When Was Cornelius Saved?
Many that believe that water baptism is not necessary for salvation or remission of sins. They point to the account of Cornelius in order to prove their argument. However, when the text and truth of God's word is examined that very argument is proved to be in error. In Acts 2:38 Peter said "…Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Baptism for the remission of sins was then, and remains today, a requirement for remission of sins and cannot be removed from God's plan for the salvation of man without violating what God's word clearly teaches.
In Acts chapter 10 we read of the conversion of Cornelius and his household. Verse 1 tells us that Cornelius was a centurion, he was a Roman, he was a gentile or non-Jew. Until this point most Jews, even the apostles, and others believed that salvation through Christ was available only to the Jews. In Acts chapter 11 Peter recalls the vision he received from God in Acts chapter 9:10-16. Acts 11:5-10 Peter describes the vision, "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, and object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. (6) When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. (7) And I hear a voice saying to me 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' (8) But I said, 'Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.' (9) But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' (10) Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven." In verse 18, after Peter described his meeting with Cornelius and his household the apostles realized that Peter's vision and his account with Cornelius meant that Gentiles as well as Jews could receive God's gift of salvation through Christ. Verse 18 says, " When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God saying, ' Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.' " That was the purpose, to reveal to all that salvation through Christ was available to all, that a new covenant had replaced the old and now Jew and Gentile alike could become a child of God. Keep that in mind as we determine when Cornelius and his household were actually saved.
We are told in Acts 10:5 an angel of the Lord (verse 3) told Cornelius to send men to Joppa and ask for Peter. Peter was to go to Cornelius and Act 10:6 tells us that Peter would tell Cornelius what to do. Verse 6 says, "… He will tell you what you must do." In Acts 11:13-14 as Peter recalls the events of his visit he restates what Cornelius said to him upon his arrival, "And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, (14) 'who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.' " Peter was to go to Cornelius and his household and tell them words by which they would be saved. In Acts 10:34-43 Peter preached to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 44 says "While Peter was still speaking these word, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word." Notice, "While Peter was still speaking", that's when the Holy Spirit fell upon the household of Cornelius. Peter had not yet finished speaking. Remember the words that he would speak to them would be words by which Cornelius and his household would be saved (11:14). If Cornelius and those with him were saved when the Holy Spirit fell on them, then they were save before Peter had finished speaking the very words that would tell them how to be saved. Not only that, but in Acts 10:48 Peter, when he had finished preaching the gospel of Christ commanded them "to be baptized in the name of the Lord." This is the same command he gave to those on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38. Cornelius and his household were save in the same manner as the others whom we have example of in the Bible were; BY FOLLOWING GOD'S PATTERN FOR SALVATION!!!!!!!!! Hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized for the remission of sins is the plan and the only plan that we are commanded to follow for the remission of sins and the hope of salvation. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and household was a special circumstance and performed by God for a specific purpose; to make known that Gentiles as well as Jews could share in the hope of eternal life through obedience to God's word. Cornelius and his household were saved when their sins were forgiven and that took place upon baptism in water, as the Bible clearly teaches in several places.
- Garrett Alsip