by Wayne Blank
The First Gentile Converts
Cornelius was a centurion (a Roman officer in command of a hundred men, from the Latin word centum i.e. a century has 100 years, and a dollar has 100 cents) who has a special place in Bible History. He was a "devout man" who believed in the true God, which may have been the result of his contact with the Jews, and later the first Christians, in the area of his home at Caesarea, located on the shore of The Mediterranean Sea about 50 miles / 80 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem.
Cornelius was chosen to become among the first gentile converts to Christianity after God delivered individual messages to both he and Peter (Acts 10:1-23). At the time, Peter was staying at Joppa (today Tel Aviv), about 30 miles / 50 kilometers down the coast to the south of Caesarea. After their meeting, Cornelius and his family were baptized (see Baptism) as Christians (Acts 10:23-48).
Peter Arrives At Cornelius' Home
"And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his kinsmen and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man."
"And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered; and he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:24-28 RSV)
Salvation For All Nations
"And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him. You know the word which He sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ, He is Lord of all, the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John [see John The Baptist] preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him [see Miracles Of Jesus Christ]."
"And we are witnesses to all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging him on a tree [see Cross or Stake? and How Did Jesus Christ Die?]; but God raised Him on the third day and made Him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that He is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name."
"While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them Speaking In Tongues and extolling God."
"Then Peter declared, "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." (Acts 10:34-48 RSV)
Fact Finder: How did Peter respond when Cornelius "fell down at his feet and worshiped him"?