Summary: Acts 10 has the story of Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to hear and believe the Gospel. This outline, in a "talking paper" format, gives notes on the chapter. Feel free to use this as the Lord leads!
Introduction: Acts 10 has the story of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who did many good things but had never experienced genuine salvation. The Holy Spirit, working through several people, arranged for Cornelius and others to hear the Gospel, and believe it. Look how many did so!
1 The prologue: Cornelius and the conversation with the angel
Text: Acts 10:1-8, KJV: 1There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. 3 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. 4 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. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. 7 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; 8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
--Much of the Middle East was under Roman control, with Roman soldiers in many places. Cornelius was one of these men, a centurion or officer supervising 100 soldiers. His “band” or unit was called “the Italian band’ because it seems they were all from Italy.
--Cornelius seemed to have a great deal of respect for the Jewish people in Caesarea. Luke describes him as devout, God-fearing, a regular giver of alms, and a man who “prayed alway [sic]”. If he thought he had earned salvation or right standing with God, he was in for what may have been the surprise of his life.
--Cornelius is one of the few people in the Bible who saw and spoke with an angel. The angel could and did say, in so many words, “God sees your deeds” but the angel could not and did not have the message of salvation. He told Cornelius to send men to Joppa (probably 30 miles away) and call for Simon Peter who would tell Cornelius what to do.
--When the angel disappeared, Cornelius did indeed send three men to Joppa. The mission (to use a military term) was to find Simon Peter (did any of them know who he was?) and (implied) bring him back to Cornelius—peacefully, of course!
2 Peter and the strange dream
Text, Acts 10:9-16, KJV: 9 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: 10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 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: 12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
--The “sixth hour” was probably 12 noon. Note that Peter was hungry and was ready to eat had there been something ready. One wonders, since Joppa was near the sea, if fish would have been on the menu!
--Peter was praying. He could have been following the example of Daniel, who prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10-13) or, earlier, David (Psalm 55:17) when David wrote “evening and morning and at noon will I pray (paraphrased)”.
--Peter was dreaming. Luke says he “fell into a trance” which may indicate more than just being tired or hungry (comments from people with a strong medical background welcomed). He saw “all manner of” various animals, some clean and others apparently unclean according to the Law of Moses, lowered by what looked like a large sheet and coming down to earth. Dietary laws were written in various places in the OT.
--And Peter was hungry, as mentioned. He heard the voice (whose, is not stated) telling him to “kill and eat”. But he wasn’t so hungry, at this time, to eat anything “common or unclean”. His attitude would changer, later on, especially when he went to Antioch to minister to believers of all backgrounds there (Galatians 2:11-14).