Cornelius: A Gentile Convert

KEY VERSE: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” —Acts 10:34,35

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 10:1, 2, 30-35, 44-48

FROM the earliest times the oldest son of a father, the beginning of the father’s generative power (Deut. 21:17), was considered the heir and had special privileges and authority in the family. The firstborn came into prominence when God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. It is interesting to note that among the Egyptians the firstborn were dedicated as sacred to the god Amon-Ra, the supposed preserver of all the firstborn. The tenth plague Jehovah brought upon the Egyptians served to discredit Amon-Ra, one of their chief deities. (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 584) Since the firstborn sons among the Israelites were those in line to become the heads of the various households, they represented the entire nation. In fact, God referred to the whole nation as his “firstborn.” We read in Exodus 4:22, “Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.”

The nation of Israel has held this position of prominence in all of God’s arrangements. After he entered into covenant relationship with them at Mount Sinai, they became a special people unto him. (Deut. 7:7,8; 10:15) This relationship continued down to the time of the first advent of our Lord, which marked the activation of the Abrahamic Covenant which from all outward appearances had been dormant since it was made. But now was the time that the spiritual seed of blessing was to be selected which, according to the promise, would bless Israel and all the families of the earth.

According to God’s arrangement the first opportunity to make up the number of this seed was given to the firstborn nation, Israel. The Apostle Peter in Acts 3:25,26 expresses the matter thus: “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away everyone of you from his iniquities.” We know that in fulfillment of many prophecies the nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah and Deliverer. One of the prophecies is found in Isaiah 8:14, “He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

At the end of his ministry, and after being rejected by the Israelites, Jesus said, “How often would I have gathered thy children together … and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:37,38) By this statement the exclusive privilege to the firstborn nation of becoming the seed of blessing came to an end. God had promised in a prophecy concerning Jesus that he would confirm the covenant for one week, but that in the midst of the week (of years) Messiah would be cut off. (Dan. 9:25-27) We know that the ministry of Jesus was cut off after three-and-one-half years, but Jesus, mindful of this prophecy, recognizing that the ministry must continue to be to the Jews for three-and-one-half years after his death, said to the apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”—Matt. 10:5,6

We reason that the Lord’s call to Cornelius marked the end of the exclusive opportunity of the Jews to make up the promised seed of blessing and that this great favor was now open to the Gentiles. Cornelius was a Gentile, a Roman soldier, who was apparently a devout man who made many gifts of mercy to the people and “prayed to God alway.” (Acts 10:1,2) The angel of the Lord directed Cornelius to send messengers to Peter with instructions to come to Cornelius’ house and tell him what he should do. The Lord prepared Peter for this experience with a vision in which he saw all manner of animals and creeping things which Peter knew were forbidden as food by the Law, and yet he was instructed in the vision to kill and eat.

When Peter arrived at the home of Cornelius, he recognized that there had been a change in God’s arrangements and he now understood the meaning of the vision, for he said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”—Acts 10:34,35

Dawn Bible Students Association
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