The early days of Christianity were exciting as God’s Spirit moved and people’s lives changed. Converts were pouring in from surprising backgrounds. Even the dreaded Saul became a Christian (Paul), and non-Jews were responding to the Good News about Jesus. Among the first of these was the Roman captain Cornelius.
Because of frequent outbreaks of violence, Roman soldiers had to be stationed throughout Israel to keep the peace. But most Romans hated as conquerors, did not get along well in the nation. As an army officer, Cornelius was in a terrible position. He represented Rome, but his home was in Caesarea.
During his years in Israel, the God of Israel had conquered him himself. He had a reputation as a godly man who put his faith into action, and the Jews respected him.
Four significant aspects of Cornelius’s character are noted in Acts:
- He actively sought God,
- He revered God,
- He was generous in meeting other people’s needs, and
- He prayed.
God told him to send for Peter because Peter would give him more knowledge about the God he was already seeking to please.
When Peter entered Cornelius’s home, Peter broke a whole list of Jewish rules. Peter confesses he wasn’t comfortable, but here was an eager audience, and he couldn’t hold back his message.
He had no sooner started sharing the gospel when God gave overwhelming approval by filling that Roman family with his Holy Spirit. Peter saw he had no choice but to baptize them and welcome them as equals in the growing Christian church. Another step had been taken in carrying the gospel to the whole world.
Cornelius is a welcome example of God’s willingness to use extraordinary means to reach those who desire to know him. He does not play favorites, and he does not hide from those who want to find him. God sent his Son because he loves the whole world – and that included Peter, Cornelius, and you.
Strengths and Accomplishments
- A godly and generous Roman
- Although an officer in the occupying army, he seems to have been well-respected by the Jews
- He responded to God and encouraged his family to do the same
- His conversion helped the young church realize that the Good News was for all people, both Jews and Gentiles
Lessons From His Life
- God reaches those who want to know him
- The gospel is for all people
- There are people everywhere eager to believe
- When we are willing to seek the truth and be obedient to the light God gives us, God will reward us richly.
“He was a godly man, deeply reverent, as was his entire household. He gave generously to charity and was a man of prayer.” Acts 10:2
Cornelius’s story is told in Acts 10:1-11:18.
Chronological Life Application Study Bible
The Complete Book of Who’s Who in the Bible