Martes, Hunyo 12, 2012

The Modern-day Cornelius

The Modern-day Cornelius

By Dennis C. Lovendino
God’s Message
April 2010
pp. 28-30

John Doe is a quintessential family man—a faithful and devoted husband, a good provider and role model for his children.  At work, he is diligent and conscientious.  Everyone—from his boss and office mates down to the parking attendant—has something nice to say about him.  He pays Uncle Sam his taxes regularly, and has no criminal record whatsoever.  Nay, not even a parking ticket.  On weekends, he takes his family to the place of worship, gives tithes generously, and still has something to spare for his favorite charity.  What a good man John Doe is!  Almost saintly, in the eyes of his adorning friends and relatives.
     In fact, many people today may hastily deduce that such a good person as John Doe has all but secured for himself a place in heaven.  For if someone like him will not be saved and not go to heaven—they point out—then who else will?

The first-century Cornelius
John Doe’s outstanding character traits resemble those of a New Testament figure named Cornelius, a captain of a Roman Army regiment.

     Cornelius' conversion to Christianity has been chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles serves one relevant purpose:  to debunk the claim and mistaken belief of some people that simply being “good” and “religious”—traits that our fictional character John Doe exhibits—is enough for one to be guaranteed an entrance into the pearly gates of heaven.

A man of sterling qualities
How was Cornelius portrayed by Luke, the writer of the book of Acts?  This was recorded:
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 always.(Acts 10:1-2, NKJV).  In other translations, Cornelius was described as “a very religious man” (Contemporary English Version), “good” (Easy-to-Read Version), “righteous” (Lamsa Translation), and “a man of piety” (Living Oracles New Translation).  To sum it all up, this man—at least by human standards—is one, who, without question, is qualified for a sure spot in heaven.
     Looking around us, we can find a number of people—among our friends, kin and acquaintances—who may exhibit the sterling qualities of Cornelius.  Indeed, even in these evil, decadent times, it is exhilarating to know that there are still plenty of people out there who lead generally clean, decent lives, are law-abiding citizens, and who, by nature, can be considered good and even pious.  In other words, many a person can be considered a modern-day Cornelius.  Some people, casting aside all modesty, may even regard themselves as such.

Not by our own standards
We must bear in mind, however, that people have divergent perceptions and interpretations of what is “good.”  What a particular society, culture or group accepts as good may be anathema to another.  And inasmuch as the final judge of what is good is none other than the Creator Himself, let us consult the Bible on this matter.  This is what Apostle Paul pronounced:
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Rom. 7:12, NKJV).
     What is good, therefore, before God’s eyes is His law or commandment and obedience to it, as prescribed in the gospel.  In truth, the gospel itself is God’s power to salvation (Rom. 1:16).  Hence, regardless of an individual’s seemingly outstanding qualities, his failure to submit to and comply with the gospel will deprive him of the cherished salvation and life everlasting.

A heavenly directive to Cornelius
How was it proven that Cornelius’ commendable traits were simply not enough for him to be counted worthy of salvation?  Let us return to where we left off:  “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.” (Acts 10:3-6, Ibid).
     Taking into account Cornelius’ righteous deeds, God sent an angel to Cornelius with a clear message:  to summon Simon Peter, the apostle, who would “tell him what [he] must do.”  It must be stressed that the angel did NOT tell him, “Cornelius, your good works have earned for you salvation and eternal life.  Keep them up and your reward is guaranteed.  You need not do anything else.”  On the contrary, the angel made it clear that although God was pleased with Cornelius’ good works, he needed to be told what he must do by a preacher of the gospel.

The need to be in fellowship
With the messenger
Why was Cornelius commanded to send for Apostle Peter?  Because it is God’s messengers—like Simon Peter—who speak His words and were given the authority to preach the Good News (John 3:34; Rom. 10:15).  It is also to the messengers that the word and ministry of reconciliation had been entrusted (II Cor. 5:18-20).  Who needs reconciliation with whom?  Man, whose wicked works caused his separation from God and his being regarded as His enemy (Isa. 59:2; Col. 1:21), needs to be reconciled with his Creator.  Otherwise, man is accountable to pay the wages of sin which is death in the lake of fire (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:14).  Hence, for man to be absolved from the burden, it is absolutely necessary for him to return and be reconciled with God (Mal. 3:7).  And that reconciliation can only be administered by God’s messengers who were entrusted to preach the gospel.

Cornelius became
a true Christian
The rest of the book of Acts recounts how Cornelius, in compliance with the heavenly instruction, sent for Apostle Peter.  The latter, who earlier received a vision from God telling him not to hesitate to accept Cornelius who was non-Jewish (Acts 10:10-16, 28), gladly obliged to the request and traveled from Joppa to Caesarea—a good 30-mile journey.  There, Apostle Peter taught Cornelius and his household the word of God and in the process, they received the Holy Spirit.  Afterwards, they were baptized and became bona fide Christians (Acts 10:34-48).

Where true Christians
Are gathered
The process by which Cornelius became a Christian was in compliance t the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ:  “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15, NKJV).
     As clearly mandated by the Savior, those who are to receive baptism must first listen to and believe in the gospel.  That was why despite Cornelius’ supposed “good” works, he was still instructed to see an authorized preacher of the gospel in the person of Apostle peter.  Those who received baptism are being gathered in one body, as Apostle Paul enunciated:  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (I Cor. 12:13, Ibid).  The body being referred to is the Church headed by Christ (Col. 1:18) and, being His body, is called the Church of Christ:  “Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).

A wake up call
Many an individual today exhibits the endearing traits of the Roman Centurion Cornelius.  May his story serve as a wake up call to everyone that the traits of being “good” and being “religious” still fall short of the requirements for salvation.  John and his ilk should take notice, too. *****



Bible Study Suggestion: If you have further questions, please feel free to visit the Iglesia ni Cristo congregation nearest you. A minister or an evangelical worker would be happy to answer any biblical question you have in mind.