Cornelius the Gentile
Acts 10:1-8 ESV
Acts 10:9-20 ESV
A Story of Love
We meet Cornelius in the book of Acts. He was a centurion in the Roman Army. In the Army he was a Commander in the Italian Regiment. It’s thought that the soldier Cornelius we meet in Acts 10 was the first Gentile to believe in Jesus.
While Paul’s companion in the faith (Timothy) was half Greek he was also half Hebrew and he was circumcised.
Cornelius was a commander in the Roman Army.
He was a Gentile.
That was a big deal in the 1st Century.
We read in Acts 10:1-8, “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.”
Even though Cornelius believed in God and was a devout follower who prayed continuously, having a vision where an Angel appeared might have been frightening. Indeed, the scripture says Cornelius was filled with terror.
I remember the first time I had a dream from God. I was 12 years old. I wasn’t sure but I thought something was happening. Some time after I had the dream something happened that frightened me, but I realized what was happening was like my dream. Because my dad and I had talked about dreams from God, I told my dad about the dream and I told him what happened later.
I had someone I trusted who could help me with my dream.
After that whenever I had a dream or a vision I told my dad about it and he helped me understand that God was telling me something. We didn’t always know what God was saying, but in time I started to see a pattern with my dreams and visions.
Scripture doesn’t say that Cornelius had any help from anyone.
Remarkably, Cornelius acted on what the Angel said in his dream.
He sent men to Joppa to find Simon Peter and they relayed the dream to the Apostle.
At this point we need to remember the culture at the time. No one fully Gentile (born of two Gentile parents) had been given a vision like this.
Peter would have known having a Gentile, especially a Gentile soldier who receiving a vision from God where an Angel appeared was way beyond the norm of the culture.
No one who was a Gentile had received Jesus. No Gentiles had been converted. No Gentiles had been baptized.
The good news is that God wasn’t finished yet.
Around the same time we read in Acts 10:9-20, “The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.”
God had a plan.
God told Cornelius to send for Simon Peter.
Simon Peter about the same time had a vision. In the vision the food he was eating was not food that was acceptable for him to eat. However, Simon Peter heard a voice telling him to eat the food.
When Peter heard that, he argued in verse 14 and said he would not eat the food because it was unclean.
The voice persisted.
Three times Simon Peter was told to eat the food.
Bear in mind Peter didn’t have any idea what the vision could mean.
Then there were men at the gate to his house asking for Peter.
The Spirit clearly told Peter three men were at the gate looking for him and he was to go with them.
Peter let the two servants and one Roman soldier in and he treated them like honored guests (which is remarkable). I would think that having a Roman soldier come to his house would have raised red flags, but Peter was told three times to go with them.
The next day he arose and went with the men. Even though Peter argued, he did obey.
Tomorrow we will explore what happened next to Simon Peter and Cornelius the Gentile.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Listen and Obey
Ask God to speak to you. Then listen. If this is your first time listening, it will help you if you sit in silence.
In God, Deborah