1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment,
2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”
4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.
6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.”
7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually.
8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
Cornelius (v.1) — The name of an illustrious Roman “gen” or house, numbering among its scions the famous Scipios and Sullas. This centurion was evidently a Roman, and was perhaps connected with the house in question as a freedman.
Centurion (v.1) — A subordinate officer, that is, in command of a hundred men. A Roman legion or regiment consisted of 6.000 men, and was divided into ten cohorts, each containing 600 soldiers. These cohorts were subdivided into centuries, each of which was officered by a centurion.
The Italian Band (v.1) — “Band” being equivalent to “cohort.” The cohort was coaled “Italian because, though not forming part of the regular legionary troops of the empire (which were never stationed in provincial towns like Caesarea), it was composed, in all probability, of Italians, volunteer members of the auxiliary troops. Inscriptions have come to light which show that there was such an Italian cohort in Syria both in the second century and in A.D. 69, and the presumption is that there was one there earlier still. We know that Caesarea was a garrison town, being the residence of the procurator of Judea. Josephus mentions that five cohorts and a squadron of cavalry were stationed there. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, pages 227-228.
one who feared God (v.2) — The same phrase occurs in verses 22, 35; 13:16, 26; and a very similar one in 16:14; 18:7. It represents Gentiles who had given in their partial adherence to the Jewish faith, while still remaining uncircumcised. In other words, they had learned from the Jews to worship the true and living God, but had not thrown in their lot fully with Judaism. There must have been varying degrees of outward profession among them. Many attended service at the Jewish synagogues and conformed to certain rules laid down for them as the condition of associating with Jews. — Walker, page 228.
household (v.2) — family and dependents, including servants
to the people (v.2) — to the Jews (the Greek word, in Acts, always has this meaning)
prayed (v.2) = petitions rising from a sense of need. Cornelius observed the Jewish hours of prayer (v.30).
clearly (v.3) — openly. Cornelius was awake when he saw the angel.
afraid (v.4) — terror caused by super-human forces
memorial (v.4) — called attention to him as one seeking God’s will (used in Matthew 26: 13; Mark 14:9 for Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ head and feet)
household servants (v.7) — with a closer association with the family than ordinary slaves
devout soldier (v.7) — an orderly who shared Cornelius’ faith
Was Cornelius already saved? Had he received the remission of sins and possessed eternal life? We believe not, for the following reasons:
- It was in response to his prayers that he was instructed to send for Peter to show him the way of salvation (verses 4-6; 11:14).
- The statement: “He will tell you what you must do” (verse 6) is analogous to the “What shall we do?” of Acts 2:37 and the “What must I do?” of Acts 16:30. In each case the inquirers were told how to be saved.
- Cornelius was promised: “He [Peter] shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (11:14).
- Peter instructed Cornelius and his household as to the “remission of sins” (10:43).
- When Peter had rehearsed the incident to his brethren at Jerusalem they exclaimed, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18). — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, pages 71-72.