Cornelius was a devout God fearer and the first Gentile to become a Christian. This officer (captain perhaps) in the military belonged to a battalion (cohort) made up of Italians, perhaps natives of Rome. There were 60 centurions in a Roman legion. Cornelius was deeply religious, yet not quite a Jewish proselyte. The first Gentile with whom Jesus dealt was also a centurion, and Cornelius may be the same man. The centurion carried a staff of vine wood as his badge of office. Cornelius was probably of the Cornelii, a noble and distinguished family at Rome.

The conversion of Cornelius was of supreme importance. A Roman garrison was established at Caesarea, where Cornelius appears to have been stationed. Peter sees a vision, described again by Cornelius himself, on Peter's arrival at Caesarea. Luke regards it as the first baptism of an uncircumcised pagan; and the initiative of this is not described to Paul, but to Peter. Christianity started in a Jewish home, but like all offspring, it had to leave home.

Was Cornelius saved before Peter's visit? If he were regenerated, he most certainly was not baptized or indwelt and sealed by the Holy Ghost. But Cornelius feared God and the Lord heard and answered his prayers. The story of his reception to the gospel shows how God broke down the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles. He had evidently been led by the Holy Spirit to renounce idolatry, to worship the true God, and to lead, in the midst of profligacy, a devout and beneficent life. He was prepared to receive the Savior and God did not fail to reveal Him.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Your prayers and your alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodges with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell you what you ought to do. And when the angel which spoke unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, was lodged there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek you. Arise therefore, and get you down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom you seek: what is the cause wherefore you are come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that fears God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for you into his house, and to hear words of you. Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto them, You know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent you have sent for me? And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, your prayer is heard, and your alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.

Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he comes, shall speak unto you. Immediately therefore I sent to you; and you have well done that you have come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, you know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins.

While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
[356, 291, 380, Acts 10]

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