Cornelius the Zealous
[Acts 10:1-25]


Who was Cornelius? A centurion, a middle-ranking Roman army officer?  So, was there any need for Luke the writer to mention that Cornelius was from the Italian Cohort?  Unless it was to emphasize that he was a Gentile?  Say, wasn’t his being a Gentile a central feature of Acts 10?

Could Cornelius have been the centurion whose servant Jesus healed from a distance [Matthew 8:11 ]?  If so, Peter would have recognized him when they met in Caesarea , since Jesus praised him above all others in Israel , above Peter himself, with these words: “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith”?  But since Peter did not recognize Cornelius, it was probably another centurion.

Or was Cornelius “the centurion who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died”, and said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” [Mark 15:38 ,39]?  The Bible is silent on this.  But such an extraordinary experience would explain why Cornelius “and all his household [“family” in NIV] were devout and God-fearing [Acts 10:2].  However, if Cornelius was not that centurion, then we know of at least three centurions who believed in Jesus!  Had God brought these tough warriors all the way to Israel to be saved, and to begin the salvation of the Roman Empire ?

One day, Cornelius was praying to this God of the Jews, at a prescribed prayer time for Jews, 3 p.m., when an angel called him by name and said, “Send men to Joppa, to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter”, who was staying in the house of Simon the tanner, by the sea.  One house, two Simons.

What was Cornelius’ response?  Did he consult anyone or discuss it with the missus before taking action?  No, he “immediately” [10:33] sent “two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants”.  “Devout”?  Is the same Greek word used to describe Cornelius and his household?  Yes, indeed.  So, the Roman soldier, like the two servants, was a believer in Yahweh?  Probably.

Why did Cornelius send three men when one or two would do?  But, didn’t the angel say “men”?  So two was the minimum. For wasn’t it dangerous for one man to travel so far alone, even an armed soldier? Wouldn’t a lone Roman soldier be a tempting target for assassination?  Then what about two men?  Well, was it safer to travel in groups of three than in two’s?  And were three sent so that one servant could carry all the provisions on the return journey while the other could carry Peter’s belongings, leaving the soldier free to protect the group?  But even three would give Peter “misgivings” [Acts 10:20], and more would have intimidated Peter.  So three were sent.  How logical and true the Bible is, even in the little details.

Also true is: “having explained everything to them”.  How like an army officer to brief his men thoroughly before sending them on a mission!  The mission was so urgent that Cornelius sent them out in the late afternoon.  So he expected them to walk through the night?

The trio walked from Caesarea to Joppa [modern Jaffa].  How far was that?  About 50 kilometres?  They left Caesarea around 4 p.m. and arrived at around noon the next day: 50 kilometres in 20 hours?  That’s quite a distance to walk in 20 hours!  Did they dilly-dally?  How was their sense of urgency? What does this say about them, and about Cornelius?

Fifty kilometers to Joppa and another 50 back is 100 kilometres, just to fetch Peter.  Next time you walk down to the neighbourhood shop, and you start to think what a long walk it is, just remember the Three Walkers.

Peter of course went to Caesarea with the Three Walkers.  [We shall take a look at that in the next article.]  Meanwhile, Cornelius had assembled “a large gathering of people” [Acts 10:24] - his relatives and close friends - all waiting for Peter to arrive.  What great faith Cornelius had in God!  Anyone with less faith would have waited for Peter to arrive before calling people together to meet him, to avoid looking stupid if Peter failed to appear. 

Cornelius didn’t even let Peter rest first.  He couldn’t wait to hear what message the man sent by God would deliver.  Hmm, do I have the same eagerness to hear what message the preacher sent by God will deliver each Sunday?


Last week’s chapel was led by Dr John Lim. We had songs and hymns and spent some time in praying for BGST. Then Dr Quek Swee Hwa, our Dean, shared some devotional thoughts from Jer. 1:1-10. Each of us has different callings in life. And even though the experiences may differ from one another, God is the One who proves to be faithful in all of our lives. 

Chapel ended with the singing of a hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Chapel next week (Oct 1) will  be taken by Dr Philip Satterthwaite.


  1. We would like to extend our sincere condolence to the family of Mr Robert Yeo who went home to be with his Lord on Sept. 18, 2003 .

  2. We welcome the visit of Gunar Sahari of Indonesia to BGST on Sept. 24, 2003 .

  3. Bible Lands Study Tour 2003 (Nov. 26 - Dec. 8, 2003 ).  Please call Serene (Tel.: 63538071).

  4. The course on “Isaac, Jacob & Joseph: God’s Grace in a Dysfunctional Family” by Dr Philip Satterthwaite has been brought forward to February 2004.

Tentmakers Equipping ‘n’ Training (TENT 2004)

 TENT Course is a part-time modular course especially designed to equip and prepare Singaporean professionals for ministry and service in a cross-cultural context.

  • Biblical Basis of Tentmaking

  • Understanding Culture

  • Personal Ministry Skills

  •  Religions of Asia

  • Tentmakers & Ethical Issues

  • Theology of Work

  • Country/People Profile Studies

  •  Spiritual & Practical Preparation

 For enquiries about the courses, please contact:
TENT co-ordinator: Dr John Lim
Tel: 6353 8071  Fax: 6353 8072


Mr Chin Lee Poh  22/9

Dr Oswald Goh  22/9

Mr Michael Chay  23/9

Mrs Susan Foo  23/9

Dr Richard Hui  23/9

Mr Seneviratne Siri  23/9

Mrs Cheong Cheng Choo  24/9

Ms Lydia Tan  24/9

Mr Lu Thiam Seng  25/9

flower pot

Dr Chan Chee Kai  25/9

Ms Niki Wong  25/9

Mr Yam Keng Mun  26/9

Mr Cheng Wai Meng  26/9

Ms Ecashia Loh  27/9

Mr Cecil Peters  28/9

Mr Rupert Seah  28/9

Mr Daniel Goh  28/9

Top | Home | Library | Archives | Email
This page is updated on 25 Sep 2003.
© Sep 2003