The Holy Spirit --
The Household of Cornelius
Read Acts 10:1-11:18

Cornelius was an Italian with command over 100 men in the Roman army. For the Jews he
was anathema for two reasons: 1) he was a Gentile; and, 2) he was part of an invading army.
Both of these reasons would estrange Cornelius from the people. The Gentiles were idol
worshippers who had turned their backs on the One True and Living God.

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but
became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing
themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God
into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping
things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own
hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into
a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.
Amen.”  (KJV – Romans 1:21-25)

The Romans were such creatures. The immorality and corruption of Roman was well known,
then and now. The armies of Rome were known for their cruelty and perversion. Especially
were they hated by the Jews.

Yet, Cornelius was something different. “A devout man, and one that feared God with all his
house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” (KJV – Acts 10:2)

Here is a man (although a Gentile and a Roman) who is described in terms similar to Job.
The prejudice against Gentiles was decades in the making and permeated deeply into the
Jewish pyche. It had even affected the church. “Now they which were scattered abroad upon
the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and
Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” (KJV – Acts 11:19)

Peter had already proclaimed on the day of Pentecost: “For the promise is unto you, and to
your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (KJV –
Acts 2:39) The promise of salvation was to the Jew and his descendent, and to the Gentile.
Yet, Peter and the church had not fully understood what was said.

The “mystery” of the gospel which the church seemed to have problems understanding was:
“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise
in Christ by the gospel:” (KJV – Ephesians 3:6)

Peter continued to have problems with this. “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood
him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he
did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself,
fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with
him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw
that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them
all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why
compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (KJV – Galatians 2:11-14)

To break this prejudice would take extraordinary measures.

1)        Cornelius saw an angel.
2)        Peter saw the vision of the four cornered sheet.
3)        Peter receives the urging of the Spirit.
4)        The messenger reports the visit of the angel.
5)        Peter hears the visit of the angel from Cornelius
6)        Cornelius’ household receives “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

1)        Cornelius saw an angel.

God intervened to show the Gentile is acceptable during the Gospel Age. He did not send an
angel to tell Cornelius what to do – that remained for Peter to do when he came to Cornelius’
household – He sent His angel to indicate Gentiles were acceptable to God. “And, he shewed
us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to
Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter: who shall tell thee words, whereby thou
and all thy house shall be saved.” (KJV – Acts 11:13,14) No one was ever instructed by an
angel, or vision of any kind, in the New Testament what they were to do to be saved. That was
always reserved for a person to deliver – the gospel in “earthern vessels.” (KJV 2 Corinthians

Cornelius was the perfect selection to make the point of acceptance of the Gentiles by God,
much like Jackie Robinson was the perfect selection to break the color barrier in major league
baseball. Cornelius was “a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all
the nations of the Jews” (KJV – Acts 10:22)

2)        Peter saw the vision of the four cornered sheet.

Peter’s vision was calculated to remove his natural inclination of prejudice against the
Gentiles. “What God hath cleansed, that csall not thou common” while true when applied to
the dietary restrictions of the Jews is not the point God was making here. The Gentiles, who
had once not been a people acceptable to God, are no longer to be held at arm’s length. They
are now acceptable to God. The message needed repeated to be effective. The secret to
education is repetition, repetition, repetition. Also, remember in Hebrew there was no good,
better, best scenario – to make the point repetition was used. For example, holiest is
expressed by holy, holy, holy. The sheet is lowered three times – it may indicate the
importance of the matter.

3)        Peter is urged by the Spirit.

Peter needed a shove. Often when we do not understand, or when we resist become of
preconceived notions, we need some sort of assistance to get started. Peter may have been

4)        The messenger repeats the visit of the angel.

Peter was told by the messenger the story of the angel appearing to Cornelius. The Spirit told
him that God had caused the messengers to come. Now the messengers repeated that

5)        Peter hears the visit of the angel from Cornelius

Then as Peter, and those who accompanied him, reach the house of Cornelius, they are told
the story for a third time. Just as the vision of the four cornered sheet was repeated three time,
the story of the angel’s appearance was repeated three times.

Peter, when he came to Cornelius said: “”Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man
that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me
that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (KJV – Acts 10:28)

And, when he had heard the story from Cornelius’ mouth, he said: “Of a truth I perceive that
God is no repecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh
righteousness, is accepted with him.” (KJV – Acts 10:34,35)

This was the purpose of the visit. Everything which happened is to this point: GOD ACCEPTS

6)        Cornelius’ household receives “the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And
they of the circumcision 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.” (KJV – Acts 10:44-48)

Peter told those in Jerusalem: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us
at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed
baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God
gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I,
that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified
God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (KJV – Acts 11:

The final straw was the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This event was referred to two different
ways: 1) they “received the Holy Ghost as well as we;” and, 2) “the Holy Spirit fell on them, as
on us in the beginning… Forasmuch then, as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us
who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I that I could withstand God?”

The effect of the outpouring was to break down the barrier of prejudice. Who could argue that
God would not accept the Gentiles if they received the gift of the Holy Spirit as did the
apostles? Only a special occasion called for the special result – to convince the Jews
Gentiles are now acceptable to God.

Had the promise of the baptism (gift) of the Holy Spirit been to everyone, Somon would not
have offered the apostles money to have their power: “And when Simon saw that through
laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.” (KJV –
Acts 8:18)

If the promise of the Holy Spirit baptism had been for everyone, it would not have been the
sign and wonder when given to the household of Cornelius.

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at
any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape,
if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was
confirmed unto us by them that him him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and
wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”
(KJV – Hebrews 2:1-4)
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