Acts 10:1-6, “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band; a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”
When I first started putting forth an effort to preach I had a precious father in the ministry who said, “I can defend against more false doctrine that’s taught in this world with Acts chapter 10 than any other single chapter in the Bible.” After a few years of study, I humbly agree. In this effort, it is not our purpose to point out every point our precious father in the ministry pointed out that day, but to consider what condition Cornelius was in before he heard and believed the Gospel preached by the Apostle Peter. In doing so, we hope to reveal the fallacy of Gospel Regeneration (one must hear and believe the gospel before being a born again child of God) and Baptismal Regeneration (one must hear and believe the gospel and then be baptized before being a born again child of God). Please consider:
(1) Cornelius was called a “devout” man in Acts 10:2! The word “devout” in this context literally means a good man, doing good. Since Psalms 14:3; Psalms 53:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; and Romans 3:10, 12 declare an unregenerate person (before or without the new birth) cannot do good, our only conclusion is that this man is a born again, elect child of grace.
(2) Cornelius is said to be “one that feared God” in Acts 10:2! According to Romans 3:18 the unregenerate do not fear God.
(3) Cornelius is said to be a man who “gave much alms to the people…”! When we read about the goats on the left hand of Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:41-46, they were not givers, but selfish children of Adam. The desire to give and the very acts of giving would then be evidence of grace.
(4) Cornelius is a man who “prayed to God always” and Cornelius’ prayers were heard by God, Acts 10:2 and 4! Psalms 10:4 reads, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” When we compare these two portions of God’s Holy Word, it’s easily seen that God was in Cornelius heart (born again).
(5) Cornelius, in Acts 10:22, is said to be a “just man” and “of good report…”! In order for this man to receive these titles, given to him by his fellow man, he must have been one who showed himself to be honest and kind to others. These actions were evidences of grace. Galatians 5:22 teaches us that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” The actions of Cornelius were the “fruit of the Spirit”, which teaches us the Spirit was already present in him.
(6) Cornelius was said to be a clean man (Acts 10:15 and Acts 10:28)! Man, in his/her natural condition as the children of Adam are said to be altogether filthy (Psalms 14:3 and Psalms 53:3). The only way that Cornelius could be clean in this context is if he had already been washed with regeneration (Titus 3:5).
Brothers and sisters, we could go on, but we hope what has already been written will suffice in assuring your mind that Cornelius was already a born again child of grace in Acts 10:1. All these evidences, which are easily seen, were manifest before Peter preached the gospel unto him. All these evidences were easily seen before Cornelius was baptized. When Peter preached to Cornelius, he wanted this brother to believe the truth. Peter wanted him to be baptized and live an obedient life before God (“tell thee what thou oughtest to do”), but Cornelius was already a heaven bought, heaven bound and hell proof child of grace before Peter arrived. What does this mean, you ask? It means that Eternal Salvation is by Grace and Grace Alone, Amen!