By Dennis Abernathy
In Acts 10, 11:1-18 and 15:6-14 is found the account of the conversion of Cornelius and his house. From these verses you will find that Cornelius was a devout man (a man of deep religious feelings). He was a man who feared God and gave generously to those in need. He prayed to God regularly, and was respected by all the Jewish people.
At first glance, it might appear strange that such a man should stand in need of conversion, but I am convinced that there are people yet today who are like Cornelius. Perhaps you are reading this short article, while entertaining the thought that your prospects for eternity are good. You are honest in your business, honorable in your association with men, a good husband or wife, generous to your neighbors, and benevolent to the poor. You may even attend worship services quite regularly. You may be thinking: “What have I to fear at the hands of a just and merciful God?”
But listen! Cornelius was a good man. His friends referred to him as a “righteous and God-fearing man, respected by all the Jews.” But the question remains, did he need to obey God? Was he in need of salvation? Yes indeed! How can we know this? Read further.
In Acts 10:6, Cornelius is told to send for Peter and “he will tell you what you must do.” Do for what? Acts 11:14 says: “who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.” Cornelius understood this and was anxious to listen to Peter, so he sent for him immediately. When Peter arrived at his house, Cornelius said: “Now, therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God” (10:33). Verse 34, says, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said. . . ” What did Peter tell this good and devout man?
He began by stating that God was not a respecter of persons, “but in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him” (10:34-35). He then told of Jesus’ personal ministry, of his death, burial, and resurrection and how his resurrection was verified by witnesses (10:36-41). Peter then said, in verses 42-43: “And he commanded us to preach to the people . . . that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Peter continued in verse 47: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?. . . And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” In Acts 15:7, we read: “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.” He states further in verse 9: “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” After hearing Peter rehearse his preaching to the Gentiles, the circumcision concluded, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
Let us now sum up what we have discovered thus far. (1) Jesus of Nazereth was preached (his personal ministry, his death, burial and resurrection). (2) Also preached, was faith, repentance and baptism. (3) Those who reacted to this teaching (i.e., believed or obeyed) received remission of sins (life) and had their hearts purified.
I now call your attention to Luke 24:46-47. “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In the second chapter of Acts we find devout men from every nation under heaven dwelling in Jerusalem. The gospel is preached. Peter is the preacher on this occasion also. When asked what they must do in order to be saved, Peter responded: “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:5,38). Thus, repentance and remission of sins was preached in the name of Jesus, to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. The Jews who heard, believed, repented and were baptized received the remission of sins. At the house of Cornelius, the Gentiles who heard, believed, repented and were baptized received the remission of sins. The same preacher preached the same message to both Jew and Gentile and when they obeyed that message they received the same blessing -the remission of sins!
Dear reader, are you a devout, deeply religious person who fears God? Have you done what those in Acts 2 did? Have you done what Cornelius and his house did? Have you obeyed the Lord’s commands (Acts 10:33; Lk. 24:46-47; Acts 10:43,47; Acts 2:38)? Do you need to obey God?
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 14, p. 429
July 20, 1989