Biblical People

Biblical People: Cornelius

Cornelius emerges as a bit of an enigma. 

On one hand he’s part of the Roman military, a force known for its brutality and absolute power. He’s part of this machine, a centurion with one hundred soldiers under his command. 

Yet Cornelius is also a religious guy. His family is a devout, God-fearing clan. He helps those in need and prays often. 

One day while in prayer, he has a supernatural vision. As clear as can be, he sees an angel from God who calls him by name.

Shocked and afraid, Cornelius answers, “What do you want Lord?”

The angel answers that God has heard Cornelius’s prayers and received his gifts to the poor as a memorial offering. “Now send for Simon Peter. He’s in Joppa staying at Simon the tanner’s house by the sea.” Then the angel disappears. Cornelius sends his staff and a soldier to fetch Peter.

The next day, Peter has a vision of his own. It’s a bit confusing, commanding him to do something he was taught he should never do. The vision repeats two more times.

As he’s trying to make sense of this, Cornelius’s delegation shows up. At the same time God’s Spirit tells Peter, “Three men are looking for you. I sent them. Go with them. Don’t hesitate.”

Peter goes.

His strange vision now makes sense. Though he was taught to not enter the home of a foreigner, God is turning things upside down. He will no longer favor the Jews, instead accepting all people who want to follow him.

Peter goes with Cornelius’s messengers and enters his home, even though it’s contrary to proper Jewish behavior. They hang out and talk about Jesus.

As Peter speaks, the Holy Spirit comes upon Cornelius, his family, and his friends. Peter baptizes them in Jesus’s name and spends a couple of days with them.

God is doing a new thing, providing salvation to all people.

How do we react when a new thing God does confronts our religious training or practices?

[Discover more about Cornelius in Acts 10.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at