Things are starting to be shaken up now. We are no longer doing things the way they have always been done before. Remember in past blogs I had mentioned that the Jews were the chosen ones and the gentiles had not been tapped to receive salvation as of yet. This all changes in this chapter. We have Peter, who is considered the primary apostle, who is in Joppa sitting on a roof digesting his lunch. Peter is a key character in Acts and has throughout history been considered the one through whom Christ has established his church. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18 where some see this as a confirmation of Peter’s primacy. There is no denying that Peter played a central role in the development and in the decision making of the early church. Here is a picture of Peter as represented in art history by Reubens:
You’ll notice that he is holding literal keys because of Jesus’ words in Matthew. You can always pick out Peter in art history because he is the one in all works of art holding the keys. This is the Peter that is mentioned here in Acts 10. It is in this scene that the gates of heaven are opened to the gentiles.
I call this scene in Acts “Pigs in a blanket”. As Peter is digesting he sees a vision. The consequence of this vision is that we get the green light to eat all that which God has made. No longer do we have to follow the Levitical laws which differentiate between clean and unclean animals. We also get the green light to know that God has chosen all of humanity to have a relationship with him. Peter states in vs. 28: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” I wonder if that applies also to those who might have leprosy or other diseases which would keep them out of the temple. It is at this point that the Gospel becomes accessible to all who would believe in Jesus Christ. Later on we will see the debate that arises over once they are accepted into the fold then how much do they have to become Jewish in order to be fully accepted. Do they need to be circumcised? Do they need to follow the Jewish laws? All of these questions are answered at the Jerusalem council in chapter 15 of Acts. We are almost there.
The scene continues in vs. 44 with the Holy Spirit falling upon these gentiles and they speak in tongues as the Spirit gives them power. Cornelius is welcomed into the fold not only in baptism but with the Holy Spirit. Those with Peter were amazed at this very visible exhibition of the power of God that would fall upon the gentiles. I guess I need to go back from the beginning and say that Cornelius is a centurion which is a Roman soldier, and not just any Roman soldier, but he was of the Italian Cohort which would have been the Navy Seals of the day. They were the best trained and the most loyal troops to the Emperor. This is so significant because it is becoming more and more obvious that the Gospel message is reaching out to all people from every demographic group. This will be even more the case as time progresses. He would have been a member of the Way with substantial influence once he came into the fold.