"CONVERSIONS IN THE BOOK OF ACTS" Cornelius And His Household (10:1-48; 11:1-18) INTRODUCTION 1. Up to this point, the gospel had been somewhat limited in its outreach... a. It had spread throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria - Ac 9:31 b. But other than the Samaritans (who were half Jewish), it had gone only to the Jews 2. With the conversion of "Cornelius And His Household" the first Gentiles are saved... a. A conversion noted not only because they were the first Gentiles b. But also because of the miraculous events that precipitated the conversion 1) An angel appearing to Cornelius 2) Peter's vision, followed by the Spirit's instruction 3) The Spirit falling upon Cornelius, his family, and close friends 4) Cornelius and his household speaking in tongues 3. As in the case of Saul of Tarsus, we have more than just one account of the conversion... a. There is Luke's description - Ac 10:1-48 b. There is Peter's description, as he is called to defend his actions - Ac 11:1-18 4. Important questions are raised as we consider the events of this conversion... a. Exactly when did the Spirit fall upon Cornelius and his company? b. What was the purpose of the Spirit falling upon them? c. Were they saved when the Spirit came upon them, or later when they were baptized? [These are some of the questions I intend to answer as we examine the conversion of "Cornelius And His Household". Since we have two accounts, let's consider them together as we start with...] I. A HARMONY OF THE CONVERSION OF CORNELIUS AND HIS HOUSEHOLD A. THE ANGEL APPEARS TO CORNELIUS... 1. Cornelius, a centurion, is a very religious man - Ac 10:1-2 2. The angel appears to him - Ac 10:3-6 a. With an announcement that his prayers and alms have been noticed by God b. With instructions to send for Peter; please note: 1) The angel said, "He will tell you what you must do." - Ac 10:6 2) As Peter recounts it, "...who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." - Ac 11:14 3. Cornelius then sends two servants and a devout soldier to Peter - Ac 10:7-8 B. PETER HAS A VISION... 1. While the three men are traveling toward Peter, he has a vision - Ac 10:9-16; 11:4-10 a. It involves a sheet descending from heaven, containing all sorts of creatures b. A voice tells Peter to "kill and eat" c. Peter objects, for he has never eaten anything common or unclean d. The voice tells him, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." 2. Three times the vision is repeated C. THE SPIRIT TELLS PETER TO GO WITH THE MESSENGERS... 1. The men from Cornelius arrive as Peter contemplates the vision - Ac 10:17-18; 11:11 2. The Spirit tells Peter to go, "doubting nothing, for I have sent them" - Ac 10:19-20; 11:12 3. Peter receives the men and takes six with him as they go to Cornelius - Ac 10:21-23; 11:12 D. PETER ARRIVES AT CORNELIUS' HOUSE... 1. Cornelius has gathered his family and close friends - Ac 10:24 2. Peter deflects an attempt by Cornelius to worship him - Ac 10: 25-26 3. Peter explains his presence a violation of Jewish custom, but now understands "I should not call any man common or unclean" - Ac 10:27-28 4. Asked by Peter to explain why he was called, Cornelius recounts the appearance and instructions of the angel - Ac 10:29-32; 11:13-14 5. Cornelius and his household were ready "to hear all things commanded you by God" - Ac 10:33 E. AS PETER BEGINS TO SPEAK, THE SPIRIT FALLS UPON THE LISTENERS... 1. At this point, we need to carefully note the actual sequence of events 2. Luke's record gives attention to the sermon first, and then the Spirit coming upon the Gentiles - cf. Ac 10:34-44 a. But Luke also says that "while Peter was still speaking... the Holy Spirit fell" b. From this we do not exactly when the Spirit fell c. It could have been at the beginning, in the middle, toward the end, of his sermon 3. Peter, however, explained what happened "in order from the beginning" - Ac 11:4 a. He describes the events as they happened b. He says "as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them" - Ac 11:15 4. So we learn from Peter that the Spirit actually came upon the Gentiles at the BEGINNING of the sermon! 5. With the Spirit falling upon the Gentiles, they began speaking with tongues, which amazed Peter and his Jewish companions - Ac 10:45-46; cf. Ac 2:4,6,8,11 F. PETER'S SERMON TO THE HOUSEHOLD OF CORNELIUS... 1. He begins with a full perception that God shows no partiality - Ac 10:34-35 a. A perception started with the vision of the sheet and unclean beasts b. A perception continued with the Spirit's instruction to go with the messengers c. A perception made clear with the Spirit falling upon the Gentiles - Ac 11:15-17 2. Peter then proceeds to proclaim Jesus Christ - Ac 10:36-43 a. As Lord who was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power - Ac 10:36-38 b. Who was killed, but then raised from the dead and seen by eyewitnesses who knew Him well - Ac 10:39-41 c. Who has commanded the apostles to proclaim Him as ordained by God to be the Judge of the living and dead - Ac 10:42 d. Through Whom remission of sins is offered to those who believe - Ac 10:43 G. PETER COMMANDS THEM TO BE BAPTIZED... 1. How could anyone forbid water to those who had received the Spirit just as the apostles did? - Ac 10:47; cf. 11:17-18 2. So Cornelius and his household were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord - Ac 10:48 [The events surrounding this conversion are certainly remarkable. They evidently were intended to convey important truths. As we endeavor to glean what those truths were, here are some...] II. OBSERVATIONS REGARDING THIS CONVERSION A. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE NEED TO BE SAVED... 1. Many people believe that if you are religious, you will be saved a. That if you go to church, do good, etc., you have a hope of heaven b. That you will have earned the right to enter heaven 2. Yet, though Cornelius was a man who... a. Was a devout man b. Feared God with his whole family c. Gave alms generously d. Prayed to God always ...he still needed to be told "words by which you and all your household will be saved" 3. Clearly, being religious isn't what saves you (it's the blood of Christ!) B. THE GOSPEL IS FOR ALL... 1. Peter perceived that God is no respecter of persons - Ac 10: 34-35 2. Indeed, God desires that ALL men be saved - cf. Jn 3:16;
1 Ti2:3-6; 2Pe 3:9 -- Therefore He has not predestined some to be saved and others lost! C. THE PURPOSE OF THE SPIRIT FALLING... 1. Some presume that the purpose was to save Cornelius and his family a. That therefore they were saved before obeying the command to be baptized b. But the Spirit came upon them as Peter "began to speak", before they could hear words by which they could be saved! - cf. Ac 11:14-15 2. The purpose of the Spirit can be gleaned from the following: a. The effect it had on the Jewish brethren who were present, and Peter's response - Ac 10:45-47 b. The reaction of the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem when Peter told them what happened - Ac 11:17-18 c. Peter's explanation at the council held later in Jerusalem - Ac 15:7-11 3. The purpose of the Spirit falling on them was therefore to show Jewish brethren... a. That God was no respecter of persons - Ac 10:34-35 b. That God was willing to grant them opportunity to repent and have life - Ac 11:18 c. That Gentiles could be saved in the same way as Jews... 1) By faith, repentance, and baptism - Ac 15:9,11; cf. 2:38 with 10:48 2) Which faith comes through hearing the word of God - Ro 10:17 D. THE POINT AT WHICH CORNELIUS WAS SAVED... 1. Remember that Cornelius was told to send for Peter, who would tell him: a. "what you must do." - Ac 10:6 b. "words by which you...shall be saved." - Ac 11:14 2. From this, and from what we have already seen in other conversions... a. Cornelius was not saved until he heard the "words" (i.e., after the sermon) b. Cornelius was not saved until he obeyed what he was told to do c. What were the words he was told to do? 1) Certainly they were told to believe, as implied in Ac 10:43 2) Clearly they were told to be baptized, as commanded in Ac 10:48 3. Thus Cornelius and his household were not saved until they "believed and were baptized"! - cf. Mk 16:16; Ac 8:12,13 CONCLUSION 1. So while miraculous events surrounded the conversion of "Cornelius And His Household", their salvation was no different from what we have already seen... a. They heard the gospel of Jesus Christ b. They were taught to believe and be baptized -- Thus they were saved "in the same manner" as all those previously 2. As Peter said at the council, it is "through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" that both Gentiles and Jews are saved - cf. Ac 15:11 a. We are saved by grace, not works - cf. Ep 2:5,8; Tit 3:4-5 b. For it is not enough to be religious... 1) Who could be more religious than Cornelius? 2) Or even the 3000 at Pentecost, or the Ethiopian eunuch? 3. The grace of God which saves does require a response, however... a. A response of faith - Ac 10:43 b. A faith in Jesus that comes by hearing the gospel - Ac 10:42 c. A faith which expresses itself in obedience - cf. He 5:9 1) E.g., repentance and baptism - cf. Ac 2:38; 3:19; 10:48 2) Not as works of merit, but as acts of faith by which one receives God's grace Those of us who are not descended from Israel can rejoice in what God revealed with the conversion of "Cornelius And His Household". As properly concluded by the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem: "...God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." (Ac 11:16) Have you taken advantage of this wonderful gift, by responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ?