Acts 10:30
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(30) I was fasting until this hour.—The hour is not stated, but the facts of the case imply that it could not have been much before noon, and may have been later. Assuming that Cornelius in his fasts observed the usage of devout Jews, we may think of his vision as having been on the second day of the week, and Peter’s on the fifth. It is probable, accordingly, that the meeting in the house of Cornelius took place on the Sabbath. Allowing some hours for the conference, of which we have probably but a condensed report, the outpouring of the Spirit, the subsequent baptism, and the meal which must have followed on it, may have coincided with the beginning of the first day of the week.

In bright clothing.—The phrase is the same as that used by St. James (Acts 2:2-3). The same adjective is employed by St. John to describe the raiment of the angels (Revelation 15:6), and of the bride of the Lamb (Revelation 19:8).

Acts

‘GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS’

Acts 10:30 - Acts 10:44
.

This passage falls into three parts: Cornelius’s explanation, Peter’s sermon, and the descent of the Spirit on the new converts. The last is the most important, and yet is told most briefly. We may surely recognise the influence of Peter’s personal reminiscences in the scale of the narrative, and may remember that Luke and Mark were thrown together in later days.

I. Cornelius repeats what his messengers had already told Peter, but in fuller detail.

He tells how he was occupied when the angel appeared. He was keeping the Jewish hour of prayer, and the fact that the vision came to him as he prayed had attested to him its heavenly origin. If we would see angels, the most likely place to behold them is in the secret place of prayer. He tells, too, that the command to send for Peter was a consequence of God’s remembrance of his prayer {‘therefore,’ Acts 10:32}. His prayers and alms showed that he was ‘of the light,’ and therefore he was directed to what would yield further light.

The command to send for Peter is noteworthy in two respects. It was, first, a test of humility and obedience. Cornelius, as a Roman officer, would be tempted to feel the usual contempt for one of the subject race, and, unless his eagerness to know more of God’s will overbore his pride, to kick at the idea of sending to beg the favour of the presence and instruction of a Jew, and of one, too, who could find no better quarters than a tanner’s house. The angel’s voice commanded, but it did not compel. Cornelius bore the test, and neither waived aside the vision as a hallucination to which it was absurd for a practical man to attend, nor recoiled from the lowliness of the proposed teacher. He pocketed official and racial loftiness, and, as he emphasises, ‘forthwith’ despatched his message. It was as if an English official in the Punjab had been sent to a Sikh ‘Guru’ for teaching.

The other remarkable point about the command is that Philip was probably in Caesarea at the time. Why should Peter have been brought, then, by two visions and two long journeys? The subsequent history explains why. For the storm of criticism in the Jerusalem church provoked by Cornelius’s baptism would have raged with tenfold fury if so revolutionary an act had been done by any less authoritative person than the leader of the Apostles. The Lord would stamp His own approval on the deed which marked so great an expansion of the Church, and therefore He makes the first of the Apostles His agent, and that by a double vision.

‘Thou hast well done that thou art come,’-a courteous welcome, with just a trace of the doubt which had occupied Cornelius during the ‘four days,’ whether this unknown Jew would obey so strange an invitation. Courtesy and preparedness to receive the unknown message beautifully blend in Cornelius’s closing words, which do not directly ask Peter to speak, but declare the auditors’ eagerness to hear, as well as their confidence that what he says will be God’s voice.

A variant reading in Acts 10:33 gives ‘in thy sight’ for ‘in the sight of God,’ and has much to recommend it. But in any case we have here the right attitude for us all in the presence of the uttered will and mind of God. Where such open-eared and open-hearted preparedness marks the listeners, feebler teachers than Peter will win converts. The reason why much earnest Christian teaching is vain is the indifference and non-expectant attitude of the hearers, who are not hearkeners. Seed thrown on the wayside is picked up by the birds.

II. Peter’s sermon is, on the whole, much like his other addresses which are abundantly reported in the early part of the Acts.

The great business of the preachers then was to tell the history of Jesus. Christianity is, first, a recital of historical events, from which, no doubt, principles are deduced, and which necessarily lead on to doctrines; but the facts are first.

But the familiar story is told to Cornelius with some variation of tone. And it is prefaced by a great word, which crystallises the large truth that had sprung into consciousness and startling power in Peter, as the result of his own and Cornelius’s experience. He had not previously thought of God as ‘a respecter of persons,’ but the conviction that He was not had never blazed with such sun-clearness before him as it did now. Jewish narrowness had, unconsciously to himself, somewhat clouded it; but these four days had burned in on him, as if it were a new truth, that ‘in every nation’ there may be men accepted of God, because they ‘fear Him and work righteousness.’

That great saying is twisted from its right meaning when it is interpreted as discouraging the efforts of Christians to carry the Gospel to the heathen; for, if the ‘light of nature’ is sufficient, what was Peter sent to Caesarea for? But it is no less maltreated when evangelical Christians fail to grasp its world-wide significance, or doubt that in lands where Christ’s name has not been proclaimed there are souls groping for the light, and seeking to obey the law written on their hearts. That there are such, and that such are ‘accepted of Him,’ and led by His own ways to the fuller light, is obviously taught in these words, and should be a welcome thought to us all.

The tangled utterances which immediately follow, sound as if speech staggered under the weight of the thoughts opening before the speaker. Whatever difficulty attends the construction, the intention is clear,-to contrast the limited scope of the message, as confined to the children of Israel, with its universal destination as now made clear. The statement which in the Authorised and Revised Versions is thrown into a parenthesis is really the very centre of the Apostle’s thought. Jesus, who has hitherto been preached to Israel, is ‘Lord of all,’ and the message concerning Him is now to be proclaimed, not in vague outline and at second hand, as it had hitherto reached Cornelius, but in full detail, and as a message in which he was concerned.

Contrast the beginning and the ending of the discourse,-’the word sent unto the children of Israel’ and ‘every one that believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.’ A remarkable variation in the text is suggested by Blass in his striking commentary, who would omit ‘Lord’ and read, ‘The word which He sent to the children of Israel, bringing the good tidings of peace through Jesus Christ,-this [word] belongs to all.’ That reading does away with the chief difficulties, and brings out clearly the thought which is more obscurely expressed in a contorted sentence by the present reading.

The subsequent resume of the life of Jesus is substantially the same as is found in Peter’s other sermons. But we may note that the highest conceptions of our Lord’s nature are not stated. It is hard to suppose that Peter after Pentecost had not the same conviction as burned in his confession, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ But in these early discourses neither the Divinity and Incarnation nor the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is set forth. He is the Christ, ‘anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power.’ God is with Him {Nicodemus had got as far as that}. He is ‘ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead.’

We note, too, that His teaching is not touched upon, nor any of the profounder aspects of His work as the Revealer of God, but His beneficence and miraculous deliverances of devil-ridden men. His death is declared, but without any of the accusations of His murderers, which, like lance-thrusts, ‘pricked’ Jewish hearers. Nor is the efficacy of that death as the sacrifice for the world’s sin touched upon, but it is simply told as a fact, and set in contrast with the Resurrection. These were the plain facts which had first to be accepted.

The only way of establishing facts is by evidence of eye-witnesses. So Peter twice {Acts 10:39, Acts 10:41} adduces his own and his colleagues’ evidence. But the facts are not yet a gospel, unless they are further explained as well as established. Did such things happen? The answer is, ‘We saw them.’ What did they mean? The answer begins by adducing the ‘witness’ of the Apostles to a different order of truths, which requires a different sort of witness. Jesus had bidden them ‘testify’ that He is to be Judge of living and dead; that is, of all mankind. Their witness to that can only rest on His word.

Nor is that all. There is yet another body of ‘witnesses’ to yet another class of truths. ‘All the prophets’ bear witness to the great truth which makes the biography of the Man the gospel for all men,- that the deepest want of all men is satisfied through the name which Peter ever rang out as all-powerful to heal and bless. The forgiveness of sins through the manifested character and work of Jesus Christ is given on condition of faith to any and every one who believes, be he Jew or Gentile, Galilean fisherman or Roman centurion. Cornelius may have known little of the prophets, but he knew the burden of sin. He did not know all that we know of Jesus, and of the way in which forgiveness is connected with His work, but he did know now that it was connected, and that this Jesus was risen from the dead, and was to be the Judge. His faith went out to that Saviour, and as he heard he believed.

III. Therefore the great gift, attesting the divine acceptance of him and the rest of the hearers, came at once.

There had been no confession of their faith, much less had there been baptism, or laying on of Apostolic hands. The sole qualification and condition for the reception of the Spirit which John lays down in his Gospel when he speaks of the ‘Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive,’ was present here, and it was enough. Peter and his brethren might have hesitated about baptizing an uncircumcised believer. The Lord of the Church showed Peter that He did not hesitate.

So, like a true disciple, Peter followed Christ’s lead, and though ‘they of the circumcision’ were struck with amazement, he said to himself, ‘Who am I, that I should withstand God?’ and opened his heart to welcome these new converts as possessors of ‘like precious faith’ as was demonstrated by their possession of the same Spirit. Would that Peter’s willingness to recognise all who manifest the Spirit of Christ, whatever their relation to ecclesiastical regulations, had continued the law and practice of the Church!Acts 10:30-33. And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting — The first of these days he had the vision; the second, his messengers came to Joppa; on the third, Peter set out; and on the fourth, came to Cesarea; until this hour — Cornelius does not intend to declare by this how long he had fasted; but he tells him when he, being fasting, saw the vision, which was four days before, at the same hour of the day. And at the ninth hour — An hour of solemn prayer, being the time of offering the evening sacrifice, see Acts 3:1. I prayed, and behold a man stood before me — A man in appearance, but an angel in reality, as in Acts 10:3; in bright clothing — Such as Christ’s was, when he was transfigured; and that of the two angels, who appeared at his resurrection, Luke 24:4; and at his ascension, Acts 1:10; showing their relation to the world of light. And said, Thy prayer is heard — Doubtless he had been praying for instruction how to worship and serve God in the most acceptable manner; and thy alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God — Who looks not merely on the outward gift, but on the inward affection from which it proceeds, and the intention with which it is offered. Send, therefore, to Joppa, &c. — See note on Acts 10:4-6. Immediately, therefore, I sent — As I was directed; and thou hast well done that thou art come — To us, though we are Gentiles. Observe, faithful ministers do well in going to those that are willing and desirous to receive instruction from them. Now, therefore, are we all here present before God — The language this of every truly Christian congregation; to hear all things that are commanded thee of God — To know and do whatsoever he shall require of us. In this spirit ought every one that would profit by the word of God, to attend upon it.10:19-33 When we see our call clear to any service, we should not be perplexed with doubts and scruples arising from prejudices or former ideas. Cornelius had called together his friends, to partake with him of the heavenly wisdom he expected from Peter. We should not covet to eat our spiritual morsels alone. It ought to be both given and taken as kindness and respect to our kindred and friends, to invite them to join us in religious exercises. Cornelius declared the direction God gave him to send for Peter. We are right in our aims in attending a gospel ministry, when we do it with regard to the Divine appointment requiring us to make use of that ordinance. How seldom ministers are called to speak to such companies, however small, in which it may be said that they are all present in the sight of God, to hear all things that are commanded of God! But these were ready to hear what Peter was commanded of God to say.Four days ago - See the notes on Acts 10:23.

Until this hour - The ninth hour, or three o'clock, p. m. See Acts 10:3.

A man - Called, in Acts 10:3, an angel. He had the appearance of a man. Compare Mark 16:5.

In bright clothing - See the notes on Matthew 28:3.

30-33. Four days ago—the messengers being despatched on the first; on the second reaching Joppa (Ac 10:9); starting for Cæsarea on the third; and on the fourth arriving. Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; Cornelius does not intend to declare by this how long he had fasted; but he tells him when he, being fasting, saw the vision, which was four days before, at the same time of the day.

The ninth hour, which was a time of prayer, it being the time of offering the evening sacrifice: see Acts 3:1.

A man, in appearance, but an angel indeed, as in Acts 10:3.

In bright clothing; why angels appeared in bright or white raiment, see Acts 1:10. And Cornelius said,.... The Syriac version adds, "to him", to the apostle; the following he said, in a very submissive and humble manner:

four days ago I was fasting unto this hour; in the Greek text it is, "from the fourth day unto this hour I was fasting": which looks as if he had been fasting four days, and was still fasting at that hour; though the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions leave out the phrase "I was fasting": but the sense which our version and others give is the truest; that four days ago, or reckoning four days back, Cornelius was fasting on that day, until such time in that day as now it was in this present day; and which perhaps might be the ninth hour, or three o'clock in the afternoon: the account of days exactly agrees; as soon as Cornelius had had the vision, he sends men to Joppa, which was one day; on the morrow they came to Joppa, which makes two days; Peter lodged them all night there, and the next day set out on the journey with them, so you have three days; and the day after that, which was the fourth, he entered into Caesarea, and came to Cornelius's house, where he now was:

and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house; which was one of the stated times of prayer; See Gill on Acts 3:1.

And behold a man stood before me in bright clothing; or "in a white garment", as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions read: which was an emblem of the excellency, glory, and purity of the angel, and of the divine majesty in him: he calls him a man, because he appeared in the form of one, as angels used to do.

And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until {m} this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,

(m) He does not mean the very hour at the present time

(as it was nine o'clock when he spoke to Peter), but the like, that is, about nine o'clock the other day.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 10:30. The correct view is that which has been the usual one since Chrysostom (held by Erasmus, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Kuinoel, Olshausen): Four days ago I was fasting until this hour (i.e. until the hour of the day which it now is), and was praying at the ninth hour, ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας is quarto abhinc die, on the fourth day from the present (counting backwards), and the expression is to be explained as in John 11:18; John 21:8; Revelation 14:20 (see Winer, p. 518 f. [E. T. 697 f.]. Comp. Exodus 12:15, ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης ἡμέρας: on the first day before. Cornelius wishes to indicate exactly (1) the day and hour when he had seen the vision,—namely, on the fourth day before, and at the ninth hour; and (2) in what condition he was when it occurred,—namely, that he had been engaged that day in an exercise of fasting, which he had already continued up to the very hour of that day, which it now was; and in connection with this exercise of fasting, he had spent the ninth hour of the day—the prayer-hour—in prayer, and then the vision had surprised him, καὶ ἰδοὺ κ.τ.λ. Incorrectly, Heinrichs, Neander, de Wette render: For four days I fasted until this hour (when the vision occurred, namely, the ninth hour), etc. Against this view it may be decisively urged that in this way Cornelius would not specify at all the day on which he had the vision, and that ταύτης cannot mean anything else than the present hour.

ἐνώπ. τ. Θεοῦ] Acts 10:3. Revelation 16:19. The opposite, Luke 12:6.Acts 10:30. For readings see critical notes. “Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer,” R.V., this hour, i.e., the present hour, the hour of Peter’s visit; four days ago reckoned from this present hour, lit[241], “from the fourth day,” “quarto abhinc die”. The four days according to the Jewish mode of reckoning would include the day of the vision and departure of the messengers, the day they reached Joppa, the day of their return with Peter, and the day of their reaching Cæsarea. Cornelius wishes to signify two things: (1) that the vision occurred, even to the hour, four days before Peter’s arrival; (2) that this period of time when it occurred was the ninth hour.—ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, see on Acts 1:11, “cur illum contemneremus et fugeremus cui angeli ministrant?” Wetstein.

[241] literal, literally.30. Four days ago I was fasting until this hour, &c.] The oldest MSS. have “Four days ago until this hour I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house.” This makes the time of Peter’s arrival to be after the ninth hour of the day. The prayer-service to which Cornelius refers had begun and been continued for some time before the appearance of the angel.

in bright clothing] See above, Acts 1:10, note.Acts 10:30. Ἀπὸ, from) from the beginning of the day, which, counting backwards, is the fourth day, up to the present day and this hour of the day.—τετάρτης, fourth) The first day (counting backwards, the fourth) was the day of the vision and of sending the messengers: the second, was the day of the arrival of the messengers: the third, the day of the setting out of Peter: the fourth, the day of his arrival at Cornelius’ house [Acts 10:3; Acts 10:9; Acts 10:23-24].—ἤμην νηστεύων, I was fasting) It is not meant that he fasted for four days, but on the fourth day, counting backwards. [These acts were praiseworthy; yet Cornelius recounts them with humble simplicity.—V. g.—τὴν ἐννάτην ὥραν, the ninth hour) Cornelius may have imitated the Israelites in this respect: ch. Acts 3:1, “Peter and John went up—into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”—V. g.]Verse 30. - Until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer for I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour I prayed, A.V. and T.R.; apparel for clothing, A.V. Four days ago. This was the fourth day (see ver. 23, note). Until this hour, etc. The reading of the R.T. is not adopted by Meyer or Alford, and the R.V. is unintelligible. The A.V. seems to give the meaning clearly and accurately. Until this hour probably denotes the sixth hour, midday, as in ver. 9. Peter's journey would naturally have been taken in the cool of the early morning. Starting at 5 or 6 a.m., five hours, with perhaps an hour's halt, would bring him to the end of his fifteen miles' journey by 11 or 12 a.m. Apparel. The same phrase, ἐσθὴς λαμπρά, is used by St. Luke (Luke 23:11). In the description of the transfiguration a stronger expression is used, ἐξαστράπτων, dazzling. Four days ago (ἀπὸ τετάρτης ἡμέρας)

Lit., from the fourth day; reckoning backward from the day on which he was speaking.

I was fasting, and

The best texts omit.

At the ninth hour I prayed (τὴν ἐννάτην προσευχόμενος)

Lit., praying during the ninth hour. With the omission of I was fasting, and, the rendering is as Rev., Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer.

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