At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. Acts 10:1-8
There are quite a few people I want to meet when I someday make it to Heaven, but in my top 10 is a Roman Centurion named, Cornelius. Man, that guy was cool! I love how Scripture describes him as devout, God-fearing, and generous—three words I hope can be used to describe me as well!
It’s interesting to note that this man was Roman, which means he was a Gentile, and not just any Gentile. Cornelius was a centurion in the Italian Regiment. Not knowing much about military things, I did a little research and discovered that most legions were made up of about 6,000 men, and regiments accounted for one-tenth of a legion, which is 600 men. A centurion would have been over what’s known as a century, which is 100 men.
Essentially, this means that Cornelius was moving up in the world. He had power and a bit of prestige, and yet that is not what he is remembered for. Being a centurion was only his day job; he didn’t let it go to his head. His legacy was in how he loved the Lord and gave generously to all. The Newsboys got it right when they sang in their song, “Cornelius” that “His kneel is real.”
What strikes me most about this passage is that God calls Cornelius out! In a vision, God lets Cornelius know that He has heard his prayers and seen his gifts to the poor. What a wonderful comfort and conviction that nothing escapes God’s notice! He sees, hears, and knows all. But notice also that God gives Cornelius a directive: Go send for Peter.
Because Cornelius has a heart tuned-in to God, and longs to please Him, he obeys immediately. He sends trusted and devout men to go to Joppa and find Peter.
Cornelius didn’t do the right things to get something from God. He did the right things because he had a pure heart, and as Jesus promised, blessed are those with a pure heart for they will see God. At a time when faith would have cost Cornelius not only his job, but also his life, we find him giving his all for the One who gave him even more.
Examine your heart and motives in your service to Christ. Is your kneel as real as Cornelius’? Take some time to do an inventory of your heart and motives.
By Sheila Rennau