While Peter was in Joppa, Cornelius, a Gentile centurion in the Italian Regiment of the Roman Army was fasting and praying at his home in Caesarea about thirty miles north up the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Before that time, Gentiles had not been included in the preaching of Christ. Cornelius was a good moral devout man, who was living according to the Jewish customs, which he had acquired while being a soldier in their land, even praying at their hour of prayer; but he was lost.
The Gentiles were included in God’s promise to save the world. God was reminded of this promise by the prayer of Cornelius. He sent an angel to tell Cornelius to call for Peter to come from Joppa and he would tell him what he must do. Notice that God did not directly save either the eunuch, Saul or Cornelius, but arranged for preachers/teachers to tell them what they must do. Immediately, Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa.
At noon the next day, Peter went up on the housetop to pray and had a most unusual experience. He, too, had a vision and in this vision, he saw a sheet, which contained all kinds of animal life lowered from heaven.
A voice commanded Peter to rise, kill and eat. He replied, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
The voice said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
While Peter was trying to determine the meaning of this encounter, the men from Cornelius arrived. The Holy Spirit informed him that three men were looking for him and that he would go with them without any doubts.
Peter took six brethren with him and went to Caesarea with the three men from Cornelius. When they arrived, they found that Cornelius was prepared to hear the things commanded by God. He had gathered together his relatives and close friends to hear Peter.
“As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up: I myself am also a man.’” There are many today, who kneel and bow down before “holy” men in their churches. It was wrong to worship Peter then and it is wrong to worship a man now.
This was a momentous occasion. Before then, Jews did not accept Gentiles as religious or social equals. Peter explained that God had shown him that he should call no man common or unclean and that God shows no partiality. He also pointed out that people in every nation who fear and obey God are accepted by Him.
Peter then preached Christ to those who were assembled. He discussed the life of Jesus and how the Jews had rejected and crucified Him. God had raised Him up on the third day and the chosen ones (apostles) had eaten and drunk with Him after the resurrection. These apostles had been commanded to preach that whoever believes in Him would receive remission of sins.
While Peter was teaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and the other hearers. The only time this had ever happened before was on Pentecost, the day when the church was established. This outpouring of the Spirit was to show that the Gentiles were truly equal to the Jews in their relationship to God. Peter then commanded these Gentiles to be baptized.