LOOKING INTENTLY AT HIM, HE BECAME AFRAID AND SAID, “WHAT IS IT, LORD?” THE ANGEL TOLD HIM, “YOUR PRAYERS AND YOUR ACTS OF CHARITY HAVE COME UP AS A MEMORIAL OFFERING BEFORE GOD.
- ACTS 4:10
Cornelius stared at him in fear.
"What is it, Lord?" he asked.
Cornelius sees an angel, and his first reaction is fear. He recognises the importance of the moment. He realises the vision is from God, as he responds with:
“What is it, Lord?”
He stops everything to listen to what the angel has to say. He receives explicit instructions to send for Peter from Joppa (almost a day’s journey away) as well as the exact address where to find him. Immediately, without question, Cornelius sends three men to Joppa to find Peter.
Meanwhile, the Lord has prepared Peter’s heart with a vision. Peter knows that three men have arrived at the house to ask him to go with them; the Holy Spirit tells him to get downstairs, without hesitation, to greet them. The men are invited in and accommodated overnight before they set off for Cornelius’ house the next day.
You can be sure that if you see an angel, God means to get your full attention; there’s probably something unprecedented and life-changing at stake. However, the appearance of an angel is not the most important part of the story. The hallmark of these verses is the obedience and faith of the characters involved as well as the history changing consequence of their obedience:
Firstly, Cornelius does not respond with: “What if Peter is not there?”, nor with: “What if we can’t find the house of Simon the Tanner?”
Then, the servants and soldier whom Cornelius sends do not question the fact that Cornelius has seen an angel. Many people would have scoffed and refused to go on such a long journey on what might have appeared to be a wild goose-chase. However, they know and trust Cornelius. He’s a devout and God-fearing man, and being part of Cornelius’ substantial household, the servants and soldier are devout and God-fearing themselves. They prepare and set off, arriving after a long journey, and are greeted and welcomed in by Peter himself.
What would your response be? It’s worth asking yourself: Am I ready to respond? Is my heart open to receive the word of God? Am I able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit? Am I ready to respond to God’s call to do something that involves time and energy? Am I ready to put my life on hold to accomplish what He’s asking me to do?
If you are ready and obedient, it can have huge impact. Peter and Cornelius’ obedience changes the world. Peter preaches the gospel at Cornelius’ house, and the Holy Spirit falls on the gentile listeners. It confirms the amazing news, for the first time, that the gospel is not for the Jews only, but for all mankind.