Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Acts 10:9-33 (NLT) - Peter Visits Cornelius
9 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
17 Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, 18 they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.
19 Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”
21 So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”
22 They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” 23 So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.
24 They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” 27 So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.
28 Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. 29 So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”
30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. 31 He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”
Jacob DeShazer flew on an American bomber to drop bombs over Japan. But his plane and crew did not make it out of Japan. Captured and imprisoned, he developed a deep hatred toward the Japanese. Then one day he was given some time with the Bible. God captured his heart. But what effect would that have on his relationship with his enemies, captors and torturers?
For Peter going to Cornelius and his family meant going to a Roman soldier representing the power of the Empire. Already, Jews did not associate with Gentiles, or non-Jews, because they were not God’s chosen people of Israel. Additionally, because they did not follow Jewish ceremonial laws of cleanliness, as given by Moses, Gentiles were considered to be unclean, just like the unclean animals that God prohibited the Israelites to eat. Peter, a faithful Jew, held fast to his convictions as a Jew and to his distaste for the Romans. But through the vision of the picnic blanket of animals, God pushes Peter to face his convictions. Were they of God, or were they a set of rules that man had misapplied? Were they borne out of personal history or enmity?
As Peter contemplates the meaning of the vision, God allows those representatives of all that the Jews considered unclean to arrive. God tells Peter to go and to go “without hesitation” (v. 20), for He had sent them. The visitors encouraged Peter by citing Cornelius’ relationship to the Jews and their God. So Peter lays aside his previous convictions and goes with them to Caesarea. His words in verses 28 and 29 show that he got the message: lay aside his old feelings about things and find out what God is really doing.
But letting go of our rules and rituals can be unnerving. God provides just enough for us to let go of any wrong teachings or practices and to focus on faith in Him. He neither tells Cornelius nor Peter about what the end of the story will be; they are simply to trust Him without hesitation. There are many hesitations we have about following God—some of them personal convictions or emotional reactions to things. Maybe you limit your understanding of God’s vision to one ethnic group or your own peer or church group, when God is calling you to share with the one who is outside your clique. Perhaps you thought you were following God but instead it was simply your own feelings.
God leads us to show us His glory. Jacob DeShazer returned to Japan to share the Gospel. God showed him a vision without false limits, a vision found in his faith in God and guided by God’s grace.
What is your comfort zone? Is it biblical and God-honoring? God calls us out of our comfort zones to rely on Him instead of man-made limits. Let God guide you out of what is comfortable to be free to love others.
by David D. Lee
*This devotional first appeared in Encounter Monthly Journal, July 2006