In Acts 10 we are introduced to Cornelius. Prior to this chapter he is unknown. We quickly learn that he and his family are Gentiles in Caesarea. He is a centurion in a group called the Italian Cohort of the Roman Army. We learn he is a devout man, he and his household feared God, he gave many alms and prayed to God continually. He did all this as a Gentile.
Cornelius was God-fearing but needed to be taught. He needed to know more. He was sent a vision by an angel of the Lord. The vision told him his “prayers and alms ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). He was commanded to send some men to the home of Simon the Tanner in Joppa and seek an audience with Simon also, called Peter. They were to request his presence in Caesarea. Being the man that Cornelius was, he did as commanded.
The men who were sent to Joppa found Peter where they were told he would be. Peter returned with the men to the home of Cornelius. Upon his arrival, he found a gathering of family and close friends in the home of Cornelius.
Upon Peter’s arrival, Cornelius dropped to his knees to worship Peter. This shows that even though Cornelius was a God-fearing man, he was not educated in the Lord. He seemed to rely on the knowledge he had of the worship of idols and other things that were commonplace among Romans. Peter told Cornelius to rise and then corrected Cornelius, advising that he is only a man. Peter entered the home of Cornelius and briefly reminded them of the Jewish law. At this time, it was a violation of Jewish Law for a Jew to even associate with a Gentile. It was also believed that Gentiles could be saved. He then told them that he had been shown by God “that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Peter realized that God now welcomed all who fear and do right by Him. Peter began preaching about peace through Jesus Christ and told them of the good Jesus did with the power of God. He then told how Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead, and how Peter himself and others were commanded to go and preach to all the world.
While Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening, and they received it. Peter stopped and “told them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48). Peter then ordered his fellow Jews, those who had traveled with him, to baptize Cornelius and his family.
We are not told how Cornelius came to be such a devoted believer in God. We are not told that he ever met Jesus or witnessed the miracles He performed. There is no record that Jesus ever went to Caesarea. Cornelius’ lack of education is further evidenced by the mistake of kneeling to Peter upon his arrival.
Cornelius’ faith and belief was strong but like us today, he did not get to see the miracles that Jesus performed. He did not have any personal experience of the love or power of Jesus, yet he believed. We can read the word of God and the deeds of Jesus and the Apostles and be strong in our faith. “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).
As we go through life, it is easy to stray from God by something that sounds good or by something we hear and want to be true. Christians do this every day. Since we are prone to sin and distraction, we need to be prepared for correction at any time. We need to be willing to accept correction as Cornelius did. However, one must not rely only on another telling them the right way or what to believe. Cornelius had a vision from an angel. Do your own research, ask questions and when confronted with the truth, be ready to accept it.
Cornelius was a leader in many ways. In his professional life he was the leader of men. He led men to battle, those men believed in him and followed him. In his personal life he was a leader. He led his family and friends to God and the promise of eternal life in Heaven. He feared the Lord, not opinions or feelings. He was not ashamed, nor did he hide who he was or what he believed.
We should strive to believe as Cornelius believed. He was a strong leader and strong in his belief. He believed in God with all his heart during a time when many believed that the Gentiles would not or could not be saved. Cornelius is an example that the Gospel truly is for all. <Neal Ashworth>