At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
What can we learn from this verse? First, we are introduced to a man named Cornelius. We know from this he was a Roman military officer with 100 men under him. We know he had a family and that all of them had abandoned the Roman gods for the one true God of the Jews. We also know he gave generously and prayed often.
Cornelius can teach us much by his heart’s devotion. He saw the Roman gods were dead idols. He devoted his life to finding the true God by praying daily and giving generously to the poor.
What dead idols are we following? Have you ever found yourself being more devoted to a TV series than to prayer? Is hoarding money where your heart is, or do you give generously like Cornelius?
But Cornelius was missing one thing; he didn’t know Jesus. So, God sent an angel:
Acts 10:4 The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”
God saw the devotion of his heart and prepared a special meeting between this Roman, the enemy of all Jews, and Peter, the head of the Christian movement. Soon Cornelius would experience salvation and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Makes me wonder how often my life actions have come up as a memorial offering to God? Have I prayed enough? Have I given enough? Have I done these things with the right heart attitude? Does my devotion to God show in what I do every day?
The Jews knew Cornelius.
Acts 10:22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people.”
They knew he was a devoted man, yet they would not associate with him. Even Peter didn’t want to associate with the Romans. Even entering their homes was considered unclean, an offense to the other Christian Jews. But through a dream, God assured him that even the Gentiles were clean by the blood of Jesus.
Acts 10:28, 35 “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
Cornelius and his family became the first non-Jewish converts. This brought a new understanding to the Jewish church that ALL men were accepted by God and ALL men should hear the salvation story.
Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
From one man’s heart devotion, entire nations have come to salvation. The church was no longer limited by prejudice against gentiles. Their eyes were now open to the true mandate of Christ:
Mark 16:15 Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.
Whether your calling is to minister to a person or to a nation, if you set Jesus as your heart’s devotion, you will fulfill the true mandate of Christ. When you set Jesus as your heart’s devotion you will make an eternal difference.