This is part of an ongoing study of the book of Acts. If you’d like to catch up, you can read the previous studies here. Before you begin today, be sure to read the entire chapter of Acts 10 here, and don’t forget to sound off in the comments below.
Acts 10 is the beginning of the most dramatic change in the book of Acts, and I would argue, the Bible as a whole. If you are a Gentile believer (not Jewish), then the next few chapters are a tremendous gift of grace to you.
Caesarea was a relatively new city built by Herod the Great to honor Caesar for installing him as king over Israel. By Acts 10 it was the Roman government’s seat of power for Israel, having shifted predominately away from Jerusalem because of increasing troubles with governing the rebellious Jews. A centurion like Cornelius would have been in charge of between 80 and 200 soldiers, a well-paid and highly respected Roman citizen. Luke called him a God-fearing Greek, or someone who believed in the Jewish God but had not been circumcised nor followed Jewish customs. This is no small detail to understand as we begin to process the next several chapters.
Chapter ten has two very important supernatural visitations, an angelic visitation for Cornelius and a vision for Peter. God timed them both so that there would be no doubt of what He was doing. Peter will later explain these series of events to the church as his justification for what he did, giving great credibility to God leading His church in such a way. Prophetic leading through supernatural encounters was not coincidental in Acts, but formative and necessary.
In Peter’s vision, God directly deals with him and his exercise of Jewish customs in accordance with the Jewish law. Peter refuses to eat unclean food in the vision, but God shows him that He has made these things clean. Peter was no doubt confused, but again, the series of supernatural events causes Peter to obey God and see what happened. The timing of events was undeniably God’s will.
When Peter arrived in Caesarea, he immediately realized that God was doing something important. He began sharing the gospel message with Cornelius and the crowd he had gathered, and before Peter could finish his sermon, the entire group began speaking in tongues! This was the proof to Peter that God Himself had filled these Gentiles with the Holy Spirit, something he would not stand in the way of. He immediately decided to baptize them all with water since God had already baptized them with the Holy Spirit.
This will become no small point of contention as we will see in the next chapter.
Questions for Chapter 10
What is a vision? What is a trance? Is it biblical to have one?
Why did Peter refuse to eat the food in the trance?
Why does it seem the baptism of the Holy Spirit so important to Peter?
In what way does Peter use the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a test?