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.”
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.”
sixth hour (v.9) — about noon — one of the Jewish hours of prayer
trance (v.10) = ecstasy — transported beyond the normal action of the senses
saw (v.11) = steady contemplation
all kinds (v.12) — no distinction between clean and unclean
rise (v.13) — Peter was probably on his knees in prayer.
Not so, Lord! (v.14) — typical of Peter who often spoke impulsively
common or unclean (v.14) — By “common” is meant “profane,” “unhallowed.” The law of Moses prescribed certain animals as “clean” or fit for food and prescribed others as “unclean” or unfit for food (Leviticus 9; 20:25-26; Deuteronomy 14:3-21), and the Jews were most scrupulous in their observance of the distinction. One of the chief reasons shy the regarded the Gentiles as “unclean” and refused to associate with them, was because the latter did not observe these food distinctions. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 233.
what God has cleansed (v.15) — referring to Gentiles
taken up into heaven (v.16) — ultimate proof that God had cleansed it
wondering (v.17) = utterly at a loss (“perplexed” in Acts 2:12)
gate (v.17) = vestibule — the passageway from the street to the inner courtyard of the house
thought (v.19) = (a compound word) pondered carefully
you (v.19) — emphatic — Peter was the specific person God had chosen.
Peter did not proclaim the mystery to these Gentiles. He did not even know about God’s unprophesied purpose and grace. We are explicitly told that he did not understand why God was now sending him to the Gentiles and that the best explanation he could give to his critics was: “What was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 10:20; 11:17).
Nevertheless, Peter’s commission here was a departure from the prophetic order (Acts 3:25-26) and from the order of the so-called “great commission” (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) and was one of the first steps in the unfolding of God’s plan to bless the nations in spite of Israel’s rejection of Christ.
[But] Cornelius’ conversion was part of the connecting link between Peter’s ministry and Paul’s. While fully recognizing that Peter did not preach the mystery to Cornelius and his household and did not eve know about it, we should nevertheless take careful note of the following:
- This incident took place after the conversion of Saul, which was the supreme demonstration of the longsuffering and grace of God, and the pattern fro those who should thereafter believe on Christ to life everlasting (1 Timothy 1:13-16).
- In the case of Cornelius we read for the first time that God had put “no difference” between Jew and Gentile (Acts 15:9).
- Peter did not go to Cornelius under the “great commission,” but in obedience to a special commission.
- God did not send Peter to Cornelius because Israel had now accepted Messiah and the apostles might now go on with their commission. He sent Peter because Israel had continued to reject Messiah and god was now to send salvation to the Gentiles in spite of them.
- This could not have been the next step in the carrying out of the “great commission,” for the apostles had not yet finished their work at Jerusalem (Read carefully Zechariah 8:13: Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8).
- There is no record in Scripture of any of the circumcision apostles ever going to the Gentiles again. Indeed, later they promised to confine their ministry to Israel and acknowledged Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2, 7, 9).
- The Lord’s declaration that He would send Saul “far hence unto the Gentiles” is followed by this special commission to Peter, in order to open the way for Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles. Since Peter himself had, under God, recognized the salvation of uncircumcised Gentiles, the Hebrew believers at Jerusalem could take no legitimate exception to Paul’s Gentile ministry.
- It was on the basis of Peter’s experience that Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles was later officially recognized (Acts 15:7-27; Galatians 2:1-9).
All this indicates that Peter’s ministry to Cornelius and his household was a distinct departure from the prophetic program and fits in naturally after Paul’s conversion and before his great ministry among the Gentiles was called in question. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, pages 79-81.