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God’s Word for You

Acts 10:3-4 A vision

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

3 He had a vision (this was at about three in the afternoon) in which he clearly saw an angel of God, who came in and said to him, “Cornelius.” 4 He stared at the angel in terror. “What is it, lord?” He said, “Your prayers and your gifts to the poor have risen up as a memorial offering before God.

Although Cornelius was not the first Gentile convert to Christianity, his case was to become the test-case for the work of the apostles among the Gentiles. It would be Peter’s ministry with Cornelius that would pave the way for Paul’s ministry in Asia and Europe. The Ethiopian eunuch, long since returned to Africa, was out of sight and out of mind. But since Cornelius was a resident in Israel, his conversion was to become far more prominent and event that has sent ripples all the way into our lives today.

One afternoon, during the time when Peter was living with Simon the Tanner, Cornelius saw a vision. “Three in the afternoon” is my translation of “the ninth hour” in Greek. For the Jews, this was one of the times of daily prayer (see Acts 3:1), the beginning of the evening sacrifice (Leviticus 6:20; Psalm 141:2). This is another indication of the faith of Cornelius; it was likely that he was already praying at this moment, and the Lord chose to send him a vision.

A vision is not a dream, or a sight seen in a trance. It is something seen which, to an onlooker, is not there, but which is real and substantial all the same to the one who sees it. God spoke to Abraham and Jacob in visions (Genesis 15:1, 46:2), and several of the prophets saw visions. This vision was of one of God’s angels, who “came in” to where Cornelius was praying and spoke to him. The Greek words for these actions are in the aorist tense. This is significant because the emphasis of the aorist is not on when something happened, but on the fact that the event took place. So the words Luke chooses to use underscore the truth of the vision: An angel came in and said, “Cornelius.”

The reaction of the centurion was to be afraid. The angels of God are holy and the stand in the presence of God (Luke 1:19). This angel assured Cornelius that God had seen evidence of his faith: (1) his prayers, and (2) his alms of charitable giving. This vision was not a call to repentance, but a call for another reason altogether. God was going to work through Cornelius to bring about something important for the whole Christian church.

God often makes big things happen in our lives through little events. We don’t really prepare for them. We just keep giving God glory, day by day, like Cornelius did, and leave the rest up to the Lord.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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