The Cornelius Event and Its Aftermath
I. Supernatural Preparation A (Cornelius’ encounter with an angel) and Cornelius’ Faith 10:1-8
—An angel of God revealed to Cornelius that he was not saved in spite of his being a devout, God-fearing, family centered, charitable, given-to-prayer, and just man with a nationwide good reputation. He would only be saved by hearing specific words from a specific person, Peter.
Cornelius obeyed immediately, showing his genuine faith even though he was not yet saved. He thus exemplified the teaching of Hebrews 11:6.
II. Supernatural Preparation B (Peter’s vision of the sheet) 10:9-16
—Through a remarkable vision that was repeated three times, God showed Peter that he should not call any man unclean.
III. Supernatural Preparation C (The Spirit speaks directly to Peter) and Peter’s faith 10:17-24a
—The Holy Spirit spoke directly to Peter to command him to go with the men whom the Spirit had sent to him. The Spirit thus was preparing supernaturally both the sinners who would be evangelized and the evangelist who would evangelize them.
Although he did not yet fully understand what the Spirit was intending to do through him (cf. Acts 10:29, 34), Peter obeyed. He showed his faith by doing so.
III. Cornelius Further Demonstrates His Faith 10:24b-29
—Believing what the angel said about his household being saved, Cornelius gathered his relatives. He also gathered his close friends, showing his faith that they would also be saved through hearing Peter’s message.
IV. Cornelius Provides Peter with a Striking Prompt for His Message That Further Showed His Faith 10:30-33
—Cornelius told Peter that they were all gathered together before God to hear all that God had commanded him to speak to them. Saying this, Cornelius showed his faith that it would be the totality of Peter’s God-given message that would save him and not just meeting Peter himself.
V. Peter’s Message 10:34-43
—Peter’s message includes two remarkable statements that correlate directly with teaching that we have studied from multiple passages. He testified that Jesus was the Spirit-anointed One who delivered everyone who was oppressed of the devil. Saying this, he in effect testified to Jesus’ being the Seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15.
Moreover, Peter declared that Jesus had commanded the apostles to testify that He was the One appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. He thus testified to the same essential truth that we have seen repeatedly in our examination of several passages in previous lessons.
His doing so at the climax of his message signals the importance of this truth in the message that brought salvation to all his hearers. He also communicated that the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His disciples included this truth that is not found explicitly anywhere else in the passages that are traditionally considered to be the Commission passages.
VI. The Spirit Ends Peter’s Message 10:44
—The Spirit decided when Cornelius and those with him had heard all that they needed to hear to be saved. His doing so further highlights His role in this evangelistic encounter.
VII. Responses of Believers 10:45-11:19
1. Responses of believers present in Caesarea 10:45-48
—The circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Spirit was also poured out on the Gentiles. Peter argued on that basis that no one should withhold the water for these to be baptized. He then commanded them to be baptized. This account clearly refutes the teaching of baptismal regeneration because all these people were saved prior to their being baptized.
2. Widespread dissemination of news about the Cornelius event 11:1
—The believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles had received the Word of God, showing that this event was unique in that sense.
3. Opposition in Jerusalem from circumcised believers 11:2-3
—Circumcised believers in Jerusalem confronted Peter about going and eating with Gentiles.
4. Peter’s defends himself by rehearsing what that took place 11:4-17
—Peter defended himself by rehearsing how God had supernaturally directed every facet of what took place and argued therefore that he was not anyone who could therefore stand in God’s way.
5. Positive response from circumcised believers who had been critical of Peter 11:18
—The circumcised believers were satisfied with Peter’s defense and glorified God in response to what He had done to grant the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.
VIII. Importance of the Cornelius event in the Proceedings of the Jerusalem Council 15:1-29
1. Jewish false teaching in Antioch about Gentile salvation 15:1
2. Intense conflict results among believers and leads to the church of Antioch’s decision to send representatives to Jerusalem to address the issue 15:2
3. Report of intervening activities on their trip to Jerusalem 15:3
4. Reception in Jerusalem by three groups of believers 15:4
5. Jewish false teaching in Jerusalem about Gentile salvation 15:5
6. Leadership meets to respond to the false teaching 15:6
7. Much debate and then Peter’s address to the Council 15:7-11
8. Barnabas and Paul’s address to the Council 15:12
9. James’ decisive remarks to the Council 15:13-21
10. Leadership chooses representatives to send to Antioch with a letter relating the conciliary decision 15:22
11. The Council’s letter 15:23-29
IX. Trip to Antioch and delivery of the letter to the church at Antioch 15:30
X. Joyful response of the church at Antioch to the reading of the letter 15:31
XI. Judas and Silas speak at length to encourage and strengthen the people 15:32
XII. Representatives from Jerusalem sent back in peace to those who had sent them out 15:33
Please note: rather than reiterating in detail what I taught about these points in Sunday school, I refer you to my post that brings out many of the key ideas that I developed from this passage: Putting Peter in His Place: Learning Evangelistic Theology and Practice from the Jerusalem Council. In fact, this post treats key ramifications of this passage that I did not have time to develop in Sunday school.
See the other lessons in this Sunday school series here
For more on the glorious account of Cornelius’ salvation, see The Salvation of a Good Man