There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
The Comprehensiveness of the Gospel.
I. The gospel is here compared to a great sheet,— a clear hint as to the cosmopolitan character of Christianity. It is noteworthy that Christianity as let down from heaven is larger than Christianity as represented in human creeds.
II. The gospel is compared to a great sheet let down from heaven. This idea is emphatically Divine. (1) You will not find it in heathenism; (2) you will not find it in Judaism.
III. The gospel is compared to a great sheet let down from heaven and knit at the four corners. What the precise meaning of this phrase is we cannot positively tell; it would, therefore, be wrong of us to try to make it prove anything. But commentators see here an intimation that the gospel is to extend its frontiers, and to exert its influence over the four quarters of the globe.
IV. Peter is here taught that the distinction between clean and unclean is abolished.
V. After the vision came the interpretation. God always explains His supernatural revelations by natural events. Providence is the best commentary on the Bible. Just when God was stirring large thoughts in Peter respecting the universality of the gospel, He was also working silently, but effectually, with Cornelius to send a messenger to the Apostle desiring a fuller knowledge of salvation at his hands.
J. C. Jones, Studies in the Acts, p. 240.
Acts 10:15The Transition from the Old to the New.
I. The questions raised by this narrative are not met by the simple consideration of the narrow prejudice and even bigotry of the apostle of the circumcision, and the liberal teachings of the vision which inaugurated a new era in the heart of the apostle, and through him in the world. From our Christian standpoint the views were narrow—narrow as the discipline of school is to the student, narrow as the discipline of the student seems to the man. But whatever they might be, they were God's handiwork; and that is a matter much overlooked in the judgment of a boastfully liberal age like this. God knew how much zeal for God was at the bottom of the "not so" of His sturdy servant, and dealt gently with prejudices which hitherto had been a shield to all that was most precious to Peter's heart. Consider the exclusions of the Mosaic law. Read Leviticus 11:2-20 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21. Let us, while we see how much prejudices like Peter's, blindly nursed, would stand in the way of progress, recognise how much good there was in his steady determination to cleave to that which, for the present, had strong evidence of being Divine.
II. In the early stages of human culture nothing is strong enough to curb man's desires on the one hand, and to stimulate the exercise of the faculties of discernment and election on the other, but the solemn power of religion. And God began from the beginning with the Jews, and made the simplest matters of right or prudence matters of religion from the very first. They were to eat every morsel, frequent every place, and fulfil every function of personal or social life, "because He, the Lord their God, the holy God," would have it so.
III. The progress of society has tended to release men from these bands of religious law, and to bring all that concerns man's welfare and culture under the influence of the special faculties which have charge of the separate departments of his life. The progress of Christianity tends to place all man's acts or habits under the rule of his natural faculties, given to him for this very end, and to make the right use of those faculties the most sacred duty of his life before God. First law, then liberty, in order to the discovery of the diviner law, "the perfect law of liberty," wherein to continue is to be blessed.
J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, May 12th, 1875.
References: Acts 10:15.—J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 296; C. Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., p. 440.
Acts 10:19Visions and Tasks.
I. The power of man to stand between abstract truth upon the one side and the concrete facts of life upon the other, comes from the co-existence in his human nature of two different powers, without the possession of both of which no man possesses a complete humanity. One of these powers is the power of knowing, and the other is the power of loving. The more perfectly these two constituents of human nature meet the more absolutely they are proportioned to each other, and the more completely they are blended so much the more ready will the human nature be for the fulfilment of every function of humanity. And as one of the loftiest functions of humanity is to stand between the absolute truth and the world's needs, and to transmit the one in such a way that it can really reach and help the other, then it will also follow that the more perfectly the knowing faculty and the loving faculty meet in any man the more that man's life will become a transmitter and interpreter of truth to other men.
II. Every truth which it is possible for man to know it is good for him to know with reference to his brother men. Only in that way is the truth which he knows kept at its loftiest and purest. This is the daily meaning which I want to find in the picture of Peter seeing his vision on the house-top and the three men knocking in the street below. Cast off your sins, not for yourself, but for some soul which possibly may learn from you what it could not learn in any other way, how good and strong and forgiving is the sinner's God. It is a terrible thing to have seen the vision, and to be so wrapped up in its contemplation as not to hear the knock of needy hands upon our doors. But there is no greater happiness in all the world than for a man to love Christ for the mercy Christ has shown his soul, and then to open his whole heart outward, and help to save his brethren's souls with the same salvation in which he rejoices for himself. May none of us go through life so poor as never to have known that happiness.
Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 1.
References: Acts 10:19.—Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 1. Acts 10:28.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 261. Acts 10:29.—Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, vol. i., p. 3. Acts 10:33.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 104; Parker, The Ark of God, p. 192; C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. ii., p. 78.
Acts 10:34I. The warning contained in the text is not unnecessary. For though few or none, I suppose, consciously hold in the grossest sense that God is a respecter of persons, yet in all things, from supposed religious enlightenment down to the smallest advantages of personal gifts or outward circumstances, we see men under temptation to act as if they thought so. In other words, we see them accepting privileges of all kinds with a certain complacency which betrays no sense of a correspondingly enhanced responsibility. If we recognise this, the commemoration of Christian verities which we make on Trinity Sunday ought to be much more than a technical exposition of beliefs. It can hardly be less than a call to a higher morality. What we want, as Frederick Robertson truly says, is a gospel for the guilty. And this is what assuredly comes to believers in the revelation of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
II. Let us remember that even when we seem to be using our gifts profitably, we may be using them in a spirit of blindness and presumption before God, as unlovely as that of those who more openly misuse them. High intellectual culture, good as it is and stimulating, often carries with it an element of moral weakness in developing a man's acuteness out of all proportion to his training in judgment and moral strength. It has a tendency, especially in early life, to lead to a very false estimate of qualities so common as mere cleverness, or even cleverness combined with learning, to overrate them as possessions, and as keys to unlock what is really deepest in human life,—to make a man overlook the fact that others whom he perhaps despises for their beliefs, are able to rest in them, not because they are less acute than their critics, but because they are of a more earnest mood and a finer spirit. May God keep us all from yielding to the temptations to which our several temperaments or circumstances may most naturally incline us—from idleness and selfish indulgence—from coldness and vanity—that none of these things may ever blind us to our true position and duty as in the sight of the great Judge who is no respecter of persons.
D. Hornby, Oxford Review and Journal, May 24th, 1883.
Acts 10:34This statement cannot mean (1) that God cares for no man; (2) that God treats all men alike; (3) that God exercises no sovereignty of choice in the communication of His grace to men. If the text does not mean these things, what does it mean?
I. First, that Jehovah is not God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also.
II. Next, the God of the whole earth had regard to all nations in the gift of His Son. He excluded or excepted no people, or nation, or kindred—no section, or class, or family of the human race, in the provision that He made in the gift and sacrifice and resurrection of Christ for human salvation.
III. Again, the gospel of that salvation is to be preached in the power of the Spirit unto all nations. There is no difference in the need that all nations have of that gospel. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. As the old world needed it, so also does this modern world; as the Eastern world, so the Western world,—all round, the world wants this salvation, and God, who is no respecter of persons, would have His Church more impartial than she has been hitherto in making known to all the world the gospel of His grace.
IV. In His present providential government, God's thoughts and ways are not partial and unjust. The exterior aspect of things is so much to us, while it is nothing at all to Him. It is only in so far as we have the mind of God that we penetrate the superficial skin of things and are able to judge righteously.
V. In the great day of the judgment of men, God will render to every man according to his works. Every work or fact of a man's life will be estimated in the full light of all the surrounding circumstances,—the temptations if it were evil, and the inducements if it were good, and with God's unerring knowledge of the spirit in which it was done, and the real motives from which it proceeded. And when things are thus laid bare in God's light, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
D. Fraser, Penny Pulpit, No. 426.
References: Acts 10:34.—J. Pulsford, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 113; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 329; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 406. Acts 10:34, Acts 10:35.—T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, p. 47. Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, vol. i., p. 75; M. Nicholson, Communion with Heaven, p. 339. Acts 10:35.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 44. Acts 10:36.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 952; Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 73; G. T. Coster, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 189. Acts 10:38.—Ibid., vol. xi., No. 655; vol. xvi., No. 929; Bishop Ryle, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 294; Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 127; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 277; G. Litting, Thirty Children's Sermons, p. 90.
Acts 10:42Christ the Judge.
Both by natural right, and by a special claim acquired and superinduced on that, the Son of God is Judge of mankind; the natural right putting—as Creator—all things into His hand, and man among these, as their final Arranger and Disposer; the acquired claim giving an especial fitness to His being Judge of men, inasmuch as they are His own peculiar possession, and the family of which He is the undoubted and manifested Head. But there are some subordinate and lesser reasons why He and no other should be the Judge of mankind.
I. He unites in Himself those proprieties for the high office which none other could. The judgment will be for the deeds done in the body, and will not take place till the dead are again united to their bodies. By God's eternal laws of self-manifestation to His creatures, none other than the incarnate Son of God can be the Judge of mankind; can stand visible and audible on this earth of ours, exercising over us all a right of disposal, inherent in Him, because He is our Creator; purchased and assured to Him, because He is our Redeemer.
II. It would be requisite for the final assurance of God's people and conviction of God's enemies, that one should be the chief agent who might cause the greatest possible joy to the one and the greatest possible remorse and dismay to the other. For remember, that judgment will be set to redress the wrongs of the whole lifetime of the world.
III. The day and hour of the final judgment are hidden in the counsels of the Father. We have Christ's own word for two things respecting it, the one of which we may well set against the other as a corrective, and both of which form solemn incentives to watchfulness. The first is, that when that day is near there will be plain and undeniable signs of its approach; as plain to those who are watching for them as the budding of the trees is a token that summer is nigh. The other is, that when the day actually does come, it will be sudden and unexpected, as a thief breaking into the house at dead of night. In other words, the Church will, on the one hand, not be left uninformed of the signs of her Lord's near approach; and on the other, she will not lay these signs so deeply to heart as to be thoroughly awakened and on the look out for Him.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 53.
References: Acts 11:1-18.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 239. Acts 11:8.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 53.
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
And 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.
But Peter said, 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 was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
While Peter thought on the vision, 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.
Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
And they said, 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.
Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
And as Peter was coming in, 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.
And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
And 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.
Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
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. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.