Religious - But Wrong (No. 3)
Once again we turn our attention to a Bible character who, is evidence of the inaccuracy of the theory that says a man is all right in God's sight as long as he is honest and sincere, regardless of what he believes and practices in his religion. We call your attention now to the words of Acts 10:1, 2, and 22.
"There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always." Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews. . ."
Here is a man who was a Gentile and a soldier of the country that ruled the land of Palestine. He is described as a devout man, or one who was devoted to the God of Heaven. He feared God himself, and had been so devoted to the Lord that he had influenced his whole household to have that same awesome respect for the Lord. He was liberal with the material things of the world, sharing them with the people who lived in the land he was occupying.
Furthermore, he was a man who prayed to God; not just occasionally, or when he was in some great peril or tribulation, but always. He was a just man; one that walked righteously in the sight of his fellowman, and in the way that he thought would be pleasing to God. This just, upright living made it possible for him to be of good report among all the nation of Jews. The very people who had been conquered by this Roman Army, and were being held in a form of servitude by the Romans, all spoke well of this man Cornelius.
Is there anything given to indicate this man was not sincere and honest in his religion? No. There are few who measure up to the moral integrity and uprightness of Cornelius. I believe all will agree that the world would be quick to speak of this man as a good man, and one who was highly religious.
Take your Bible now and read verses 3-8 of this same tenth chapter of Acts. Here we read of his prayers coming up before God as a memorial, or reminder. The Gentiles were still without the gospel of Christ. Cornelius is instructed by the angel of the Lord "to 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." (Emphasis mine, REF.)
Even though Cornelius was a good man morally, God here requested him to send to a certain individual to learn something else he ought to do. In order that we may be sure that Cornelius was lost without the saving message which God was directing him to obtain we turn to Act 11:13-14. Peter is telling his brethren what happened to make him preach the gospel to the Gentiles for the first time. "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 saved." (Emphasis mine, REF.)
Here again we see one of the great characteristics of Cornelius. When God told him to do something he obeyed. Too often in our day we hear the cry that obedience is not necessary for salvation; that one who is dead in trespasses and sin can do nothing; that God must do everything for him. Here was a man that was willing to do when he was told what to do.
In Acts 10:9-18 the spotlight is focused upon Peter and the events necessary to convince him he could go to help Cornelius. Beginning with verse 19, the remainder of the chapter deals with Peter's acceptance of his duty, and his journey to the home of Cornelius and what transpired after he arrived. Please be sure to read the entire chapter, as well as the first eighteen verses of chapter eleven.
Once more we see the earnestness and sincerity of Cornelius. When he learned that God was sending a man to tell him some things he ought to do, he went out to gather his relatives and friends together in order that they might receive this knowledge the same as he. See verse 24. Now notice especially what happened when Peter first arrived.
"And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together." Verses 25-27. How vastly different was the attitude of Peter on this occasion from the attitude of the man who sits in a magnificent temple in the city of Rome, claiming to be a successor to the apostle Peter, and looked to by millions as God on earth! When people come before him and bow down and worship him, he accepts that reverance. There is no teaching given that would show the uniformed that he too is onlv a man just as they are, and that it is a sin to worship anyone but God. Read Exodus 20:1-6 and Matt. 4:10. He, the man in Rome, not only accepts the obeisance done in his presence, but he expects it! Not so the apostle Peter. He quickly explained to Cornelius that men were not to be worshipped.
As we continue to read through the account of what happened at the home of Cornelius we see several things that stand out. Peter now understands more fully the purpose of the miracles he had witnessed while on the housetop; Cornelius expresses desire to hear whatever Peter has to tell him; Peter reviews the facts of the gospel and says that Cornelius knew about these things that had transpired, Peter says the apostles were to witness, or testify, to the people that through the name of Jesus men could now have remission of sins; and the Holy Spirit of God fell on Cornelius and his household to complete the acceptance in the minds of Peter and his brethren that the Gentiles now had the right to obey the gospel of Christ for the remission of sins.
Remember that Peter was sent for in order that he might tell Cornelius what he ought to do. When the astonishment of Peter's Jewish brethren had subsided somewhat we read these words beginning with verse forty-seven: "Can any man forbid water, That these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days."
Yes, another very sincere religious man had to obey the commandment of the Lord to receive the remission of his sins.
Truth Magazine II:2, pp. 18-19