34Opening his mouth, Peter said:
"I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality,
35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.
36 "The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)--
37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.
38 "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
39 "We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.
40 " God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible,
41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.
42 "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.
43 "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." NASU
Through four scenes (Acts 10:1-10:33), the stage has been set for Peter to address Cornelius, his relatives, and his friends. The audience was prepared and ready for him to deliver a message. In scene five (Acts 10:34-43) Peter delivers his speech.
Peter begins with the proposition that "God is not one to show partiality." Jesus Christ died for all men, and the offer of salvation is universal. As Haenchen (p. 351) points out, there are to be no racial barriers to Christian salvation. All men are equal at the foot of the cross.
Then Peters says (v. 35): "but in every nation (ethne) the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome (dektos) to Him." The word ethne can mean nation or ethnic group. The Greek word dektos (Arndt and Gingrich, p. 172) may mean "acceptable" or "welcome." Although Peter was addressing a specific group, his comments apply to all men everywhere. All who fear God and do what is right are acceptable or welcome.
With regard to Cornelius and his household, they were pious and devoted to God. Cornelius was a generous man who prayed continually. As Peter says in verses 37-38, they had heard about Jesus and knew the main historical facts of His life and ministry.
According to some scholars (Sanders, p. 223), Cornelius was a "saved" believer before Peter arrived, but he became a Christian after receiving Christ. Perhaps we could say that he and his relatives and friends were in a position somewhat analogous to Old Testament saints. If so, we could say that they were "saved" in anticipation of the cross.
Whatever their precise standing before God, Cornelius himself knew there would be another step to receiving salvation when Peter came. Peter makes this clear (Acts 11:13-14) with these comments:
13 "And he [Cornelius] reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here;
14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'" NASU
Many Bible scholars, says Horton (p. 127), believe that Cornelius was told that he would have to become a Jew first. This was not the case, but as the next verses (verses 39-43) indicate, they must definitely believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The main point of Peter's message is that those who fear God and do right are welcome to salvation through Christ. Those who fear God are those who have faith in God. As a result of their faith, they do what they know to be right. When confronted with God's offer of salvation, doing what is right includes having faith in Christ.
Peter does not overlook Israel's special role in salvation. Peter says (verse 36) "The word [logon] which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)--" The "word" or "message" was sent to Israel. Receiving the message was their privilege (compare Romans 3:2), but they were not to contain salvation for themselves. Jesus Christ is "Lord of all." This is the basis for His impartiality. He is Lord of the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
The gospel message is that there is saving peace or salvation through Jesus Christ. This message came through the apostles and other witnesses. The Word was preached to the Jews first, but Peter has accepted the impartiality of God. As a result he desires to attest to the validity of the message. Soon, God will demonstrate His impartiality!
Now, as Robertson (p. 144) states, "Peter reminds his Gentile audience that the main facts concerning Jesus and the gospel were known to them." He says (verse 37), "you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed." NASU
The phrase "thing (rhema) which took place" is translated by the Revised Standard Version as the "word which was published." The Greek word rhema can mean (Arndt and Gingrich, pp. 742-743) "thing" or "word." The Greek text does not include "took place" or "published." These words are supplied by the translators. Either way, the main historical facts of the life of Jesus were known to Peter's audience.
In verse 38 Luke expands on what his audience knew. They knew about the anointing and ministry of Jesus. Peter states: "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
Jesus was "anointed" with the Holy Spirit. Several points about this anointing stand out. First, the Spirit's anointing or presence indicates God's approval. Compare Luke 3:22; Acts 10:47; 11:17; and 15:8-9. Peter was building his case that God was with Jesus!
Second, through the anointing, Jesus was empowered to act. Jesus "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil." The terms "Holy Spirit" and "power" are not exactly synonymous. The Holy Spirit is a Person who has the attribute of power. That power was manifested by Jesus in His ministry.
Third, the Greek word echrisen (anointed) is an aorist active verb. When did this anointing take place? The aorist tense might refer to a single past event, but not necessarily so. Robertson (p. 145) comments as follows:
The precise event referred to by Peter could be the Incarnation (Luke 1:35f.), the Baptism (Luke 3:22), the Ministry at Nazareth (Luke 4:14). Why not to the life and work of Jesus as a whole?
As Robertson's question suggests, the aorist tense does not limit the anointing to a singular event. It allows for an anointed lifetime with significant moments of "anointing" along the way. My answer to his question is that the "life and work of Jesus as a whole" is the best solution.
Peter and many others were witnesses to the saving events in the life of Jesus. At this point, Peter states (verses 39-41) the heart of the gospel. The Jews had put Jesus to death by hanging Him on a cross, but God raised Him up on the third day. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are the central truths of the gospel.
Moreover, God granted that Jesus became visible to chosen witnesses who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. Peter was among those who were chosen witnesses. Not all people had this great privilege. The witness of these chosen people was a powerful support to the validity of the gospel.
The apostles were ordered by Jesus to preach to the people. Who were the people? In Acts 1:8 Jesus said the disciples would be witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the earth. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter cited Joel's prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh. Nevertheless, the early preaching was to Jewish people. As Fernando (p. 334) states: "it took a special revelation before the full implications of these truths would be understood and practiced." Now, the "people" would be understood to mean everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.
The apostles were ordered (verse 42) to preach about God as judge. They were to solemnly "testify that this [Jesus] is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead." Horton (p. 134) declares, "By this Peter did not mean the spiritually living and the spiritually dead. Rather, Jesus is and will be Judge of all who have ever or will ever live on earth." This One whom the Jews have killed will ultimately judge all men.
Peter has built up Christ by appealing to common knowledge about him, by telling what he and the apostles had seen, and by declaring how they had been commanded to preach. Now, while making the crucial point about faith and forgiveness, he appeals to the Scriptures. He proclaims that (v. 43) "Of Him [Christ] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." Years before, Peter had proclaimed (Acts 4:12): "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." N ASU
At Caesarea all barriers come down. Up until this event, the message of faith and forgiveness had been preached to the Jews (compare Acts 5:31). Now, the message is understood to be for "everyone who believes." There is no possibility of limitation. All men are saved in the same way--through faith in Jesus Christ. All men are saved (Acts 15:11) through the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Some think that Peter was finished, despite the fact that verse 44 says the Holy Spirit fell upon his audience "while Peter was still speaking." Our view is that the Holy Spirit broke into the meeting in a supernatural way.
We do not know what Peter might have said next. We do know that on the Day of Pentecost, Peter concluded (Acts 2:38) with this exhortation: "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
At the home of Cornelius repentance (Acts 11.18), baptism (Acts 10.48), and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10.44) all became a part of the audience's experience. The sequence, however, was different than Acts 2.38 suggests. We will examine these elements of their experience as we study the next scene.
George M. Flattery
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