Walk in Wisdom – Gleanings from the Scripture
Acts 10.1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God…43 To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.
The account of the Peter and Cornelius is joyful, informative, interesting and instructive. Several things leap to the fore.
Note first that the Spirit of God is often moving in people and places we might not expect. We must be careful to interpret passages like Rom. 3.10-11 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” in the light of passages like John 16.8 where the Holy Spirit is depicted as convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. No, no one is seeking God on their own; but yes, the Holy Spirit is at work, and some ARE seeking Christ by the Spirit’s work within them. Cornelius was such a man. And God is seen (in verse 4) as taking note of Cornelius’ actions, and as responding to them favorably. His ways are inscrutable, and we can easily overstate state certain positions if we are not careful to examine the larger witness of the Word. Cornelius, by God’s grace, was a “seeker.” Like Jesus with the woman at the well of Samaria, “the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” And we are seeking them out as well.
Note secondly how close one can come to true religion, and still be lost. The descriptive terms employed are staggering. Cornelius is said to be “devout” – a man whose lifestyle is serious about spiritual things, and he is committed to them. He “feared God.” He had the right God, and the right attitude toward that God. He feared God “with all his household.” He had a powerful effect on inducing others to take spiritual matters seriously. He “gave alms generously”. Cornelius was serious about living a life of service and sacrifice in the name of God. And, “he prayed continuously to God.” Look at the level of personal discipline and devotion. It is truly impressive. One can have all of these. Be truly drawn toward to the one true God. Be active in service to Him. be seeking Him and desiring to live it out consistently and even sacrificially and STILL be lost!
Most today would have assumed this man to be OK as is. What more could he possibly need? Verse 43 tells us in no uncertain terms: He still needed forgiveness for his sins. Forgiveness which can only be had through faith in Jesus Christ. Oh how easily this mark can be missed. Almost dismissed, even by genuine Christians in their evangelism. No matter how religious, how devout, how committed one is, they MUST yet be reconciled to God the Father, and find forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. No amount of religion or good works can supplant the need for this reconciliation. No other means is ever provided. Those who would come to God, must come through His Son. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)
Note thirdly, How gracious God is to make miraculous provision to seek and save the lost. Look at His intervention here. One cannot help but think of the Ethiopian eunuch too. God will meet those who are truly longing for Him, no matter what. No circumstance is too daunting. No cultural boundaries, no geographical conditions, no language barriers (remember Pentecost?), nothing is too difficult to overcome. How gracious and good He is! How active and initiating. How bountiful and willing. How glorious in His saving grace. What a God we serve!
Note lastly, how blessed we are to be participants in such a cosmic drama. How Peter is brought in to be part and parcel of what it is God is doing. He invites all Christians to be so engaged. To be willing to go. To join Him in the executing of His eternal plan. “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify He is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead.” (vs. 42) So it is we read of God’s words to Cornelius in verses 13-14: “Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a MESSAGE by which you will be saved.” (Emphasis mine) A message. A simple message. Jesus, the Son of God, crucified at Calvary for the sins of lost man, raised from the dead as Lord and Christ of all. Believe Him. Put your trust in Him. He alone can grant forgiveness of sins. And this, is the joyful message WE can speak to the Corneliuses of the world today. Oh what a great salvation!