Peter and Cornelius
 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort,  a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.  About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.”  And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.  And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter.  He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”  When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him,  and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.  And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance  and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”  And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”  This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate  and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.  And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.  Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.”  And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?”  And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”  So he invited them in to be his guests.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him.  And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.  When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.  But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”  And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered.  And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.  So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing  and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.  Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’  So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
Gentiles Hear the Good News
 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,  but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),  you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed:  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,  but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear,  not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.  To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Holy Spirit Falls on the Gentiles
 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,  “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (ESV)
- Dreams, visions, and angels
The primary way God speaks to his people is through his Word. However, at times, God uses dreams, visions, and angels to communicate with and instruct individuals. God used the angel Gabriel to announce the coming birth of Jesus to Mary. God used an angel in a vision to instruct Joseph not to leave his pregnant virgin fiancé. In this story, God uses both visions and angels to help Peter and Cornelius learn about the blessings of the Gospel.
- Divine appointments
One of the things that stands out in this text is how God was at work in both Peter and Cornelius, arranging for their introduction and fellowship. God spoke to Peter three times in a dream. He also gave Cornelius a vision in which an angel appeared to him. Both of these unique experiences brought Peter and Cornelius together for a divine appointment which would prove transformative for the early Church.
- God shows no partiality among those who trust in Christ
The encounter between Peter and Cornelius accomplished two important things. First, Peter brought the Gospel to Cornelius and, as a result, numerous Gentiles at Caesarea believed and were baptized. Second, God demonstrated to Peter that the ethnic divisions that had been part of Israel’s past history had been demolished in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:14-16). Believing Jews and Gentiles were now equals in Christ. Neither Peter nor anyone else could reject those to whom God had given his Spirit.
- What is the significance of Peter’s vision? What did it mean for God to instruct Peter to kill and eat any animal?
- Has God ever spoken to you or given you encouragement through a dream or a vision? What is the danger of trusting in dreams or visions?
- The early Church, which was primarily made up of believing Jews, struggled to accept believing Gentiles as equals in Christ. Are there any believing groups or individuals that you struggle to see and accept as equals in Christ?
Call to Worship
Our Eyes Look to the LORD Our God
A Song of Ascents.
 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud. (ESV)
Prayer of Confession
O Lord, You who are all-merciful, take away my sins from me and enkindle within me the fire of Your Holy Spirit. Take away this heart of stone from me and give me a heart of flesh and blood, a heart to love and adore You, a heart which may delight in You, love You, and please You, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources are tools for families to use to help connect Sunday’s sermon to the rest of your week, fostering conversations and habits of worship.