There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,…
(Acts 10:24): —
I. GOD'S WORD TREATS ALL MEN AS NEEDING TO BE "SAVED." It is interesting to notice how the language changes as the story runs on. In his vision Cornelius is informed that Peter "shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do" (Acts 10:6). When the man comes to relate it to others, he quotes it thus, "Who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee" (Acts 10:32). But Simon declares that what he had been sent to do was to tell Cornelius words whereby he and all his house might be "saved" (Acts 11:14). It becomes evident, therefore, that this centurion was as yet an unsaved man And this is worth noticing, when we look at his character.
1. He was a thoroughly religious man (ver. 2).
2. He was prayerful. That is a great felicity which in the New Revision changes our tame expression into, "I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house" (ver. 30). It is likely that Cornelius had family prayers regularly.
3. Twice, also, it is stated that he was liberal in benefactions.
4. He was a useful man. There comes out a fact which is in many respects more impressive because of its artless form. His servants and orderly were religious. It might be conjectured that Cornelius had had something to do with the training of these people.
5. He was of good reputation among his neighbours (ver. 22). What could anyone need more? Yet God's inspired Word declares here that Cornelius was not "saved."
II. GOD'S WORD GIVES US TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALL MEN CAN BE "SAVED." Simon Peter is dispatched on the errand of saving Cornelius. Just think, for a moment, of the disabilities of this man. If we should doubt anybody's chance, we should doubt his.
1. He was a heathen from Italy at the start.
2. He was a soldier. His daily life led him constantly to be in the barracks, and among the followers of a legion of loose homeless creatures whose lives were apt to be immoral. Still, we must be fair: there are four centurions mentioned in the New Testament, and each of them has left behind him a most creditable record. One of them Jesus commended for his remarkable faith (Matthew 8:10). One of them bore witness to the divinity of the Lord Jesus on the Cross (Mark 15:39). One of them was of much help and comfort to the Apostle Paul at what was very nearly the lowest point in his fortunes (Acts 27:3). And this is the fourth one, and he certainly shows well. But war is a hard trade; piety in military life is pitifully like an alpine flower pushing up through the snow, and trying to blossom on a rock beside a glacier. And so it is the more beautiful when it succeeds in its pure purpose.
3. Cornelius was a government officer. That army of possession was in a sense political. It is natural always for the spirit of authority to generate arrogance; and true piety invariably demands humility and charity. As a matter of fact it is known now that Palestine in those days was a hot bed of corruption; the Roman officers oppressed and fleeced the conquered inhabitants unmercifully. All this was against Cornelius: he was once a heathen, military, politician. But it is edifying to learn that even he could be "saved" (vers. 34, 35).
III. GOD'S WORD PRESCRIBES THE CONDITIONS OF EVERY MAN'S BEING "SAVED."
1. The two conditions which Simon Peter lays down plainly are faith (Acts 10:43) and repentance (Acts 11:18). There is a voluminousness in his argument that renders this quite clear.
2. It is of inestimable advantage for any teacher of the gospel that he should surrender all other dependences, and rely only on the pure gospel for the conversion of souls. It is manifestly of the highest moment that Simon Peter should have been intelligently informed, and now humbly possessed, of the doctrines of grace. We do not see how he could have made his speech and fulfilled his duty that day, if he had not felt precisely what the prophet Isaiah once said (Isaiah 50:4).
IV. GOD'S WORD SETTLES THE CONCLUSION THAT EVEN A GOOD MAN, IF WITHOUT CHRIST, CANNOT BE "SAVED."
1. One may be aroused in conscience, and yet remain unsaved. Suppose Cornelius had been mortified, and wounded, and grown petulant, and so refused to obey the angel's command!
2. One may be diligent in religious routine, and yet remain unsaved. How exemplary this man appears to us now!
3. One may be virtuous in his life, and remain unsaved. Cornelius was "just" and "devout"; but he was yet "lacking."
4. One may be counted excellent, and yet remain unsaved.
5. One may even be instrumental in saving others, and yet remain unsaved. Cornelius needed the whole gospel still.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,