“Cornelius! . . . Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.”
The account of Cornelius’ conversion is instructive, encouraging, and a bit mysterious. Luke tells us that even though Cornelius the centurion did not yet know Jesus in a saving way, he was nevertheless “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). I’ve often wondered how many professing North American Christians have a “report card” from God like that. Heaven had taken notice of Cornelius’ good attitude and conduct (Acts 10:4) and it was time for him and his family to hear a clear Gospel presentation. Peter was the man for the job and Cornelius was instructed to call for him. This is very strange, but also very encouraging. God could have had the visiting angel share the Gospel with Cornelius. After all, during the tribulation period when the church has been removed from the earth, God will have one of His angels perform just that function (Revelation 14:6). Angels are more impressive than we are. They are far more powerful and certainly able to apprehend the attention of their human audiences better than we. Confirmed in holiness, they can communicate their divine message flawlessly without fallen human attitude or opinion creeping in. Nevertheless, the angel was commanded by God to have Cornelius send for Peter in order to hear the Gospel. Even though Peter had ignorantly opposed Christ’s redemptive work (Matthew 16:21-23) and had openly denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75), these past failures were not held against him. What is even more remarkable is the fact that Peter was by no means done making serious errors. Peter would later side with the Judaizers in Antioch and stand in need of Paul’s correction (Galatians 2:11-14). This occurred after Peter’s amazingly successful ministry to Cornelius. What are we to say to these things? God in His wisdom and grace has ordained that we, His redeemed, carry His Gospel to the ends of the earth (Mark 16:15). Our frailties and imperfections do not disqualify us, so long as our heart’s desire is to love and serve the Lord and we keep a short account of sin. God has specifically chosen us, the weak things of this world, imperfect, fragile, and prone to error, to accomplish His will and work on the earth (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). In this we are both humbled and honored, and our Lord is glorified. May these words thrill and encourage our hearts today.
God bless you,