Q: What Does it Mean in Acts 10:4 that Cornelius’ Prayers Served as a “Memorial” to God?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to perform many different types of offerings. There were burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. See Leviticus chapters 1-7 for the details of these different offerings that the Israelites were supposed to perform in their worship of God.

As far as I know, there wasn’t a specific “memorial offering.” Instead, many of the offerings, or portions of them, were to serve as memorials (see Leviticus 6:15). A memorial is anything that serves as a reminder to people or to God. We celebrate Memorial Day in America as a way to remember those that have fought for our country. The Passover celebration each year was to serve as a memorial (reminder) of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 12:14). Christians in the New Testament have communion as a memorial (reminder) of Jesus’ death on the cross. He said do this “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Now in Acts 10:4, the prayers and alms of Cornelius served as a memorial (reminder) to God, not that God is forgetful like we are, though. Obviously, God doesn’t learn anything; He is all-knowing. I believe it is a way to try and say, in human terms at least, that God’s heart was stirred by the faith Cornelius had in what He understood about God. His prayers and alms served as a “reminder” to God that He should bless Cornelius because he responded to the light he had been given. As the rest of Acts 10 plays out, we see that God does just that by sending people to Cornelius to fully explain the economy of God and how he could have forgiveness through faith in Jesus. See Luke 19:12-27 for a parable on this principal of responding to the light (the divine revelation) that you have been given.

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