A Walk Through Acts
Now, let us continue on with Peter and the household of a Gentile named Cornelius. In Acts 10 and 11, I will only use certain particular scriptures to highlight and elaborate on. However, it is strongly suggested that you read all of the chapters on your own through Acts to get the revelation by the Spirit, not through these writings found in this website. It is imperative that you receive revelation by the Spirit of God only, and not through some man that may be able to speak or write well, with persuasive words. If the words of that man bring you under conviction, then let it be known and understood that it is the Spirit that convicts... and in knowing that, repent before Lord and continue to walk accordingly in that revelation that agrees and aligns with the Word of God.
Acts 10: 1-6 - There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. [Emphasis added are mine]
I don’t know about you, but Cornelius reminds me of Job from the Old Covenant. It was recorded of Job, multiple times (3 times to be exact) that he was, "...perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil." (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3). It is described of Cornelius that he was well-revered, one who feared God with his whole house, who gave generously to many people and petitioned God continually. This was his reputation and he wasn’t even a Jew [see also 10:22]. With that being said, let us focus on the latter part of his vision. It says, "...he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." This was in reference to Simon Peter. Peter was called by God to tell Cornelius what he must do!
Cornelius was well reputed among his people as a man who feared God, loved those around him and was continuously on his face before God. Some reading this may ask, "What do you mean there was still something else for him to do? Wasn’t he doing enough?" Obviously not, for an angel of God told Cornelius to send his servants to find Peter so that he would instruct him on what he must do. This man had a humble and fearing (repentant) heart before God. He obviously trusted and believed, but was without the Spirit and that is what was necessary - to be born again. Because of Cornelius’ humble heart, we do not see him question this command. What we do read is that he called his servants to tell them what happened and sent them out to find this Peter. In summary, he trusted and obeyed the Word of God.
Reading on, we see what was happening to Peter at this time. Peter sees a vision and is commanded to kill and eat things that were once declared unclean. He is commanded three times to do this and is thoroughly perplexed by this. Then the Spirit says that he is to go with the three men that are looking for him right now, for the Spirit sent them to come get him. Well, now we know that the angel Cornelius saw was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. We sort of knew that before because Cornelius answered Him, "What is it, Lord?" and "the angel" did not correct him. So, Peter goes with the men and meets Cornelius.
When Peter meets Cornelius he says that it is unlawful for a Jew to come to a house of one from another nation, but because of the vision, he now understands that he should not call any gentile human profane or impure. So Cornelius shares his side of the story.
Acts 10:30-33 - And 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, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. [Emphasis added are mine]
The last thing Cornelius says is that they want to hear everything God has commanded Peter. Question: Why didn’t Jesus just tell Cornelius himself what he needed to do (this is the second time He does that)? I personally believe He purposely did this to set forth an an example to those who read the scriptures that we are to follow the commandments that were given exclusively to the apostles. Any revelation or message that contradicts these commandments should be questioned and the spirits should be rejected.
In the next 10 verses, we see Peter giving his fourth recorded gospel message to Cornelius and his household. Review it for yourself and compare it with his other gospel presentations. I will sum it up by saying he preached Jesus, being the Messiah prophesied, his life, death, burial, and resurrection. However, in this particular scenario, something unprecedented takes place. During the ministering of the gospel message, Jesus sovereignly decides to immerse the Gentiles in His Spirit without waiting for Peter to lay hands on them and without waiting for him to baptize them in water (Read Receiving the Spirit for more).
Acts 10:44-48 - While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision (the Jews) which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. [Emphasis added are mine]
Who were these that were astounded at what just took place? These are Jews who also received the Spirit who traveled with Peter to the house of Cornelius. They could not believe what just took place. Never before in recorded scriptural history has God given His Spirit to another nation or people. Supposedly, that was only for people called by His name, Israel. There are so many verses that will talk about this apparent change in the heart of God to choose the other nations, but suffice it to say, for now, that this was a completely unexpected work of God. The Holy Spirit was given to the nations, and they could not refute that truth because these people spoke in tongues! Cornelius and his household became believers with the Spirit. Peter must have been completely amazed at these turn of events. Nonetheless, he continues with the three-fold witness he was commanded to preach and says, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Lord."
Peter understands here that it is not his choice, nor is it in his power to give the Spirit. God -- Jesus, sovereignly chooses whom to immerse in His Spirit after He judges their heart. Peter does not question Jesus, but simply continues on with his part and that is to baptize them in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Does it seem to matter to Jesus what order they follow in this three-fold witness? Apparently not. I do believe that without repentance you will never receive His Spirit. So repentance must come first in the heart of man. Then, regardless of the order, both baptism in water and in Spirit (which is really one baptism -- Ephesians 4:4-6) are necessary to complete the three-fold witness of salvation in the believer's life. This is the born again experience Jesus referred to in John 3. It is these three that are really one that fulfill the words of the Lord in regard to seeing and entering into the kingdom of God.
Also, Peter recognized that the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household just like He fell on Peter and the disciples at Pentecost when they received the Spirit. When Peter said they had received the Holy Spirit "as well as we", he meant that the Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household exactly as it fell on them at Pentecost as evidenced by them speaking in tongues. The same manifestation, which took place at Pentecost, also signified that Cornelius and his household received the gift of the Holy Ghost. They spoke in tongues and magnified God. He readily recognized that they received the Spirit because they spoke in tongues.
There is a pattern developing in Acts that shows that Jesus is preached so that all those who hear may trust that He is the promised one, the Messiah. He is the one appointed to return to judge the living and the dead. Through their trust in Him, they were expected to obey the commandments given by the apostles of three-fold witness: repentance (blood/death), water baptism (water/burial), and baptism in the Spirit (Spirit/resurrection), for they are one (1 John 5:8). It is repeatedly shown through Acts that it was to be accepted as one act of obedience, un-separated, un-segregated, and without prejudice.
Now let’s go back to the question of what must Cornelius do? We just said what he must do above, but some say, "He was already saved. He had the Spirit already because he trusted God." Was he really already saved before he received the Spirit? Did he already have the Spirit? We can not simply assume that because a person believes in God, prays to God and does good for those around him, that he is saved. If we do that, we become focused on looking at the individual's own righteous works to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus does not look at the works of man, He searches the heart. It is by grace that ye are saved through faith.
Now, no doubt Cornelius was on the right track in his seeking God, but there was a more perfect way in which to walk and Jesus chose Peter to bring that salvation message to Cornelius so that he may walk in the newness of life. Cornelius needed to be saved God's way, by His Spirit, and not his own.
Now because Cornelius was of a humble heart and sought His face faithfully, God answered him by bringing the gospel of salvation to him. God does not wish that any man should perish. But those who forsake Him and do not seek after Him, He will not reveal Himself to them. However, for those of a broken and contrite heart, He will never in any way despise them or turn His back on them. If man will turn to Him, He will turn to them. Not only will He turn to them, but He will run to them, like the father did the prodigal son who returned home (Luke 15:20).
© copyright 2000, revised 2011 Jesus M. Ruiz