Read - Acts 10v1-8
Message - Scott Woodburn
If the towns that bore witness to Peter's mighty acts had a mixed population, by the time we arrive at Caesarea (v1) the population is mostly Gentile. The clue is in the name of the town. Once it was called Strato's Tower but Herod had renamed it in honor of the first Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, whose great uncle was the famous Julius Caesar.
Caesarea may have been Gentile in name and in population but there were still those who knew and feared the Lord. One such man was called Cornelius, a Roman centurion. A centurion was a man in charge of one hundred other men in the Roman army and as such they were to be men of good morals and integrity.
However we're told something even more important about this particular centurion - Cornelius feared the Lord. Perhaps Cornelius had some experience at the local synagogue or maybe news had reached him of the mighty works of Yahweh. Either way Cornelius had responded to the Lord favorably. He lead his whole household in the worship of God (v2)., he gave money generously (v2b) and he constantly called upon the Lord in prayer (v2c).
One day at 3pm Cornelius was praying when an an angel came to speak to him (v3). Angels are not fluffy beings with giant wings who we can hang from our dashboard as good luck charms. Angels are ministering spirits sent out for the sake of God's elect. Cornelius responds with terror to the vision of one of God's host (v4). Yet he need not have feared. The angel has come in response to the prayers of Cornelius. They have risen to the Lord "as a memorial" (v4). It is as David prays "Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!" (Psalm 141v2) Cornelius is to send men to Joppa and bring Peter to Caesarea (v5). The Gospel will be preached to the Gentiles.
It is said that Patrick was called to preach in Ireland by way of a dream in which the people of this island cried out "We beg you to come and walk among us once more." I cannot speak to the veracity of such an account but this chapter tells a similar story. News has reached Caesarea of the mighty acts of God. The Lord is already moving in the town. Cornelius fears the Lord and is used by God to bring Peter to his next preaching station. Nothing is left to chance with the Lord. There are no coincidences. No accidents. No mistakes. God even uses the imperfect prayers of the Saints to bring about His purposes.
We have no clue on a minute by minute basis of what God is doing, but we can say confidently that He is at work. We often do not notice how His unseen hand moves and we often give up on prayer because we think that it doesn't do much good anyway. Brothers and sisters, be encouraged. The Lord is King even over towns that bear the name of men like Caesar. His mighty works capture the attention of foreigners like Cornelius long before Peter arrives. Nothing and no one will thwart the purposes of God!
Q11 What are God’s works of providence? God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.