God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
In our last post from the book of Acts we took our text from the passage about Peter healing Aeneas, a paralyzed man who had been bedridden for eight years, and Peter raising Tabitha from the dead. I’ve heard a sermon or two about these events and what we looked at was maybe a little different in that we discussed the suffering of Aeneas and Tabitha, the way Jesus rescued them from their suffering, and, how Aeneas’s healing and Tabitha’s resurrection were only temporary. Their rescues were only temporary because, ultimately, they would die. Ultimately they would go the way of all the earth, as we all do. Finally we saw how there’s only one permanent solution to any and all of our problems in this life. If you’re interested, you can learn more here: If You’re Suffering… –Acts 9:32-43.
In today’s post we’ll consider why God chose to give Cornelius a life changing vision, even though he was a Roman centurion, an enforcer of the occupation of Israel.
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.Acts 10:1-8
So Cornelius is praying about the ninth hour, which is about 3 pm. According to Keener and other scholars, this is an indication that Cornelius kept the Jewish hours of prayer which correspond to the morning and evening offerings in the temple. And he receives this life changing vision. He “clearly” sees an angel of God and the angel calls him by name. (Keener)
“What is it, Lord?” Cornelius says.
The angel of God tells him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
Have You Ever Received a Vision from God?
Have you ever received a vision from God? I don’t think I have. I’ve wondered sometimes why I have not. Today might provide some clues as to why Cornelius received this vision and this amazing visit from God’s angel, and why I haven’t.
5 Things About Cornelius
Here are five things about Cornelius that might be reasons God chose him to receive this supernatural vision.
1. Cornelius was devout. We know from Acts 10:28 that Cornelius wasn’t converted to Judaism, and yet he’s called a devout man. He’s in that category the writer of Hebrews tells us about. Cornelius desires to draw near to God, and he believes God exists, and he believes God rewards those who seek him. Even though he’s a gentile, Cornelius desires connection with God. And God loves to connect with such people. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (Hebrews 11:6, James 4:8, Jeremiah 29:12-13)
2. Cornelius feared God. Cornelius, we’re told, feared God with all his household. So he had some sense of the great magnitude of God’s power, and he had a healthy fear of God. If you’re interested, you can read more about the way the fear of God works here: Anxiety and Fear–Acts 9:31.
3. Cornelius was generous toward God with his money. He gave alms generously to God’s people. John writes, if anyone says they love God but hates his brother, he’s a liar. And here we see Cornelius loving the people in the Jewish community with his generosity, materially. And this speaks of his love for God. (1 John 4:20)
4. Cornelius prayed continually. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians that it’s God’s will for us to pray without ceasing. But how does that work exactly? How can I go through my day and be in prayer, unceasingly? One way to do that is to observe the hours of prayer the way Cornelius did. This tradition goes back to a time long ago, even before Cornelius. The Jews followed this tradition, and the earliest Christians followed this tradition, and we see it today in the orthodox denominations. I have a friend who faithfully prays the Liturgy of the Hours every day. He also happens to be the most Christlike man I’ve ever known personally and he’s had a tremendous influence on me and my family for Jesus. That’s probably not a coincidence. I wonder, if Cornelius had not been in the routine of observing the hours of prayer, would he have seen that vision?
5. Cornelius obeyed God immediately. He sent his people to Peter just as the angel instructed him to, and he did so right away. Cornelius is an example of something I’ve observed over my lifetime. A common trait among those who love God well (and love people well) is that when they find inspiration or instruction to do something for God, they take action right away.
Lord Help Us
“Father, have mercy on me and on the person reading this right now. Please change who we are at our core. Make us more like this centurion Cornelius. Fill us with devotion to You. Help us to fear You the way You want us to. Fill us with the affection of Jesus for You and for people and let this affection manifest itself through material generosity. Help us to pray without ceasing the way Cornelius did. If you want us to adopt the ancient tradition of praying the hours, inspire us to do so. Make each one of us a person who obeys you immediately the way Cornelius did. We’re weak Father. We need Your Holy Spirit. Give us strength and inspire us to do what pleases You always.
“In Jesus’ name we ask these things of You.
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 350
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Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
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This story is so vivid. I’m the kind of person that will watch a movie because I like the setting. The setting and backstory are important to me as it become something I can relate and find empathy.
Cornelius is obviously a caring person. I wonder if one reason he prayed so much was that he missed his family back in Italy. Maybe his heart was aching for his extended family back home. Maybe he knew the distance was too far for him to ever see them again. Maybe his season of deployment to Caesarea was the trial Cornelius needed to focus on God and be ready to serve.
These are things I can relate and I pray I respond like Cornelius.
I like to think that maybe Cornelius found his way back to Italy and his faithfulness was part of the Gospel movement throughout Europe.
It is interesting how God uses missing others to do His work in our lives. He has done that in my life more than once. Could be that’s part of what was happening in Cornelius’s life here in Acts 10.
And I’m with you Adam. I hope and pray you and I will respond to trials that come our way like Cornelius.
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