Acts 10:1

Description of Indian in previous commentary photo.

Sunday, 28 August 2022

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, Acts 10:1

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The final verse of Chapter 9 told of Peter staying in Joppa at the house of Simon the tanner. Now, Chapter 10 begins with the words, “There was a certain man in Caesarea.” Caesarea has already been mentioned twice in Acts. It was first noted when Philip is said to have preached in cities until he came to Caesarea (8:40). It was also mentioned in verse 9:30 where it noted that the brethren brought Saul down to Caesarea and sent him off to Troas.

The direction of Acts is going to shift greatly in Acts 13, from the ministry of Peter to that of Paul. But before that happens, the introduction of Gentile converts is to now be noted. This will begin the shift from Jew to Gentile, from Jerusalem to the rest of the world, and from the focus of Peter’s ministry to that of Paul’s. Of thischange, Charles Ellicott rightly notes concerning this man –

“His admission into the Church, even if it were not the first instance of the reception of a Gentile convert as such, became, through its supernatural accompaniments and (in the strict sense of that word) its ‘prerogative’ character, the ruling case on the subject. Whether it were earlier or later than the admission of the Gentiles recorded in Acts 11:20, we have no adequate data for determining.”

The man now to be referred to is “called Cornelius.” Some place the name Cornelius (Greek: Kornélios) as being Latin, coming from cornu, or horn. Abarim defines that as coming from the Greek keras, or horn. And that, in turn, comes from the Hebrew qeren also meaning horn. They say, “The name Cornelius probably stems from an adjective and a diminutive form combined, and means A Bit Like A Horn or, slightly more striking: Of The Little Horn.” For brevity, it means “Little Horn.”

Of this man, Luke next says he is “a centurion.” Ellicott says of this –

“Cæsarea was at this time the usual residence of the Roman Procurator of Judæa, and was consequently garrisoned by Roman troops. Greeks, Jews, and Romans, probably also Phœnicians and other traders, were mingled freely in its population.”

Concerning his rank, Cambridge gives a full description of his minimal scope of authority, saying, “This was not a distinguished office. He was commander of the sixth part of a cohort, i.e. of half a maniple. The name must have been given to such [an] officer when his command was over a hundred men. The Roman legion in these times was divided into ten cohorts, and each cohort into three maniples, so that the nominal strength of the legion would be 6000 men.”

Based on this, Cornelius is just a moderately positioned soldier. He has men over him and he is the leader of about one hundred under him. This is defined by the word “centurion.” In Greek, it is hekatontarchés, coming from hekaton, one hundred, and archó, to rule. Hence, he rules over a hundred. Of this ruling position, Luke says it was “of what was called the Italian Regiment.”

He is an Italian in a unit that is part of a greater unit forming the tenth part of a legion. The word translated as regiment was used in the gospels in regard to those stationed in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was crucified (see Matthew 27:27). Noting him as being of the Italian Regiment is probably expressly stated to identify the entire regiment as being from Italy and not hired or conscripted natives from other areas. This regiment may have been designated to provide protection for the Roman proconsul who ruled in the area.

Life application: Without even reading ahead in the story, it is obvious based on how the structure of the Bible, including Acts, is laid out that this person now being mentioned will become the focus of attention for a certain amount of time.

As he is a Gentile, he is outside of the covenant given at Sinai. He would be considered an unclean Gentile to the Jews. As a soldier, he is not in any special category within Roman society. He is just a person who follows orders and who would also give orders depending on his position. But his orders would only be to those who were also soldiers. As a centurion, he is in a very moderate position of authority. It would be easy to blame him for problems that occurred under his authority, and it would be rare for him to be given a great notice even if his soldiers were exemplary in their conduct.

In other words, Cornelius is just a run of the mill guy who is living a pretty average life but with nothing exceptional in it to make him stand out among a crowd. He would fit the description provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 rather well –

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Those who are in high positions will feel secure in who they are, thinking they are great and in God’s good favor. Their concern is not how to please God because they feel they must already be pleasing to Him. Those who live mediocre lives will normally understand that their position in society is not great. Therefore, they may more often be inclined to want to be pleasing to God. It is such people who will then be more willing to try to find out what it is that God finds pleasing.

When the gospel meets up with such a person, and when it is responded to, he has no place for boasting. Instead, he gives God the glory for what he has been freely offered. This is what God finds pleasing. When we trust in Him and not ourselves, He can, and He will be, satisfied that we have placed our hopes in the right place. If you want to be pleasing to God, don’t revel in your own goodness, but His. Be grateful for the gospel and glorify God through Jesus Christ whom He has sent to reconcile us back to Himself.

Lord God, how wonderful it is to have been called back to You through the gospel. You have done all that is necessary to reconcile us to You. Thank You for that! All glory belongs to You. We receive the gift! We believe the gospel! We accept Jesus! Amen.