January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

Author: Pastor Bernard Ibrahim
January 19, 2022

“At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him ”Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.”

Acts 10:1-8

We are told a few things about Cornelius in these very first two verses. You will notice about him -  his name, the city that he is working in - Caesarea just North of Judea (modern day Syria). He’s a centurion, a soldier, a leader over a group, and part of a specific cohort of centurions. But, notice we’ve learned a little about his internal person. We see he’s a devout man, committed, sincere, and feared God with all his household. He feared the God of the bible. He’s not a Jew,  but he fears God. He gave alms generously, does good works, and prayed continually to God. The prayer is clear from our bible, that this is a prayer from an unbelieving man. We often think about prayer specifically around believers praying to God through our Mediator and Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ. But here we have a very clear case of a man - not even a Jew - fears God, is devout, does good works, and prays continually.

Tonight I would like for us to focus on the prayer of the unbeliever and what we as believers should be praying for them. You will notice that in the rest of the chapter is the beautiful story of how Cornelius and his household are brought to salvation and how Peter’s ideas and thinking about who is worthy of salvation gets changed. You see it there in verse 42. This is Peter relaying the story of Jesus and recent history to him saying you have heard obviously of this, Cornelius. You couldn’t be living in this time or area without having heard something about Jesus. Peter is relaying the gospel in verse 42. “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”

Now, look at this gospel summary in verse 43. “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Peter is obviously not preaching to Cornelius a works salvation or a righteousness by what you do. You’re a devout man, you give alms, you pray continually. Peter didn’t say "ok you’re going to be fine". Peter said this is the gospel. This is how you are going to get forgiveness of your sins. It’s through the name of Christ and you must believe in him. Those are the exact words.

You will notice that this is very similar to the situation in John 3:3. Christ our Lord is speaking to another religious man. In this case he is a Jew and Jesus says to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Or, Peter talking primarily to a Jewish devout crowd on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:21,  and he’s quoting from the Old Testament prophet, Joel 2:32:   “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

We have example after example,  including Paul and Silas talking to the Philippian jailer just a few chapters later in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved….” We see that being religious is not enough, being devout is not enough, doing good works is not enough. But we can pray, as we often do, even if we have a child, a relative, or a friend who is religious, devout, does good works, and is a good person - we know they need Christ. The miracle we pray for is exactly what we see here in Cornelius’ life. He got word from God that he needed to do something. He needed to go and have Peter come to his house and he obeyed. He didn’t know what he was being asked to hear from Peter till Peter got there and shared the gospel with him.

That’s what we should pray for. It’s wonderful to see that whether it’s our children or other family members and we’re not sure they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their own sins. That’s what Cornelius lacked and that’s what every “good person, devout person” lacks. They need Christ and that the Lord would make them ready and willing to hear the gospel and be  ready to believe in it.  And we would be ready to share  with them that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

So brothers and sisters, I hope this is an encouragement for you as you think about when we pray for our children, our friends, relatives, spouses, someone in our family who is close and dear to us, is a good person and does good works. What do they need? Just like Cornelius they need to hear and believe the gospel.