In Acts 10, the doors of the kingdom were opened to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. God used Peter to make this breakthrough. The Patriarchal Dispensation lasted for approximately 2,500 years, beginning with Adam and ending with the giving of the Mosaic Law on Mt. Sinai. During this period, there was no church, no temple, and no written system of laws. God spoke directly to the head of the family in visions and dreams and through angels.
In the early history of the Bible, we find the patriarchal form of government, the founder of the tribe possessing authority over his children and his children’s children so long as he lived. When the father died, the power descended to his eldest son. He was honored as the central point of connection and as the representative of the whole kindred. The patriarchs were the head of the religious faith, as well as the leader in civil affairs and represented God.
Under what law was Cornelius worshipping before Peter’s visit to him? It was not Christianity, because he had not been offered the gospel plan of salvation.. It was not Judaism, because he was not a Jew nor a proselyte to the Jewish religion. There was only one other law under which God accepted worship, and that was the patriarchal arrangement.
It was God’s divine purpose to make Jews and Gentiles as “one new man” (Eph. 2:14-18). But the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles had delayed that plan until the events of Acts 10. Here began a series of events that resulted in the union of all people submitting themselves to the will of God in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:79).
God ended the Mosaic Dispensation, a period that lasted for approximately 1,500 years, beginning with Moses and ending when Christ died on the cross and the church began. God also ended the patriarchal system of worship which would have terminated at the cross but was EXTENDED to the house of Cornelius because of shortsightedness and prejudice of the Jews toward the Gentiles concerning the inclusion of the Gentiles into Christ’s redemptive plan. Though the Law had been nailed to the cross, the gospel had not yet gone to the Gentiles. In this transition period, those under patriarchal would be judged by the existing law until they had the opportunity to hear and to obey the gospel.
No one today lives in that category. How was God going to overcome and break down the walls and barriers of prejudice that had been built up through the centuries between Jews and Gentiles? How was He going to get His church, His people to break away from their Jewish roots and reach out to the whole world? That is the bottom line in Acts 10.
God’s salvation was about to be swung open to the people of the world. Every person would soon have the wonderful privilege of hearing the marvelous message proclaimed: God is love and has sent His dear son into the world that the world might be saved and not perish. God had to break through the prejudicial customs of His servant Peter and led him to swing open the door to a Gentile soldier who was desperately crying out to God. There was salvation for the countless multitudes of people who lived and died under the patriarchal system.
Cornelius was worshipping under this system, but when he heard and obeyed the gospel, he became accountable to God under the Christian dispensation. It began with Christ’s death and the beginning of the church in Acts 2. It will continue in effect until Christ returns to announce the end of time and the judgment.