The early days of Christianity were exciting as God’s Spirit moved and people’s lives were changed. Converts were pouring in from surprising backgrounds. Even the dreaded Saul (Paul) became a Christian, and non-Jews were responding to the Good News about Jesus. Among the first of these was the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.
Because of frequent outbreaks of violence, Roman soldiers had to be stationed to keep peace throughout Israel. But most Romans hated as conquerors, did not get along well in the nation. As an Army officer, Cornelius was in a difficult position. He represented Rome, but his home was in Caesarea. During his years in Israel, he had himself been conquered by the God of Israel. He had a reputation as a godly man who put his faith into action, and he was respected by the Jews.
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 confessed he wasn’t comfortable, but there 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 includes 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 open to 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
Vital Statistics for Cornelius
Key Verse for Cornelius
“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2)
Cornelius’s story is told in Acts 10:1 – 11:18
Click here to print or download the Bible character study “Cornelius – First Gentile Convert“