Whoever Calls on the Name of the Lord: The Story of Cornelius of Caesarea

by Faith Myers, DBU Student

Day 8 of Advent

Today's Reading

Acts 10

In Romans 10, it is clear that God is not partial in His love, nor His grace. Paul writes that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (v. 12). No matter their status, no matter their past, a person who calls on the name of the Lord is saved by His profound grace. We see this time and time again, both in our own lives and throughout Scripture. As we approach the Christmas season, we take a moment to reflect on God’s impartial love with the story of the Roman officer Cornelius.

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” Acts 10:1-2, NKJV

According to Acts 10, Cornelius faithfully sought after God. One day, after praying, he had a vision of an angel of the Lord. The angel called out for him by name and, overcome with fear, Cornelius asked, “What is it?” He listened as the angel explained: Cornelius needed to send his men to Joppa for a meeting with Simon Peter, who would then tell them what they must do.

“And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.” Acts 10:7-8, NKJV

As Cornelius’s men journeyed to Joppa (the same port Jonah fled from when told to preach to his enemies in Nineveh!), Peter went to the Lord in prayer. While he was praying, hunger overtook him, and he fell into a trance. During this trance, Peter saw a confusing vision—a sheet descending onto the earth, and animals of all kinds in the midst of it—some of which were deemed unclean by the Jewish culture. Peter heard a voice say to rise and eat, but he contested, telling the Lord that he had never eaten any animal that was “common” or “unclean” as a Jew.

“And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’” Acts 10:15, NKJV

Peter contemplated what he had seen and what he had heard, not sure what to make of it. Sometime after, Cornelius’s men arrived at his gate, calling out to see if they were indeed at Peter’s residence.

“While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.’” Acts 10:19-20, NKJV

Going down to the gate to see Cornelius’s men, Peter asked why they had come. The men explained that they were sent on behalf of Cornelius—a God-fearing centurion with a good reputation—who was divinely instructed to find Peter. After hearing this, Peter invited them in to stay. In the following days, the group traveled to Caesarea to meet with Cornelius. Once they arrived, Peter found Cornelius waiting, accompanied by his relatives and close friends.  

“As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I myself am also a man.’ And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean…’” Acts 10:25-28, NKJV

Peter’s vision now makes sense: God’s creation, including mankind, should not be defined as common or unclean. In other words, although the world is tainted with sin, God’s creation is not exempt from His love and grace. Whether Jews like Peter, or Gentiles as Cornelius, God is impartial to everyone and cares deeply for all of His creation. Nothing—and no one—is irredeemable in God’s eyes.

 After explaining this, Peter presents the Gospel to Cornelius’s household. He tells the story of how Christ, God in the flesh, died for the sins of everyone; Christ raised from the dead after three days, and now He freely offers His salvation to anyone who asks for it. When hearing this message, Cornelius’s family and friends began to have faith that Christ had redeemed them from their sins. After the events of Acts 10, the Gentile world was inundated with this message of God’s grace.

 “‘…And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.’” Acts 10:42-43, NKJV

Cornelius’s story illustrates how the Gospel is for everyone, and that it is not by any works that one is saved, but by the grace of God through faith. Take some time to read Acts 10 in its entirety, remembering the profoundness of what Christ has done for each and every one of us. This Christmas, let us reflect on God’s impartial love, how He is Lord of all His creation, and the great truth that God never turns away anyone who seeks Him.