Cornelius was a Roman officer stationed in Caesarea (Acts 10). He was a God-fearing person and wished to become a Christian. In a dream he was instructed to bring Peter into his home. Peter believed in the election of Israel only and he would never dare to enter a gentile’s residence nor eat with a heathen. Peter required three lessons on why God included gentiles in His plan. Election or predestination depended on those that were willing to be chosen and not on a succession by natural birth.
In the creation account, what God made was good, including man (Genesis one). To the Hebrews, particularly Paul, man had become horrible and almost unredeemable (Romans 3:23; Philippians 3:8). Peter, with a similar background (Luke 5:8), was three times informed not to regard as unclean what God had made clean (Acts 10: 15). What did Cornelius do that made him eligible? He was a devout family man, God-fearing, generous to the needy, prayed regularly and did what was right (Acts 10:2, 35). Peter’s rude awakening was that God had no special interest in a people that took God for granted. People from all nations that feared God and did what was right were welcome. In fact, Peter was ordered to witness to Cornelius for the very purpose to be included in Jesus’ Kingdom. Peter and his associates were even more astonished when the Holy Spirit left the same imprints on Cornelius and household as He had done for the Jewish believers on Pentecost (Acts 10:45-46).
The Cornelius incident is evidence that no election takes place without human consent. God, of course, has foreknowledge of what anyone will do. At the same time He has left the choice up to us. In the encounter with Cornelius, Peter witnessed in person “that God shows no favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter, who was chosen to be a witness to Christ’s mission, just did not understand how God works in electing people for the Kingdom. How then does God draw some and not others? This shall be our next topic.