In Acts the tenth chapter, we read a wonderful story about a man named Cornelius. He was not a Christian yet, since the Gentiles had not received the gospel at that point. But he was described as a centurion who was God-fearing, devout, upright, a generous giver, prayerful, and “well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation” (Acts 10: 1-2; 22). Cornelius was a great example for his household, his community, the people of God, and even all people two thousand years later. He was a man who lived the kind of life every Christian should live. What can we learn from Cornelius?
The story of Cornelius teaches us that there are great men and women in our world that are genuinely seeking to obey God…they simply need to be taught what His will is. I’ve heard Christians talk about reasons why certain people “would not be responsive to the gospel even if they were taught.” But even though the Bible teaches us that the way to heaven is difficult and there will be few who follow it (Matt ), it also teaches that we are to spread the gospel to all people without partiality (Mark -16).
Cornelius’s account also indicates that if there is a prayer that God will hear from a non-Christian, it is a genuine prayer for guidance to understand and obey God’s will (Acts ). God will not save a person based on prayer alone, (eg. Saul of Tarsus prayed and fasted 3 days and nights and his sins were not yet forgiven – Acts 9:9,11; ). But sincere prayers for help in finding the will of God will be heard.
Finally, this story, like all other New Testament conversion accounts, teaches us that water baptism is a command of God that must be obeyed. Even though Cornelius’s case is one of only two times when the Holy Spirit of God fell upon people in a miraculous way (the other is in Acts chapter 2), Peter still commanded Cornelius and his household to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts informs us that the purpose of this baptism is “for the remission (forgiveness) of sins.” God’s plan for our salvation remains the same today. Won’t you submit to His will?