Series 46


STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 8 -11)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 10:1-48

Acts 10 is full of detail, of movement and of spiritual lessons that the chapter needs to be read several times to gain the full significance of its teaching. It records the conversion of a devout but unsaved soldier; the ‘conversion’ of Peter from inborn religious prejudice to an understanding of the fact that in God’s sight all men are equal; the chapter concludes with the account of the salvation of Cornelius and his household. It has been suggested that in order to produce the amazing results recorded at the end of Acts 10, God had a problem thirty miles long: that is, if you can measure a problem geographically. You see, Cornelius was in Caesarea and Peter was in Joppa, thirty miles away – not only thirty miles’ walking distance but a distance of deep-down prejudices which had to be broken and dealt with. However, God can overcome problems, since we find that the chapter works up to a grand climax. Let’s see what led to so many being so suddenly and gloriously saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. What should we do to secure such results in our work for God and from our preaching?


1. The Audience must be gathered

In verses 24 and 27 we are told that in obedience to the Lord’s direction, Cornelius and his family and friends were met together to await the arrival of Peter. Here, then, was a ready-made congregation, and all Peter had to do was to preach the gospel. If we would see New Testament results from the proclamation of the Word we must go to where the people are. We can certainly witness to them individually, but we must also gather them together so that they may “listen to everything the Lord has commanded” them of God (verse 33).


2. The Gospel must be preached

When Cornelius told Peter that all the people had met together and were waiting to hear what God had to say to them, he at once began to preach the gospel, and the outline of his sermon is in verses 34-43. Notice that in verse 44 it was while Peter spoke “these words” that God poured out His blessing on all who listened. What were “these words”? – what is the gospel that we must proclaim? It is clearly stated in verses 34-43:

  1. 1. God loves everybody (verse 34); see Isaiah 45:22; Luke 2:8-10; John 3:16; Acts 10:28; Romans 10:11-13.
  2. 2. God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour (verse 38); see Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; John 10:9; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 4:8-10.
  3. 3. The Lord Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins (verse 39); see Isaiah 53:5-6; John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24.
  4. 4. He rose again (verse 40); see Luke 24:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-20.
  5. 5. Salvation is by faith alone; it is by believing (verse 43); see Acts 16:30-31; Romans 1:16; Romans 3:26; Romans 4:5; 2 Timothy 1:12.

This is the gospel, the good news, and if men and women are to be brought to a saving knowledge of Christ, this is the message they must hear.


3. The Holy Spirit must be honoured

Look at verse 44! While Peter (on earth) was preaching the gospel, the Lord (in heaven) was doing His gracious work – look up Mark 16:19-20. There are no true conversions unless the Holy Spirit produces them, and He only does this when we preach “these words”, the gospel. If we are to see results we must secure the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, and this can only be done as we honour Him. Notice the following fundamental requirements:-

  1. 1. There must be a clean channel. The Church must be separated (2 Corinthians 6:14-18), and the preacher must be dedicated (Romans 12:1-2).
  2. 2. There must be an emphasis on prayer. This is the divinely-ordained method for securing blessing; private prayer (Matthew 6:6); united prayer (Matthew 18:19); and the prayer of the church (Acts 4:23-31).
  3. 3. There must be a proclamation of the whole counsel of God. We must believe the Bible and preach it, thus honouring the Holy Spirit who inspires the Word (Acts 20:26-27).

Only as the channel is clean, as we look to God alone to work, and as we proclaim the whole message, will our dependence really be upon the Holy Spirit. With such complete dependence upon Him He will do His work of reproof (John 16:7-11); or warning (Hebrews 12:25); and of conversion (Acts 2:37-41).


4. The Word must be received

Peter preached the gospel: “they heard the Word” (10:44), “received the Word” (11:1), and “received the Holy Spirit” (10:47), so a man is converted by hearing and receiving the Word, believing it, and by receiving the Lord Jesus as his Saviour (John 1:12; John 3:16; John 5:24). Verse 43 states that we are saved by believing, and to believe is to receive (John 1:12).


5. The Converts must be established

The gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit does His work, the listeners are receptive and trust Christ, are born of the Spirit (John 3:3); baptised into the body by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13); filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Anything more? – yes, verses 47-48 include two important things, which assure us that the converts were immediately instructed in the faith:

  1. 1. Their conversion was accepted. Cornelius and his friends had lost their prejudice, and so had Peter, and they all rejoiced in what God had done.
  2. 2. Their confession was witnessed. The new believers were baptised. This was not optional, but a question of obedience. Why? Because of Matthew 28:18-20.