The Salvation of the Gentiles, pt. 1
“The Searching Soldier”
It’s now about 10 years after the day of Pentecost, and though the early church has made great strides and reached a lot of people, they are making no efforts to reach the Gentiles.
Those 3k saved at Pentecost…all Jews.
5k a couple chapters later…all Jews.
Why weren’t they trying to reach others? Prejudice! It’s true, they had been raised as a very exclusive group, but Jesus came to break down those walls of division, and yet most Jews still hated Gentiles, and thought of them as a lower life form!
They felt it was defilement to be w/, eat w/, talk to a Gentile…when returning from a Gentile city, they would stop and take off their sandals and knock them together to get the Gentile dust off!
And they wouldn’t eat Gentile foods or any food prepared by one…it wasn’t “Kosher”.
This wasn’t just a cultural barrier, this was a brick wall…but a wall that God said had to come down!
He had said in
Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
That included the Gentiles!
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
That included the Gentiles!
And if the rest of the world was to ever have a chance of being saved, this wall would have to come down, and it did in Acts 10…and you and I should be very thankful that it did!
Chances are, you and I wouldn’t be sitting in this room if not for this occurrence!
It all started with a searching Gentile soldier. [Cornelius]
It involved a soul-winning gospel servant. [Peter]
It involved a surprising Gentile salvation.
First point today…
v. 1-2 Centurion commanded 100 men in Roman army. They were fearless, steady men of backbone, prepared to die for their country.
v. 2 makes it clear he was more than a good soldier… he was a very good man…pointing out the fact that a person can be very moral, and quite religious, and still not be saved!
1. He was a Good man. [devout]
Means he had turned away from paganism and idol worship, which was rampant in the Roman Empire. He hadn’t been converted to Judaism, but was a step closer to it.
Ex.—many in that culture would worship Aphrodite, the goddess of sex, aka-Venus. They had a temple dedicated to her, and worshippers there indulged in all kinds of licentious, perverted sexual practices. It was gross immorality, and Cornelius had turned his back on all of that…he knew that was wrong. He was devout.
Some here are worse off than Cornelius…you still bow down and worship the god of sex. You’re farther away from salvation than Cornelius was, and you’re not seriously wanting to be free from it. Or maybe you would profess to be saved, and if you truly are saved then you’re like Lot, vexing your righteous soul, grieving the Holy Spirit within you!
So you worship the god of sex on TV, and the internet, and your eyes browse around people you see in public, and your thought life is like a meditation…a worship time, of the god called sex. You’re bound to act on it eventually, tho’ God already considers you to be acting on it!
Cornelius knew better…he was a devout man.
Another pagan religion of those days was the worshipping of the goddess Diana [Acts 19].
Her massive temple was a wonder of the ancient world. Silversmiths would make little idols of Diana and made a lot of money doing so.
But God said not to worship any graven image, and Cornelius knew that and believed that…he was a devout man.
Some here today are further from salvation than Cornelius. You may not worship statues…you prefer to worship pictures of Presidents…money!
Here’s how you can tell if you worship money:
• You don’t mind lying to get more of it. [cheating]
• You don’t mind gambling to get more of it.
• You don’t mind spending it frivolously.
• You don’t mind spending money you don’t have.
• You don’t mind spending God’s money.
A “God” is something we give priority to, and many of us have our financial priorities all out of whack and we spend God’s tithe on a car or truck, or to have more house than we can afford, or on past credit mistakes or medical expenses, and then wonder why we can’t ever seem to get our head above water! We get behind on God when we’re away or have unexpected bills, and never make it up to the God that we say we are worshipping!
Don’t get me wrong…God doesn’t mind us having nice things, as long as we don’t put them ahead of Him!
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. [money]
But Cornelius was a devout man…he had turned away from money, idols, paganism and pleasure. He was a good moral man, a religious man…but he wasn’t saved.
v. 2 “feared God”
2. He was a God-Fearing man.
Prov. says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…it’s a good thing to fear God, for you can’t be saved until you at least have that healthy fear! [a holy respect!]
“No Fear” is the motto of our lost world around us. Even today’s religious world has no reverence, no awe, for Almighty God!
His name is spoken in vain because they don’t fear God.
Our older folks remember a time when lost people had more respect for the name of God than many so-called Christians have today!
Immorality runs rampant because people don’t fear God.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
People don’t believe that. They think of God like some old man w/ a long, white beard, in a rocking chair, winking at our indiscretions! Hebrews 10:31
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
“but I thought He was a God of love?”
Yes! That’s why He sent His Son to die on the cross! But if you reject His offer of love, you’ll soon see another side of God…the Judge. His wrath and anger against sin deserve respect!
God is angry with the wicked every day.
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.
You can stand against God, but not for long!
Ill.—News reports this week some people’s idea to blow back Hurricane Ivan w/ large fans! That will have about as much success as man standing against God!
The point: Cornelius understood all of this, he feared God…but he wasn’t saved.
3. He was a Generous man.
v. 2 He gave to charity…much like America in times of need. Thousands send money to Florida and the gulf states w/ these hurricanes, sending generators and plywood, power companies sending teams to help. It’s a blessing to see companies putting people before profits.
And Cornelius was like that…but He wasn’t saved! You can’t buy your way into heaven…and don’t start tithing for any reason other than obedience to God’s command to do it, trusting in His promised blessing!
4. He was a Praying man.
I used to say God doesn’t hear the prayers of lost people…but I was wrong!
v. 3-4 I’m about to prove to you he wasn’t saved, and yet his prayers were heard and answered! So, don’t ever use answered prayers as a proof of your salvation…don’t say, I know I’m saved, because I’ve had prayers answered…it may be that God did that to demonstrate to you that He’s real, and that if ever you realize you need to be born again and ask Him to save your soul, He’ll answer that prayer too!
God took note of these facts that Cornelius was good, giving, praying, fearing God and was seeking Him, but let’s be crystal clear, none of that could save Cornelius. In spite of all his prayers he still wasn’t saved…in spite of his devotion/generosity/respect for God and country…
Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
God told Peter to go tell this man how to be saved!
Cornelius’ searching did not save him, but God honored his searching, and sent Peter, whom He had prepared!
This answers the age old question: what about people in other countries who never hear the gospel, and die…do they go to hell?
The answer from the Bible is yes!
We all have a “God-consciousness”.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Everyone has been given enough light to then have the chance to demonstrate to God whether or not they want more light…and then God is obligated to send someone to them. When God sees a heart that is searching, He’ll send them more light!
This is why we’re obligated to do our part for our Missions program. [many new people here]…for God places in the hearts of some to leave it all behind and dedicate their lives to taking the gospel to remote regions not spoiled w/ the gospel as America has been, and we’re obligated to help them.
We can pray, and we can give, or we can go!
We can’t all go to Japan as Jim Smith will, but we can help him go!
And we can ALL go to those searching that are seated right next to us at work, or living right next to us!
We, like Peter, need to get past our prejudices and share the gospel as if we were truly thankful that it was shared with us, here and around the world!
Cornelius’ searching did not save him, but God honored his searching by sending him more light…matter of fact, God dispatched an angel! [to tell Cornelius what to do]
No doubt there’s some listening right now, and you’re seeking, and God loves you so much that He’s made sure you are hearing this at this very moment…He’s sending the light you’re looking for, now will you receive it?
Maybe you’ve assumed you WERE saved because of good works, good intentions, or just having a good heart, but today you realize you’ve never crossed the threshold…today you realize you can’t save yourself, only Jesus can save you!