This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 10:34-48, about Peter’s preaching to Cornelius and his household, and the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them.
Peter Preaches to Cornelius’s Household
¶ "Peter began his speech by saying, “I truly understand that God does not show favoritism. Rather, in every nation whoever fears God and acts rightly is acceptable to him. He sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ who is the Lord of all nations."(Acts 10:34-36).
Every nation. The main point of Peter’s new understanding, and of his speech to this gathering, is that it doesn't matter to God what nation you were born into or call your own. He is not interested in whether you are one of the circumcision or one of the Gentiles. What matters is your attitude and actions —do you worship and fear God and do his will?
Good news of peace. The gospel or “good news” is for every nation and it promotes peace and reconciliation between all nations and God. This is beautifully stated by Paul (Ephesians 2:11-22). When Jesus was born, the angels said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people of good will"(Luke 2:14).
Lord of all. Jesus is not just Lord of his countrymen, but Lord of all peoples. He is called "King of kings and Lord of lords"(1Timothy 6:15).
Around 50 years ago, some preachers from another country came to Australia on a campaign. On the opening night of the meeting, the campaign leaders and their preacher were at the door shaking hands and greeting people. A righteous Christian man I knew brought several of his friends. When this man came in with his friends, neither he nor his friends were offered a greeting or handshake. They were black people you see, Australian First Nation people, not a people these white preachers would welcome on behalf of God.
¶ "You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. You know how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."(Acts 10:37-38).
You know... Cornelius and his household knew about the activities of Jesus of Nazareth. Caesarea is on the coast between Judea and Galilee, not far from where Jesus was well known. Cornelius associated with Jews, and no doubt he'd heard tell of Jesus, even if he had not seen him personally.
Virtues of Jesus. Peter makes three statements about Jesus: (1) God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power. (2) He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. (3) God was with him. These three statements refute the accusation that was made against Jesus —that he and his work was of the devil (Luke 11:14-20). It may have been that this sort of slander against Jesus had also come to the notice of Cornelius and his household.
¶ "We are witnesses of everything he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem. And then he was killed and hung on a tree. God raised him up the third day, and allowed him to be revealed —not to all the people, but to witnesses who were previously chosen by God, us included, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."(Acts 10:39-41).
Peter’s testimony. Peter is able to personally testify to the events of Jesus’s ministry, his death, and his resurrection. Whilst Jesus has the testimony of the Old Testament prophets, of angels, and even of God himself, the testimony of his apostles was also very important and necessary. Jesus had said, "You shall be my witnesses"(Acts 1:8). Here Peter is performing that very role.
¶ "He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that this Jesus is the One appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins.” "(Acts 10:42-43).
Christ’s commision. Jesus commanded Peter and the other apostles to go out into the world and preach the gospel to all nations (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-20). Peter is now doing this.
Christ’s authority. Jesus has been appointed by God as the judge of all people both the living and the dead (2Timothy 4:1-2). Peter is now declaring and preaching by that authority.
Christ’s preordination. All the prophets bear witness of him. Jesus Christ did not come into Judea as an upstart, as some new thing. Rather he came in fulfilment of ancient prophecy. This means that he was preordained. Peter says, "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world"(1Peter 1:20). On the day of Pentecost Peter said, "He was delivered by the predetermined counsel and foreknowledge of God"(Acts 2:23).
Christ’s power to save. Through his name (his power and authority) believers will receive forgiveness of sins. This means everyone as Peter says. Forgiveness of sins is offered to all nations. Forgiveness is conditional upon becoming a believer, but any believer, of whatever nation, shall have the right to become a child of God and receive forgiveness (John 1:12).
¶ "While Peter was still speaking this message, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word. Those of the circumcision who believed, all who had come with Peter, were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out also on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in other languages and magnifying God."(Acts 10:44-46).
The Holy Spirit fell. This was not the first time the gospel was preached to non-Jews. Philip’s work in Samaria is an example (Acts 8:4ff). God however had a point to make, and he now supports the vision he gave to Peter with a miracle never before seen except on the day of Pentecost when Peter himself was one of those on whom the Holy Spirit fell (Acts 2:1-4).
Pentecost repeated. Now the Spirit was “poured out also on the Gentiles”. Peter later recounts, "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as upon us at the beginning"(Acts 11:15-16). So this was an outpouring of the Spirit previously unique to the apostles at Pentecost, but now repeated as a clear indication from God that God had as much regard for Gentiles who fear him as he has for Peter and his fellow apostles. In repeating the miracle, there was but one difference: instead of the preachers receiving the outpouring, as on the day of Pentecost, it was in this case the hearers on which the Spirit was poured out.
¶ "Then Peter said, “Can any man forbid the water and prevent these people from being baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?” So he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for some days."(Acts 10:47-48).
Peter commands baptism. Previously Peter says, “Everyone who believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:42-43). That these Gentiles were now believers could hardly be denied since the Holy Spirit had marked his recognition of their faith. Therefore, being believers, they had "the right to become children of God"(John 1:12). Peter therefore commands baptism in water in the name of Christ. This will allow them to come into Christ and receive forgiveness through his death (Romans 6:3-6).
Baptism into Christ. We note that it was in water baptism, not in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that these believers came into Christ’s death. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was not for the forgiveness of sins, but for convincing the skeptical and prejudiced that God grants to Gentiles no lesser blessings than he grants to Jews.