James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.Acts 9:31-11:18
DOOR OPENED TO GENTILES
The closing of chapter 9 shows Peter on a tour of visitation, and the instrument of two great miracles, it being significant that the greater of the two was in answer to prayer (Acts 9:40). Almost all the commentators regard these miracles as having a bearing on the crisis of the church recorded in the next chapter. In that chapter Peter is again to use the “keys,” this time in opening the door of the gospel to the Gentiles. Indeed, since the occupation of a tanner was unclean in the eyes of a Jew because of the handling of the skins of dead animals, it is seen that Peter in Joppa is already breaking with the customs of his nation.
As an introduction to chapter 10, carefully read Ephesians 2:11-18. Note, in passing, that the Caesarea in this case was not that of Matthew 16, but another city of the same name located near Joppa, which the Emperor Augustus gave to Herod, and which the latter greatly beautified.
The description of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8), shows this Gentile Roman soldier very near the kingdom of God, and an example of how God will reveal more light to any man who lives up to the light he has. But the need of this “more light” in the sense of the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as a Savior, is also revealed with equal clearness.
Passing to the vision of Peter (Acts 10:9-23), the “vessel” represents the Christian church; the “four corners,” the four corners of the earth; the clean animals, the Jews; the unclean, the Gentiles. In the church however, all are cleansed (read here 2 Corinthians 6:11 and Ephesians 3:6). The Lord providentially interprets the vision in Acts 10:17-20. Note the proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit found in Acts 10:19-20 : “the Spirit said... I have sent them.”
We are now in the centurion’s house and listening to Peter’s sermon (Acts 10:24-43). He has had his eyes opened to the great truth expressed in Acts 10:34. This does not mean that any man merits God’s acceptance by his natural morality, for the true fear of God and the working of righteousness are always the result of His grace. It means that God vouchsafes this grace to men of every nation, whether Gentile or Jew. Acts 10:43 emphasizes this, being the first echo of John 3:16 in the history of the church.
That the household of Cornelius acted on this promise by faith is seen in the result (Acts 10:44-48), which demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is given to men without either water baptism or the laying on of hands, but simply by believing (Galatians 2:2). Water baptism followed, but not as an act of Peter himself as is worth noticing (Acts 10:48).
The next chapter indicates that party spirit showed itself early in the church. “They that were of the circumcision” (Acts 11:2), means the Palestinian Jews as distinguished from the Grecian Jews or “Hellenists” as they were sometimes called, and who were born in Greece. The priests and the Pharisees belonged to the former who were more zealous for the letter of the mosaic law than the others (Acts 21:20). As we shall see later (chap. 15), they thought it necessary for a Gentile to become a Jew before he could be saved i.e., he must submit to be circumcised at least. But Peter rehearses all the circumstances in the case of Cornelius, and at this junction they appear to be more than satisfied (Acts 11:18).
1. Name the two miracles of Peter at the close of chapter 9.
2. What is Peter about to do in chapter 10?
3. Have you read Ephesians 2:11-18?
4. Give a brief history of Caesarea.
5. What does the history of Cornelius teach?
6. Explain the housetop vision.
7. What proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit is here found?
8. How is Acts 10:34 to be interpreted?
9. How is the gift of the Holy Spirit received?
10. What distinguished the Palestinian Jews from the Hellenists?