We know very little about Cornelius, but the story of his salvation is a very important one.  We do not know who his parents were.  We do not know the names of his family, or his house.  The Lord did not see a need to share those details with us.  But here are a few things we do know about this man.

He was Italian (a Gentile).  He was a centurion, which means he was the captain of 100 men.  Although he knew very little about God, he did realize there was a god, and he wanted to know about Him. 

Let’s read Acts 10:1-6, “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 alway. 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, Thy prayers and thine 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 lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.” 

Cornelius, who at this point did not know the Lord, was declared to be a “devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.”  He truly sought to know the Lord and the Lord made sure that he was able to hear the Gospel so that he might believe and be saved.  One unique detail of Cornelius’ conversion is that he is the first Gentile convert mentioned after the ascension of Christ to Heaven after His death and resurrection. 

As Cornelius’ men neared Joppa, the Lord was preparing Peter’s heart to share the Gospel with this man.  I encourage you to read Acts 10:9-16.  To the Jews, the Gentiles were considered unclean and even as dogs.  Peter was not different.  The Lord, in a wonderful vision, showed Peter that he should preach the Gospel to all, Jew and Gentile alike.  After Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house, we read in verse 28, “And (Peter) said unto them, Ye 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 hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” 

In Acts 10:34-43, we have Peter faithfully sharing the Gospel with Cornelius and his household.  Verses 44-48 tell us the impact of Peter’s preaching.  Cornelius and his household believe and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  In Acts 11, as Peter was telling of this event to fellow Jewish believers, he said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, WHO BELIEVED ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:15-18).

The conversion of Cornelius is so important for us to read about and understand.  The Lord had told His disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and TEACH ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  Even today, the Lord “…commandeth all men every where to repent.” (Acts 17:30).

We know very little about Cornelius and his household.  But what we know about his conversion to Christ should encourage us all to be thankful for the far-reaching Gospel of Christ. We should be encouraged to tell others of this free gift of salvation the Lord offers all who will believe.  (454.6)