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
This passage shows that the Holy Spirit is at work even in those who are not fully aware of it. Cornelius, who is apparently a gentile and a Roman Centurion is a “devout and God-fearing” man. He was apparently in tune with the Holy Spirit despite his outward appearance as a person who would probably be feared and reviled by many Christians. You can’t judge a book by its cover or a soul by its body.
This passage is a reminder that we should approach everyone with love and grace. No matter what their outward appearance would suggest about their spiritual state. They may be much closer to God than we realize. We are not able to view where this person is on their journey home the way that God can from His perspective. He is able to see all of the wandering and wondering souls. Our job is to love them all and let God sort them out.
Cornelius gets a surprise visit from an angel of the Lord who tells him that “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”. Cornelius got God’s attention. His outward actions were a clue to his inner readiness to become a faithful follower of Jesus.
The angel tells Cornelius to “send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.” Apparently Cesarea and Joppa are about 35 miles apart. Both are coastal cities on the Mediterranean. Simon Peter is staying with another Simon the tanner who lives by the sea. That is the water reference here.
Interestingly, the sea has often been used up to this point in the bible to metaphorically refer to the unseen spiritual world around us. Jesus was the bridge to this world while He was on earth and now His followers must take on this role. So Peter by sea will go visit Cornelius to represent the risen savior. In the part of the story that follows the men will arrive at Peter’s house just after he has received a vision in which God make is clear that salvation is for everyone and Peter should not call anyone impure or unclean. Cornelius becomes the means for Peter to learn a very important lesson. No one is lost beyond God’s arm to retrieve.
I think the key take away for me from this passage is that we need to be really careful when we are interacting with those who we might consider “lost”. They may be much less lost than we think and they may also have really important things to teach us along the way.
Prayer: God help us to see people the way you do full of grace and potential