Summary: Peter's sermon at the house of Cornelius: the Gentile Pentecost.
A WORD TO THE GOD-FEARING
Whilst meditating on a rooftop in Joppa, the Apostle Peter received a vision in which he was warned ‘not to call anything impure which God has cleansed’ (Acts 10:15). Meanwhile, in Herod’s seaport of Caesarea, a God-fearing Roman Centurion named Cornelius had received a vision in which God instructed him to send for the Apostle Peter, and ‘he shall tell you what it behoves you to do’ (Acts 10:6). When the Centurion’s messengers arrived, Peter, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, went with them (Acts 10:19-20).
This was a momentous moment in the life of the fledgling church, who in the person of one of their acknowledged leaders and his companions broke Jewish protocol, and went to the home of this Gentile, and openly received non-Jews into the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The newly enlightened Peter was happy to accept the challenge of Cornelius, his family and friends, who were all gathered ‘before God to hear all things which you have been ordered by God’ (Acts 10:33).
Peter began, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons..." (Acts 10:34). In other words, God is without partiality: God accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right (Acts 10:35). Whatever your background, whatever your nationality, the gospel is for you.
God’s plan all along has been to gather from all nations, beginning with Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:3), ‘such as are being saved’ (cf. Acts 2:47). You know already, Peter told his God-fearing listeners, “the word which God sent to the children of Israel” (Acts 10:36-37). [‘These things did not happen in a corner,’ as the Apostle Paul would later add (cf. Acts 26:26).]
The content of the word, in general, was: -
(i) “preaching peace by Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).
‘Peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ’ (cf. Romans 5:1) is of the essence of the gospel, as is the breaking down of the walls of partition between Jew and Gentile (cf. Ephesians 2:14). Reconciliation with God leads to reconciliation with one another (cf. Ephesians 2:16).
(ii) “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36) - not just of Israel.
This word was published throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee (cf. Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:15), after the baptism John preached (Acts 10:37). The author of Acts has already mentioned the baptism of Jesus in his Gospel (cf. Luke 3:21).
From here, Peter’s sermon is a retelling of the gospel story, of which Peter and his companions were witnesses “both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem” (Acts 10:39). It sounds almost like the recitation of a Creed: -
2. Jesus went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with Him (Acts 10:38).
4. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly (Acts 10:40).
5. He was shown, alive after He had been dead, not to everyone, but to witnesses chosen before by God. Peter could also add, “we ate and drank with Him” (Acts 10:41). This was a proof that He was indeed alive.
6. “He commanded us also to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).
8. “Through His name whoever believes on Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
While Peter yet spoke, the Holy Ghost fell upon his hearers (Acts 10:44). They spoke in tongues (Acts 10:46) - symbolising thereby the eradication of the language barriers which could so easily hinder the spread of the Gospel to the nations. Having received the Holy Spirit, there was nothing to prevent them from being baptised (Acts 10:47-48).
Peter went back to Jerusalem with his report, and was accused of eating with Gentiles (Acts 11:3). This was of course true. However, once Peter had explained his actions to the brethren, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, ‘Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life’ (Acts 11:18).
This was the Gentile Pentecost.