Reading about Cornelius in Acts 10, it is easy to see why he got to be the first Gentile to receive the gospel without first converting to Judaism. He was an amazing man. The scriptures describe him as
· devout (v2)
· one that feared God (v2)
· (all his house feared God as well (v2), which indicates he had taught all of them what he believed and why in such a way that they accepted and adopted those beliefs themselves)
· gave much alms to the people (v2)
· prayed to God always (v2)
· obedient; he immediately does what the angel tells him to do (v7-8)
· has great hopes of what God will do for him, such that he wants to make sure all his friends and family are in on it too (v24,33)
· fasts 4 days to prepare himself while waiting for Peter to come (v30)
· great respect for Peter, who he is told to listen to (v25, 33)
This is the man to whom an angel was sent. When we consider the level of righteousness Cornelius had attained even out of the church, it is obvious that his faith was sufficient for it. It causes me to ask myself whether I am at that level, or whether I have some improving to do.
3 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.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. (Acts10:3-6)
The angel tells Cornelius, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” (v4) What commendation! What would it be like to have an angel say this to us? It makes me ponder whether I have a commendable level of alms and prayers.
I think it is significant that when the angel came to Cornelius, he pointed him to the leaders of the church. Could the angel have preached to Cornelius? Possibly. But it shows how anxious the Lord is that people follow the earthly church authority according to the pattern revealed. Thus, true spiritual manifestations to nonmembers sincerely seeking the truth will always point to the church in such a way that the seeker will recognize the church as having what they are looking for. True manifestations from God will not point anywhere else.
It is neat to me that as soon as Cornelius has this vision from the angel, he does several things:
· He obeys and sends people to fetch Peter
· He starts fasting and doesn’t stop ‘til Peter gets there, which takes 4 days
· He tells all his friends and family and gathers them all together so they can be there to share in the glorious message of what must be done.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. Acts 10:25-26)
No doubt Peter is chagrinned to come in and find himself the object of Cornelius’s worship. But Cornelius can be forgiven for this mistake. After all, if an angel comes and tells you that you need to listen to a certain person, it would be easy to believe that the person was greater than an angel! (That God gives men priesthood power shows His great condescension to mortal men that angels also speak with respect of church leaders..)
There is a bit of humor in this story as well. If you read closely, neither Peter nor Cornelius know what is going to happen when they meet. Cornelius knows Peter is going to tell him something very important, and Peter knows he has to go to Cornelius without doubting or disputing to tell him something, but doesn’t know why.
Peter: Why are you come?
Soldier messengers: Cornelius wants to hear words from you.
Peter: Okay. (goes to Cornelius)
Peter: For what intent have you sent for me?
Cornelius: We are all present before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
This is funny to me because usually when we speak, we want to say something that addresses a problem or concern the audience has. Cornelius, however, was open to anything and everything. Thus, Peter had to have revelation that it was time to preach the gospel to the Gentiles so he could know what to do with the “blank check” opportunity given him.
I really like this story because it reminds me that this is the Lord’s work and He prepares the way for it to be accomplished. He prepares the people who will be part of it, and He prepares the conditions. I bet if we were to examine the history of the church and its new entrances into new countries, we’d find amazing stories of miracles of preparation and acceptance. (Ever heard the stories of gospel pioneers in Africa? Amazing stuff.) The Lord’s work is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.