The Book of Acts begins with the story of the resurrected Christ giving final instructions to his disciples, culminating with this promise: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8 ESV)
We have followed along as this promise was fulfilled with the disciples. They received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter and the rest of the disciples were witnesses of his resurrection in Jerusalem - even getting thrown in jail, beaten, and killed for it - and as a result they were scattered throughout the region in Judea and Samaria. Philip was sent to Samaria and ministered there and then reached a man from Ethiopia (the ends of the earth). Paul was converted and began ministering in Jerusalem and Judea to the Jews.
In the story of Peter and Cornelius, we continue to learn about how the Gospel is meant for everyone - Jews and Gentiles alike. Two men had visions from God that caused them to cross paths. Cornelius, a Roman soldier who was a follower of God, had a vision in which an angel tells him to send some men to Joppa to fetch a man named Simon Peter, who was staying with a man named Simon the Tanner.
Peter had a strange vision of a white sheet being lowered down from the skies with all sorts of animals on the sheet. A voice told him to eat the animals that were on the sheet. Peter protested, though. Some of the animals on that sheet were deemed unclean by the Law given to Moses. But the voice replied: "Do not say anything is not pure that God has made ‘clean,’" (Acts 10:15). This vision was repeated three times. Peter was confused and was unsure about what it meant.
Just then, the men that Cornelius sent to get Peter arrived. The Holy Spirit told Peter that these men were sent by God and that he should go with him. So he did. And they went back to Caesarea to meet with Cornelius. When they met for the first time, Cornelius fell down and worshipped Peter, apparently thinking he was an angel or a god. But Peter quickly told him to get up - that he was just a man like Cornelius. They compared dreams and Peter was sure what it meant. God was making it clear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone from all nations, not just for the Jews. While Peter was there, many people believed in Christ, were baptized, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit, just like the apostles did on the day of Pentecost!
However, the believers from Judea (Jewish-background Christians) were not happy that Peter was associating with people who weren't Jewish. They didn't think he should be breaking the Jewish rules about not eating with Gentiles. But when they heard Peter's story, they were convinced just like he was that everyone was to be accepted, no matter what country they were from.
In this story, it is important to teach the children the meaning of the word "Gentile". It simply means, "one who is not Jewish".
get your kids talking and engaged
What is the strangest dream you've ever had?
In today's Bible story, two men had a dream, or a vision, that caused them to meet each other.
teach a holistic story
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.
For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.
give them basic Bible skills
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Acts 10:1-22; Acts 10:34-35
make sure they understand the story
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?
help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
hide God's Word in their heartHe has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (ESV)