“There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea — captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next door neighbour, came in and said, ‘Cornelius,'” Acts 10:1-3 (NIV).
What a resume’ of upright living! It is heartening to know that there were people like Cornelius, a Roman soldier, usually hated and feared in Israel for their ruthless cruelty, who was the exception. He was one of those who were called “God-fearers”. He was a Jewish proselyte who had abandoned his idolatrous upbringing and embraced the God of the Jews.
But he was not one in name only. He also lived out in practice the teachings of the God he followed. He carried out the three primary responsibilities of a faithful Jew — he led his family in godly living:
“These commandments I give you are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV).
He was generous to those in need:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:22 (NIV).
He took part in the regular prayer times of the Jewish people.
“One day at about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision…” Acts 10:3 (NIV).
It was at this time of the day that Peter and John went to join the regular daily recitation of prayer in Jerusalem and encountered the crippled beggar sitting at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 4).
These activities did not necessarily qualify him for what happened next. They were an indication of his heart’s desire to know God. He worshipped God with in sincere heart in the way he understood best.
Cornelius lived in a way that many believers in Jesus neglect in our modern world. These may have been God’s prescription for a godly life for His ancient people but His standards have not changed.
The fruit of a vital relationship with the Living God is still the same — a home life that honours Him and trains the next generation to do the same; a generous disposition that willing shares the resources God lends to us with those who have less than we have; and a heart that seeks after God and spends time with Him in prayer.
Although Cornelius faithfully did these things, there was still something missing in his life. He had not yet met the living Christ and been given the gift of forgiveness, faith and the assurance of sonship and access to the Father through Jesus.
As we step into Acts 10, we are witnessing God’s behind-the-scenes preparation to manoeuvre one of His sons into position so the He can set up a meeting with Cornelius. Such is the love and mercy of our God that He always hears the bleat of a lost lamb. He heard this man who, in spite of his background and upbringing, was crying out to be rescued.