Grace and Race

Notes for April 29, 2018
Acts 10:1-8; 25-43

Biblical Background

  • Caesarea: Renamed after Caesar, by Herod the Great, Caesarea was located 30 miles north of Joppa on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. It was the headquarters of the Roman governor.

  • Centurion/Cohort: This Roman officer would command a “century” a unit of around 80 men. A Roman legion was made up of around 6,000 men which included 60 centuries plus cavalry and support units. A legion was comprised of 10 cohorts or regiments with 6 centuries per cohort. The Roman centurion was carefully selected and was viewed as the glue that held the military together. They were strong, stable, leaders who both earned and demanded the respect of their men.

  • Military service: Roman citizens who entered military service committed to 20 years (age 17-37). Only about 50% of them survived their 20 years. However, survivors of military service were honored veterans in Roman culture.

  • Italian Cohort: This military unit originally hailed from Southern Italy.

  • God-fearers: These were non-Jews (Gentiles) who believed in one God and often attended the synagogue. They were moral and followed the ethical teachings of the Jews.

  • Cornelius’ vision: This occurred at 3 pm, the time of traditional afternoon prayers and the hour of the evening incense in the temple.

  • Joppa: This city is 38 miles west of Jerusalem and was the main seaport for the region of Judea. Today is it near modern “Tel Aviv.”

  • Tanner: This would be a person who tanned animal hides. It was a smelly business so it would be good to be located near the sea where the sea breezes could freshen up the air.

  • Man in shining in bright clothing: This would be a reference to an angel (for comparison see Mt. 28:3; Mark 16:5; John 20:12).

  • Cornelius’ household: Since Roman soldiers were forbidden to marry it is most likely that Cornelius’ household would be made up of his servants. Although some soldiers did have concubines (unmarried partners), but it would be difficult to maintain any kind of long-term relationship as the soldiers moved about.

  • Peter enters a Gentile home: This would have been shocking or even unthinkable for some, but now that Peter has heard from God through the vision that all people are free to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he breaks through this barrier and associates with a Roman centurion and the Gentiles in his home.

  • God shows no partiality: This is consistent even in the Hebrew Old Testament as God accepted all who sought after him, whether Jew or Gentile. Examples of this are Ruth the Moabite, Rahab from Jericho, and others.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe Cornelius based on the text?

  2. Why would it be unusual for him to be a God-fearer?

  3. What kind of encounter did he have with God?

  4. What was Cornelius’ response to his encounter with the angel?

  5. Who made up Cornelius’ household?

  6. Why did Peter decide to accept the invitation of Cornelius’ servants to walk 30 miles north from Joppa to Cornelius’ home in Caesarea?

  7. How do you think Cornelius felt when the Jewish Peter entered his home?

  8. How did Peter feel when he entered the Gentile Cornelius’ home?

  9. What are the implications of verse 28 for Peter? For Cornelius? For Jewish followers of Jesus? For us today?

  10. Why is this story so important for the early church?

  11. Why is it so important for us today?

  12. Who are the “unclean” people in your life that you have not associated with either intentionally or unintentionally?

  13. How can our church be welcoming to people of all nations, races, groups of people, yet remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ?

  14. What is the main point of Peter’s sermon?

  15. How does Peter’s sermon impact our life today in the church?