Acts 10:2
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.
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(2) A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.—The word for “devout” is not the same as that used in Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2, and Luke 2:25, and appears to be used by St. Luke, as again in Acts 10:7, for the special type of devotion that belonged to Gentile converts to Judaism. The phrase “those that feared God” is employed distinctly for this class in Acts 10:22; Acts 10:35, and again in Acts 13:16; Acts 13:26. There is a special significance in the addition “with all his house.” The centurion was not satisfied with having found a higher truth for himself, but sought to impart it to the soldiers and slaves, possibly to those nearer and dearer to him, who came under his influence (Comp. Acts 10:7.)

Which gave much alms to the peoplei.e., to the Jews of Cæsarea as distinct from the Gentiles. (Comp. Acts 26:17; Acts 26:23; Acts 28:17.)

And prayed to God alway.—As the vision that follows may rightly be regarded as an answer to the prayers thus offered, it is natural to infer that Cornelius was seeking for guidance as to the new faith which Philip had brought to Cæsarea, and of which he could scarcely fail to have heard. Was it really a new revelation from God to man? Could he be admitted to the fellowship of the society which confessed Jesus as the Christ without accepting the yoke of circumcision and the ceremonial law from which, as a “proselyte of the gate,” he had hitherto kept back?

10:1-8 Hitherto none had been baptized into the Christian church but Jews, Samaritans, and those converts who had been circumcised and observed the ceremonial law; but now the Gentiles were to be called to partake all the privileges of God's people, without first becoming Jews. Pure and undefiled religion is sometimes found where we least expect it. Wherever the fear of God rules in the heart, it will appear both in works of charity and of piety, neither will excuse from the other. Doubtless Cornelius had true faith in God's word, as far as he understood it, though not as yet clear faith in Christ. This was the work of the Spirit of God, through the mediation of Jesus, even before Cornelius knew him, as is the case with us all when we, who before were dead in sin, are made alive. Through Christ also his prayers and alms were accepted, which otherwise would have been rejected. Without dispute or delay Cornelius was obedient to the heavenly vision. In the affairs of our souls, let us not lose time.A devout man - Pious, or one who maintained the worship of God. See the notes on Luke 2:25. Compare Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2.

And one that feared God - This is often a designation of piety. See notes on Acts 9:31. It has been supposed by many that the expressions here used denote that Cornelius was a Jew, or was instructed in the Jewish religion, and was a proselyte. But this by no means follows. It is probable that there might have been among the Gentiles a few at least who were fearers of God, and who maintained his worship according to the light which they had. So there may be now persons found in pagan lands who in some unknown way have been taught the evils of idolatry and the necessity of a purer religion, and who may be prepared to receive the gospel. The Sandwich Islands were very much in this state when the American missionaries first visited them. They had thrown away their idols, and seemed to be waiting for the message of mercy and the Word of eternal life, as Cornelius was. A few other instances have been found by missionaries in pagan lands of those who have thus been prepared by a train of providential events, or by the teaching of the Spirit, for the gospel of Christ.

With all his house - With all his family. It is evident here that Cornelius instructed his family, and exerted his influence to train them in the fear of God. True piety will always lead a man to seek the salvation of his family.

Much alms - Large and liberal charity. This is always an effect of piety. See James 1:27; Psalm 41:1.

Prayed to God alway - Constantly; meaning that he was in the regular habit of prayer. Compare Romans 12:12; Luke 18:1; Psalm 119:2; Proverbs 2:2-5. As no particular kind of prayer is mentioned except secret prayer, we are not authorized to affirm that he offered prayer in any other manner. It may be observed, however, that he who prays in secret will usually pray in his family; and as the facially of Cornelius is mentioned as being also under the influence of religion, it is, perhaps, not a forced inference that he observed family worship.

2. A devout man, &c.—an uncircumcised Gentile proselyte to the Jewish faith, of whom there were a very great number at this time; a distinguished proselyte, who had brought his whole household establishment under the hallowing influence of the Jewish faith and the regular observance of its principal seasons of worship.

gave much alms to the people—that is, the Jewish people, on the same principle as another centurion before him (Lu 7:5); thinking it no "great thing," if they had "sown unto him spiritual things, that they should reap his carnal things" (1Co 9:11).

prayed to God alway—at the stated daily seasons. (See on [1984]Ac 10:3).

A devout man; this Cornelius was a proselyte of the gate, or such as observed the seven precepts of Noah, and lived without giving any offence to the Jews.

With all his house; it was a very good sign that he feared God, in that he engaged all his house to do the like, at least outwardly, which was as much as he could do: this was spoken by God in Abraham’s commendation, Genesis 18:19.

Prayed to God alway; he did not neglect the seasons of prayer, especially the time of offering the morning and evening sacrifice, which by prayer they desired to partake the benefit of by which Christ our sacrifice, and his merits, were figured unto them. Cornelius indeed prayed always, or at all times, taking time in a moral sense, for the seasons and opportunities for such a duty; (as we are commanded to give thanks always, Ephesians 5:20); but he could not pray always, or at all times, taking time in a natural sense, for then he must have neglected all other duties; however, his endeavour was to keep his heart always in a praying disposition. A devout man,.... A truly religious person, who had forsaken the Roman idolatry and superstition, in which he was brought up:

and one that feared God: the one only living and true God, the God of Israel; he had the fear of God wrought in his heart, which is a part of the covenant of grace, a blessing of it, and the beginning of wisdom; he was truly a gracious man, a converted person, and who from an internal principle worshipped God externally:

with all his house; he brought up his family in a religious way, as every good man should; and which was very remarkable in a Gentile, a soldier, and an officer:

which gave much alms to the people; to the Jews that dwelt at Caesarea, and therefore was of good report among them, and much beloved by them, Acts 10:22 he had regard to both tables of the law, both to the worship of God, and the love of the neighbour: and prayed to God always; every day, at the usual times of prayer; prayed privately in his closet, and with his family, as well as attended public service of this kind.

A {a} devout man, and one that feared God with {b} all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.

(a) So that he worshipped one God, and was not an idolater, and neither could he be void of faith in Christ, because he was a devout man: but as of yet he did not know that Christ had come.

(b) This is a commendable thing about the man, that he laboured to have all his household, and well-known friends, and acquaintances to be religious and godly.

Acts 10:2. ἑκατοντάρχης: form general in N.T., and so in later Greek, although χιλίαρχος is always retained in N.T., and ἑκατόνταρχος is also found, Matthew 8:5; Matthew 8:8 (W.H[237]), Luke 7:2, Acts 22:25 (W.H[238]); so πατριάρχης, πολιτάρχης, ἐθνάρχης, see Winer-Schmiedel, p. 82, and note on forms employed in Josephus and LXX; W.H[239], Appendix, p. 163; Blass, Gram., pp. 28, 68; and Grimm-Thayer, sub v., for various authorities.—ἐκ σπείρης τῆς Ἰ: the word σπεῖρα here = cohors, although used in the N.T. in a more general way as of the band which arrested Jesus, and so also of Jewish troops in Jdt 14:11, 2Ma 8:23; 2Ma 12:20; 2Ma 12:22. Each legion was subdivided into ten cohorts, but besides the legionary cohorts there were auxiliary cohorts, and Josephus mentions that five of these cohorts were stationed at Cæsarea at the time of the death of Herod Agrippa, composed to a great extent at all events of the inhabitants of Cæsarea and Sebaste, Ant., xix., 9, 2; xx., 8, 7. There were in the provinces Italic cohorts composed of volunteer Roman citizens born in Italy, and in answer to the strictures of Schürer, who contends that there was no Italic cohort in Cæsarea at this time, Blass, in loco, asks why one of the five cohorts mentioned by Josephus may not have been composed of Roman citizens who had made their home at Cæsarea or Sebaste, a cohort known by the name mentioned. But Ramsay has given great interest to the subject by his account of a recently discovered inscription at Carnuntum—the epitaph of a young Roman soldier, a subordinate officer in the second Italic cohort, who died at Carnuntum while engaged on detached service from the Syrian army. He sees reason to infer that there was an Italic cohort stationed in Syria in A.D. 69, and although the new discovery does not prove anything with certainty for the period in Acts 10, say 40–44 A.D., yet it becomes in every way probable that at that date, when Cornelius is described as in Acts 10:1, an Italic cohort recruited from the east was stationed in the province Syria. But even if it could be shown that no Italic cohort was stationed at Cæsarea from A.D. 6–41, or again from 41–44 in the reign of Herod, it by no means follows that a centurion belonging to the cohort may not have been on duty there. He may have been so, even if his cohort was on duty elsewhere, and it would be a bold thing to deny such a possibility when the whole subject of detached service is so obscure; Ramsay, Expositor, September, 1896, also Expositor, December, 1896 (Schürer’s reply), and January, 1897 (Ramsay); Schürer, Jewish People, div. i., vol. ii., p. 53 ff. E.T.; Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? pp. 260–269; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 108; and Wendt, in loco, (1899).—εὐσεβὴς καὶ φ. τὸν Θεὸν: the adjective is only used here and in Acts 10:7 (Acts 22:12), and once again in 2 Peter 2:9 in the N.T. In the LXX it is found four times in Isaiah, thrice as an equivalent of צַדִּיק, Acts 24:16, Acts 26:7 (2), righteous, upright, cf. also Proverbs 12:12, once as an equivalent of נָדִיב, liberal, generous, see on Acts 8:2 above; frequent in Ecclus. and Macc., see also Trench, N.T. Synonyms, i., p. 196. Taken by itself the word might denote goodness such as might characterise a Gentile, cf. Acts 17:23, and its classical use (like the Latin pietas); but construed with φ. τὸν Θεόν it certainly seems to indicate that Cornelius was “a God-fearing proselyte” (not to be identified it would seem with “proselytes of the gate,” although the confusion is common (Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 316 E.T.)). In Acts this class of proselyte is always so described (or σεβόμενοι τὸν Θ.) “they that fear God,” i.e., the God of the Jews, cf. Acts 10:22; Acts 10:35, Acts 13:16; Acts 13:26, etc. All the incidents of the story seem to point to the fact that Cornelius had come into relations with the synagogue, and had learned the name and the fear of the God of Israel, cf. Acts 10:2; Acts 10:22; Acts 10:25, without accepting circumcision, see especially Ramsay, Expositor, p. 200 (1896), where he corrects his former remarks in St. Paul, p. 43; Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, “Fremder,” i., 3, p. 382; Hort, Ecclesia, p. 58; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, pp. 184, 185; Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, i., 103 E.T.; McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 101, note, and for a further explanation of the distinction between the σεβόμενοι and the “proselytes of the gate” cf. Muirhead Times of Christ (T. & T. Clark), pp. 105, 106.—σὺν παντὶ τῷ οἴκῳ αὐτοῦ: the centurions of the N.T. are always favourably represented, cf. Matthew 8:5, Luke 7:9; Luke 23:47, Acts 27:3. οἶκος here includes not only the family but the whole household, cf. Acts 7:10, Acts 11:14, Acts 16:31, Acts 18:8, etc.; Luke 1:27; Luke 10:5; Luke 19:9, thus the soldier “who waited on him continually” is also called εὐσεβής. οἶκος (cf. πᾶς ὁ οἶκ. ὅλος ὁ οἶκ.), favourite word with St. Luke in the sense of “family” (Lekebusch, Friedrich) as compared with the other Evangelists, but often found in St. Paul (cf. Hebrews), so also LXX, Genesis 7:1; Genesis 47:12. St. Peter uses the word so in Acts 11:14, and in 1 Peter 2:18 we have οἰκέτης. St. Chrysostom well says: “Let us take heed as many of us as neglect those of our own house” (Hom., xxii.). Cf. too Calvin, in loco.—ποιῶν ἐλεημ. τῷ λαῷ, see note on Acts 9:36; the word occurs frequently in Ecclus. and Tobit, and its occurrence here and elsewhere in Acts illustrates the Jewish use of the term; but although it is true to say that it does not occur in Acts in any Christian precept, St. Paul applies the word to the collection made from the Christian Churches for his nation at Jerusalem, Acts 24:17, a collection to which he attached so much importance as the true outcome of Christian love and brotherhood, see l.c. How highly almsgiving was estimated amongst the Jews we may see from the passages referred to in Hastings’ B.D. and B.D.2; Uhlhorn’s Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, p. 52 ff. E.T.; but it should be remembered that both in Ecclus. and Tobit there are passages in which both almsgiving and fasting are also closely connected with prayer, Sir 7:10, Tob 12:8.—τῷ λ., i.e., Israel, as always in Luke, see above on Acts 4:25. Both this and his continuous prayer to God, Acts 10:30, characterise him as half a Jew (Weiss).—διὰ παντός: Luke 24:53, and three times in Acts (once in a quotation, Acts 2:25), but only used once in Matthew and Mark, and not at all by St. John; on St. Luke’s predilection for πᾶς and its compounds see Friedrich, pp. 5, 6. The description of the centurion no doubt reminds us of the description of another centurion in Luke 7:5 (so Weiss), but we are not obliged to conclude that the centurion here is merely pictured after the prototype there; but the likeness may possibly point to the same source for both narratives, as in some respects the language in the two cases is verbally alike, see Feine.—δεόμενος: “preces et liberalitas commendantur hic; accedit jejunium, Acts 10:30”; so Bengel, and he adds, “Benefici faciunt, quod Deus vult: precantes iidem quod volunt, Deus facit”.

[237] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[238] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[239] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.2. a devout man] i.e. he was a worshipper of the true God, but had not joined himself to the Jews in the observance of the Law. The language of St Peter in Acts 10:28 shews us that he was not a complete proselyte. Wherever in the N. T. we find mention made of Roman centurions they appear to have been good men, Matthew 8:5; Luke 7:2; Luke 23:47.

and one that feared God with all his house] The earnestness of his devotion to God is evidenced by the character of his household. If his family be here meant, he had instructed them in the worship of God, and had provided that those who attended on him should also be of the same character. The soldier, whom he sends to Peter, is called “devout” in Acts 10:7.

which gave much alms to the people] i.e. to the Jewish people among whom he was stationed. He was like the centurion (Luke 7:5) of whom the Jews said, “He loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue.”

and prayed to God alway] thus shewing himself anxious for greater knowledge of God’s way, which from Acts 11:14 we learn must have been the purport of the prayer of Cornelius.Acts 10:2. Σὺν, with) Implying the close connection of the master and his household, of the commander and his soldiers: Acts 10:7.—οἴκῳ, his house) Comp. ch. Acts 11:14.—τῷ λαῷ, to the people) Among many of the Jews there was at that time great poverty. GOD repaid the debt of the poor, in their stead. The grace of GOD towards Israel recompenses the favour of Cornelius towards the Israelites.—δεόμενος, praying) Prayer and liberality are commended here; fasting is added, Acts 10:30. The beneficent do what GOD wishes: what these same persons in praying wish for, GOD does.Verse 2. - Who for which, A.V. A devout man (εὐσεβής); and in ver. 7. It is an interesting question as to what was the precise religions status of Cornelius, whether he was a proselyte in any technical sense. But the whole narrative, in which he is spoken of simply as a Gentile and uncircumcised, seems to indicate that, though he had learnt from the Jews to worship the true God, and from the Jewish Scriptures read or heard in the synagogue to practice those virtues which went up for a memorial before God, yet he was in no sense a proselyte. It is pleasant to think that there may have been many such in the different countries where the Jews were dispersed (comp. Acts 13:16, and probably Acts 11:20). Devout (εὐσεβὴς)

See on godliness, 2 Peter 1:3.

Prayed (δεόμενος)

See on prayers, Luke 5:33.

"Unheard by all but angel ears

The good Cornelius knelt alone,

Nor dream'd his prayers and tears

Would help a world undone.

"The while upon his terrac'd roof

The lov'd apostle to his Lord,

In silent thought aloof

For heavenly vision soared."

Keble, Christian Year.

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