Study 8 CORNELIUS THE CENTURION
TEN NEW TESTAMENT CONVERSIONS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 10:1-48)
The special appeal of this account is that it records the conversion of a soldier. Cornelius was a Roman soldier who served under Herod Agrippa. He was a centurion (one hundred men under his command). Cornelius was the first Gentile to be admitted to the Christian Church, yet he is typical of thousands around the world; as we read the narrative we discover that he was religious, moral, God-fearing and prayed regularly; but for all that he was not a Christian.
Many people living around us are upright and God-fearing but they have never exercised personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted His gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23; John 3:3). Notice the following basic truths:-
1. The salvation of a sinner is the sovereign work of the Triune God
We read that Cornelius was seeking the Lord, but we can be sure that first of all it was the Lord who was seeking him. It is significant that in Acts 8 it is the Holy Spirit who is prominent – refer to Acts 9:4-6. But here in Acts 10 it is God the Father who is prominent, who appeared to Cornelius and who spoke to him in a vision – refer to Acts 10:3-6. The Father planned our salvation, the Son procured our salvation, and the Holy Spirit perfects our salvation in our hearts and lives – look up and compare John 6:44; John 14:6; Philippians 1:6. Also rejoice in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14!
2. The Lord reaches and brings souls to Himself in a variety of ways
Here again we can compare the three cases in Acts chapters 8, 9 and 10. His approach was very different from His meeting with the Queen’s treasurer in Acts 9:26-39. No two people are converted in exactly the same way. There is only one way to God (John 14:6; John 10:9) but there are many ways to Christ.
3. God does not show favouritism
Notice this in verse 34. So far as God is concerned no-one, because of position, race, education or social standing, has a better chance than anyone else of being saved. God has no favourites. This is clear in the vision given to Peter – read verses 9-16 and verse 28; and then compare Romans 3:29-30 and Romans 10:12-14. Look up John 3:16 and Revelation 22:17.
4. A good man needs to be saved just as much as a bad man
It is quite evident from Acts 10:2 that Cornelius was a good man, but he needed to be saved just as much as the worst soldier under his command. It is hard to get people to see this, that God has only one way of salvation. In Luke 18:9-14 we have the case of a good man who was lost and a bad man who was saved! We are all sinners and all need a Saviour; look up and compare Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; James 2:10; Romans 3:20. There is only one way to escape the guilt, the penalty and the power of sin; look up Acts 4:12; Romans 6:23.
5. The one condition of salvation is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ
Notice this in Acts 10:43, with which we should compare Acts 11:17. Salvation, justification, acceptance before God is through grace, by faith in Jesus Christ, plus nothing! – look up and compare John 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 1:16; 3:22; Ephesians 2:8-10. You might ask, What is faith? – F-A-I-T-H – Forsaking-All-I–Trust-Him.
6. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the evidence of salvation
Read verses 44-45. Salvation is an inward experience described as being born again (John 3:3) by the operation of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). Salvation is the imparting of a new life (2 Peter 1:4), and this new life is brought to us in the Person and through the agency of the Holy Spirit. At the time of our conversion we are not only born again by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit but we are:-
- 1. Baptised by the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12:13.
- 2. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 6:19.
- 3. Sealed by the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 4:30.
- 4. Assured by the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:14-16.
- 5. Made fruitful by the Holy Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23.
7. Baptism is a command of the Gospel
It is significant that Peter did not leave this as an optional matter, but as verses 47-48 make clear, he commanded them to be baptised! – look up Acts 22:16. These people who had now been baptised by (or in) the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 10:44, and who by believing had received the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 10:45, were now required to be baptised as an open confession of their faith in the Saviour – according to Acts 10:47! And after such a wonderful baptismal service, no wonder these new Christians pleaded with Peter to remain with them – Acts 10:48!