Cornelius was a good man. He was good at his job and provided for his family (Acts 10:1). He was also a very sincere man. He respected God and prayed to him everyday. He generously gave to the poor. He led his household to follow God and encouraged others to be faithful. Cornelius had a good number of things going for him. In fact, biblically speaking, he only had one problem—he was lost in his sins.
This fact confuses many of us because we tend to believe in a “works based” salvation. That is, someone is saved if they are good enough or sincere enough in their beliefs. I have sat through many funerals and heard the preacher say, “We will see this man in heaven someday because he was a good guy” even though that man had never obeyed the gospel of Christ. And how many celebrities, musicians, and politicians do we see eulogized on television with the thought of “surely they’ll be in heaven because of the many good things they’ve done?” Many believe that as long as you are sincere enough in your particular belief, as long as you have done enough good things for other people, and as long as you fill out a particular check list of good works that we’ve arbitrarily created (such as church attendance, giving to good causes, being religious, not murdering someone) then you will be saved on that Last Day. What amazes me is that there are several “modern day Cornelius’” who are with us today. They attend church services regularly, they are generous to the poor, they help other people, and they may even have greater morals than many Christians. Yet to say these people are saved is to say one can be saved apart from the blood of Christ.
The Lord sent the Apostle Peter to preach to Cornelius and his family. And while Peter hesitated to preach the gospel to a Gentile, the Lord created a great harvest of souls from this Bible study. Cornelius, the good man who was lost in his sin, heard the gospel of Christ and responded with a good heart. He and his household were baptized and added to the Lord’s church, Acts 2:47. This opportunity extends to each one of us as well. God’s grace has been extended to all people (Titus 2:11) and as long as we will faithfully obey, we can be saved from our sins. The gospel has the power to take a sinner like Saul of Tarsus and turn him into a saint like Paul the Apostle. It also has the ability to save a good man who is lost, like Cornelius. Don’t just be good; be saved. Search your heart and be sure that you’ve obeyed the gospel of Christ.