God-Fearing, Moral, Religious, But Lost

by Pastor Kevin Sadler

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“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” (Acts 10:1-2).

Cornelius was a Roman centurion who was stationed in Caesarea, a major Roman seaport at Roman Judae on the Mediterranean Sea at that time. Luke records that Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man, who gave alms generously to impoverished Jewish people, and who prayed to God all the time. And as Cornelius feared God, his example of devotion led to “all his house” fearing God with him.

Acts 10:3 informs us that Cornelius observed the Jewish hour of prayer, praying at “the ninth hour” in his home (cf. Acts 3:1). And Acts 10:30 records that he prayed earnestly and intensely, even fasting as he sought God. Acts 10:22 further describes Cornelius as “a just man,” or an upright man, one who lived a moral life.

Cornelius was God-fearing, moral, and religious, but Cornelius was lost and on his way to hell. By all outward appearances, one might’ve thought he was saved. But the fear of God he possessed, his earnest prayers, fasting, moral life, and kindness to others did not mean he had eternal life. He was still unsaved.

The Lord sent Peter to Cornelius that he might “receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). In Peter’s retelling of this encounter in Acts 11, we learn that Peter came to “tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14).

We often look at the account of Cornelius in light of its dispensational significance and Peter being shown that God’s dealings with mankind were changing as God was turning to the Gentiles. But Cornelius is also a reminder that being a seemingly good, moral person who prays, fears the true God, and does good things does not mean that one is right with God.

Today we’re continually surrounded by people who are God-fearing, moral, and religious, but lost, like Cornelius. They need to hear the good news and be reconciled to God by trusting the gospel of grace that Christ died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

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