Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to the faith. This case illustrates clearly that morality alone is not adequate to save one. It was necessary for Cornelius to hear and obey the word of God (Acts 11:14).
A centurion in the Roman army normally had charge of 100 men (= to Army captain). A regular cohort was one tenth of a legion and had a paper strength of 600 men. An auxiliary cohort was usually comprised of 1,000 men. Cornelius was of the Italian cohort. There is inscriptional evidence for the “Italian cohort” from Syria (See Bruce, The Book of Acts in NICNT, 215). When Paul set sail from Caesarea for Rome he was accompanied by a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius (Acts 27:1).
The centurions mentioned in the New Testament make a favorable impression:
- At Capernaum – Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10
- At the crucifixion – Luke 23:47.
This was not true of soldiers generally (Luke 3:14).