A centurion named Cornelius fears the God of Israel and financially supports the Jewish people in the city of Caesarea. An angel visits him and tells him that God has taken note of his prayers, and to send for a man named Simon Peter who is about 30 miles south in Joppa. Cornelius obeys and sends some servants on the errand.
While Cornelius’s servants are arriving at Joppa, Peter is on the roof of his host’s house praying. He sees a bizarre vision of unclean animals being lowered down from heaven on a blanket. The voice of the Lord tells him to eat the unclean animals, but Peter refuses to eat anything “unholy.” The Lord tells Peter to no longer consider anything that is cleansed by God Himself to be “unholy.” Peter wonders what the vision means. The Holy Spirit prompts him to go with Cornelius’s men to wherever they will take him, to trust them, because they were sent by the Spirit. Peter obeys. He greets the men and invites them to stay for the night. The next morning Peter and a few other Jews head to Caesarea with Cornelius’s servants.
Peter arrives at Cornelius’s house. Cornelius has gathered his friends and family to hear Peter speak. Peter points out that it is unlawful for a Jew to become friends with or visit a Gentile’s house, but that God had recently taught him to never again consider non-Jewish people as unclean. This was the meaning of the vision of the unclean animals.
He then preaches the good news of Jesus Christ to Cornelius and his friends and family. He tells them that everything they had heard about Jesus of Nazareth was true, and that He is Lord of all and He came to earth to preach peace throughout Israel. He was crucified and raised back to life by God. Peter informs them that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’s miracles, as well as His resurrection from the dead. He concludes by explaining that Jesus will one day judge all people, and that everyone who believes in Him will be forgiven.
Cornelius and the other Romans with him believe in Jesus. Immediately the Holy Spirit enters them. They begin praising God in various languages, like at Pentecost. The Jewish believers who escorted Peter to this house are dumbfounded to see that Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit. But Peter declares that the Gentiles should be baptized in Jesus’s name, because they had received the same Spirit as the Jews. God’s deliverance was for all people groups. No one was to be considered unclean or unholy.