Lessons from Cornelius
In Acts chapter 10, many
lessons are taught to us about the utility of the gospel, both what it
does and does not do. Cornelius the central character in this chapter
was a Gentile, that is, he was not of the nation of the Jews. The Jews
at that time had no dealings with the Gentiles and thought them to be
unclean like dogs. It was generally thought by the Jews that the
children of Israel were God's chosen race and that only they had a right
to be called children of God. Even the Jewish church of that day had
not reached out to the Gentiles, thinking that the gospel was intended
for the Jews only.
Today, we are living in
a world where the vast majority of those who profess to be Christians
believe that the individual is a least partially responsible for his
being saved from sin and being born of the Spirit of God. Most believe
that the gospel is an instrument to bring an offer of salvation to the
individual and how that individual responds to the gospel will determine
if he/she spends eternity in heaven or hell.
Before we examine the
lessons learned from studying Cornelius and his response to the gospel,
let us look at the attributes of someone who has not yet been born of
the Spirit of God. Romans chapter 3 gives us a set of attributes of
those who are under the law of sin and death and thus not yet born of
the Spirit of God: Rom. 3:9-18 "What then? are we better than they? No,
in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they
are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not
one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after
God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become
unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat
is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the
poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and
bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery
are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no
fear of God before their eyes."
From the above passage
we conclude that some of the attributes of an individual before he is
born of the Spirit include the following:
1. He is
2. He does
not understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14).
3. He does
not seek after God.
4. He does
not do good.
5. He does
not fear God.
Thus, if a man is righteous, or if
he understands the things of the Spirit of God, or if he seeks after
God, or if he does good, or if he fears God, then he has been born of
the Spirit of God.
Moreover the formerly
blind man whose eyes the Lord had opened gave this testimony in John
chapter 9: John 9:31 "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if
any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth."
Thus, we conclude that God does not hear the prayers of those sinners
that have not been born of the Spirit while he does hear the prayers of
those who are worshippers of God and that doeth the will of God.
Now let us consider
Cornelius and his condition prior to hearing the gospel. Prior to Peter
ever coming to preach the gospel to Cornelius and his household we read
the following statements about Cornelius that indicate to us whether he
was born of the Spirit of God before the gospel was preached to him or
was not born of the Spirit of God prior to the gospel being preached to
1. In Acts
10:2 Cornelius is described as a devout man. The Greek word translated
devout in this passage is "eusebes." This word is found in the New
Testament four times and three of those times it is translated devout
and one time it is translated godly. The literal meaning of the word is
godly. Thus, Cornelius is described by the Holy Spirit as a devout or
godly man. No where in the scriptures is a person who has not been born
of the Spirit described as being godly. The unregenerate are always
described as being ungodly.
2. Also, in
Acts 10:2 we are informed that Cornelius feared God. This is in
contrast to the description of the unregenerate in Rom. 3:18 as having
no fear of God before their eyes. Since the unregenerate do not fear
God and Cornelius feared God, then Cornelius must have been regenerated
or born again before he heard the gospel. Likewise, Cornelius' entire
household feared God. This teaches us that they also must have been
born again before the gospel ever reached their ears!
Cornelius we are informed in Acts 10:2 went about doing good as he gave
much alms to the people. Later we read that his alms came up for a
memorial before God. No doubt, God was very pleased with the good that
Cornelius was doing in helping the needy people. Again, this is in
contrast to what we read about the unregenerate in Rom. 3:12: "there is
none that doeth good, no, not one." Since, the unregenerate do no good
and Cornelius was doing much good, we must conclude that Cornelius was
born of the Spirit prior to hearing the gospel.
Cornelius was a praying man according to Acts 10:2: "prayed to God alway."
The word, "alway," means continuously. Thus, Cornelius was continuously
praying to God. The question is "Did God hear his prayers?" If God
heard his prayers then according to John chapter 9 Cornelius was a
worshipper of God and one who did the will of God. The question is
answered for us in verse 4: "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for
a memorial before God." Thus, both the prayers of Cornelius and the
alms of Cornelius were accepted of God and even came up for a memorial
before God. As was stated in John chapter 9 God does not hear the
prayers of sinners (unregenerate). The only conclusion we can draw is
that Cornelius was already born of the Spirit.
that Cornelius obeyed God and sent three men to seek for Simon Peter and
Peter had gone upon the housetop to pray and fell into a trance, God
showed Peter that God had a people among the Gentiles that He had
already cleansed: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."
The Gentiles had not had the gospel preached unto them at this time.
Yet God said that he had already cleansed them. They were clean through
the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Christ had died for them and his blood
was effectual in cleansing them from their sins. This truth was
illustrated to Peter when he went to visit with Cornelius and his
household. Peter did not go to cleanse them or give them an opportunity
to be cleansed, they were already cleansed.
Cornelius had a good report from those who knew him and the three men he
sent to seek Simon Peter gave this report of him that he was "a just
man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation
of the Jews." Only God's elect are just. Cornelius was more than
legally just, having been justified on the cross through the shed blood
of Christ. He was also effectually just, having been born of the Spirit
of God, and it was recognized by those who knew him.
Peter went to Cornelius house and met Cornelius and his household, but
before he preached the gospel unto them, he made this observation: "Then
Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no
respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and
worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Peter not only
acknowledged that God does not respect the Jew over the Gentile, but he
also stated that those who fear him and work righteousness are already
accepted with God. Thus, Peter acknowledged that Cornelius and his
household were already born of the Spirit of God and accepted with God
before Peter preached to them.
Based on the seven
undeniable proofs above, we are forced to the conclusion that the gospel
cannot be the means by which one is born of the Spirit or saved from
their sins. What then is the purpose of the gospel? This testimony
about Cornelius in Acts chapters 10 and 11 tells us several things in
which the gospel benefits God's born again people:
gospel tells us about Jesus, both who he is and what he has done for us:
Peter preached to Cornelius and his household and friends the following
"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power:
who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the
devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which
he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew
and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him
openly." Thus, Peter preached the life, and the death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter also preached of the things that
Jesus did. Among the things that Jesus did are that he saved his people
from their sins, established and built his church, and gave his people a
kingdom here on earth.
gospel instructs the Lords people on the things that they ought to do:
Acts 10:5, 6 "And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose
surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by
the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." The gospel
tells us what we ought to do as children of God. It tells about our
duty to repent, to press into the Lord's Kingdom church through water
baptism, to live lives separate from the world. It also tells us how we
ought to behave ourselves and saves ourselves in an untoward world. It
tells us how we are to behave ourselves as husbands, wives, children,
servants, masters, etc. It tells us how we ought to worship and how we
ought to conduct ourselves in the Lord's church.
the gospel does not save us from our sins, or cause us to be born again,
or give us a home in glory, yet it does save us here in time from an
untoward generation and to a knowledge of the truth and to worship and
serve God in Spirit and in truth in His church: Acts 11:12-14 "And the
Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six
brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: And he
showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said
unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be
the preaching of the gospel and belief of the gospel message we are
informed that our sins have been remitted: Acts 10:43 "To him give all
the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him
shall receive remission of sins."
Elder Vernon Johnson
To whom are the
When I go to my mail
box to get my mail, there are two things I look for. I look to see if
the letter is addressed to me and to see who wrote the letter to me.
Sometimes I get mail in my box that is addressed to someone else. I know
that mail is not for me. The scriptures tell us both, who is the author
and to whom they are addressed. We read in II Tim. 3:16, "All scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man
of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." From
this we conclude that the author of the scriptures is the Holy Spirit
and the scriptures are addressed to the "man of God." Once we can
identify who the man of God is then we will know to whom the scriptures
In the letters
written by the Apostle Paul, he has a salutation in each letter. In the
salutation, he identifies himself as the writer of the letter and he
identifies to whom the letter is written. In each letter, Paul
identifies the ones to whom the letter is written to be the following:
saints, faithful in Christ, the church, or the beloved of God. The word,
saints, comes from the same Greek word that is translated holy. When
someone is born spiritually they are given a holy nature and thus are
saints. Saints does not mean someone who has accomplished some super
feat or who has lived an exceptionally holy life, but rather in the
scriptures it identifies those who are born of the Spirit of God. Dear
reader, you who love the Lord are saints.
The scriptures are,
therefore, written to those who have been born of the Spirit of God.
Notice what Paul writes in I Corinthians, 2:9 "But as it is written, Eye
hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of
man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But
God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth
all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the
things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the
things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have
received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God;
that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth,
but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with
spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual
judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath
known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the
mind of Christ." Since the natural eye hasn't seen and the natural ear
hasn't heard and the natural heart hasn't perceived the things, which
God hath prepared for them that love him, then how can anyone know those
things? In nature, our perception of things is a result of the nature
that God has given us. We have been given the spirit (nature) of man
that we may know the things of man. We donít perceive the things of a
cow, or a horse, or a bird, etc. because God hasn't given us a nature to
perceive those things. In order to perceive the things of the Spirit of
God we must first be given a spiritual nature in order to receive those
things. This spiritual nature is given to us when we are born of the
Spirit. As Paul wrote, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned." In the new or spiritual
birth we are given a spiritual nature by which we can receive the things
of the spirit. Since the scriptures are given by inspiration of God, we
can understand with perception in our heart the scriptures because we
are born of the spirit of God.
The Lord told some
unbelieving Pharisees in John 8:42 "Jesus said unto them, If God were
your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God;
neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my
speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father
the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer
from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no
truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is
a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye
believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the
truth, why do ye not believe me? 47 He that is of God heareth God's
words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." These
unbelieving Pharisees did not hear (perceive) what Jesus had told them.
Jesus told them in verse 47 why they could not perceive his words: "He
that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because
ye are not of God." Thus, a person must first be of God before he can
hear God's words. A person becomes of God when he is born of the Spirit
The conclusion we
can make from the above scriptures and the only conclusion we can make
based on the above scriptures is that the scriptures are written to the
spiritually born children of God.
Perhaps the reader
is wondering, am I a spiritually born child of God to whom the
scriptures are written? In Gal. 5:22 we read, "But the fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Someone who is born
of the Spirit begins to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Only those who
have been born of the Spirit can bear the fruit of the Spirit. Dear
reader, if you love the Lord or love his people, you have been born of
the Spirit. If you joy in approaching to God in prayer or joy in talking
to others about the Lord, then you have been born of the Spirit. If you
have peace in your heart based on what God has done for you, then you
have been born of the Spirit. If you have a desire to do good without
any hope of a reward then you are born of the Spirit. If you believe in
God and believe he blesses them that diligently seek him, then you have
been born of the Spirit of God. If you bring forth any one of the nine
fold fruit of the Spirit listed above, then you have been born of the
Spirit of God and the scriptures are written to you.
Elder Vernon Johnson
Benefits of the Scriptures
again children of God it is profitable and beneficial for us to read and
study the scriptures. In 2 Tim. 3:15-17 Paul told Timothy, "And that
from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make
thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All
scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good
works." If we were to receive a personal letter from God addressed
specifically to us would we take it lightly? Well, God has given us the
scriptures and has addressed them to the man of God, that is, the
children of God. We shouldn't take them lightly.
the scriptures are profitable for doctrine. Doctrine means teaching.
God has instructed us in the scriptures of his major attributes and
characteristics, and of his works, and of his covenant of redemption and
of the various teachings of grace. He has also instructed us as to his
Kingdom and the Church. These things serve as the foundation on which
our personal lives are to be built, as well as our worship and service
is to be built. We need such a foundation that we may be good and
profitable servants unto God.
the scriptures are profitable for reproof. If we were perfect, we would
not need reproof. Even though we have been born spiritually of the
Spirit of God, yet we still possess a flesh nature that Paul said, "I
know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." We are
to mortify the deeds of the flesh. In order to bring our bodies into
subjection we need the reproof of God's word. God's word convicts us of
sin and encourages us to turn from particular sins and a sinful
the scriptures are profitable for correction. Sometimes we may think we
are doing something right or we may not be aware of the errors we are
making in our worship towards God or our service or the manner in which
we conduct ourselves. We need the correction of God's word to set us
straight in our worship and service to God and our attempts at living
the scriptures are profitable for instruction in righteousness. We do
not come equipped with a natural knowledge of how to live upright
lives. We have to be taught how we are to live uprightly, and how we
are to serve God, and how we are to worship him. The scriptures provide
us this needful instruction.
the scriptures make us wise unto salvation. The scriptures give us
knowledge of our eternal salvation. According to 2 Tim. 1:9 life and
immortality are brought to light through the gospel. The scriptures do
not give us life and immortality but rather they give us knowledge
(light) of that life and immortality that God has given us. They also
tell us how we can save ourselves from an untoward generation, and from
many pitfalls and problems in life. They instruct us in how we can
deliver ourselves from false religions and worship systems and false
service and false practices.
the scriptures provide us spiritual food. In John chapter 21 the Lord
told Peter to feed his lambs, and to feed his sheep. Also in 1 Peter
chapter 5 the elders are instructed to feed the flock of God and in Acts
20:28 they are told to feed the church of God. Of course, the spiritual
food the elders have to feed the church with is the scriptures.
according to Rom. 15:4 the scriptures give us hope: "For whatsoever
things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we
through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." We
have hope of eternal salvation because of the promises of God and we are
made aware of those promises in the scriptures.
the scriptures bring peace to the hearts of God's children. Rom. 10:15,
"And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How
beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and
bring glad tidings of good things!" Also, we read in Eph. 6:15, "And
your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace."
the scriptures give us knowledge and understanding of God's kingdom.
When John came preaching, he said, "repent for the kingdom of God is at
hand." Likewise, the Lord said, "repent for the kingdom of God is at
hand." Many, many statements and parables are written concerning the
kingdom of God. The New Testament has an awful lot to say about the
kingdom of God.
the scriptures teach us how that we are to worship God in an acceptable
manner. John 4:23, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true
worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the
Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that
worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Without knowledge
of the word of truth, we could not worship God in an acceptable manner.
there are many more reasons and blessings to reading and studying the
scriptures, these are some of the more important reasons.
Elder Vernon Johnson