Cornelius was a centurion (soldier) for Rome. Luke tells us the story of Cornelius and how the gospel was shared with him.
The town was Caesarea.
“He and his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”
He was a religious man, doing spiritual practices, and the term “God-fearer” indicates that he was a Gentile who had converted to Judaism.
He found himself in a deep religious tradition, practicing its ways.
In a day of prayer, an angel of the Lord directs him to a particular man, in a particular town, in a particular house. Is that guidance any more clear?
When they meet (23-26), Peter explains the facts about Jesus – “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (v.36).
Peter explains some of the historical events that happened (37-41) and how he was given the message to “testify that Christ is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead . . . [those] who believe in him receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Holy Spirit falls on all who heard the message and people take baptism (v.48) God had given them repentance unto life (11:17)
Cornelius was a spiritual man, one who was very religious.
He was seeking after God and doing spiritual practices.
He has this vision in prayer to find a particular man in a particular town, staying at a particular house. Can you imagine the curiosity, or the dread?
- What for?
- What will he tell me?
- He’s Jewish, what might he want with me, a Roman Gentile?
- Will he even come into my house?
- What does God want to tell me?
Cornelius meets this man who comes to his house, who then begins to explain three things.
- The historical events about the death and resurrection of Christ.
- God has appointed Christ to judge the living and the dead.
- Those who believe in him receive forgiveness of sin through his name.
In Roman culture, there was a big concern about the afterlife – what would happen when you died.
What did you have to pay for the things done in this life?
How Peter shared the gospel
Peter adapted the gospel to address an underlying concern or spiritual thirst that Cornelius likely had.
Peter didn’t explain sin nor use Old Testament law, but approached sin in a different way.
- Sin will be judged, and those who believe will receive forgiveness.
- Repentance is changing your mind as to who you will follow.
- Starting with a concern of Cornelius, Peter presents Jesus as the future judge.
The conversion of Cornelius
The text doesn’t say anything about Cornelius’s individual response.
He is lumped in with “all who heard the message.”
He responded and received the Holy Spirit and likely took baptism with those who were baptized. We can presume that he believed and responded to the message.
Do people in our culture today think about what happens after they die?
I see such questions raised in film (such as Ghost), horror flicks that deal with ghosts, shows on TLC that deal with hauntings and spirits. I hear such questions come up in music and song.
Questions of life after death come to the surface when people begin to reflect how life is so fragile: the accidental death of a loved one, the violent end of a homicide, or mass murder like the Virigina Tech tragedy.
It may not be on the same surface as Cornelius, but a question deep in the heart nonetheless.
Ecclesiastes writes that God has set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot understand it.
“What will you pay for?”
On a plane ride from Chicago to Richmond, my elderly seat mate chatted at me nearly the entire way.
Just after the captain made his pre-landing announcements, she lamented to me over the awful choices she sees her granddaughter making.
Thinking of her granddaughter’s eternity, she sighs,
“I guess we will all have to pay for our actions someday.”
I asked her “What will you have to pay for some day?”
The conversation came to an end at that moment, as the attendants began their pre-landing instructions about seat backs, table trays, collecting debris, and repacking personal belongings.
In the hustle and rustle of the cabin preparations, there was no opportunity to finish.
Let me ask you this?
Do you encounter people who think about having to pay for their actions after they die?
Ask the Lord to open a conversation with someone about these thoughts and feel free to share them here.