Acts 10 Bible Study

Bible Study of Acts Chapter 10

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Acts 10 Bible Study


ACTS 10:1-2  1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

What is "the Italian Regiment" (Acts 10:1)?
The Roman army drew regiments from throughout its empire. The Italian Regiment was one drawn from Italy.

What was this regiment doing in Caesarea?
Caesarea, the region's largest and the most strategic port city, was the capital of the Roman province of Judea, and therefore the home of the Roman governor and the home base of his military garrison.

What is a "centurion" (Acts 10:1)?
At full force, the Italian Regiment (or any other Roman regiment) would have been 6,000 soldiers, organized into 10 "cohorts" of 600 soldiers each. Each cohort was in turn organized into 6 "centuries" of 100 soldiers, comparable to a "company" (typically 120 soldiers) in the modern army. A centurion was the officer in charge of a century of soldiers and therefore comparable to the commanding officer of a company in today's army.

What else is known about Cornelius?
He was generous to the people and prayed to God of the Jews constantly, but was a gentile who had not been circumcised, in which he would have been referred to as a 'proselyte' instead of a 'God-fearer': "one who feared God" (Acts 10:2). "All his household" were also God-fearers.

ACTS 10:3-8  3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” 7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.

What time did the angel come to Cornelius?
The hours were counted from sunrise, deemed to be 6am, so ninth hour was 3pm.

Did God know about Cornelius' prayers and generosity?
He knew and remembered them: "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God" (Acts 10:4).

Had the angel come to answer Cornelius' prayers?
The angel came to tell Cornelius to send men to fetch Peter, whom God will use to deal with his prayers: "Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do." (Acts 10:5-6)

Who were Cornelius' emissaries to Peter?
"Two of his household servants" and a soldier who was close to him ("who waited on him continually") and who also believed in God ("devout") (Acts 10:7)

Did Cornelius simply order them to go and get Peter?
He "explained all these things to them" (Acts 10:8)

Why would Cornelius explain everything to them instead of just issuing a simply order?
The emissaries needed to explain to Peter why they had come for him, but also, Cornelius most likely wanted to share the news of the angel's visit with them. Imagine an angel appearing to you and speaking to you about your prayers. Wouldn't you be excited to share the news with a believer close to you?

ACTS 10:9-15  9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

How far is Joppa from Caesarea?
Joppa is about 30 miles south of Caesarea along the Mediterranean coast.

When did Cornelius' emissaries leave Caesarea and arrive in Joppa?
They left Caesarea sometime after 3pm and "drew near" Joppa "the next day... about the sixth hour" (Acts 10:9), which is noon.

Where did Peter go to pray?
He went on the roof: "housetop" (Acts 10:9). Roofs in the Middle East are not sloped but flat and used as terraces. They are accessed by steps and usually have a low wall so that those on it can look around without falling off. While the house "made ready" (Acts 10:10) for lunch downstairs, Peter probably looked for and found a quiet place to pray.

What happened to Peter?
He "became very hungry" (Acts 10:10), "fell into a trance" (Acts 10:10) "and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth." (Acts 10:11)

How big was the sheet from heaven that Peter saw?
It was big enough to contain "all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air." (Acts 10:12) In the rooftop setting, God showed Peter a "great sheet" (Acts 10:12) with its four corners tied overhead: "bound at the four corners" (Acts 10:12).

What is wrong with Peter's response to God in Acts 10:14?
Saying "Not so, Lord!" (Acts 10:14) to a direct command from God is never a good idea.

What is Peter's protest?
Apparently, he saw in the sheet some of the things that God had forbidden as food in Deuteronomy 13:3-20: "3 You shall not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals. 7 Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. 8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses. 9 These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. 11 All clean birds you may eat. 12 But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 13 the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds; 14 every raven after its kind; 15 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after their kinds; 16 the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, 17 the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl, 18 the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19 Also every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 You may eat all clean birds."

What common traits distinguish the things that God allowed and disallowed as food?
The things that God allowed are lower in the food chain; they are herbivores or those that feed on fresh non-plants (e.g., scaled fish and some birds). The things that God forbid are higher up the food chain and can eat their prey after their death (e.g., eagle and hawk) or are scavengers that only eat the dead and decomposing(e.g., vultures and lobsters).

What about the "hare", which is a herbivore?
The hare is a herbivore but its diet is rich in cellulose, which is hard for it to digest. The hare resolves this by passing two types of feces: hard droppings, which it leaves, and soft, black droppings, which it immediately eats again for a second chance at digesting the cellulose. So the hare eats its own feces, much like the swine. When God says something is "unclean", it is.

Then why is God telling Peter to now eat everything?
That's what Peter "wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant" (Acts 10:17). But there are at least a couple of reasons. Firstly, God told Peter, "God has cleansed" (Acts 10:15) them, so God did something to cleanse the unclean animals and make them fine for consumption. Secondly, the dietary law had become one of the main cultural barriers between Jews and gentiles, which God was about to use Peter to tear down.

Is it certain that the aforementioned animals can now be eaten?
Jesus said, "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” (Mark 7:15-19). The only things forbidden are blood and food used in idol worship: "But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." (Acts 21:25)

ACTS 10:16-23  16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. 17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. 18 And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. 19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” 21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

Why did God speak to Peter "three times" (Acts 10:16)?
Possibly to emphasize it to Peter since he was having a hard time deciphering "what this vision which he had seen meant" (Acts 10:17) and/or to have it coincide with the number of men sent to take him, thereby helping him understand that their mission is of God.

What had the three emissaries done while Peter was in his trance?
They had made it to the house "and stood before the gate." (Acts 10:17)

Who really had sent the emissaries?
The Holy Spirit, who told Peter, "Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them." (Acts 10:19-20)

Who is in control of the impending meeting between Peter and Cornelius?
The Holy Spirit, who sent the angel to Cornelius, and who had prepared Peter by having him lodge with a gentile whom Peter would have considered unclean, whose trade - taking the skin off dead animals - Peter would have considered unclean, showing Peter food that he considered unclean, and then telling Peter - with precision timing - that the men who would lead him to enter the house of a gentile were now downstairs.

ACTS 10:24-33  24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.  29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?” 30 So 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, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

How much time had elapsed between the angel's appearance to Cornelius and Peter arrival at Cornelius' house?
Since the angel appeared to Cornelius at about 3pm on the first day, and Cornelius told Peter, "I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour..." (Acts 10:30), it was before 3pm on the third day, so less than 72 hours had elapsed between the angel's appearance and Peter's arrival.

Then was Cornelius wrong to say that he saw the angel "four days ago" (Acts 10:30)?
Since any part of a day was counted as one day, Cornelius was correct. He sent his emissaries on the first day. They arrived in Joppa at around noon the second day and stayed over. On the third day, they started to journey back with Peter and his "brethren from Joppa" (Acts 10:23), and arrived on the fourth day.

When did Cornelius prepare to share the Gospel?
Evidently even before hearing it himself: "Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends." (Acts 10:24)

What did Peter mean by telling Cornelius, "Stand up: I myself am also a man." (Acts 10:26)?
One possibility is that he was correcting Cornelius' misperception that he wasn't a man - i.e., that Cornelius was mistaking him for an angel. But this is unlikely since Peter had already learned about Cornelius from his  emissaries and knew that Cornelius knew that humans don't need to be dispatched to inform and escort angels. It is more likely that Peter was telling Cornelius not to fall down and worship another human being - only God is worthy of worship.

Which human being today claims to be a descendent of Peter?
The Roman Catholic pope.

What is the least he should do when people kneel in front of him?
Do as Peter did: lift them "up, saying “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” (Acts 10:26)

What else had Peter figured out by this time?
The timing of the vision he saw about unclean food was intended to change his attitude toward gentiles: "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:28)

ACTS 10:34-35  34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

How much more does God favor an affluent Christian in a 'developed' Western nation compared to a poor one in a 'developing' nation?
"God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34) and accepts Christians from "every nation" (Acts 10:35). An affluent person who considers himself to be Christian in fact has more cause for caution than a poor person with the same belief: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25)

What is meant by "whoever fears" (Acts 10:35) God?
A 'God-fearer' was a gentile who believed in the God of the Jews but who had not been circumcised, and this belief in God is what Peter is referring to as above. However, the reason such people were called God-fearers was because believers are to fear God.

Are we to fear God when He called us His friend and children?
Imagine the President of your country showing up at your doorsteps and calling you his friend. Will you then slap him on his back, put your arm around his neck and start to play around? Or will you humble yourself and pay even greater respect to the head of your nation for his generosity of calling you his friend? When the Creator of the universe calls us his friends, as in John 15:14-15 - "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." - and calls us His children, as in John 1:11-12 - "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." - we should humble ourselves even more and heed His command to "do whatever" He commands and to "believe in His name." So while God is someone for us to love, respect, honor, lean on, glorify and confide in, He is also someone for us to fear, which the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

Is Peter saying that to be "accepted by" God, a gentile must be one who "works righteousness"?
Not only a gentile but everyone must work righteousness, but "righteousness" as defined by the Bible, which is believing in God: "And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God." (James 2:23)

What is exceptional about the statement quoted in Acts 10:34-35?
It was made about the gentiles by someone who until just hours earlier had considered them to be unclean. The Holy Spirit had done a quick work on Peter's racism and nationalism.

Has He worked on yours yet?

ACTS 10:36-436 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ - He is Lord of all - 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

What is "the word" (Acts 10:36)?
It's Jesus, whom "God anointed... with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38), whom the Bible identifies as God in the flesh: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1 &14) and the Prince of Peace: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

Isn't Jesus the Messiah for the Jews?
No, "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36) who had been "sent to the children of Israel" (Acts 10:36)

Did the gentile audience already know about Jesus?
Yes: "that word you know" (Acts 10:37)

How did Peter's knowledge different from theirs?
While they had only heard about Jesus, Peter and the brethren who accompanied him were witnesses: "we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem." (Acts 10:39)

To how many did Jesus appear after His resurrection?
Over 500: "After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:6)

Were they over 500 random people?
No, they were fellow "not to all people, but to witnesses chosen before by God" (Acts 10:41)

Is it true that they even "ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead" (Acts 10:41)?
"Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead." (John 21:12-14)

What is remarkable about Peter's sermon above?
How brief and condensed it is. Instead of taking days to teach them from the beginning as Jesus so often did to Peter and the other disciples for three years, Peter almost sounds like he is summarizing what they already knew.

How did Peter and the Holy Spirit coordinate when the Holy Spirit would fall upon them?
They didn't. Peter had his mouth open and "was still speaking these words" (Acts 10:44) when "the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word." (Acts 10:44) And this should be a lesson for any preacher today who thinks he can command the Holy Spirit to do anything, especially on his cue. The Holy Spirit is God and He does what He wills to whomever He wants when He wants: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills." (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

What was Peter in the midst of saying when the Holy Spirit fell on his audience?
"Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43)

Why might the Holy Spirit have chosen that moment to fall upon Cornelius and his company?
Perhaps because after meandering a bit, Peter had finally hit the Gospel message on its head.

ACTS 10:45-48  45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Who were "those of the circumcision" (Acts 10:45)?
They were the Jewish Christian "brethren from Joppa" (Acts 10:23) who "came with Peter". (Acts 10:45)

Why were they "astonished" (Acts 10:45)?
Peter had been prepared in a vision for the breaching of the wall between Jews and gentiles. The Jewish believers who accompanied him had not been so prepared. In that context, they (1) enter the house of a gentile, probably for the first time in their lives; (2) hear Peter declare that God accepts people from "every nation" (Acts 10:35); and then (3) witness "the gift of the Holy Spirit" being poured out on the gentiles, who "speak with tongues and magnify God." (Acts 10:47)

Does Peter take the time to explain things and calm their astonishment?
Instead, he tells them to fetch water and help their new brethren express their belief through water baptism.

What did they do thereafter?
They stayed and fellowshipped for "a few days" (Acts 10:48). The love of God is the only thing that can rip down generations-old animosity and prejudice, especially in such short order.

When is the last time you stayed with or invited into your home Christians from another country or race?

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