New Defender's Study Bible Notes
10:1 man in Caesarea. It had been in Caesarea that Pontius Pilate had his palace, and also in Caesarea that Philip the evangelist had settled down. Cornelius undoubtedly was aware of Pilate’s role in the execution of Jesus. Whether he had met Philip or heard him preach is unknown. In any case, he was a worshipper of the true God and was open to Peter’s message when he came.
10:1 Cornelius. Cornelius was Roman by nationality, but had apparently become a believer in the true God of creation, as revealed in nature and in the Scriptures. It is very doubtful, however, that he was a full proselyte to the Jews’ religion. Peter’s call to witness to Cornelius may be regarded as the official divine extension of the blessings of Israel to the Gentiles.
10:4 Thy prayers and thine alms. Even though Cornelius had not known about Christ, nor was he even a practitioner of the Jewish system of sacrifice and worship, he nevertheless was a “devout man, and one that feared God…which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:2), and God was pleased with this. While these actions were not capable of earning salvation, his sincere acceptance and practice of the limited spiritual light that he had received resulted in God sending more light to him. It may be that this is a model of how God may deal with those men and women of any time and nation who do accept and follow such light as they have.
10:14 Not so, Lord. Such a response to a command of the Lord is a self-contradiction. “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
10:15 What God hath cleansed. The cleansing work of Christ on the cross applied not only to the forgiveness of sins, but even to the distinction between clean and unclean animals (compare Leviticus 11, I Timothy 4:4-5). Most especially it removed the barrier between Jew and Gentile, as was made plain to Peter by this vision. Note particularly Ephesians 4:11-22.
10:24 Caesarea. Caesarea was a large and attractive city on the sea coast about sixty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem. It was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea, where Pontius Pilate had his palace. Its remains are a popular tourist attraction today. An inscription actually bearing a reference to Pilate was excavated in 1960.
10:34 no respecter of persons. This principle is frequently stressed in Scripture (e.g., II Chronicles 19:7; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25). Sometimes the reference is to personal wealth or position; here it refers to the relation between Jews and Gentiles. Before our Creator, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Colossians 3:11).
10:35 accepted with him. This is an extremely significant revelation. Before Christ, the Gentile nations were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). It was possible for a Gentile to become a proselyte to Judaism, but most Gentiles never even had any knowledge of this possibility. With the substitutionary death of Christ for the sins of all men, however, both Jews and Gentiles can be saved simply by grace through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, multitudes of people through the centuries since have lived and died without ever hearing the gospel, and the same is true today.
A perennial question has to do with the possibility of salvation for such people, and Peter’s testimony to Cornelius seems to suggest a possible answer. Almost three thousand years ago the prophet Hanani said that “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (II Chronicles 16:9). No one can ever be saved simply by working righteousness, for, as Solomon said: “There is no man that sinneth not” (I Kings 8:46). Nevertheless, God so loved the world that He sent His Son! He would “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4). Consequently, God honors those who come to fear the true God of creation and sincerely try to “work righteousness” in accord with the witness of God’s law in their own conscience (Romans 2:15) and any other true light they may have received (note John 1:9). Although this in itself was not sufficient to attain salvation, in either the case of Cornelius or that of others in similar situations, nevertheless God in grace sent Peter to Cornelius to give him full understanding of the saving work of Christ, and Cornelius responded with true faith. Although it is not possible to be dogmatic, it may be that God will respond in similar fashion to others who respond to the light that God has provided for all men in nature (John 1:9; Romans 1:20), as well as conscience.
10:37 baptism which John preached. John’s baptism, accompanied by his preaching of repentance and salvation through the coming Lamb of God (John 1:15-34), marked the beginning of “that word” (compare Acts 10:36-37) which came “preaching peace by Jesus Christ.” Note also Acts 1:22.
10:38 went about doing good. The modern world tends to ridicule “do-gooders,” but if Jesus is our example (I Peter 2:21), we also should go about doing good. “To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
10:46 magnify God. Just as had occurred with the Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost, the new Gentile believers were miraculously enabled by the Holy Spirit to “magnify God” in other languages than their own. Unlike the case at Samaria (see note on Acts 8:17), there were probably people in this Gentile crowd who knew various languages, especially Latin, Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew (Cornelius had invited his friends and relatives—Acts 10:24), so the sudden manifestation would be recognized by all as supernatural, and as a duplicate of that which had occurred in Jerusalem. This was clear confirmation of the truth revealed to Peter in his dream, namely, that there was no longer to be any distinction in the church between Jews and Gentiles. The same special outpouring had been given at the spiritual baptism of both “local churches,” and therefore the same water baptism followed in both cases. Another important principle may also have been illustrated here. Because of the faith and concern of one man who responded to the limited light he had, God sent a messenger not only to lead him to full saving knowledge of Christ, but also to lead many of his friends and relatives to the Lord as well.