Over the years we have seen many people inquiring about the Gospel. They have questions about who Jesus is and what the way of salvation entails. Not everyone who inquires wants to become a Christian. Often, they only want an explanation about what Christians believe. Some, however, are sincere and really want to know how to become Christians. It is always a pastor or a Christian counselor’s joy when a person wants to know how to save their soul from eternal damnation.
After all, this is what the Gospel message is all about … how to save yourself for eternity (not that you can save yourself, but how you can find the way of salvation). We live in a world where there are many renditions of “how to become a Christian”. The truth be said, there is only one way to become a Christian and this is why many don’t become one. Cornelius was one who wanted to be certain he does and enjoys the fullness of God in salvation.
1) Peter’s invited guests.
Ac 10:23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea.
They had already told him their purpose for coming to him … it was to take him to Cornelius’ house. Once Peter was certain they were no danger to him, he invited them into Simon the tanner’s house where they spent the night. It would have been futile leaving for Caesarea the same day as Joppa was around 54 kilometers apart in a straight line but could have been longer depending on the road’s curving. This would have taken a full day or longer. Maybe the soldier was sent by Cornelius for protection as we read in verse 23 they left “the next day” and arrived “the following day” as per verse 24. The roads could be dangerous with hijackers and criminals attacking those journeying from place to place, especially after dark.
This would be the reason Peter invited them to stay overnight. Once we have ascertained that Christian travelers are authentic and trustworthy, we could invite them to stay overnight. This would fall into the ambit of Christian Hospitality.
2) Cornelius’ accurate expectation.
Ac 10:24 Cornelius was expecting them.
A Centurion as Cornelius was, was the highest rank an ordinary soldier could expect to achieve. The equivalent would be a sergeant in today’s military. The reason for adding this information is that as a sergeant, Cornelius would be versed with distance and time as a command of 100 men moved from point A to point B and also if three to ten men travelled the same distance. This means he would have expected them to arrive by the time they did. As followers of the Lord Jesus we need to ensure that we use our time wisely. All too often God’s people waste their time during the day and need to work late into the night. In doing this, we are not prudent with our times or we are far too busy … the exercise I know full well. As Peter’s guests rested the night, we too need to have proper nights rests.
3) Cornelius was evangelistic.
Ac 10:24 and had called together his relatives and close friends.
This is not a trivial matter. His passion for God and the impact of this on his household shows us that his heart beat was for God. God was central in this Roman’s life. But now he extends the reach of what was to happen … everyone he loved and trusted needed to hear what Peter had to say. The angel from God made clear that Peter had a message for him and so he in turn, perhaps without really understanding it, casts a net to draw people into the sphere of hearing Peter’s message.
One of the things that caused the vibe at St. James Church in Kenilworth in Cape Town was Christians inviting their family, friends, colleagues and neighbors to hear Frank Retief preach the Gospel. He was blessed by God with the gift of taking a Bible passage, expounding it and then applying it to the hearts of the hearers in such a way that the Holy Spirit took what was preached and drove it home to the conscience in such a way that many people were convicted of sin, repented and believed and were saved. I get the feeling that Cornelius had the eternity of souls on his heart when he invited people to listen to Peter.
My friend, when you are serious about your eternity, you will be serious about the eternity of others because you are aware that eternity holds two places for souls. The one is God’s heaven and the other is God’s prison. His heaven is paradise forever and His prison is punishment forever! With this in mind, no Christian can, with a clear conscience, not tell people where they can find eternal hope if they can’t tell them about Jesus personally!
4) Cornelius’ misplaced reverence!
Ac 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
The Roman Military sergeant on his knees before a civilian! I don’t see this as Cornelius revering Peter in the way some would kneel before a bishop or kiss his ring (both of which are totally unbiblical). Rather, he saw Peter as God’s man, bringing God’s Word to a seeking, needy soul. The act was misplaced but we can understand it because we too most likely acted in a silly way when we were spiritually immature or even before salvation and in the presence of some well-known spiritual leader. Peter was quick off the mark to correct Cornelius by saying … “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
Even though Peter had not yet grasped the purpose of the sheet with clean and unclean animals and the reason for his visit to a Gentile Roman Centurion who was a Godfearer … he understood that he, Peter was just a man before God. Yes, an apostle but nothing special other than being God’s messenger as the Old Testament prophets were God’s messengers.
Here, we have a crucial teaching. Too often in our day we have people giving such reverence to “men” that it borders on veneration! What Peter was saying is that he as a man like Cornelius, might have been saved but was still a sinner before God. The one a saved sinner and the other a lost sinner. This is true with all clergy whatever they might be called and whatever their qualifications might be.
In God’s economy, no one is greater than the other. In the Christian Church some people have elevated their pastor to ungodly positions and some pastors and Church councils have insisted on this. Biblically, the one is called to be pastor, the other an organist, some to be ushers, givers of hospitality, evangelists … etc. All equal in God’s sight. All using their spiritual gift mix to bless the Kingdom of Jesus and further His cause. No one greater and no one lesser. The false belief that clergy are superior to laity is wicked and must be rejected outright. This is why titles in the Church needs to be avoided. We are in a brotherhood with God as our Father.
Father, grants us understanding into our oneness and equality in Jesus Christ. Amen .