THE CONVERSION OF A MORAL MAN

(Acts 10; 11:1-20.) 

THE Master gave "the keys of the kingdom" to 
Peter, or imparted to him the authority to open 
the door of the church (Matt. 16:19). The "keys 
of the kingdom " were the Scriptural terms of pardon 
(Mark 16 : 16 ; Acts 2 : 38 ; 16 : 31) . Peter, acting upon 
this delegated authority, opened the door of the church 
to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Three 
thousand of them became charter members of the 
church of Jesus Christ by obedience to the terms of 
pardon which he stated through the inspiration of the 
Spirit (Acts 2:4). 

The Jews had been the chosen people of God. 
But the eternal purpose of God had been to unite 
Jews and Gentiles, in the fullness of time, in the one 
body of Christ (Eph. 2:11-18; 3:1-6), and to pro- 
claim salvation to all people through Christ (Isa. 49: 
6; Luke 3:6). So the last commission included Gen- 
tiles as well as Jews (Matt. 28 : 19 ; Mark 16 : 15) . But 
the apostles, being Jews, could not grasp the full 
import of this commission, and, for several years after 
Pentecost, the gospel was preached only to Jews. 

In this discourse we are studying the conversion 
of Cornelius and his household, the first Gentiles ad- 
mitted into the kingdom of God. This conversion 
marked the completion of the remedial system. The 
eternal purpose was consummated in the calling of 
the Gentiles, recorded in the tenth and eleventh chap- 
ters of Acts. 

In the beginning, we note the character of Cor- 
nelius (Acts 10:1, 2). He was a devout man, a 
Roman centurion, yet a worshiper of the true and 
living God. He was a charitable man. Moreover, he 
was a man of prayer. Indeed, he was such a good man 
that his goodness reflected over his entire household, 
who were devout as a result of the influence of his 
life. Would that fathers of to-day could be the same 
sort of men as Cornelius! 

But Cornelius, though a devout man, was not a 
Christian. To be a Christian in fact, according to the 
oracles of God, he had to be in Christ (1 Pet. 4:11; 
Gal. 3:27; Heb. 5:9; Eev. 22:14). There can be 
no salvation outside of the name of Christ (Acts 4: 
12; Heb. 9:22; Eom. 5:9; 1 John 1:7). Cornelius 
had not yet been cleansed by the blood of Christ, 
through obedience to the gospel. He had to be recon- 
ciled to God by complying with the law of restoration, 
the same as any other person outside of Christ (Acts 
2:38). The conversion of Cornelius and his house- 
hold naturally divides itself into three parts. 

1. The divine agency in bringing together the 
preacher and the unsaved. 

a. The angel first appeared to Cornelius. Angels 
have always played an important part in the drama 
of redemption (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Matt. 4:11; 
Acts 8:26; Heb. 1:14). The angel told Cornelius 
that his prayers had come up as a memorial before 
God (Jas. 5:16; 1 Pet. 3:12; Heb. 13:16). Cor- 
nelius was just as religious as his knowledge permitted 
him to be ; he was a religious man, but not a Christian. 
Because of his devoutness and manliness, no doubt, God 
chose him to be the first Gentile of the household of 
faith. But God could not do very much for him 
until he had complied with the terms of pardon, and 
become an heir of the new covenant. 

So the angel told him to send to Joppa for Peter, 
who would tell him words whereby he and his house- 
hold might be saved (Acts 10:4-6; 11:13, 14). God 
always plans to bring preacher and sinner together, 
because sinners must find out what to do from the 
preaching of the Word (Ps. 19 : 7 ; Eom. 1 : 16 ; 10 : 17). 
Cornelius, being a God-fearing man, obeyed the angel 
at once and sent for Peter. 

b. In the meantime, Peter had a vision (Acts 10: 
9-16). Hitherto, Peter had preached only to Jews. 
He had no broader conception of the last commission. 
The purpose of the vision was to show him that God 
could cleanse a Gentile by the blood of Christ, as 
well as a Jew. While Peter was thinking over the 
vision, the men arrived from the household of Cor- 
nelius and inquired for him. The Spirit commanded 
him to go with them. He accompanied them on the 
following day to Caesarea, where he found Cornelius 
and his household ready to listen to the message (Acts 
10:17-27). By this time he understood the meaning 
of the vision (Acts 10:28). 

As in the case of Philip and the eunuch, the first 
thing necessary was to bring preacher and sinner 
together (1 Cor. 1:21). This having been done, Peter 
preached a short sermon rehearsing the facts of the 
gospel — the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus 
of Nazareth (Acts 10:34-43). 

2. The miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit. 
This was a new element entering into this particular 
conversion. The apostles had been baptized in the 
Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). But there 
had been no similar manifestation until now. So we 
study this baptism of the Spirit from four points of 
view. 

a. What persons were baptized? Those who heard 
the Word — Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:44). 

b. What were the characteristics of the baptism? 
(Acts 11: 15.) The same sort of a manifestation as on 
Pentecost (Acts 2:2, 3); something which they could 
see and hear (Acts 2:33); an outward manifestation 
which filled the entire house (Acts 2:2). It was a 
sublime demonstration of God's benevolence and power. 

c. What was the effect upon those baptized? They 
spoke with tongues and glorified God as did the apos- 
tles on Pentecost (Acts 2:4; 10:46). Were a man 
baptized in the Holy Spirit to-day, he could talk 
so that a Frenchman, German, Spaniard, Chinaman, 
or a man of any other nationality, could understand 
what he is saying. 

d. What was the purport of this baptism? A 
special miracle for a special purpose: To convince 
Peter and the apostles that the gospel was for Gentiles 
as well as Jews (Acts 10:45). In the eleventh chapter, 
we find that Peter was compelled to explain to the 
apostles and brethren at Jerusalem why he had eaten 
with and preached to Gentiles. Then Peter rehearsed 
the whole matter (Acts 11:1-17). As a consequence, 
they understood that salvation through Christ was 
for Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 11:18). 

3. The compliance, on the part of Cornelius and 
his household, with the Scriptural terms of pardon, by 
which they became Christians. 

At the conclusion of his sermon Peter made a 
concise statement that "through his name whosoever 
belie veth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 
10:43). In other words, "whosoever believeth in him 
[Jesus of Nazareth] shall receive remission of sins 
through his name." But how do we get into His 
name ? (Acts 2 : 38 ; Gal. 3 : 27.) Whosoever believes 
in Christ, turns to God and is baptized into Christ, 
is in Christ; his past sins have been washed away 
by the blood of Christ. 

There is no distinct mention of repentance. Re- 
pentance is a complete turning from the evil way. 
Cornelius, having been a just and devout man, along 
with his entire household, practically needed no re- 
pentance (Luke 15 : 7). 

Having heard the gospel and believed, they were 
then baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10: 
47, 48). As all who were baptized had previously 
spoken with tongues and magnified God, no infants 
were included in the number. Thus we see that they 
came into the one body in the same way as did all 
others under the preaching of the apostles; and as 
all must come who are really in Christ. They heard 
the Word, believed, turned to God and were baptized 
into Christ. There was only one way of salvation 
ever revealed by the Spirit. 

Cornelius was a religious man, yet he had to be 
saved by the blood of Christ. There are many good 
men in the world to-day outside of Christ; and, being 
outside of Christ, they are outside of the church, for 
the church is the body of Christ. To be in Christ 
is to be in the church, and vice versa (Eph. 1: 22, 23). 
As a man can not be a Christian outside of Christ, 
he can not be a Christian outside of the church. 

A brick lying in the street is of no use what- 
ever, kicked about by every pedestrian, and run over 
by every old vehicle that happens to come along. 
Whereas the brick would be serving a useful purpose 
if placed in a building. 

"What good is a man outside of the church, buffeted 
and tossed about by every temptation of the world? 
He could make himself a useful spiritual stone in 
God's building if he would only obey the gospel 
(1 Pet. 2:5). 

No man can hide behind his morality. No man 
can live without sinning. And the only way those 
sins can be remitted is through the blood of Christ 
(1 John 1:7, 8). Why not be cleansed by that precious 
blood which was poured out on Calvary for the re- 
demtion of the world?