advent lettering

O Come All Ye Faithful


Today's Reading

Acts 10:1-48

For those of us who are not of Jewish decent, Cornelius is our great-great-great-great (you get the picture) spiritual grandfather.

He is the first Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized into the faith, and become a member of the Family of God. He is the first that the Lord used to demonstrate that Jesus’ cross was meant for more than just one tribe. His experience was the first hint at the scene John will later describe in Revelation, with people from every nation and every tongue bowing in worship.

That makes Cornelius a pretty significant person and this passage in the Book of Acts pivotal to the Gospel story.

Now, it is fascinating to get caught up in Peter’s vision or think through the cultural and theological significance of what all happened. Those are all monumentally important aspects of this story. However, for the purposes of today, let’s just think about Cornelius.

Luke describes Cornelius as a well-known Roman centurion, meaning that he commanded at least 100 men and his primary job was to provide security and stability for the Rome. Having risen to such a rank, Cornelius possessed all the necessary skills of a soldier, and he clearly had the ability to lead effectively. Overall, Cornelius carried with him a level of status and respect. He was a professional’s professional.

Luke doesn’t just stop there. He provides another description. Cornelius and all of his family were known to be righteous and God-fearing, generous to others, and prayed regularly.

Cornelius was a good man. He had his act together, and even though he was a Gentile, he prayed to God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His prayers and lifestyle indicate perhaps at least a fascination with God, but his response to God’s command to send for Peter clearly shows a posture of humility and obedience. But that wasn’t enough.

Cornelius generously gave to the poor. I am sure that those who lived around him knew that Cornelius could be counted upon to help in a crisis, provide aid those in need, and help organize response efforts to any situation. But that wasn’t enough.

Cornelius even earned the respect of all of the Jewish people in Caesarea. Imagine that. Cornelius had such high character that those who were subjugated to Rome, those over whom Cornelius had the power of the sword, respected him. But that still wasn’t enough.

Something was missing in his life and in the life of his family and friends, and Cornelius knew it. So he sought God, who revealed himself in an amazing way.  God sends an angel to tell Cornelius to get Peter.

What an odd request, but what a quick response. Cornelius sends men off, and they arrive just at the moment God gives Peter a vision to prepare the apostle for what comes next.

The scene unfolds in Cornelius’ house. He is so excited about this visitor that he invites his friends and family gather to hear whatever Peter has to share. And Peter lays out for them the Gospel message—God sent His son, Jesus, who lived among man, healed the sick, battled the devil, preached the Kingdom of God, died on the cross, was resurrected on the third day, and now provides forgiveness for sins through His name.

We don’t know all of what was going on in Cornelius’ head when he heard that. But if we allow our imaginations to take over for a minute, you could see the potential conflict that might arise in his thinking.

“Wait, I have done all of this good in my life,” Cornelius perhaps wondered. “I am wealthy, respected, and have an up-and-coming career. Look at all of my friends and family. Nobody thinks ill of me. So why should I listen to this Jewish man, and why should I hand my life over to this Jesus.”

Maybe that could have gone through his mind. But it didn’t because Cornelius knew that all of his success and power, his status and authority, just wasn’t enough. He knew the moment Peter talked about this crucified Jesus, that he needed the Messiah. He knew that he needed to open his heart to the Savior. He knew that he needed to bow his knee to the Lord. 

How do we know that was how Cornelius responded? The Holy Spirit fell upon him. Something happened inside the heart of Cornelius. He abandoned a path to find salvation through works and embraced salvation through Christ. And in turn, he was saved and the Holy Spirit began His indwelling work in Cornelius’ life.

Cornelius didn’t rely upon himself. He relied upon the cross…he relied upon Jesus.

How are you doing with that choice? Are you still attempting to demonstrate your righteousness through your relationships? Are you living a good life that has garnered so much respect that you stop thinking that you need a Savior?

Or maybe at one point or another you did bow the knee to Jesus, but you have gone back to proving your worth through your actions. There is nothing wrong with good works—in fact our lives are commanded to overflow in good works. But those good works do nothing towards our salvation, and often we forget that.

When we do, look at Cornelius. He doesn’t hesitate or question. He merely obeys and runs to Jesus. And it is only in the knowledge of the resurrected Christ that he receives salvation.

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