By Neal Bahro
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what is called the Italian Regiment.” In Acts chapter 10 we are introduced to a military officer of the Roman army named Cornelius. He was a Gentile who was a good example to his household and prayed to God regularly (Acts 10:2). We also read that Cornelius was a generous man who gave alms to the people. In Acts 10:22 it is revealed that Cornelius was a just man who had a good reputation among the Jews.
One day, at the ninth hour, Cornelius was instructed in a heavenly vision to send for Simon Peter who would tell him what he must do (Acts 10:6). Now we begin to see how the actions of Cornelius demonstrate the kind of faith that he possessed. When the angel departed he sent for Simon Peter without delay. There are many people today who will gladly hear what God has to say to them, but they refuse to act on what is heard. James, by inspiration, tells us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22). Cornelius heard and acted on God’s word.
Peter had a vision in which God told him not to call common what had been cleansed. Following this vision, he went to meet Cornelius when the servants came for him. We note that Cornelius wanted others to hear God’s word because he gathered his relatives and close friends together to await Peter’s arrival. Cornelius fell down at Peter’s feet showing that he did not have the proper concept of worship. Peter corrected him immediately, telling him to get up, that he was a man also. Sadly we see many people today who choose to worship a man or woman instead of God.
Cornelius was very eager to hear what Peter had to say. His desire to hear God’s will is a good lesson for all of us. Cornelius wanted to hear all things commanded Peter by God (Acts 10:33). Many people today will hear God’s word and treat it like a buffet, simply picking the things they like and leaving the rest.
When Peter began preaching, he taught that God does not show partiality but accepts those who fear God and work righteousness. Until this time the gospel had been taken to the Jews only. Gentiles were considered dogs (Matt. 15:26), but God had shown Peter in the vision that he should call no man common or unclean. The message Peter delivered to the Gentiles was similar to the one he spoke to the Jews on Pentecost, which was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles who were there. This is a very significant time in the spread of Christianity. Now God had extended salvation to not only his chosen people but also to the Gentiles. In Genesis 12:3 God told Abram “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” All people were now truly blessed, having access to salvation provided by the blood of Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Peter continued speaking and commanded his hearers to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Now God had truly “granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18). We see once again, as in the other accounts of conversion, that baptism was a necessary requirement in order to be saved (1 Pet. 3:21).
When someone asks me, “What must I do to be saved?” I direct them to the Bible and point out that they must hear God’s word (Rom. 10:17), believe God’s word (Mark 16:16), repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38) and live faithfully until death. If anyone does this he can obtain that crown of righteousness which is available to anyone who desires it.
Cornelius was a devout man, a generous man, and a praying man. These things are good, but it was only by listening to God’s will and submitting to it that brought salvation to Cornelius and his household.