Key Bible Verses
Acts 10:1-8, 44-48
Who Was He?
Even before he encountered the Holy Spirit, Cornelius is described as a devout and God-fearing man. One night an angel gave him a dream that he should send for Simon Peter, and then gave Simon Peter a dream about Gentiles being welcomed into God’s people. When Peter arrived at Cornelius’s house, he preached the gospel to them and the whole household believed and the Spirit fell upon them.
How Did the Spirit Work In Him?
1. Gifts of the Spirit
As Peter was preaching and the Holy Spirit fell upon the household, we are told that the ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’ had fallen upon Cornelius and his household and that Peter was amazed (because this was the first time it had happened in a non-Jewish context). ‘The gifts’ has a broad application in the New Testament, but here it is particularly referring to the supernatural expressions of the Spirit that are manifest in gathered worship times (1 Cor 12:4-11 outlines these a little bit more).
2. Speaking in Tongues
As part of their praise, Cornelius and others were speaking in tongues. This is when the Holy Spirit enables someone to express their prayers and praise using a language that they have not learned (sometimes this is a recognisable human language, other times it is an angelic language). It is something God gives to help us in private prayer when we struggle for words, and can also be brought in gathered worship (along with an interpretation, usually given to somebody else by the Spirit).
3. Praising God
Cornelius was extolling God. He had always been a praying man, but something new had happened in him. He has moved beyond simply religious observation and propositional belief. His heart is now full of an overwhelming desire to give praise to God. It is as the Spirit came upon him that this change happened, and it amazed Peter to such a degree that Peter recognised him as a fellow believer despite him being a Gentile and baptised him. This was the beginning of the spread of the gospel into the Gentile world.