Cornelius the Centurion
According to the Acts of the Apostles, Cornelius was a Roman centurion from the Italian Regiment. He had a vision one day and was told by an angel to “send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.” Cornelius did as he was told and convinced Peter to come to his house. There, Peter spoke of how “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.” Peter then baptized Cornelius and his family.
The baptism and conversion of Cornelius stand out because Peter so clearly states that God’s grace is meant for both gentiles and Jews. Until then, Peter had continued to favor the Jews in his ministry. It is also notable that Cornelius is a Roman centurion. Not only did Cornelius serve in the army, he was a professional officer and authorized to discipline Roman citizens. Centurions were highly trained even by the standards of the Roman army and were known for their “size, strength and dexterity in throwing [their] missile weapons and for [their] skill in the use of [their] sword and shield; in short for [their] expertness in all the exercises” as well as, unusually, their literacy. No man could become a centurion without letters of recommendation from other soldiers and officers.
Cornelius, in short, was the exact sort of man that had been hunting the Apostles, killed Jesus and shattered multiple Jewish rebellions. He was the image of the enemy of both the Jews and Christians. Yet, when Cornelius believed, Peter treated him no differently than any other convert. Cornelius was judged by his heart and soul, not his profession and nationality.