“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.Acts 10:1-6
Up to this point in the book of Acts, we do not have a Gentile sought out to have the gospel preached unto them.
Cornelius was a Roman soldier, and is described to us as a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Cornelius is described as a faithful worshipper of God. He fears God himself, and he sees to it that all who are in his house do the same. It is commanded of us that we teach our children to observe true religion. It is not honorable to avoid persuasion in what we believe to be true so that our children can make that decision for themselves. To seed such a point is at least in practice to hand over the reality of ultimate truth. There are not multiple truth religions in the world competing for our affection but one true religion. It is the doctrine of God put forth in His Word that we are to teach our children.
Cornelius gives of his resources and he prays, and from what we see moving forward, Cornelius’ prayers were received by God.
During a time of prayer (3pm), Cornelius beholds an angel in a vision who tells him that his prayers have been heard by God and his alms received as something honoring to God.
For this to be the case, both of these actions by Cornelius would have needed to be done in faith. Apart from faith it is impossible to please God, and therefore Cornelius had been given a faith corresponding to the amount of light he had been given into the truth of God. He had a hope in the Messiah to come as prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and had a faith akin to the Old Testament saints. Our text goes on to show us that Cornelius did not know that Jesus was the Christ, but his true prayers and true giving being received by God shows that Cornelius had a faith that made these actions pleasing to God, a faith in the promised Messiah.
The angel tells Cornelius to send some of his men to Joppa to get Peter, because Peter had a message for him. Notice that Acts has multiple accounts in which angels are sent to men to tell the men to go find a preacher. God has not ordained angels to be preachers of the gospel, but has, in His wisdom, given such a task to sinful men. Philip meets the eunuch in the desert, Saul is told to find Ananias, and here Cornelius is told to find and call for Peter. God appointed his apostles to their office, who installed elders in some of the churches, and charges men like Titus and Timothy to see to it that every church had elders to lead in rightly handling the Word of Truth as they follow Peter’s admonishment to shepherd the church of God among them.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”2 Corinthians 4:7
This is God’s way of salvation, his way of bringing about the victory of His kingdom on the earth. God has chosen to do this work by ordaining and sending out ministers of the gospel to bring the good news of Christ to sinners. He made men his apostles and prophets, and had his apostles see to it that faithful men were appointed as elders in every church to rightly divide the Word of Truth and to shepherd the flocks God had placed them over. This is God’s ordinary, humbling, and glorious plan for the preaching of His gospel in the world.