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Peter and Cornelius

Scripture Reference:

Acts 10:1-11:18

Memory Verse:
“God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” – Acts 10:28b

Bible Background

This story is placed in the middle of Acts as part of the spreading of the gospel beyond its Jewish origins to include the gentiles. Paul was already doing this, but Peter was a little more reluctant – he was part of the “establishment” after all. This passage reflects Peter’s change of heart due to a vision he has from God that he should not call “profane” anyone that God has deemed acceptable.

Along with stories such as the call of David -- where God doesn’t see with human eyes, but instead looks in the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-13) – this is ultimately a story that declares the sovereignty of God. In the case of Cornelius, it is a declaration that God made the rules about cleanliness and separation and therefore God can eliminate those same rules.

This of course can raise a lot of issues in the modern church, just as it did in Peter’s day. The answer that arises from this story seems to be that we in the church are not following a set of rules, but rather opening ourselves to a process of discernment: listening to God’s voice, and determining upon whom the Holy Spirit rests. In full humility we must declare that the choice to include or exclude is not ours to make, but rather God’s.

This is not the only case where someone surprising receives the Holy Spirit and baptism. In Acts 8:26-39, Phillip is directed by the Holy Spirit to an Ethiopian eunuch; in Acts 9:1-19, the murderous Saul is converted on the road to Damascus. And now in Acts 10, Cornelius. The spread of Christianity in the early church is tied to the idea of being guided by the Spirit to overcome prejudices. The prejudices of our world are different than the prejudices of Peter’s day, but prejudices still exist, even among people who think of themselves as very open-minded.

Baptism – Which comes first: the act of baptism, or the decent of the Holy Spirit? In Jesus’ baptism and other baptisms in Acts, the Holy Spirit seems to appear after the baptism. But this case is different. Were human beings withholding baptism because they felt Cornelius, as a Gentile, to be unacceptable? This story points out that God won’t be thwarted by human inaction.

Clean/unclean – this refers to ritual, spiritual cleanliness under existing Jewish law which are found in Exodus  Deuteronomy and the Talmud. If you followed the law you were clean/acceptable. If you didn’t you were unclean/profane, and must go through a process of purification and adherence to the laws. This included circumcision for males (not a very inviting prospect for adult men in an age without anesthesia) which was a leading reason that pagans who were attracted to the God of the Jews refrained from actually joining the faith. It also included rules that were very difficult for poor or marginalized people to follow. Christianity at its core is a religion for the marginalized.

Conversion – Cornelius has been converted to Christianity. But what of Peter? He is already a Christian, but has undergone a conversion experience as well? He now accepts a people that he previously avoided because he sees that as God’s plan. Is conversion a one-time event, or something that occurs to us again and again? Is conversion always a sudden experience, or can it come upon us little by little?

Evangelism – This is a story about bringing the word of Christ to others. Peter is acting very bravely when he goes to the house of a gentile with anti-Christian political status: Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian cohort (main Roman force). Sometimes evangelism means being willing to risk for the sake of the gospel. How much are we willing to risk, lay on the line, to proclaim the word of Christ?

Jewish/Gentile – In the early church this was a debate between Jews and Gentiles, which should be read as being between people who knew the one true God (Jews) and people with pagan practices who did not know God. It is not correct to understand this passage to be about modern Jews and modern Christians (Gentiles) with the emphasis on the latter being acceptable to God. Rather we should read this as a story about Christian believers/insiders (Jews) and non-believers (Gentiles) who might have been making life choices that are questionable to the faithful. Or we can see this story culturally as a story about established people (Americans) and newcomers (immigrants); or in congregational life as people who grew up in the church and new members. All are acceptable analogies, and should call us to question ourselves: who do we declare unclean/profane/unacceptable? Who would we be very uncomfortable moving in next door to us or sitting in the next pew? Where do our prejudices lie? And what does God say to that – “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” (Acts 10:28b)

Revelation – God’s will is revealed to Peter when he is in prayer. Sometimes our prayers are too much talking (telling God what we want) and not enough listening (telling us what God wants).

Teaching this Story to Kids
Jewish/Gentile – Care must be taken to avoid sounding anti-Semitic. In modern American culture the real meaning of this passage is reversed: Christians, the majority, are the “insiders” and Jews, a minority group, are the outsiders. The newly identified rule is that God doesn’t want the insiders to call the outsiders unclean or profane. Children may have questions about Jewish dietary laws and other laws. Look up a few laws and be familiar with kosher laws in the attachment.

Clean/unclean – A good modern debate that gets to the heart of the issue is what do you wear to church? Should you dress in Sunday best or is it okay to be comfortable because God loves you as you are? This parallels the debate in ancient time of do we still need to follow the minutia of the law, or is it okay to disregard the law and rely on grace? In some parts of scripture, Jesus seems to be abandoning the law. In other places, he defends the law and claims he’s not rewriting one letter of it. How can we make sense of this? One way of answering both modern and ancient questions is that it depends upon what is in your heart. If in your heart you believe that the law is from God, then disregarding the law is disrespectful. If you don’t believe in your heart of hearts that the law is from God, then there’s no point in keeping to it. If in your heart you believe you should dress in your Sunday best to show God respect, then coming in jeans is disrespectful. If you’re new to church and in your heart that sounds like a silly idea and not from God, then wearing jeans is not disrespectful. It depends on how you were brought up. Paul, a Jew, kept the law but didn’t insist that others kept to the law. A person brought up in the church continues to dress in their “Sunday best” but doesn’t hold others to that same standard.

Holy Spirit discernment -- How do you know that the Holy Spirit was on Cornelius? How do we know if the Holy Spirit rests on someone? Holy Spirit is the least tangible person of the Trinity and can sometimes be hard for children to get their minds around. We use imagery like wind and breath, but we do the Holy Spirit a disservice if we cling to those too closely. Essentially the Holy Spirit is having an experience of God that you can’t put into words or even thoughts.

Evangelism -- Bringing others into the church sometimes means bringing surprising or unexpected people into the church. Who would the church feel uncomfortable including? We detest racism and long to embrace people of all races, but would we be welcoming of racists? In a child’s term, we are taught to empathize with the child getting picked on – but would we invite the bully? That gets a lot closer to what Peter and the early church were dealing with. Cornelius was a centurion (and Paul a persecutor of Christians); Cornelius (unlike Paul who changed his ways) as far as we can tell he kept being a centurion, albeit a good and upright centurion.

Prayer/revelation. By going to the roof to pray, Peter understood God more clearly. How does prayer help us understand the mind of God? How can we change from an “asking” form of prayer to a “discernment” form of prayer? Many children in your classes will have a rote prayer/prayers that they say at certain times of day. How can you push them to move into an asking/listening form for prayer?


Bible Background written by Lisa Martin from: Trinity UCC
Pottstown, PA

A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability.

Lisa's lessons, associated with this story, can be found under specific workshops, links below:

  • Art: Children will make soap carvings of the Holy Spirit, leading into a discussion of clean and unclean.
  • Games: Use the parachute to explain Peter’s vision. Games will include blob tag and a memory verse game that also uses the parachute.
  • Computers: Children will examine the “Color Blind” section of the Actual Reality CD (out of print), which talks about the way God sees us, and the way people sometimes discriminate. Cal and Marty’s Scripture Memory Game (older grades, optional). Children can build their speed for the memory verse or any other related verses with this program. This software is FREE to supporting members! Check it out.
  • Cooking:  Jewish Kosher laws will be discussed and traditional Passover sweets will be prepared.
  • Drama:  Script of Acts 10:1-11:18 and Bible study. Adaptations for younger ages include taping the dialogue and using puppets.
  • Video: Children will watch a video on “Respect” from The Book of Virtues. They will discuss how the main characters treatment of a helpful junkyard worker parallels Peter’s opinion of Cornelius.
Last edited by Luanne Payne
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Adventures with Peter:  A New Vision!

Background Information:

This was part of a summer series on Peter. In previous rotations we studied Peter's denial, his restoration by Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Peter's healing of a lame man at the Temple gate. In this rotation we continued our study of Peter's transformation with the story of Peter's vision and his meeting with the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.

Scripture References:

Acts 10  (page 363-364 Little Kids' Adventure Bible)

“The Story of Cornelius” (page 374-376 Little Kids’ Adventure Bible)

"God, A Roman and a Jew," The Picture Bible  (pages 708-710)

Memory Verse:
"I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism."  Acts 10:34

God's love and salvation is for everyone!  God pours out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles!

Rotation Music:

  1. "Old Testament Books of the Bible," Troy And Genie Nilsson    
  2. "New Testament Books Of The Bible," Troy and Genie Nilsson
  3. "Carry it On," Seeds of Faith, 2007.
  4. "God Who Began a Good Work in You," Chris Hughes and Ed Kilbourne, Light the Fire.
  5. "Jesus is Calling You," Circus Spectacular VBS, 2006.
  6. “Light the Fire,” Light the Fire, Chris Hughes and Ed Kilbourne, Fly By Night Records, 1997.
  7. “Spirit, Fall on Me,” Silence the Rocks, Don Washburn, Digisound Productions Studio.
  8. “Come on Christian, Get on Fire,” RPM, Volume 1, One Way Street.
  9. “Spirit, Come Down,” Faithsongs, Abingdon Press, 2003.
  10. “Undignified," Judah, River Ablaze, Epiphany Music, 1998.
  11. “Power of God,” RPM, Volume 3:  Replaying the Hits, One Way Street, 1999.
  12. “Lord I lift your name on High," The Katinas, Lifestyle:  A Worship Experience, Gotee Records, 2002.

Special Bible Notes:
NIV:  Adventure Bible  -- "Did you Know?  Why did God send Peter a vision?"  (page 1211)     

Objectives and Life Application:

  • Children will locate the story in the Bible.
  • Children will define Acts as a New Testament book of history.
  • Children will retell the story in their own words.
  • Children will discuss Jewish dietary laws and the implication for the early church.
  • Children will identify Pentecost as the day God's gift of the Holy Spirit came to the Jewish believers.
  • Children will identify Cornelius as a Gentile and a Roman centurion.
  • Children will define:  Gentile, centurion.
  • Children will locate Joppa, Jerusalem and Caesarea on the map.
  • Children will understand that God desires everyone to be saved.
  • Children will understand that salvation comes through belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
  • Children will memorize Acts 10:34.

Background Information for Teachers

What's in a Name?

When Peter first appears in the gospels, his name is Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah). Jesus changes Simon's name to Cephas (Aramaic) or Petros (Peter - Greek).  Jona means dove, while Cephas and Peter mean rock.  Jesus is essentially saying to Peter, "Once you were just a flitting, fluttering dove.  If you will trust me as your Lord, I will make you into a rock."  As we have seen in our last two rotations (Peter's Denial and Peter's Restoration), Peter has not always acted "rock-like."  Peter's name change is a reflection of who he wouldbecome, not who he already was.  Each of us has a "next step" in our discipleship.  As with Peter, God sees our potential and yearns for us to fulfill it.

Who is Peter?
We know a great deal about the disciple, Peter primarily due to his close relationship with Mark, the writer of the gospel.  In fact, many Bible scholars believe Mark's gospel to be composed of a compilation of Peter's preaching and personality.  The word "euthus" means immediately or straight-away and is used throughout Mark's gospel.  Peter was a man of action, with a quick temper and impulsive nature, typical of Galileans. One who acts without thinking is prone to make mistakes. To Peter's credit, he does not hold back his many mistakes and blunders. Peter wants everyone to experience, as he has, the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter was a fisherman, in partnership with James and John.  He was married and lived in Capernaum in Galilee. Peter quickly became a leader among the disciples.  Matthew begins the list of disciples with "the first, (protos) Simon."  Protos means first, but it also means chief.  Peter was in fact the chief among the disciples.  Peter also was part of the inner circle of three (Peter, James and John) who were closest to Jesus.

In our previous rotations, we have seen Peter experience a whirlwind of emotions…. from boasting about his faithfulness to Jesus ("Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you."  Matthew 26:35) to his denial in the courtyard of the high priest, to his restoration by Jesus on the beach…. then, with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we see a new and transformed Peter.  Peter has received power and courage – gifts of the Holy Spirit. Peter now bravely proclaims the gospel and heals many in Jesus’ name.

What is Pentecost?
Jewish people celebrate a series of feasts or festivals throughout the year. At the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or Pentecost Jewish people were instructed to bring two loaves made from the wheat harvest and the harvest was dedicated to God as its giver.  (Lev. 23:15-16)  It is held exactly fifty days after First Fruits (Easter).  Pentecost means 50 days.  On this day the Holy Spirit came to the disciples bringing them the power of the Holy Spirit to give them strength to share Jesus’ message with the world.

Who is the Holy Spirit?  What is the Trinity?
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), our "three-in-one” God.  He is God.  Like God, the Holy Spirit is eternal, present everywhere, and equal with God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit does exactly the things that Jesus did, for the Holy Spirit is Jesus, now with us.  "We believe in one God.  God has entered human history as Jesus.  God's Spirit, the same Spirit that filled Jesus is in the hearts and minds of believers."   The Holy Spirit brings God closer, nearer to us, truly “God with us,” in a very intimate way.

Old Testament Connection
The Holy Spirit did not just suddenly appear on Pentecost.  He has existed since the beginning with Father and Son.  The Old Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of the Lord.”  (Other expressions used are the "Holy Spirit" and the "Spirit of Jesus.") In Old Testament writings the Spirit’s activity is more selective, descending specifically upon certain individuals to accomplish God’s work for a finite time.  But the prophet Joel foresaw a day when God would say,

“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.”  (Joel 2:28-29)

Holy Spirit comes to Jews & Gentile in Acts
In Acts 2, we see the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Jews at Pentecost.  But God has a bigger plan.  In Acts 10, we see God’s ultimate plan of salvation unfolding before us. With Peter's vision and subsequent visit to Cornelius, we see the Gentile Pentecost, as God pours out his Spirit upon the Gentiles.

The word Gentile comes from the Latin word gens meaning nation.  Anyone who is not Jewish is Gentile.

Jews were forbidden to associate with Gentiles.  They did so at the risk of becoming ceremonially unclean, requiring an elaborate set of rituals before they could participate in worship again.  It can be difficult for us to understand the mindset of first century Jewish believers.  The Jews were very sensitive about foreigners.  For years they had experienced foreign occupation and subservience to others.  Wars, bondage and persecution followed!  No pious Jew would ever enter a Gentile's home!  The early church was astounded to see the Holy Spirit come to the Gentiles.  It was a radical reorientation of their understanding of God and themselves as God's chosen people.

Peter and Cornelius
This month we will explore the story of Peter's vision and God's gift of the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and the Gentiles.  We will see the progression and growth of the early church.  While studying the individual stories of Peter, it's important to adjust our focus so that we do not miss the big picture -- the unfolding of God's plan of salvation for the world.  In the book of Acts we see the birth of the Christian church and its expansion to:

Jerusalem - Acts 1-7
Judea and Samaria - Acts 8-12
Gentile converts - Acts 10
The whole world - Acts 13-18

This month we will explore how the Gentile believers were suddenly welcomed into the church with the same rights and privileges as Jewish believers.  Peter was at the center of this dramatic and radical change!

Cornelius has a Vision
Caesarea, a harbor town named for Caesar Augustus, was the headquarters for the Roman forces.  A Roman centurion named Cornelius lived there.  (A centurion commanded a military unit of at least 100 men.  Centurions were carefully selected for their leadership and noble qualities.)  Cornelius was a monotheist and a pious follower of God.  Most Gentiles believed in many gods.  He was a well-respected man of prayer and compassion.  Although a Gentile, he followed many of the Jewish religious practices such as daily prayer at specified times throughout the day and generosity to the poor.

One day as Cornelius prayed at the designated time in the afternoon (3:00 p.m.), he had a vision.  An angel instructed him to send men to Joppa to the house of Simon, the tanner, and bring back Peter who was staying there.  Cornelius immediately sent servants and a soldier to Joppa.   Meanwhile….

Peter's Vision
Peter was indeed in Joppa, just as the angel had said.  Joppa (modern day Jaffa), is a port city about 35 miles from Jerusalem.  And Peter was staying with a tanner named Simon.  It's surprising that Peter would be staying there, for a tanner was considered unclean due to contact with dead animals and using urine to cure hides.  It seems Peter is already beginning to reject some of the rigid Jewish laws.  That is about to increase dramatically!

As Cornelius' men were approaching the city, Peter went up on the rooftop to pray.  (Eastern houses were typically made with flat roofs and outside staircases, providing privacy for prayer.)  He was hungry and wanted something to eat.  As the food was being prepared, he fell into a spiritual trance.  He saw a vision of what appeared to be a large sheet with four corners (representing the whole world) being lowered from heaven (coming from God) and filled with every type of animal, many considered unclean to a Jew.

A voice proclaimed, "Get up, Peter.  Kill and eat."  (Acts 10:13). Food laws were originally meant to separate God's covenant people from all others (see Leviticus 11). The Jews were meant to be different, set apart following carefully prescribed laws.  (see attached handout on Kosher dietary laws)

Peter recoiled, "Surely not, Lord!  I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."  The voice responded, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."   Three times this was repeated.  In biblical narratives, repetition is a common literary technique used for emphasis.

Clean and Unclean
According to Mosaic law, the Jewish people were to distinguish between the “clean” and the “unclean” in the food that they ate, but true cleanness was a matter of the heart and of one’s obedience to the law of God. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). When the Israelites disobeyed God, they were sent from their land and intermingled with the Gentiles, where they were forced to eat unclean foods.

Christ's Sacrifice Final Cleansing
The sacrificial system provided for temporary cleansing and the annual “day of atonement” () provided an annual cleansing of the sins of the nation. But the full and final cleansing would come through the Messiah.  (Isaiah 4:2-6; Jeremiah 33:7-9; Ezekiel 33:22-38).

Jesus spoke often about what was "clean" and "unclean."  He repeatedly rebuked the externalism of the Pharisees, who looked to outside appearances and not to the heart (Luke 16:15).  He spoke of uncleanness as something originating from within (from the heart) and which works itself out through behavior and external acts.  Jesus pointed to our sin as the source of our defilement.  And in Mark 7:19 Jesus declared all foods clean.

Christ's death accomplished full and final cleansing, for the sins of all who would believe in Christ. As a result, there is no longer a need to distinguish between “clean” and “unclean" things.  This cleansing was not for only the Jews.  It extended to all whose hearts turned to God and who proclaimed Jesus as God’s Messiah. This cleansing was complete, even bringing near to God those whom the law would have kept at a distance. Isaiah prophesied about such a time, "Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say, 'The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.'”  (Isaiah 56:3)

Christ's sacrifice made obsolete the ceremonial food laws. True cleansing was internal, a cleansing from sin. True cleansing came through the cross, not through ceremonial rituals. And so, these convictions, such a part of Peter's identity, must be set aside.

Peter Ponders Meaning of his Vision
But Peter does not understand the implications of all of this quite yet.  For the revelation he has received is not just about food…. It is about people!

As Peter is pondering the meaning of his vision, a knock comes at the door.  It is the delegation sent by Cornelius.  Peter invites them in and listens to their story.  By welcoming them into his home, Peter takes another step away from rigid Jewish rules and a step toward acceptance of the Gentiles and God's vision.  The next day Peter sets out for Caesarea with his visitors.

Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered his family and close friends.  When Peter arrives, there is a crowd to greet him. Up to this point, Peter has been convinced he is supposed to associate with these Gentiles and he invited them to stay overnight at Simon’s house. He was even willing to go with them to the home of Cornelius. But now that he is here, what is he to do?  He only knows God wants him here.

Peter begins by reviewing the fact that Jews do not associate with Gentiles. "But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean."  (Acts 10:28)

Next Cornelius explains his vision and how he had come to call for Peter. Now Peter realizes he has been brought to this home to speak the gospel to this group of Gentiles.  This must have been a profound revelation to Peter!  In verses 36-43, Peter, in simple terms, does exactly that, as he preaches the first sermon to the Gentiles.

"I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism,"  (Acts 10:34).  He continues, sharing the gospel of Jesus with those present. The salvation Jesus has provided is for all who would believe, not just to the Jews, for "…everyone who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43).

As Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon those present.  The Jewish believers are astonished to see the Gentiles speaking in tongues and praising God.  It is obvious to all present that the Gentiles have received the same Holy Spirit the Jews received at Pentecost. Peter now realizes the meaning of his vision -- the barrier between Jew and Gentile has been removed.  The very words he had spoken at Pentecost were true.


What God had considered unlawful, has now changed.  No person can be considered holy or unholy by his background. This is a powerful truth that should fully impact our lives. There is no room for prejudice.  God shows us there is a greater covenant that we are to abide by - God's love and grace is for everyone.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was questioned about his actions but as he described the experience, the believers no longer objected and they praised God saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18)

This story represents a great turning point in religious history. The Old Testament foretold that God would also include the Gentiles in his plan of salvation.  Now it has happened.  Through this story we see that the circle of God's love includes everyone.  God wants everyone to believe in Jesus and trust in him for salvation.  No matter how different, God loves everyone and wants us to love them as well, and help them to know Jesus.

Looking Ahead:
This summer we will explore several of Peter's adventures and his contributions to the early Christian Church. Children will see how Peter becomes an important leader in the early church and how God uses him to share the gospel message with others.

The Seven Feasts of Israel by Zola Levitt,
The IVP Bible Background Commentary - New Testament by Craig S. Keener,
Smith’s Bible Dictionary by William Smith,
Christian Believer - Knowing God with Heart and Mind Study Manual by J. Ellsworth Kalas;
I Want to Know About the Holy Spirit, Rick Osborne and K. Christie Bowler, Zonderkidz, 1998;
A Commentary on Acts of Apostles, 1863, J. W. McGarvey;
Cleveland Bible Commentary on Acts 3, Sydney M. Cleveland;
The Master's Men, William Barclay, Abingdon Press, 1959;

Disciple II Into the Word, Into the World, Study Manual, Cokesbury, 1991;
The 13 Apostles, J. Ellsworth Kalas, Abingdon Press 2002;
Bible Teacher's Commentary, Lawrence O. Richards, Cook Communications Ministries, 2002; Richard's complete Bible Dictionary, Lawrence O. Richards, World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa, 1984;
Acts for our Time, Charles Yrigoyen, Jr.;
Peter & Cornelius Lives Intersect - Acts 10:17-48
Christian Courier:  Six Great Truths Cornelius Can Teach Us

We also included the Summary of “Kosher” Rules (posted at by Neil MacQueen, from a document at

Written by Jaymie Derden from:
State Street UMC – G.R.E.A.T. Adventure
Bristol, VA

This bible background created and copyrighted by State Street UMC, Bristol, VA, 2009. Permission granted for non-commercial, local church use, provided credit is give to the source.

A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability.

Jaymie's lessons, associated with this story, can be found under specific workshops, links below:

  • Art: Children will illustrate Peter's dream using the technique of Mexican Indian Huichol Yarn paintings - thanks for the idea Carol Hulbert!
  • Art #2: Children will create "Spirit Paintings" – using the technique of marbleizing paper that has been previously cut into symbols of the Holy Spirit – a dove, a flame, and a heart.
  • Computers: Children will explore the concept of inclusion through the software Actual Reality and Kid Pix - based on a lesson idea posted by Trinity UCC.
  • Drama: Children will act out the story and continue the Photo Storybook of Peter's life.
  • Video: Children will view clips from two videos about the story:  Friends and Heroes Series:  A Friend in High Places and The Visual Bible:  Acts.
Last edited by Luanne Payne

Peter and Cornelius

We did Peter and Cornelius during one summer as part of an 8 Week SERIES, spending 2 weeks each on these stories from the Book of ACTS about Spreading the Gospel (Evangelism)

The four stories were:

  1. Peter's Vision of the Unclean/Clean Animals
  2. Peter and Cornelius
  3. Lydia's Story
  4. Paul and Silas in Prison

ALL FOUR OF THESE STORIES are about Evangelism and Baptism, which are two sides of the same coin.

We started with Peter's Vision of Unclean/Clean Animals --which is God saying 'go ahead and reach out to, and baptize the Gentiles'.

Then we covered Peter's baptism of Cornelius the Roman (a Gentile), who brings his entire household into the faith.

Then we taught a short rotation on Lydia's story, a non-Jew that Paul baptized.

And finished with Paul and Silas in the Philippi prison earthquake --where Paul baptizes the jailer and his family after the earthquake.

SOME of my lesson ideas for that 8 week rotation appear BELOW in this discussion.

The Paul and Silas Prison Earthquake lessons and "how to make the Philipp jail" are in their own Paul and Silas thread here at rotation.or.

There are two big themes/questions running through Acts and these four stories:

1) The question "what must I do to be saved/to become a believer." The answer is "believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized." Baptism is an outward sign of God's invisible acceptance of us into his family. Thus, it is often called an "invisible grace".  

    Which comes first? Belief or baptism? Neither. God comes first! "He first loved us".

2) Each story teaches us that Jesus Christ is for everyone, not just some. These stories teach us to share that Good News with everyone.

   How do some people leave others out, make them feel excluded in school, in church.

Some interesting Life App Questions for kids:

  • Cornelius, Lydia, and the Jailer had their "whole household" baptized.  Why did they do that?  
  • What does it mean when a child or baby is baptized?  (It's a sign that God first chooses us, and works through our families and extended families, like the church, to raise us in faith.)
  • How does your parent's faith bring YOU to eagerly listen to the message?
  • What did Cornelius, Lydia and the Jailer need to do after they were baptized?  What do YOU need to do?  What does your baptism into God's family MAKE you want to do?

<>< Neil

Originally Posted by Neil MacQueen
July 07, 2002 (moved here to consolidate)

Peter's Vision of Animals, Peter & Cornelius

I'm starting some notes here about summer rotation lessons I took part in about Peter's vision of clean/unclean animals, and his baptism of Cornelius as the beginning of Peter's/Jerusalem's acceptance of Gentiles. Feel free to add your own.

One of the reasons the story of Peter's Vision, and Cornelius' baptism is IMPORTANT is because it demonstrates God's desire to be EVERYBODY'S GOD, and Jesus to be EVERYBODY'S CHRIST, everybody's Messiah.

The Holy Spirit moved the Church and Peter to consider something they had previously thought was OUT OF BOUNDS.

The Holy Spirit steps in and gives Christians to set aside and reinvent their traditions. It is also a story of BRAVERY. Both Peter and Cornelius were men of position doing something that would harm their reputation.

Some Key Points about these stories for any workshop...

  1. God's messengers and message have no boundary. They are for everyone everywhere. No one is excluded. That which you may think is "unclean" can change. Be guided by the Spirit, not Tradition.
  2. New believers are called to believe in Jesus Christ as their savior. They can create their own "traditions and practices" as long as those traditions reflect the central message of the Gospel --which is inclusion, not exclusion, Love, not hate. God embracing us before we choose to embrace him. The Holy Spirit can guide us to create new meaningful traditions.
  3. Both Peter and Cornelius risked their reputations by listening to God. In fact, some of the disciples were very upset with Peter. When you believe in Jesus, you will likely risk your reputation.
  4. For older kids: What "traditions" or practices in our church could we change to make them more meaningful to new Christians and kids.

I did NOT get into the issue of circumcision with my elementary kids.

<>< Neil

Last edited by Luanne Payne

One of the things that I like to do over a rotation is that even though we teach the same story, we intentionally have a different discussion. That is, we lift up different ideas and themes from the same story.

So what I hear being said is there are several discussions to be lifted out of the story.

  • A discussion about baptism -- specifically the questions Neil listed regarding baptism of the entire household.
  • Figuring out what it means that the spirit rested upon Cornelius -- what did that look like, how did they know, etc.
  • clarification about Jewish/Gentile tensions in the early church, including Jewish dietary laws. (Sounds like a cooking rotationSmile)
  • Labeling of "clean" vs. "unclean" -- in Biblical times and in our times. Who is included and who is excluded?
  • Cornelius is saved. What must I do to be saved?
  • Bringing Christ to others (evangelism)
  • Prayer/revelation. By going to the roof to pray, Peter understood God more clearly. How does prayer help us understand the mind of God?


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