CASE-04 - Cornelius
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CASES OF CONVERSION
The apostle Peter said, “Can anyone forbid water that these should not be
baptized? Then he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the
Lord,” Acts 10:47-48.
We welcome you today to our study of cases of conversion in the
book of Acts. As we think today about this powerful case of the conversion
of Cornelius, we encourage you to stay tuned as we open our hearts and
our minds to the word and the will of Almighty God.
Cornelius is a very interesting man as we look at his conversion. The
Bible tells us that he's a soldier. He is a centurion. Notice Acts 10 beginning
in verse number 1. The Scripture records of Cornelius, “There was a
certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion that was called, a
centurion of what was called, the Italian Regiment.” This is a man who is an
authority. This is a man who is over people. He was a soldier, people not
necessarily known at that time for their religious tendencies. But not only
was he a soldier, he was a very high-ranking soldier. A centurion was a
captain over at least 100 other soldiers. They were what are called the
backbone of the Roman army, and his regiment came out of Italy. So, he
was a very important man.
As we think about this man, he's important. He understands authority.
No doubt he's a hard worker, but he's also a God-fearer. Look at Acts 10:2.
The Scripture records of Cornelius that, “He was a devout man, one who
feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people
and prayed to God always.” Was this man a Gentile or a Proselyte? The
following evidence helps us to see that this man was a Gentile. At his
conversion circumcision, the astonishment about some circumcision is
there in Acts 10. That the people of the circumcision tried to get upset
about this also suggests these ideas, and that in Jerusalem there was a
whole discussion in Acts 15 relative to these ideas.
More important than that, when we think about Cornelius, who is
going to need to obey the gospel, let's realize Cornelius is a religious man,
a devout man. The Bible says he is devout, meaning that he was reverent.
He was religious. He was one who regularly engaged in worship and
service to God. That's the idea behind devout, one who feared God. It
literally a God-fearer, suggests that he may have been a Gentile whose life
was devoted to serving God under the patriarchal law.
We also know something else about Cornelius. He was a generous
man. He gave alms regularly. He was willing to help those who are in need.
So, he was a devout man, one who feared God, one who was willing to
give, and one who put his trust in the Almighty in every way. Yet, this man
is still going to need to submit to Christ. You know, as we learn about
Cornelius, he also prayed continually. He prayed often. “Pray without
ceasing,” the Scripture says 1 Thessalonians 5:17. “Morning, evening, and
noon I'll cry unto Thee,” the psalmist said. He tried to do the right thing.
Acts 10:22 tells us, this was a man who had a good reputation among the
whole Jewish nation, as a soldier and a religious man. Integrity was a part
of his life.
Friend listen carefully, to a man of authority, to a man who was
devout, who feared God, who prayed, and who gave alms, who was known
as a good man, Cornelius still needed the gospel. Listen carefully, I've
heard people say ‘I don't need God and I don't need Christianity because
I'm a good person.’ Being a good person is not going to save you. If
anybody ever would've been saved by being good it might have been
Cornelius. He did a lot of good things. He was a devout person. He was
committed to helping the poor. He was a regular worshiper of God, but
Cornelius still had to hear the gospel. Although he was a good moral
religious person, that's not what saves. He was lost, and he still needed to
be saved. Verse 6 tells us there is something he must do. He had to have
something to do to be right with God, and Acts 11:14 tells us what that was.
Cornelius had to hear words whereby he could be saved. If people are
going to be saved as we have reiterated in every lesson, to be saved one
must hear the word of Almighty God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing
by the word of God,” Romans 10:17.
Then of course as you continue to read in Acts 10, we now see this
vision that comes to Cornelius. God is now going to send salvation to his
way. Look in Acts 10:3. The Scripture says, “About the ninth hour of the
day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him,
‘Cornelius’ and when he observed him he was afraid and said, ‘What is it
Lord?’ so he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a
memorial before God now send men to Joppa and send for Simon, whose
surname is Peter, he is lodging with Simon a Tanner whose house is by the
sea, he will tell you what you must do’ when the angel spoke to him and
departed Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout
soldier from among those, who waited on him continually so when he
explained all these things to them he sent them to Joppa.” Here God
speaks to Cornelius as he had done to the heads of the houses throughout
the patriarchal law. God had heard Cornelius’ prayer. Cornelius now is told
there's a man coming to tell you what you must do, Acts 10:6. And when he
comes Cornelius is going to listen intently to that message.
Now along with speaking to Cornelius, God now sends a vision to
Peter. Peter is praying. He's up on the rooftop, if you remember, and he
falls into a trance or a vision. And there is this this image. Peter's ready to
eat, but the meal's not quite ready yet and so he's hungry and in a vision
there's this this spread of all kinds of heavenly food. Clean and unclean
animals appear before Peter. Peter is told ‘arise, kill, and eat.’ Peter thinks
about, and he realizes after he's been sent to Cornelius what God's called
clean, don't call unclean. In essence, Peter learns all men everywhere
need to hear the gospel regardless of race, regardless of background,
regardless of how well are we like or don't like them that's not the
importance. All men everywhere need the gospel. In fact God wants all
men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4.
That's what he wanted for Cornelius and that's what he wants for men and
women today as well. You see the Bible says, “The Lord is not slow
concerning his promises as some men count slowness but He's
long-suffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all
should come to repentance.”
So, just as God told Peter to go to Cornelius, Peter does make his
way that way. And I want you notice what happens when Peter and
Cornelius meet in Acts 10. Acts 10:24 says, “And the following day he
entered Caesarea,” that's Peter, “now Cornelius was waiting for them and
he called together his relatives and close friends as Peter was coming in
Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and worshipped him, but Peter lifted
him up saying, ‘Stand up! I myself am also a man.’” Here's a man who's
ready to hear the gospel. You know we talk about hearing the gospel and
this man was ready. He's waiting and not only is he waiting God spoke to
him, and he's got his friends and relatives there. He wants everybody to be
saved too. And so, he's waiting with his family and friends. When they
meet, Cornelius is so amazed and so thankful we might say that Peter is
willing to come and speak to him that he does something unusual. He falls
down at Peter's feet as though to worship him. Did Peter accept that? Peter
said, “Stand up, I myself am also a man.”
Friend listen carefully and I hope you'll understand the practical
application that we’re making here, men and proclaimers of the gospel and
servants of Christ, we're just men. We're just human beings. We all stand
on level ground at the foot of the cross. We've all had to deal with the sting
of sin, and nobody is any better than anyone else. Christ is our Lord. We
serve him, and we've got to realize we all stand on level ground at the foot
of the cross.
Now let's make practical application. Sometimes people will try to
say, and there's a whole ideology of doctrine based on it, that Peter was
the first pope. I want you think about this. Here's what happens when
Cornelius falls down before Peter, he's so amazed Peter would come to
him that as a sign of thankfulness; he falls down to worship him. What did
Peter do? Did Peter say, ‘Like my funny hat? Want to kiss my ring too?’ No,
it's not what Peter said! What did Peter do? “Stand up, I'm just a man.”
We’re on the same level ground. There is no big me and little you or little
me and big you. We all stand on level ground. Peter realized he wasn't
deserving of worship.
In the Bible we don't find worshiping men as part of God's plan. We
don't find the worship of Angels as part of God's plan. Revelation 19, John
fell down before the angel and the angel said the same thing. ‘Stand up,
don't worship me we’re just delivers of the testimony of Christ.’ And so, I'm
not to fall down before men and worship them. If Peter wouldn't accept it,
how dare men do it today. If angels wouldn’t accept it then, how dare we try
to do that today.
And so, we've got to put the focus where it needs to be on Almighty
God. Now I want you to continue with me as we think about the message
the Cornelius gives or Peter gives Cornelius here. Continue noticing in Acts
10:27, “As he talked with them, that's Peter Cornelius; he went in and found
many who had come together.” Scripture records, “Then he said to them,
‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go
to one of another nation but God has shown me that I should not call any
man common or unclean therefore I came without objection as soon as I
was sent for I asked them for what reason have you sent me?’ Cornelius
goes on to tell him, ‘I received this vision. God told me you were going to
come and preach the gospel, and I was to learn what I must do to be right
with God.’ Now here's that message. Acts 10 look in verse number 34. The
Scripture records, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘in truth I
perceive God shows no partiality but in every nation he who fears him and
works righteousness is accepted by him.’”
We learn from verses 34 and 35, of as we think about God and
salvation, that God's not prejudiced. Isn't it wonderful? God doesn't look at
the color my skin. God doesn't look at the color my eyes, or the color my
hair, or how much of an education, or how much money, or gender, or
things related to that. Men often are so biased and prejudiced based on
those superficial tangible things. Not God. God's not concerned with that.
Every nation that fears him and works righteousness, those are the ones
who can be saved. That's why the Scripture says God wants all men to be
saved. God wants people in China. God wants people in Europe. God
wants people in Africa. God wants people in every part of the world to be
Remember again, 2 Peter 3:9, “God is not slow concerning his
promises as some men count slowness,” listen to this though, “but is
long-suffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all
should come to repentance.” Then in verses 34 through 41, Peter is now
going to preach the message of Christ, His death, His burial, and His
resurrection to Cornelius. Notice beginning in verse number 34 the
Scripture again says, “In truth I perceive God shows no partiality but in
every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by
Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel preaching peace
through Jesus Christ he is Lord of all that word you know which is
proclaimed throughout all Judea and began from Galilee after the baptism
which John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy
Spirit and with power, who went about doing good healing all were pressed
by the devil, for God was with him, and we are witnesses of all these things
of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem
whom they killed by hanging on a tree whom God raised up on the third
day, and showed openly not to all the people but to witnesses chosen
before by God even to us who ate and drank with him after he arose from
What is it that Peter specifically tells Cornelius about? He says, ‘I
want to tell you about Jesus.’ And you've heard it, you know it. God did
miracles and signs and wonders. Just like in Acts 2 where Peter said ‘God
has approved Jesus through His miracles,’ he reminds these people.
‘You've heard about the miracles.’ Is there any doubt they had heard about
the demoniac? The legion of demons has been cast out. Those demons
went into the herd of swine and the swine ran violently off the cliff. Is there
any doubt that they had heard about the raising of Lazarus or the feeding of
the 5000 or many of the great miracles Jesus did? No doubt they'd heard
those! They knew of these things. And Peter says, ‘you know about these
things.’ And he says this, ‘Jesus who I'm telling you about, they killed him,
yes he was put to death, but Jesus was raised by the power of God and he
lives and is at the right hand of the Almighty.’ Right now Jesus' death, His
burial, and His resurrection was preached to Cornelius.
And friend, that's the heart, that's the heart of the gospel. When we
talk to men about obeying the gospel, when we talk about hearing the word
of God, you’ve got to hear that Jesus is God's son. That he is the only way
of salvation; we've got to understand that God sent him to be a sacrifice for
our sins. ‘God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that
whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ And
that part of God's plan, was His son, His own son, would die on the cross
for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews
9:22. But you got to hear those messages. Don’t let it stop there, that same
Jesus, whom they killed, He's not dead right now. He was buried. He was
raised. He's at the right hand of God. The death, the burial, and the
resurrection of Christ, and him being the risen Savior, is a key part of
Peter's message. If we believe that we’re well on the way to knowing what
God wants us to do to be saved.
But there's one other thing Peter mentions, and I want you to notice
in Acts 10:42. Peter then says this, “and He commanded us to preach to
the people and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be judge
of the living and the dead.” Peter preaches judgment day, that Christ is the
judge of the living and the dead, that this Jesus, whom I'm telling you
about, one day we're going to stand before him. He's going to judge all the
living and all the dead. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says that, “We must each
present ourselves before Christ that we may receive an account for the
things done in the body whether good or evil.” “So then each of us shall
give an account of himself to God,” Romans 10:12. Friend listen carefully,
not only do I need to know about the death, burial, and resurrection of
Jesus, I need to know I must obey Christ. On that final day, the judgment
day, he'll be the judge. He'll be the one making the decisions, and it will be
His word that judges us, John 12:48.
Now I want you notice then what Peter says about how these people
can receive forgiveness for their sins. Look in Acts chapter 10:43, “to him
all the prophets witness that through his name whoever believes in him will
receive remission of sin.” Peter preached you’ve got to believe in Jesus,
and that as part of obedience to the gospel, one could be forgiven of sins.
And so, there's this forgiveness of sins that's offered. And then, next in
verses 40-46, as a second sign of God opening the doors of the kingdom to
the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit falls on Cornelius and his household.
Now if you remember, that first happened in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit
fell on Peter and the rest of the apostles, and they began to speak with
unknown tongues and unknown languages; and it was a sign of God
opening the door salvation to the Jews. Cornelius, now a Gentile convert,
God's Holy Spirit falls on them as a sign that the gospel has now been
opened for the Gentiles. And I want you to notice what Peter says in Acts
chapter 10 in response to that Holy Spirit falling on them as a sign of them
receiving, ready to receive, God’s salvation. Look at what is said in verses
47-48. The Bible records, “Then Peter answered ‘Can anyone forbid water
that these should not be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit?’” Now watch
this, ‘just as we had just like on the day of Pentecost and he commanded
them to be baptized in the name of the Lord, then they asked him to stay a
I just want you to stop and think about the things that are said here.
Cornelius has to hear about Christ. To be saved, that's what men and
women today must do. If “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word
of God,” Romans 10:17, and if without faith it's impossible please God, then
we can naturally conclude I've got to hear God's word to have faith. Faith is
essential to being saved. Once I've heard that message, I've got to believe.
Cornelius and his household, they had to believe that Jesus was God's
son, that He was the one who was prophesied of in Scripture, that He's the
one who made that great sacrifice, that it's through His death, burial, and
resurrection they can be saved. And that ultimately He's going to be the
judge on that last day. You remember Jesus words in John 8:24? Jesus
said, “Unless you believe that I'm He you'll surely die in your sins.” I've got
to believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to
the father except by Him, in view of the judgment. There's no doubt these
people realized they had to also repent of those sins which were separating
them from God.
When we think about repentance sometimes people want to make
him an outward expression that which repentance really is, but that's not
what repentance is. In Luke 3:8, certain Jews came out to be baptized by
John. The context indicates that they were doing that just because that's
what everybody else was doing. You know what John said to them? Those
who want to be baptized, just be like everybody else John said, “You brood
of vipers who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.” And then he said
this, “Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.”
Real fruit, a real repentance, has fruit that is an identifiable product of
one's life that is connected to the true vine, Jesus Christ. Thus, our life
must bear fruit to God, changed way of life changed way of thinking that
leads to a changed way of living. No doubt, these people as well
recognized Jesus as the son of God, and they're willing to acknowledge
their faith in Him. And for men and women to be saved today, they must
recognize that Jesus not only is the son of God, they must be willing to
confess that as that He is their Savior. Again Romans 10:10, “With the
heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation.” Just as we saw in Acts 8 as the Ethiopian eunuch is
traveling down the road in the chariot with Philip; he sees water in the
distance. He wants to know: How do I get into Christ? ‘Here's water what
doth hinder me?’ ‘If you believe with all your heart you may.’ He said this, ‘I
believe Jesus is the Christ the son of the living God.’ I want you to listen
again to Acts 10:47-48. “Can anyone forbid water that these should not be
baptized?” Listen to this now, “Then he commanded them to be baptized.”
To be right with God, the Scriptures teach one must be baptized.
Let me remind you again of the cases that we've seen thus far in the
book of Acts as it related to conversion and the place of baptism in that.
The 3000 on Pentecost, when they realized they'd killed their Savior, and
they wanted to be right with God. What did God say? “Repent and be
baptized for the remission of sins,” Acts 2:38. When Saul of Tarsus
responded to the Lord by saying, ‘Lord what would you have me to do?’
Acts 9:6, he was told, ‘Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins
calling on the name of the Lord.’ Baptism was for the remission of sins,
Acts 2:38. Baptism was to have their sins washed away, Acts 20. Have our
sins washed away, Acts 22:16. If you remember from the account of the
Ethiopian eunuch, when he obeys the gospel, he went on his way rejoicing.
Baptism is how you find true joy being in Christ. Salvation is in Christ, 2
Timothy 1:10. We’re baptized into Christ, Galatians chapter 3:27. Therefore
I can't be in Christ and have the joy of Christ as these folks did in Acts 10,
until I obey the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we have thought about these conversions in the book of Acts,
we’re pleading with you today, we encourage you think about your own
salvation. This is the most important matter in all the world more important
than anything else you can think of. Your soul is your most valuable asset.
Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and
loses his own soul?” Today we’re asking you, think about your soul
salvation have you really obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you
done what they did in the book of Acts to become Christians? Have you
submitted to God's will and are you sure that you're right with the Almighty?
If you've never obeyed the gospel, we encourage you today, become
a Christian. Become just simply a New Testament Christian, and submit to
the will of Christ. If someone told you to do something other than maybe
what you read about today, friend it's never too late to do what the Bible
says. As long as we have the opportunity, let's have the heart and the mind
that I'm going to submit to God. I'm going to obey the gospel. I'm going to
do whatever it takes to go to heaven. May God help us to do just that.
Study Questions for: “Cases of Conversion: Lesson 4”
1. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, how are we to pray?
2. How do we obtain faith according to Romans 10:17?
3. What did the angel say to John in Revelation 19?
4. What did Peter say to Cornelius when he fell at his feet to worship him in
5. According to Acts 10:34 is God prejudice?
6. Why is God long-suffering towards us according to 2 Peter 3:9?
7. Who will be our judge according to John 12:48?
8. According to John 8:24, what must I do?
9. What were they told to do in Acts 2:38?
10. Who are we clothed in when we are baptized according to Galatians