Chapter ten is a long passage which tells of the events concerning Cornelius, a Roman centurion and generally accepted as the first wholly Gentile convert to Christianity. This then is one of the great turning points in the history of the Church. Let's learn a little more about Cornelius:
1. He was a Roman centurion stationed at Caesarea, the headquarters of the government of Palestine. He was in charge of one hundred soldiers and would have been a veteran of war. He would have known what courage and loyalty were.
2. He was a God-fearer. This was used in New Testament times to define those who had attached themselves to the Jewish religion. They would attend a synagogue, believe in one God and be committed to Jewish ethics, but did not embrace circumcision or the Law. Cornelius was a seeker after God and God found him.
3. He was a charitable man, kind and generous-a lover of other people.
4. He was a man of prayer. He lived as close to God as he was able considering his limited knowledge.
This chapter, however, is not all about Cornelius; it is also about the lessons which Peter, as head of the Church, had to learn in order for him to understand God's worldwide purposes for salvation. We have learnt previously that Peter was heading in this direction of universal salvation, because he stayed with Simon the tanner and no strict Jew would have accepted hospitality from a man with such a profession.
The vision Peter receives is emphatic in its demands: he is no longer to call anything unclean that God has made clean and once that has been brought home, Peter discovers that there are men who are at his door inviting him to visit Cornelius. Peter is a fast learner and he invites these men to stay with him and when they arrive at the home of Cornelius, Peter crosses the threshold: the barriers have come down!
The love of Jesus dissolves hatred, unforgiveness and vengeance. It brings into unity those who once would have killed each other!
Part two of this wonderful chapter tomorrow.