Friday, August 29, 2014

God Fearing Man

10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day [1] he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 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. 5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 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, 8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:1-8 (ESV)
“A devout man who feared God.”  The transition continues with Cornelius and Italian. Not far from Joppa which provides modern day Israel with its main port, was Caesarea Maritime. Maritime distinguishes it from all the other Caesarea built and named to flatter the emperor. This is a very beautiful place to visit if you are in Israel. It had a manmade harbor with a very elegant break water the ruins of which are still awe inspiring.  And earthquake with a monstrous rip tide destroyed this harbor a long time ago. But in the first century this was the capitol of Rome in the area. This is where the proconsuls would live, men like Pontias Pilate and Felix, who would only visit Jerusalem occasionally out of necessity. This was a Roman city, with shrines and temples dedicated to  Roman gods, and an amphitheater dedicated to Roman entertainment. And here was the headquarters of the Italian cohort to whom Cornelius belonged.

They say he was a God fearing man. This basically means he was a Jew in everything but race and circumcision. He was a proselyte who believed in the God of Israel as the only God. Regularly went to synagogue, kept the distinction of foods and things clean and unclean. And was considered a brother by the Jews because he shared the same faith. Who knows why he hadn’t been circumcised yet. Perhaps he  was planning on it, and waiting for a time he could take a couple weeks off to deal with swelling and pain. It isn’t something a man just does. But as long as he was not yet circumcised he was still a gentile. Yet his prayers were heard, and an angel has him send for Peter. This whole episode is meant to prepare Peter for the mission to the gentiles which Barnabus and Paul will embark on shortly. It is meant to convince Peter that the Christian faith isn’t meant to be a mere Jewish sect but to blossom into a universal religion for all peoples everywhere. 

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