Acts 10:2

Entry to Utah state capitol.

Monday, 29 August 2022

a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10:2

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Cornelius was just introduced into the narrative. He was in Caesarea and was a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. Luke continues his words concerning him, saying that he was “a devout man.” The Greek simply reads, “devout.” It is a new word to Scripture, eusebés. It signifies pious, God-fearing, devout, etc. The word carries a different sense than that used in Acts 2:5 and 8:2, eulabés.

That word denotes someone who properly takes hold of what is known, such as the law of Moses. This word in verse 10:2 is more like someone who properly esteems or reverences. Cornelius may not have known the true God, but he knew He was there, and he reverenced Him as such. Thus, he was pious.

That alone sets him off as an exceptional person considering his profession. But more, Luke continues to describe him. As he does, and unlike the NKJV rendering, he will use present participles to do so. He says, “and one who feared God.” Rather, “and fearing God.”

Luke is bringing the reader into the constant state of how Cornelius lived. It is a common word that signifies awestruck or being terrified of. The same word is used when Paul was converted. The people didn’t believe that his conversion was true. As such, verse 9:26 says they were afraid of him. Cornelius was truly afraid of the God he knew was there and understood, as humans should, that he was accountable to Him for his actions. This is the sense that is to be derived from the words. This would then explain his piety. He wanted to please God with his life and works. But more, Luke says this was the case “with all his household.”

Even without the revelation of Scripture, Cornelius understood the importance of conveying the right attitude concerning God to his whole household. For example, Proverbs says –

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Verses such as this in the Old Testament, and many written by Paul in the New, are things that Cornelius understood intuitively. He shared his piety and fear of the Lord with his household, knowing that they too would have to give an account for their actions before God someday.  Luke next says of him that he was one “who gave alms generously to the people.” Rather, “giving many alms to the people.”

The verb is singular. Thus, this is not speaking of the whole household just mentioned, but of Cornelius. The word translated as alms is also a general word found thirteen times in the gospels and Acts. For example, it was used in Acts 3:2, 3:3, and 3:10 when referring to the beggar that was healed by the Lord through Peter.

One can infer that Cornelius was the kind of person to drop money in such a person’s hand. He might see a boy without a shirt and hand him one, and so on. He has a streak of pity and compassion for others that did not go unnoticed. And more, Luke also says of him that he “prayed to God always.” Again, it rather says, “imploring God always.”

The word is deomai. It signifies having a want for oneself. It may be a need, a request, and so on. It is used, for example, in Luke 5:12 –

“And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”

It seems likely that his imploring of God was for mercy –

* He was a devout man. He truly cared that his actions and heart were pleasing to God. Hence, he understood that there was a disconnect between him and God that needed to be appeased.
* He feared God with all his household. He was truly afraid of God, knowing that he would be judged for what he did in this life.
* He gave alms generously to the people. He didn’t know how to mend the rift between him and God and so he did what he could with his limited knowledge in order to attempt to mend it from his level upwards.

Because of his albeit limited understanding of God, he implored Him, probably with words like, “O God, I know you are there. I know that You are holy and terrifying. I am a vile creature in Your presence, and I need Your mercy lest I be swept away in the final judgment.”

He was less worried about his earthly life than he was about the judgment that he knew would come after it.

Life application: Cornelius knew what all people instinctively know. But instead of dismissing it and going on in life without a care, figuring it was all hopeless anyway, he held fast to what he was certain was true. It is the state of humanity that Paul writes about in Romans 2 –

“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” Romans 2:12-16

When you witness to people about Jesus, you will come across some who know that they are already in big trouble with God. They just don’t know what to do about it. For such people, all you need to do is tell them about the grace of God in Christ and they will get it. They will straight away be drawn to this good news.

Others have hidden away this obvious knowledge of God. They may say, “I’m a good person,” or “I’m not as bad as Hitler.” Such people see themselves as a standard, or at least as a point of reference in relation to others. They fail to see themselves in the light of God’s perfection. For such a person, you must first get them to understand that God is perfect and infinitely holy. In order to do this, you present them the law. In seeing that they have not met God’s standards of perfection, they can then be explained about the grace of God in Christ.

Until someone sees himself in relation to the awesome perfection and holiness of God, they will never see the need for a Savior. Be sure to evaluate the person you are giving the gospel to. Amend your presentation based on questions you ask them. Once they realize their state, whatever it may be, then explain how that state is corrected through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Lord God, may we be alert to the state of those around us. Help us to carefully consider how their lives are being lived, and then help us to direct them to the cross of Jesus accordingly. In the end, no sinner is too far from its cleansing power, and no person is good enough to avoid the judgment that it signifies. Help us to rightly explain to all about their great need for Jesus. Amen.