Who is your Cornelius?

Who is your Cornelius?

Feb 25, 2015

Katrina Goodrich






Acts 10:1-48

Cornelius is a centurion commander and a devout man. He and his entire household pray and give to the needy; however he is still considered a Gentile, common, non-Jew. He is not a Christian as he has not received the gospel (the gospel has been circulating among the Jews but not much further). Cornelius has a vision: a divine messenger comes to him and tells him that God has noticed him and wants him to invite a man called Peter to his home. Cornelius doesn’t know who Peter is — but he obeys and sends his people to go find Peter and invite him to come to their master’s home.




Unbeknownst to Cornelius, Peter was a Jew. Jews did not associate with Gentiles. A Jew would not go over to a Gentile’s house, eat food with them (especially not if they had prepared it), and certainly wouldn’t evangelize them. Rabbis were supposed to strenuously try and dissuade anyone attempting to join the Jewish faith three times. There was a major separation here, put in place to help keep the Jews away from idolatry and idolaters, to keep them pure and set apart for God. From a strictly Jewish perspective, Cornelius (even in his ignorance), was enticing Peter to sin.

Meanwhile, Peter is out praying on the rooftop of the place where he’s residing. This is the disciple Jesus called a Rock and said he’d build his church upon. Peter doesn’t know exactly what that means but he’s doing his best to spread Jesus’ teachings.

At this point in the day Peter is hungry and he has a vision with all kinds of animals both pure and impure. Then God says kill and eat. Whoa! Jews do not eat meat that is impure. That means the animals are kept separate. You never mix pure with impure.

Peter’s natural response: No I would never do that, it’s a sin, it’s common. I won’t defile myself eating things which are impure. But the voice continues and tells him to eat because God has declared the meat clean.

About that time Cornelius’ men find Peter and ask him to come with them to their master’s house. Vision in mind, Peter goes with them bringing some of his friends. He approaches the Gentile camp, enters Cornelius’s home, eats with him, and begins to share the gospel. And the Gentiles receive it and are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is a big deal because like everything else we’ve talked about in this story it’s taboo! Peter says it himself — he shouldn’t be there according to Jewish law. But now Peter has perspective. It is not up to him to say what is pure because God is the one who has control over sanctification. Through Jesus it was no longer necessary to keep oneself ritually pure to draw others to the Father because they had been brought to the Father by another means — through Jesus. The Gentiles in attendance believed in the gospel and were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Gentiles could come to God through Jesus, too.

Jesus made the path for everyone. He made it so anybody could come to him, he would sanctify anyone who called on his name, be they Jew or Gentile. Peter’s vision was clearly showing him where the new lines lay. He received the divine message that there is no discrimination in Christ, everyone was welcome, even the scum of the earth is eligible.

Think about the Gentile in your life. Who is your Cornelius and what are you doing about it? Peter stood against thousands of years of discrimination and exclusivity to go share the Gospel with a man who in his society’s eyes was disdained and viewed as common. Will you choose to do the same?

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