Key Verse: “He said unto them, 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.”
WHILE GOD’S FAVOR TO Israel as a nation ended at the time of Jesus’ death, individual Israelites still had the opportunity after this time to repent, turn away from sin, be baptized into Christ, and receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38; 3:19) When God’s due time came, however, the opportunity to follow Christ was opened to the Gentiles. Our lesson is the account of Cornelius, a devout man who prayed often, but who was not Jewish. An angel of the Lord came to Cornelius, and said to him, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for … Peter: … he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”—Acts 10:2-6
Cornelius was a military officer of the Roman Empire and captain over 100 men, “a centurion of the band called the Italian band.” (Acts 10:1) He rejoiced upon hearing the message from the angel, and showed his faith by immediately telling his household servants and soldiers what had happened, and sending them to Joppa, to find Peter.—vss. 7,8
As Cornelius’ servants approached Joppa, Peter was on the housetop praying to God. Suddenly, he received a vision from the Lord. He “saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.”—vss. 9-13
Peter, however, replied, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” This vision was repeated two more times, and then as Peter thought about it, “the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” (vss. 14-20) Our Key Verse points out that Peter came to realize that it was not up to him to call any person “common or unclean.”
Peter came down from the housetop and said to the men Cornelius had sent, “What is the cause wherefore ye are come?” They answered, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.” Peter then traveled to Cornelius’ home. When he arrived, not only was Cornelius waiting, but he had also “called together his kinsmen and near friends.” As Peter came into the house, “Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”—vss. 21-26
The Apostle Peter did not want anyone to worship him. Here, and in other places in the Bible, we are told to not worship the Apostles, nor even angels. (Acts 14:11-15; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9) Let us have a similar humble appreciation of those whom the Lord uses to promulgate the Gospel message.