Cornelius: First Gentile Convert


The early days of Christianity were exciting as God’s Spirit moved and people’s lives were changed. Converts were pouring in from surprising backgrounds. Even the dreaded Saul (Paul) became a Christian, and non-Jews were responding to the Good News about Jesus. Among the first of these was the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.

Because of frequent outbreaks of violence, Roman soldiers had to be stationed to keep peace throughout Israel. But most Romans hated as conquerors, did not get along well in the nation. As an Army officer, Cornelius was in a difficult position. He represented Rome, but his home was in Caesarea. During his years in Israel, he had himself been conquered by the God of Israel. He had a reputation as a godly man who put his faith into action, and he was respected by the Jews.

Four significant aspects of Cornelius’s character are noted in Acts. He actively sought God, he revered God, he was generous in meeting other people’s needs, and he prayed. God told him to send for Peter because Peter would give him more knowledge about the God he was already seeking to please.

When Peter entered Cornelius’s home, Peter broke a whole list of Jewish rules. Peter confessed he wasn’t comfortable, but there was an eager audience and he couldn’t hold back his message. He had no sooner started sharing the gospel when God gave overwhelming approval by filling that Roman family with his Holy Spirit. Peter saw he had no choice but to baptize them and welcome them as equals in the growing Christian church. Another step had been taken in carrying the gospel to the whole world.

The ESV Study Bible, Large Print edition features the content of the award-winning ESV Study Bible with a highly readable, large-print type. Extensive study notes, charts, maps, and articles make this study Bible a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.

Cornelius is a welcome example of God’s willingness to use extraordinary means to reach those who desire to know him. He does not play favorites, and he does not hide from those who want to find him. God sent his Son because he loves the whole world – and that includes Peter, Cornelius and you.

Strengths and Accomplishments

  • A godly and generous Roman
  • Although an officer in the occupying army, he seems to have been well respected by the Jews
  • He responded to God and encouraged his family to do the same
  • His conversion helped the young church realize that the Good News was for all people, both Jews and Gentiles

Lessons From His Life

  • God reaches those who want to know him
  • The gospel is open to all people
  • There are people everywhere eager to believe
  • When we are willing to seek the truth and be obedient to the light God gives us, God will reward us richly

Vital Statistics for Cornelius

  • Where: Caesarea
  • Occupation: Roman centurion
  • Contemporaries: Peter, Philip, the apostles

Key Verse for Cornelius

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2)

Cornelius’s story is told in Acts 10:1 – 11:18

Scripture Study Resources

ESV Study BibleStudy Bibles give you a deeper understanding of God’s Word with tools for life application like commentary, maps, charts, concordance, and study notes. Search our popular translations- NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV and more!

Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.

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