Insights From The Cornelius Account

October 17, 2013

This morning I reread the account in Acts chapters 10 & 11 about Cornelius and how he and his relatives and friends received the Holy Spirit. There is some good theology to be learned from this narrative.

First of all I noted this verse: “He [Cornelius] and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” (10:2) Those actions in themselves are more commendable than most people’s who claim to be born again. For most “Christians” do not behave as if they fear God at all, nor do they give generously to those in need, nor do they pray to God regularly, nor are they committed to God, to His ways, to holiness, or to pleasing Him. But Cornelius did and was.

I then noted the commendation the angel gave Cornelius: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a remembrance before God.” (v. 4) How many of us believe that if an angel sent from God approached us, that he would be able to commend us with such words? But Cornelius’s actions were worthy of being specially recognized by God.

The angel told Cornelius to send for Peter (v. 5,6), and when Peter came, Cornelius let Peter know he appreciated him coming and was ready, along with his relatives and friends, “to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” (v. 33) I noted that when Peter relayed this event to “the circumcised believers” (11:2) who criticized him for visiting a Gentile home (v. 2,3 & see also 10:28), Peter said that Cornelius had told him that the angel had said, “He [Peter] will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.” (11:14) Therefore, in comparing the accounts of what the angel had said, I noted that the angel had obviously communicated to Cornelius that by sending for Peter, the way of salvation would be revealed to him. I also noted that in 10:31, Cornelius said that the angel began with, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer…” So, had Cornelius been praying that God would reveal to him the way to be saved? I think so, and we should be reminded that when we have some Light, but are seeking more from God, He will reveal it.

Another thing to be noted is 10:34,35 where Peter tells Cornelius (and us) “that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.” Fear God, do right. Yet these are two things many “Christians” see no need of since they believe saved people can sin safely.

Peter goes on to say that the message which God has sent through Christ is “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ…” (v. 36) This message of peace, as 2 Cor. 5:19 confirms, is this: “That God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” Calvinists have no basis for their doctrine which states that God chose to have Christ die for only a selection of humans based upon His own choice. As 2 Cor. 5:20 reveals, God, though Christ and through His ambassadors, makes a continuous imploring appeal that everyone –everyone– reconcile themselves to Him. For He, through Christ’s sacrifice, is drawing everyone. (John 12:32)

Another thing that was cemented in my mind today through the Cornelius story, is that God often talks to listeners about similar things around the same time. I believe He does this as a way to confirm that we have really heard from Him. Just as God had told Cornelius that Peter would give him the message of salvation, so God had given Peter a vision in which a voice told him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (10:15) Consequently, when Cornelius sent for him, Peter did not hesitate to go, for the Spirit had told Peter, right before Cornelius’s men found him, that some men had come for him. (v. 17-20) We see that God’s timing is precise.

There is much more to learn from these two chapters, but one last thing I’ll mention is that concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came on those in Cornelius’s house while Peter was still speaking to them about the Good News. (10:44-48 & 11:15-17) This shows there is no set formula or words necessary for receiving the Spirit, but only genuine faith –which the group acquired as they listened to the Gospel. For as Rom. 10:17 confirms, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” Also, and contrary to what most “Jesus Only” Pentecostals teach, these people received the Spirit before they were baptized in water. (See Acts 10:44-48 & 11:15-17 again)

As I said, there is much more that can be learned from this passage, but it is merely one example of the spiritual insights from all of God’s Word –the recorded events as well as the warnings, promises, and encouragements– that can be awarded to those who take the time to study it.

with love,

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