So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God. (Acts 10:33)
Hearing The Word
It was an exciting time in the early church as thousands obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem were the first Christians and for a time the focus of the church was directed toward the nation of Israel. A time would come for the rest of the world to hear the good news of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ and this story would be told to a most unlikely person. Cornelius was a Gentile. He was not a common man and he was not someone of political importance or position of wealth. The man chosen to be the door of salvation for all non-Jews was a soldier in the army of the Roman Empire. It would seem the most improbable selection for a centurion to be chosen. What set Cornelius apart from many of his counterparts was not that he was a leader of soldiers but his spiritual life. The text reveals he was a devout, God-fearing man and those in his household were of the same persuasion. His life exemplified faith in God as he gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. But this good man was not saved.
Through the providence of God, an angel came to Cornelius and told him to send for Peter who was staying in Joppa at the time. The angel told the captain that Peter would tell him what he needed to do. Following the instruction of the heavenly messenger, men were sent to Joppa and brought Peter along with some brethren from Joppa. When the party arrived at the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion explained to Peter why he had sent for him. He understood that he was not saved and needed Peter to speak words to him that he may know the path of salvation. The apostle replied that he clearly saw the work of God in bringing him to Caesarea and began teaching Cornelius the words of truth. Later, Peter would recount to the brethren in Jerusalem that he went to the house of Cornelius to tell them words by which he and his household would be saved. Following the sign of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, Cornelius and his household were baptized in water for the remission of sins.
Cornelius was not saved by the appearance of an angel. The divine messenger could have told Cornelius what he needed to know but the agency of the gospel was always through the means of men teaching other men. The Roman Centurion was a man of authority but he needed to send to Joppa for Peter to come and tell him words by which he would learn the path of salvation. Peter came to Caesarea and taught the household of Cornelius the words of truth. The gospel is transmitted through the word of God. Salvation comes from learning the grace of God through the word. On the day of Pentecost, twelve men stood before the multitudes and preached the word. Phillip the evangelist went throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria teaching the gospel. Directed by an angel of the Lord, Phillip found an Ethiopian reading the book of Isaiah and beginning at a passage in the ancient text, taught the man the gospel of salvation. Every example of conversion in the book of Acts is where men taught others the words of truth. Salvation came to those who heard the word and obeyed the message of grace. Hearing the word was essential. No one was saved apart from the preaching of the word.
Faith comes from hearing the word of truth and without the word, there can be no faith. Cornelius is an example of the many opportunities for salvation to be accepted through divine messengers, being a good man, or some miraculous story but he and his household were not saved until they heard the word of truth and obeyed the gospel. Many people are diluted into thinking salvation is some personal experience or simply a feeling. Others accept the idea that if they are good people and religious they will be saved. The world rejects the need of preaching the word of God as a means of salvation. This is found in the ‘better felt than told’ experience many find in the churches of men. At the core foundation of salvation, the word must be preached and acceptance of the word is where truth is found. Jesus sent His disciples into the world to preach the gospel. That same word is where the joy of salvation is found.