A centurion at Caesarea, baptized by Peter (Acts 10). The significance of Cornelius’s baptism is that he was probably the first Gentile to come into the Church not having previously become a proselyte to Judaism (see Proselytes). Other Gentiles had joined the Church, but they had been converted to Judaism before becoming Christians, which caused no great commotion among Jewish Christians who thought of Christianity as having some ties with Judaism.
Preceding the baptism of Cornelius, there were several spiritual manifestations: the ministry of an angel to Cornelius; a vision to Peter showing that the dietary restrictions of the law of Moses were to be discontinued; the voice of the Spirit to Peter; and a manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost, accompanied by the speaking in tongues. All of this would make clear the divine approval and direction of what was about to take place.
The baptism of Cornelius and his family marked a new dimension in the work of the Church in New Testament times, since it opened the way for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles directly, without going by way of Judaism. It is notable that this major event in the missionary activity of the Church was done through the ministry of Peter, the chief Apostle, who held the keys of the kingdom of God at that time on the earth.