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There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band],
Note 1 at Ac 10:1: Cornelius is only mentioned by name here in Ac 10. However, his conversion is mentioned again in Ac 11:4-17 and referred to in Ac 15:14 and Ga 2:11-12. The conversion of Cornelius, his kinsmen, and his friends is one of the most important events recorded in the book of Acts.
This is the first recorded account of a Gentile being converted to Christianity (with the possible exception of the Ethiopian eunuch in Ac 8:27-38). Prior to this time, the church was made up entirely of Jews or Jewish proselytes who believed it was impossible for anyone to become a Christian without being circumcised or becoming a Jew first.
Through this miraculous set of circumstances, God convinced Peter that the Gentiles were also God's people and candidates for salvation (Ac 10:34-35). Although Peter related this incident to the church at Jerusalem, it was still not resolved among all the brethren that Gentiles could become Christians, as can be seen in Ac 15:1. At the Jerusalem conference recorded in Ac 15, Paul and Barnabas argued for the conversion of Gentiles without circumcision and the keeping of the Law of Moses. James, the head of the Jerusalem church, agreed with Paul and cited the conversion of Cornelius as verification that this was true. It is possible that without Peter having been used to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles prior to this, the Jerusalem church and its leaders might have rejected the Gentiles as being heirs of salvation with them. Paul later brought up the instance of Cornelius' conversion when Peter visited him in Antioch and was reproved by Paul for his hypocrisy (Ga 2:11-14).