This chapter marks a pivotal moment in the life of the early church, where deep-rooted prejudice and twisted belief is challenged.
At this time in Jerusalem most believers understood that gentiles had to become Jews when they became Christians, and were outraged at the thought that gentiles were considered equal to them in the eyes of God, based on nothing more than their faith in Christ. It's therefore unsurprising that a strong dispute broke out when they heard Peter, had utterly disregarded Jewish custom.
Even in Peter we see initially that this prejudice is deep-rooted. In spite of having such a clear vision from God, Peter strongly disagrees with God, "By no means Lord!" (v8). And not only once, but three times! (Is that a cockerel I hear?)
Because this issue of personal prejudice is of such importance, Luke repeats this vision account from chapter 10 once more to drive the point home. God frees Peter from his racial bigotry (v9-16) and His desire was for the church to receive the same freedom. God, in his kindness, repeats the message until Peter gets it and sees for himself. The gentile Cornelius and his whole household receive the precious Holy Spirit, and all without fulfilling Jewish customs.
In the second half of the chapter we then join the believers in Antioch. Antioch was a cosmopolitan city, attracting people of various cultures, and differing ethnic and religious backgrounds. What an incredible setting for the early believers to work out this new understanding of the good news of Jesus for ALL people.
Whilst reading this chapter I've felt challenged. Considering our own "cosmopolitan city", are there any people we come across day to day where we find ourselves saying, "By no means Lord!" Or "Even to THEM?!"
By the end of his vision and encounter with Cornelius, Peter is changed. All believers were then united by the same faith in the same Lord with the same gift of the Holy Spirit.