#ChurchOnMission Series
  • At His ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach his gospel. That same mission continues today, unbroken and unhindered for almost 2,000 years since. The book of Acts is an encouragement for the church today as Christians contend for the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. How did the disciples begin executing the biggest mission in the history of the world? The Bible says that while waiting for the Holy Spirit, they devoted themselves to prayer—they talked to God. The apostles led by following Scripture—through it, God responded. Consequently, the early church experienced success—but not without undergoing failure first. What can we learn from what they did? Join us Sunday ACTS #churchonmission.
9. The Maximizing of the Mission  - Cornelius Acts 10
  • God desires to reach all kinds of people for salvation. Christ followers should examine personal prejudices and determine to share Christ with people who are not like them.
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Describe Cornelius? Where was Cornelius spiritually? What about Cornelius’s family/household? 
    • What did Cornelius do for his family/household in anticipation of Peter’s coming? 
    • Although he was not a follower of Jesus before Peter came to his home, how did Cornelius in effect share his faith in God with others, even as he prepared for Peter to come? 
    • What was Peter's attitude towards unclean foods before he saw the vision while praying on the roof, or for that matter, even as he first saw the sheet come down full of animals and was told to kill and eat? 
    • What was God teaching both Peter and Cornelius about Himself and about the gospel? Why do you think God gave special instructions to both Cornelius and Peter regarding what was to happen in the story? 
    • When Peter got to Caesarea, what did he understand about God's heart and purpose with respect to the gospel message? 
    • Was the gospel message any different to Cornelius that it was to a Jew? Was the necessary response to the message for salvation any different for Cornelius than in would be for a Jew?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • What is the message of this story to us and to you personally? 
    • Do you have any prejudices that would make you not want to share the gospel to people who are not like you? 
    • Does our church have any such prejudices in sharing the gospel message? 
    • Ask God to search your heart, and our heart as a church, to show any such prejudices, and impediments in our thinking about those to whom we might not want to share the gospel. 
    • As He reveals any such prejudices, confess them and ask for His forgiveness. Then ask for a heart of love for all who do not know Jesus, and for a willingness to share the gospel with them.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
The story of the conversion of Cornelius and his family is found in Acts 10. The story is subsequently told in summary fashion by Peter to the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), and referenced again by Peter at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:7-9). This story makes a significant point in the spread of the gospel, showing that the gospel is for all who believe, no matter their background, circumstances, pedigree, culture, or any other differentiating factor. (See Acts 10:34, 43; 11:17 & 18) Cornelius (a common Roman name) was a Roman soldier.

He was what we would call in our day, a “non-commissioned officer,” and held the rank of centurion. A centurion was leader 60-100 men within a regiment, or cohort, which in turn had approximately 600 men. Ten cohorts made up a legion. Centurions typically came up within the ranks to their position on the basis of proven character, leadership ability, and bravery. They were paid as much as 15 times the salary of a rank and file legionnaire, and could retire after 20 years of service, though as many as half of all centurions never made it to retirement due to high casualty rates.

Cornelius was member of a particular cohort, the “Italian” cohort, and therefore was a Roman citizen. His cohort was stationed at Caesarea, which was the residence of the Roman governor of Judea and a significant port city. It was some 30 miles north of Joppa along the Palestine coast. The text finds Cornelius living in Caesarea with his family and serving in his capacity as a centurion (though some scholars argue that he was retired at this point). He is described as a “God fearer” which was a non-Jew who believed in God and followed the teachings of Judaism, but who was not circumcised. Cornelius’s household consisted of at least 2 servants, a devout soldier and others who attended him (Acts 10:7), and members of his family, though it is not clear if these were siblings, a spouse, children, or other relatives and “countrymen,” or some combination or all of the foregoing. At the very least, Cornelius led his family and household in a Godly way.

The backdrop to the story is the historical tension between Jews and Gentiles. Pious Jews did not even associate with Gentiles, or eat with, much less enter the home of a Gentile. Jews did not eat unclean foods in general because of their dietary restrictions (see Leviticus 11) having to do with clean and unclean foods. Certainly, they would not eat the unclean food of a Gentile even if clean for fear it was food that had been offered to an idol. Jews felt that a God fearing Gentile must be circumcised and become a Jew in that sense to be a full convert to Judaism. Peter, a Jew, would have been raised in the context of such teachings and traditions. Thus, his part in the story of Cornelius's conversion is quite significant.

As the events of the story unfold, it is clear that God is the One directing the events. One day while praying, Cornelius had a vision of an angel of God who told him that his prayers and alms-giving were an offering acceptable to God, and that he was to send men to Joppa to bring Simon Peter to his house, and further told him where Peter was staying. The next day, as the contingent from Cornelius was traveling to Joppa, Peter was praying and had a vision from God that revealed to him that all food was clean, and was further told by the Spirit that men had come looking for him and he should go with them. At that moment, the men arrived (Acts 10:19 & 20), and told Peter about Cornelius and his vision. The next day, they all left for Caesarea, with Peter bringing 6 brothers with them.

Upon arriving in Caesarea, they were welcomed by Cornelius who had called together his relatives and close friends to hear what Peter had to say. Peter then understood what it was that God was showing him, namely that the gospel was not only for the Jews, it was for the Gentiles – indeed, it was for all who believe in Jesus, without distinction (Acts 10:28, 34 & 25). So Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius and those gathered, and even as he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon his hearers who began speaking in tongues, praising God. Those who had come with Peter were “astonished” (Acts 10:45), and Peter forthwith order them to be baptized. Cornelius and his family had come to faith in Jesus, and God dealt received them in response to their faith in exactly the same way He had received the Jews who had come to faith.