The Conversion of Cornelius
By: Mickey Hukill

God, by His divine omniscience, and foreknowledge created man with the ability to learn. Man learns from a variety of different avenues, such as experience, history, and examples. The book of Acts which God has given to us by way of the Holy Spirit inspiring Luke to record it, gives us an accurate history of the works of the apostles during the first century church. Within this book, there are many examples of conversions that we can glean principles by which we must be saved. One such example is that of Cornelius. In this example, we can see that though a man is prayerful, has the best of intentions, and is devout, and God fearing, he is not saved until after he has faithfully obeyed Godís word.

Cornelius was a man much like some you could see today. He was a good, devout man, feared God, and one who was well liked among the community (Acts 10:22). It would seem he had it all going for him, yet his life was incomplete. He yearned for his soulís salvation.

The scriptures tell us that Cornelius was a prayerful man, praying daily at the ninth hour (Acts 10:30). Though not specifically mentioned, his prayer to God must have included request for salvation, for in a vision from God, an angel appeared to him and told him to send to Joppa for Simon Peter who would tell him the words that would save him (Acts 10:1-6, Acts 10:22; Acts 11:13-14). The message Peter brought unto Cornelius and his household is the same message that was brought to those when the church first began on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2). This message was that of the gospel. That is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who lived and was crucified and was raised from the dead and that whoever believes upon Him would receive remission of sins (Acts 10:34-44). The gospel is the soul saving message by which God saves us, for it is the power of Godís word, that is, the gospel that saves us. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). This was Corneliusí only hope of salvation as it is for all men because "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). There is no other way of knowing how to please God without hearing or reading it. After receiving the gospel from Peter, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius. This was not a common occurrence as some may think, but rather was the second time this had taken place. This first time was upon the apostles as they waited for that which the Lord had promised "And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:4-5). The event of the Holy Spirit coming upon Cornelius and his friends and family was not proof of their salvation as some declare, but a sign to the Jews that the Gentiles were also accepted by God. The Jews were not to even associate with a Gentile as noted by Peter "And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts 10:28). The sign therefore was God brilliantly showing the Jews that salvation was to the Gentiles as well as to them. Peter said, "Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? (Acts 11:16-17). At this point, there was no reason to tarry any longer, for after Peter witnessed the events that had taken place, he exclaimed "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Acts 10:47). Belief is only part of the equation to salvation, as it only gives one the "power" or "right"(ASV) to become sons of God (John 1:12).

Though Cornelius was a good, devout, and God fearing, he was lost. Peter brought the gospel to him so he could know the truth and obey it. Cornelius was not coerced nor forced to become a Christian, but rather after hearing the word of God, believed and was baptized for the remission of sins.

Today the same message can have the same effect. It is Godís method of saving mankind. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. " For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:18-21). Those who accept the word of God and obey it will be saved, those who reject it will perish. O that all men would have the honest and sincere heart of Cornelius and his household! Sadly, many today feel that their "goodness" or their "sincerity" is all that is required of them. Only through faithfully obeying Godís will can one expect to be saved. This is not working for salvation as some may claim, for what can man ever do to deserve our salvation? When we fulfill Godís will by obedient faith, we are merely doing that which is required of us and we are simply unprofitable servants doing that which is our duty (Luke 17:10).

Please e-mail me (Mickey Hukill) if you have any questions:

©2001 This paper may be freely distributed as long as there is no cost to others and no changes to the content of any material in this paper.

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