It has been said that the road which leads to hell is paved with good intentions. Is a man all right in God’s sight as long as he is honest and sincere, regardless of what he believes and practices in his religion? I 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 fears God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews. . .”
Cornelius Was A Good Man
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.
Cornelius Was Lost
Take your Bible now and read verses 3-8 of this same 10th 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 lodges with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell you what you ought to do.”
Even though Cornelius was a good man morally, God 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 you words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved.”
Cornelius Was Obedient
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.
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. v 24. Now notice especially what happened when Peter first arrived.
Cornelius Told What To Do
Remember that Peter was summoned 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 47: “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, very sincere religious man had to obey the commandment of the Lord to receive the remission of his sins.