Now a Captain of the Italian Regiment, named Cornelius, was quartered at Caesarea.
He was religious and God-fearing--and so was every member of his household. He was also liberal in his charities to the people, and continually offered prayer to God.
About three o'clock one afternoon he had a vision, and distinctly saw an angel of God enter his house, who called him by name, saying, 'Cornelius!'
Looking steadily at him, and being much alarmed, he said, 'What do you want, Sir?' 'Your prayers and charities,' he replied, 'have gone up and have been recorded before God.
And now send to Jaffa and fetch Simon, surnamed Peter.
He is staying as a guest with Simon, a tanner, who has a house close to the sea.'
So when the angel who had been speaking to him was gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a God-fearing soldier who was in constant attendance on him,
and, after telling them everything, he sent them to Jaffa.
The next day, while they were still on their journey and were getting near the town, about noon Peter went up on the house-top to pray.
He had become unusually hungry and wished for food; but, while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance.
The sky had opened to his view, and what seemed to be an enormous sail was descending, being let down to the earth by ropes at the four corners.
In it were all kinds of quadrupeds, reptiles and birds,
and a voice came to him which said, 'Rise, Peter, kill and eat.'
'On no account, Lord,' he replied; 'for I have never yet eaten anything unholy and impure.'
Again a second time a voice was heard which said, 'What God has purified, you must not regard as unholy.'
This was said three times, and immediately the sail was drawn up out of sight.
While Peter was greatly perplexed as to the meaning of the vision which he had seen, just then the men sent by Cornelius, having by inquiry found out Simon's house,
had come to the door and had called the servant, and were asking, 'Is Simon, surnamed Peter, staying here?'
And Peter was still earnestly thinking over the vision, when the Spirit said to him, 'Three men are now inquiring for you.
Rise, go down, and go with them without any misgivings; for it is I who have sent them to you.'
So Peter went down and said to the men, 'I am the Simon you are inquiring for. What is the reason of your coming?'
Their reply was, 'Cornelius, a Captain, an upright and God-fearing man, of whom the whole Jewish nation speaks well, has been divinely instructed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and listen to what you have to say.'
Upon hearing this, Peter invited them in, and gave them a lodging. The next day he set out with them, some of the brethren from Jaffa going with him,
and the day after that they reached Caesarea. There Cornelius was awaiting their arrival, and had invited all his relatives and intimate friends to be present.
When Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him, and threw himself at his feet to do him homage.
But Peter lifted him up. 'Stand up,' he said; 'I myself also am but a man.'
So Peter went in and conversed with him, and found a large company assembled.
He said to them, 'You know better than most that a Jew is strictly forbidden to associate with a Gentile or visit him; but God has taught me to call no one unholy or unclean.
So for this reason, when sent for, I came without raising any objection. I therefore ask why you sent for me.'
'Just at this hour, three days ago,' replied Cornelius, 'I was offering afternoon prayer in my house, when suddenly a man in shining raiment stood in front of me,
who said, ''Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your charities have been put on record before God.
Send therefore to Jaffa, and invite Simon, surnamed Peter, to come here. He is staying as a guest in the house of Simon, a tanner, close to the sea.'
'Immediately, therefore, I sent to you, and I thank you heartily for having come. That is why all of us are now assembled here in God's presence, to listen to what the Lord has commanded you to say.'
Then Peter began to speak. 'I clearly see,' he said, 'that God makes no distinctions between one man and another;
but that in every nation those who fear Him and live good lives are acceptable to Him.
The Message which He sent to the descendants of Israel, when He announced the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ--He is Lord of all--that Message you cannot but know;
the story, I mean, which has spread through the length and breadth of Judaea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism which John proclaimed.
It tells how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, so that He went about everywhere doing acts of kindness, and curing all who were being continually oppressed by the Devil--for God was with Jesus.
'And we are witnesses as to all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. But they even put Him to death, by crucifixion.
That same Jesus God raised to life on the third day, and permitted Him to appear unmistakably,
not to all the people, but to witnesses--men previously chosen by God--namely, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.
And He has commanded us to preach to the people and solemnly declare that this is He who has been appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.
To Him all the Prophets bear witness, and testify that through His name all who believe in Him receive the forgiveness of their sins.'
While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the Message.
And all the Jewish believers who had come with Peter were astonished that on the Gentiles also the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out.
For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling the majesty of God. Then Peter said,
'Can any one forbid the use of water, and object to these persons being baptized--men who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?'
And he directed that they should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they begged him to remain with them for a time.