In Bible times all those who were not Jews were Gentiles; foreigners as opposed to Jews who were ‘the chosen ones.’ Cornelius was a Gentile. He was a soldier stationed in Caesarea, a centurion (one who commanded approximately 6000 men, or 60 legions of 100) of the Roman Army. He was an Italian of the Italian battalion (cohort). He was a righteous and God-fearing man whose ‘prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.’ He had heard of the apostle Peter from an angel and sent for him to come to his house and speak whatever message God had to give him. Peter opened the conversation with his usual honesty, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God showed me that I should not call any man unclean or unholy.”
Peter was a changed man by a vision from heaven. Cornelius was a changed man by a separate vision from heaven. Cornelius simply asked Peter, “Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” That sounds like a General giving command! The opening remark from Peter was the revelation of his vision of the sheet coming down showing him that “nothing is unclean that God has called clean,” and so he says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.” This triggered the beginning of a whole new time. The gospel is to go out to Gentiles of every nation. This includes most of us. Don’t get too snooty and snotty about being a ‘having it all nailed down Christian’… there are others we don’t know about.
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Jesus