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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

Acts 10

 

 

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Verses 1-48

SANCTIFICATION OF CORNELIUS

1-48. Cornelius was a noted Roman officer living at Caesarea, the seat of the imperial government in Judea. The Holy Ghost pronounces him Eusebees, i. e., godly, and certifies that he “feared God with all his house, doing much alms to the people, and praying to God always.” The application of these inspired adjectives to a sinner is an irreconcilable contradiction. Of course, he was a Gentile Roman, having never been proselyted to Judaism; but he was not simply a pious heathen, like multiplied thousands who are now in heaven, but he knew and worshipped the God of Israel, having lived many years in that country. Meanwhile, since the revival at Pentecost, eight or ten years, the whole country had been overrun by blood-washed and fire-baptized Pentecostal evangelists, preaching from house to house, on every hill-top and under every green tree, till he had actually become familiar with the gospel of Christ. As Peter certifies (v.37), “This word you have known, and know yet better than ever, which was throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:


Verse 4

4. Cornelius is even honored with the visit of an angel from heaven, notifying him that his prayers are heard and his alms recognized. Sinners are visited by angels, but they come from the bottomless pit.


Verse 5-6

5, 6. When I was in Joppa, I visited the house of Simon the tanner by the seaside, ascended to the roof, and there prayed where Peter was praying when he saw the vision and heard the voice of the Spirit commanding him to go with the messengers who had already arrived from Cornelius. “Do you think it is the same house?” I have no reason to doubt. All the houses in Palestine are stone, consolidated by that wonderful calcareous cement, so they never decay. This house is all solid stone walls, floors, stairway and roof, so consolidated that it looks like a monolith throughout, not so much as a seam anywhere visible. The roof is simply a great solid, flat rock, looking as old as the native mountain strata.


Verse 7

7. Such was the exemplary and practical piety of Cornelius that God honored his prayers, testimony and preaching, not only in his home, but among the soldiers of his command.


Verse 9-10

9, 10. The distance from Caesarea to Joppa is about sixty miles, two light days for the pedestrians. Hence, starting in the morning, they arrive before night the afternoon of the following day. Ekstasis, translated in E. V. “trance,” is “ecstasy,” a pure Greek word which means ineffable joy, involving the simple fact that Peter, while praying alone on the house-top, the most retired and private place in a Jewish city, also reminiscent of heaven by reason of altitude, is literally flooded with a Niagara from the upper ocean, inundating his entire being so he sinks away into God, losing sight of self and environments.


Verse 11

PETER’S VISION

11. “And he saw heaven open and a certain vessel, like a great sheet, sitting down on the ground with four rope’s ends,


Verse 12

12. “In which were all quadrupeds, creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air.” This vision forever sweeps away all the restrictions of the Levitical law and the rigid fortifications of exclusive Judaism in the Mosaic economy, unfurling the gospel banner to the whole Gentile world, bidding them a hearty welcome to the redeeming cross, the cleansing fountain, and the glorious triumph of Pentecostal sanctification, perfect spiritual freedom, and illimitable gospel rights and privileges. The vision has nothing to do with the problem of edibles and potables. The signification is purely spiritual and evangelical, forever smashing the impregnable walls which had separated the Jews and Gentiles from the days of Abraham, thus completing the final elimination of the last vestige of the Mosaic dispensation, now and forever superseded by Christ, the glorious Antitype, in whom all the types and symbols converge and find their triumphant verification. Doubtless the sheet was circular, representing the world, and held up by four ropes, whose ends alone were seen, the one extending from the North, the other from the South, another from the East and a fourth from the West, thus representing the four cardinal points which constitute the world, and focalizing all nations at the gospel feast. Why was the manifestation repeated thrice? At the dispersion of Noah’s family from Mt. Ararat after the Flood, he divided his estate, the whole world. [Europe, Asia, and Africa; America, hidden behind the oceans, reserved for the enlargement of Europe in the latter days, and included with it.] In this distribution he gave Ham, Africa; Shem, Asia; and Japheth, Europe. In Hebrew, Ham means black, hence he became the ancestor of the black races. Shem means red, therefore he became the ancestor of the Mongolian races of Asia, from whom the American Indians also came, doubtless having crossed Behring Strait from Asia into America at an early day. Japheth means white, hence he became the ancestor of all the white races of Europe, who, in the last four hundred years, have spread out over the continent of America, pursuant to God’s promise to Noah:

“God shall enlarge Japheth and shall dwell in the tents of Shem;

and Canaan [Ham] shall be his servant.” (Genesis 9:27)

This prophecy is now literally fulfilled in America, where the white man, Japheth, dwells in the tents of Shem [the Indians], and Ham [the colored people] is his servant. Hence you see the persistency of the triple gospel proclamation symbolized by the three repetitions of Jehovah’s call in this vision, forcefully indicative of the world’s triple evangelism as we carry the gospel to the children of the dark continent, to the Mongolian millions of Asia, and to all the white races of Europe and America.


Verses 17-23

17-23. Meanwhile Peter, wrapped in heavenly bewilderment, is contemplating the astounding vision and electrified by Jehovah’s voice. Cornelius’s messengers having arrived, and hunted around through the city for the house of Simon the tanner, and standing before the gate, are now interrogating some member of the family whom they had called out, “Is Simon, called Peter, lodging here?” When Peter hears the voice calling his own name, the Spirit immediately speaks to him, ordering him to go down without delay and depart with them, responsive to the call of Cornelius, assuring him that they are sent of God.


Verse 24

24. As this is a new departure in the divine economy, Peter very prudently takes with him six holy brethren from Joppa to serve as witnesses of the important transactions pending. Meanwhile Cornelius, knowing the time necessary for pedestrians to make the round trip, has assembled his holiness band in mid afternoon of the fourth day, all holding on to God in prayer, that he may bring on the noted apostolic senior in the fullness of Christ.


Verse 25

25. “And it came to pass when Peter was coming in, Cornelius meeting him, falling at his feet, worshipped.” E. V. erroneously says “worshipped him.” Cornelius was no idolater. He did not worship Peter, but God. When I arrive at my preaching place responsive to a brother’s call, I am always glad on meeting him to drop on my knees and unite with him at a throne of grace, thus invoking God to sanctify introduction and bless the work.


Verse 26

26. Cornelius, of course, paid to Peter the Oriental civility due a person of distinction, which here Peter modestly declines, having profited by the vision, which revealed to him for the first time in his life that a Jew is no better than a Gentile.


Verses 27-38

27-38. Peter now enters, and Cornelius introduces him to his holiness band, who are so delighted with a visit by the senior apostle. He now proceeds to give them the benefit of the heavenly sunburst he had received at Joppa, shining away all the clouds which, in Jewish vision, had hung over the Gentile world from the days of Abraham, assuring them of their glorious privileges and equal rights in the wonderful plan of salvation, and throwing wide open the golden gate of gospel grace, and ringing aloud the heavenly proclamation to the Gentile world represented in his congregation.

39-43 . In his burning pathos, sweeping vehemence and transcendent eloquence, the Spirit flooding his mind with supernatural illuminations, he arrays before his Gentile audience all the prophets in bold panorama, proclaiming to Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately the remission of sins on the simple condition of faith in Christ, all carnal ordinances, ecclesiastical dogmata, rites and ceremonies, legal obedience and symbolisms forever eliminated, thus enforcing with iron logic and electrical enthusiasm the creed of Christendom for Jews and Gentiles, i. e., Jews only.


Verse 38

38. “Jesus who is from Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost and power, who went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.” You see from these Scriptures that Cornelius was by no means a novice in the gospel, but had enjoyed the ample Opportunities of that wonderful Pentecostal age, I trow having frequently heard Peter and the other apostles. His justification is abundantly confirmed in Acts 10:34-35 : “ . . .Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” It is only Satan’s counterfeit religion that tells a man he can work righteousness, before he gets it from God in his heart. A man must have a farm in order to work it. Put a farmer on a naked rock in mid ocean, and he will never work a farm. John says: “He that worketh righteousness has been born of God.” Hence we see Cornelius was accepted of God and had been born of God. He was a very enthusiastic leader of a holiness band, not in the experience of sanctification, but gloriously justified and earnestly seeking it. Peter was not sent to get him converted, for he was not only a devout servant of the Lord, but a Gentile disciple of Christ, vigorously pressing on to entire sanctification. Peter’s mission was to preach the gospel of holiness, get him and all of his people sanctified, and admit them into the gospel church, conferring on them all rights and privileges of bona fide membership. Eliminating the cumbrous routine and superfluous ceremonies of Gentile proselytism, an institution recognized and honored fifteen hundred years ago, the Christian Church began all Jews, soon receiving an influx from the Gentile world, destined to increase simultaneously with the depletion of the Jewish element, thus working out a radical revolution and becoming a Gentile organization in a century. As Peter had preached the inauguratory sermon of the gospel dispensation to the Jews, it was equally pertinent that he should do the same to the Gentiles. Hence his revival at Caesarea was the Gentile Pentecost, lifting the flood-gate of entire sanctification and bona fide membership in the gospel church to the Gentile world.


Verses 44-47

44-47. In the midst of Peter’s flaming Pentecostal sermon, his appreciative audience, responsive to the Holy Ghost, received by faith the simple, wonderful and paradoxical truth enunciated by the preacher and proved by all the prophets. Therefore the glorified Savior, who honored the faith of the hundred and twenty at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, now graciously verifies the sanctifying faith of this appreciative audience, pouring on them the gift of the Holy Ghost from heaven, as on the Jews at Jerusalem, thus abundantly confirming Peter’s vision and revealing to the whole world his approval of the Gentile sanctification and admission to full gospel rights and privileges.


Verse 48

48. Peter, of course, proceeds to recognize this Gentile church by administering to them the ordinance of baptism, assuring all present that every quibble is put to quietus since they have received the Holy Ghost. Hence we see that the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost, i. e., the Holy Ghost Himself, whom Jesus gives when He sanctifies us, is the climax of aspiration and the end of all inquiry. When you receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost no one can question your right to water-baptism, eucharist and every other privilege of the gospel church. You are then eligible to any and every office in the church, pursuant to the administration of the Holy Ghost.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 10:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/acts-10.html.

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