This lesson continues the story of Cornelius and Peter and how God included Gentiles in His plan of salvation. This was a major event in the early church and shows God’s love was universal. This lesson was prepared for Sunday School but can be adapted for Children’s church and simplified for younger students.
Bible Story: Cornelius Receives the Holy Spirit
Scripture: Acts 10:23-48
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Sunday School Supply List: Construction paper, glitter pens or markers, stickers, (For students to create invitations for friends and family to attend church), pictures or flannel graphs for this story.
Learning Goal: Students will learn that God kept His promise to include Gentiles in His plan of Salvation.
Learning Indicator: Students will be able to identify someone they know who they can invite to hear the Good News at church. They will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the lesson by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: As students arrive direct them to the tables to create an invitation for someone they know to come and hear the Good News at Church or Sunday School. Encourage them to think of someone they know doesn’t believe in Jesus. As they identify the person they want to invite have them write the person’s name on the prayer request sheet and during class prayer, pray for each name that the student is inviting.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
Memory Verse Activity: Write out the phrases for the verse on cards. Allow students to choose a phrase and let them decide how they will make a motion that best describes that phrase. Line the students up with their cards and have them each say their phrase with their motion. As the class has the motions figured out say the entire verse together using the motions taught by the students.
Bible Lesson: Cornelius the Gentile receives the Holy Spirit
(Distribute Bibles to all students who do not have one. Begin with prayer.)
(If you taught Acts 10:1-22 review with students what they remember from the passage of Scripture.)
Introduction: Sometimes children feel like their Mom or Dad favors their brother or sister more than them. Sometimes it is jealousy that makes kids feel that way. Unfortunately sometimes it is true and the parent does not look like our perfect Parent, God the Father. Let’s review our Memory Verse from last week (Acts 10:34-35). God does not have favorites.
Some may ask the question, “If it is true that God has no favorites why are the Jews called God’s Chosen people?” That sounds like favoritism doesn’t it?
That is a good question but just like in our families many times what something looks like isn’t always the truth of the matter.
When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience God had a plan to rescue men, women, boys and girls from the consequences of sin which is death. God chose to send His Savior into the world through the Jewish people. He gave them His laws and set them apart for other nations to see that He is the One True God. God’s plan all along was to save all people from their sins. God’s plan took time. Many years passed as God worked out His plan. He was faithful to all His promises and finally sent His Son Jesus to be born to Mary a young Jewish woman.
God never intended the Jewish people to think they were better than others because they were His chosen people. They didn’t realize or forgot that they did nothing special to be chosen. (Deuteronomy 7:6-7) Because God is sovereign (has all authority over His creation) He chose them to be a part of His plan. Instead of looking down on others they were supposed to be showing the world that God was going to send a Savior who would rescue them from their sin.
Let’s hear the rest of the story of Peter and Cornelius. Turn in your Bible to Acts 10:23. (NASB)
This chapter reminds me of a TV show where we get to see what is going on in different situations. We start in verse 23 with Peter inviting the Gentile men that Cornelius sent to be his guests at the house he was staying in. He invited them to spend the night there and they would get up in the morning and begin travelling to Joppa. We see Peter’s immediate obedience to God’s instructions by allowing Gentiles to stay with him.
It was a two day journey from Joppa to Caesarea. Peter got up in the morning and prepared to travel with Cornelius’ men. Peter took 6 Jewish believers along with him (Acts 11:12) on this journey.
The Scriptures turn our attention to what is going on in Caesarea in Acts 10:24. Cornelius has been preparing for Peter’s visit with great expectation. It doesn’t say this in the Bible but I imagine Cornelius sending out invitations to his family and friends to come to his house to meet Peter the man God told him to send for. He probably had food prepared and people sat together in his house talking together waiting for Peter’s arrival. It is possible that Cornelius shared with his guests how God sent an angel to give him the message. The people in Cornelius’ home must have been curious and excited to see what was going to take place when this man Peter came to visit.
Peter finally arrives in Caesarea and goes to Cornelius’ house. Cornelius must have been watching out his window for any sign of Peter. When he sees his two servants and soldier he sent, along with a group of other men heading toward his house he goes out and meets them. Cornelius falls at his feet to show Peter reverence. Peter knew that this behavior was reserved for God alone. God is the only One anyone should bow and show reverence to. Peter reached out to Cornelius and lifted him up to his feet. Peter said to Cornelius, “Stand up I am only a man myself.”
Cornelius led Peter into his house where all his invited guests were gathered. As Peter looked around the room he saw a house filled with Gentiles. (Acts 10:28) Peter says, “You are well aware that it is against our law (this is not a law God made but a law that the Jews made themselves) for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”
Peter was being obedient to God’s instructions to him. It would have been very strange for Peter to enter a Gentile’s home and not explain what he was doing there. Everyone knew that Jews did not associate with Gentiles because they believed Gentiles were unclean and ungodly.
Peter asked Cornelius, “Why have you sent for me?” Cornelius told Peter about the message God gave him from an angel. He pointed to all the family and friends in the room and said, “We are all here before God to hear all the things that God has for you to say.”
As a Jewish believer, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. As he hears Cornelius’ explanation and sees all the Gentiles in his house he understands that God does not show favoritism. Cornelius was a Gentile who feared (honored God) but did not know the message of salvation so that he could be saved from his sins. God had sent him to share the Good News with Cornelius because it was God’s plan all along to save all people from their sins.
Peter shares the Good News with Cornelius and all his guests. He knew that most of them had heard about Jesus. Read Acts 10:36-38.
- You and I know many people who know about Jesus but they do not fully understand that He is the Savior of the world and they can have peace with God when they believe in Him. Since we believe in Jesus we need to share the Good News with them so they can have peace with God.
Peter gives a clear message of how God saves people from their sins. Read Acts 10:39-43.
God is always at work in people’s lives. God’s Word is powerful and when the Good News about Jesus is shared with others the Holy Spirit works in their hearts. Some people hear the Good News and they know that the message is true and the Holy Spirit is speaking to them to believe in Jesus. They have a choice to accept or reject what the Holy Spirit is asking them to do. If they accept their sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit comes into their heart. If they reject they are still lost and separated from God and cannot live with Him in heaven when they die.
As Peter is speaking the Good News to Cornelius and his guests the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts. They agreed in their hearts that what he was saying was true. They believed that Jesus was the Savior and they wanted to be saved from their sins.
How do we know that these Gentiles accepted the message of the Good News? Let’s read Acts 10:44. As the people heard the Good News and believed that Jesus is the Savior, the Holy Spirit came upon all of them and they spoke in different languages and praised God. The first time the Holy Spirit came upon people who believe was on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. It was Jewish people who first received the Holy Spirit. At Cornelius’ house it is the first time that Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. God had broken down all barriers and showed Peter and the 6 Jewish men that had traveled with him that God’s plan was not just to rescue the Jewish people from their sin but it was also His plan to rescue all people everywhere from their sins if they believed in Jesus. Peter could see that God has saved these Gentiles from their sins just as He had done for himself. He knew that God had saved them and said that they should be baptized.
Peter and Cornelius both obeyed the instructions that God had given them. As a result Peter was a part of God’s plan to bring the Good News to the Gentiles. Cornelius and all his invited guests received the Gift of Salvation. They both experienced joy unspeakable because they obeyed God.
If we are followers of Jesus we should obey God’s instructions to us. We may not fully understand God’s plan but it is not our responsibility to understand. We can trust that God is working out His plans to use our lives to bring the Good News to those in our lives who do not know Him. Let’s pray that we will be sensitive to hear God’s voice and willing to obey whatever He asks us to do.
This morning you may be like Cornelius and his guests. As you heard the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried and raised on the third day, you may want to be saved. Please talk to us if that is what you know God is speaking to your heart about.
Let’s close in prayer.
Lesson Review Questions:
- How did Peter treat Cornelius’ men who asked him to come to Joppa? (He invited them to be guests in the home he was staying.)
- Who did Peter bring with him on this trip along with Cornelius’ messengers? (6 Jewish believers)
- How did Cornelius prepare for Peter’s visit? (Invited family and friends to his house)
- Why did Peter lift Cornelius to his feet? (The posture of bowing is reserved to honor the One True God and Peter was just a man)
- What did Peter share with Cornelius and his guests? (The Good News)
- How did Cornelius and his guests respond to the Good News? (They believed in Jesus)
- Why were the Jewish believers that came with Peter astonished? (Because they saw that God had poured out the Holy Spirit on Gentiles)
- Who can you invite to Sunday School so they can hear the Good News?
- Who will you share the Good News with this week?