A man named Cornelius lived in Caesarea. He was a Roman commander in the Italian Regiment.
Cornelius and all his family were faithful and worshiped God. He gave freely to people who were in need. He prayed to God regularly.
One day about three o'clock in the afternoon he had a vision. He saw an angel of God clearly. The angel came to him and said, "Cornelius!"
Cornelius was afraid. He stared at the angel. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to poor people have come up like an offering to God. So he has remembered you.
Now send men to Joppa. Have them bring back a man named Simon. He is also called Peter.
He is staying with another Simon, a man who works with leather. His house is by the sea."
The angel who spoke to him left. Then Cornelius called two of his servants. He also called a godly soldier who was one of his attendants.
He told them everything that had happened. Then he sent them to Joppa.
It was about noon the next day. The men were on their journey and were approaching the city. Peter went up on the roof to pray.
He became hungry. He wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared, Peter had a vision.
He saw heaven open up. There he saw something that looked like a large sheet. It was being let down to earth by its four corners.
It had all kinds of four-footed animals in it. It also had reptiles of the earth and birds of the air.
Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
"No, Lord! I will not!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything that is not pure and 'clean.' "
The voice spoke to him a second time. "Do not say anything is not pure that God has made 'clean,' " it said.
This happened three times. Right away the sheet was taken back up to heaven.
Peter was wondering what the vision meant. At that very moment the men sent by Cornelius found Simon's house. They stopped at the gate
and called out. They asked if Simon Peter was staying there.
Peter was still thinking about the vision. The Holy Spirit spoke to him. "Simon," he said, "three men are looking for you.
Get up and go downstairs. Don't let anything keep you from going with them. I have sent them."
Peter went down and spoke to the men. "I'm the one you're looking for," he said. "Why have you come?"
The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius, the Roman commander. He is a good man who worships God. All the Jewish people respect him. A holy angel told him to invite you to his house. Cornelius wants to hear what you have to say."
Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter went with the three men. Some of the believers from Joppa went along.
The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them. He had called together his relatives and close friends.
When Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him. As a sign of respect, he fell at Peter's feet.
But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said. "I am only a man myself."
Talking with Cornelius, Peter went inside. There he found a large group of people.
He said to them, "You know that it is against our law for a Jew to have anything to do with those who aren't Jews. But God has shown me that I should not say anyone is not pure and 'clean.'
So when you sent for me, I came without asking any questions. May I ask why you sent for me?"
Cornelius answered, "Four days ago at this very hour I was in my house praying. It was three o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood in front of me.
He said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer. He has remembered your gifts to poor people.
Send someone to Joppa to get Simon Peter. He is a guest in the home of another Simon, who works with leather. He lives by the sea.'
So I sent for you right away. It was good of you to come. Now we are all here. And God is here with us. We are ready to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."
Then Peter began to speak. "I now realize how true it is that God treats everyone the same," he said.
"He accepts people from every nation. He accepts all who have respect for him and do what is right.
"You know the message God sent to the people of Israel. It is the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all.
You know what has happened all through Judea. It started in Galilee after John preached about baptism.
You know how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Jesus went around doing good. He healed all who were under the devil's power. God was with him.
"We are witnesses of everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by nailing him to a cross.
But on the third day God raised him from the dead. God allowed Jesus to be seen.
But he wasn't seen by all the people. He was seen only by us. We are witnesses whom God had already chosen. We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
"He commanded us to preach to the people. He told us to give witness that he is the one appointed by God to judge the living and the dead.
All the prophets give witness about him. They say that all who believe in him have their sins forgiven through his name."
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
Some Jewish believers had come with Peter. They were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on those who weren't Jews.
They heard them speaking in languages they had not known before. They also heard them praising God. Then Peter said,
"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have."
So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.