By Mark Ray
Cornelius is a rather mysterious character in the Bible. He appears in only one chapter, Acts 10, but his life and actions teach us many spiritual truths. Notice five lessons learned from the story of Cornelius. First, we learn that sincerity is not enough to please God. Cornelius was a devout man who feared God, gave alms to the poor and prayed always, yet he still had to obey the gospel in order to become a Christian (Acts 10:48). God does not desire us to be only a good person, he expects us to be a sanctified person. We must realize that sincere people are lost unless they obey the gospel of Christ.
Second, we learn that we have an obligation to teach others the gospel. Peter was uncomfortable on his rooftop praying, but the Lord had work for him to do. Each of us should be busy doing the Lord’s work. Even if it means going places and doing things that make us personally feel uncomfortable.
Third, all people deserve the gospel. Doubtless, Peter had grown up hearing that only Jews were worthy of being children of God. Yet God worked to change his mind. Notice how God worked on Peter: He shared that the gospel was for all men (Mark 16:15); he himself had said by inspiration in his sermon on Pentecost that the gospel was for all the people of the world (Acts 2:39); he had a series of three visions which taught him that all things created by God were holy and not to be called common (Acts 10:15); he learned that God had even spoken to the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10:31); and fifth, God filled the Gentiles with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:48).
A fourth lesson we learn from Cornelius is that he desired to hear all things commanded by God (Acts 10:33). In our buffet and convenience culture, many are under the impression that we can take the good and leave behind what we find unacceptable. Yet the Bible teaches us that half-obedience is the same as open rebellion. Naaman (2 Kings 5:12) learned that he had to obey God fully to receive his cleansing. We must obey the entire gospel today if we expect the rewards of Christianity.
The final lesson learned from the story of Cornelius is that we must follow wherever God leads. For Peter, going and eating with Gentiles was far beyond anything that he had probably imagined doing. Yet it was something he did because God commanded him to do it. While God does not speak to us today through visions, he does speak to us through his Word, the Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We must humble ourselves to the will of God and obey the teachings of the Bible. Cornelius is a man who serves as a good example for us today. Let us live in a way where we can share eternity in heaven with him.
- Mark Ray, via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY. Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com