In Acts 10:1-48 we are introduced to a centurion named Cornelius. He is one of my heroes in the Bible because it was to his story that I was led by the Holy Spirit during my period of doubt. This story also taught me something else but that is another study.
When we get introduced to Cornelius he is described as a devout man and that not only himself but his household, fears God. He also gives alms generously and always prays to God (v2). Immediately it is established that this soldier is a man of God.
Cornelius is then blessed with a vision while praying. In this vision he is instructed to send men to find a man named Simon (Peter) and return with him. A specific verse I want to bring out:
v4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
Cornelius was afraid and I imagine that I would be afraid if I received such a vision. The part that I underlined I’d like to address. Imagine being told that your prayers and sacrifices are being presented to God as a memorial!!! This would blow me away. For me, the fact that Cornelius is a soldier made my eyes open even more.
If a Christian cannot be a soldier, then why would God bless him or any other devout soldier as I have discussed in this study so far? We will soon learn that Cornelius hasn’t even been baptized as a member of the Body of Christ, a Christian… yet!
The next day Peter has gone to his rooftop to pray and also receives a vision from God v9-16. While thinking this vision over, the men that Cornelius had sent arrive and Peter is told by the Holy Spirit that he is to go with these men to Cornelius’ home v19-23.
In v24-33 we find that Peter arrives at the home and is introduced to Cornelius. Peter informs Cornelius, the rest of the family, and the guests that God has shown him through a vision that he is to talk with them and that Gentiles are not ‘unclean’ v28. Then Cornelius explains the vision he had received and that he was to send for Peter. Also that he and his family and friends are waiting for the message that Peter is to give to them by God.
In v34-43, Peter begins to preach to Cornelius’ household about Jesus. A verse that I want to key in on is v35:
v35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
I want to emphasize that Cornelius is a soldier in the Italian Regiment (v1) with the rank of Centurion, which is basically the rank of Captain in today’s U.S. Army. A man, who is in a position of authority over 100 soldiers (an Italian Cohort), is himself a soldier and is accepted by God. A person who serves in any of the branches of the Armed Forces (Foreign and Domestic), and in Law Enforcement today, whom also fears God and works righteousness, will also be accepted by God. This is the example in the Word of God for us; just as Cornelius… those who serve as a soldier and also serve God are accepted by God and are within His will!
Then we see that Cornelius and his guests begin to speak in tongues as they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit even before their baptism by water v44-48. The message of Salvation reaches them and this whole story is also a great witnessing tool for military personnel to use when speaking to other soldiers.
Points that I wish to emphasize; God loved Cornelius so much that this entire story depicts how God organized the Salvation of Cornelius, his family, and his guests. Ask yourself this question; where in this scripture was Cornelius asked to leave his military service? As a service member today, God is reaching out to you and offering you His grace and mercy and once you accept this you will be Saved. Not all will be led to leave service to their country.
Some Christians will be led to military service and to remain obedient to that purpose, is a blessing.