did this using a vision (Acts 10:9-16). God told Peter to kill and eat from both clean and unclean animals. He refused, based on his strict obedience to the Law. God’s response was that when he called something clean, it was. 1 After seeing and hearing this three times, Peter was approached by Cornelius’ men, who had come to call for him.
Putting the pieces together, Peter told Cornelius, “I NOW TRULY UNDERSTAND THAT GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM IN DEALING WITH PEOPLE” (Acts 10:34-48), and he shared the gospel of Christ. Cornelius and his household responded in faith and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, these Gentiles spoke in tongues though the Samaritans did not (Acts 8:17). Finally, they were baptized in water, but only after receiving the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38).
- This was foremost in Peter’s mind when he argued that they should not expect Gentiles to even attempt to obey the Law that the Jews could never obey (Acts 15:7-11). Slowly, he began to understand that the Mosaic Law had hold or power over Christians of any ethnicity. ↩