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A Soldier's Memorial

He was an officer in the Roman army who is remembered to this day. Countless sermons have been preached about him. We know that he was a centurion which means he was over a hundred soldiers, but there is little else that is recorded about his career in the military. However, we know a great deal about his enlistment in a far more important service.

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius!’ 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. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do’” (Acts 10:1-6).

God was watching this man all those years before his conversion. The Lord saw his goodness and gave him the honor of going down in history as one of the first Gentiles to enter the church.

What is etched on the minds of Bible readers in memory of this man? He was devout. He feared God and did so with all his house. He was a very giving man who helped others. He prayed to God continually. This man was not raised a Jew, but he knew the Creator and lived a righteous life that pleased God. He was selected by God to have a visit from an angel. That angel declared his life a memorial before God. He was a high-ranking soldier in the most powerful nation on earth. He was well-paid and respected. But God honored his heart and life, not his position.

When Peter taught him the gospel, Cornelius didn’t hesitate or argue. Many in his place would have thought, “I don’t have time to meet with this man. I have a lot of responsibilities.” But Cornelius realized there was something more important than his occupation. He invited close friends and relatives to hear the Word. Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” and they became the first Gentile converts (Acts 10:48).

As a centurion, Cornelius gave orders to others. But as a man like everyone else, he took orders from a fisherman.

There are no details about him after this point. We don’t know where he went to church or how he died. We can’t decorate his tomb on an appointed day to remember his service. But the day the angel appeared to him was a memorial day unlike any other.

Kerry

West End church of Christ, May 26, 2024

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