Cornelius – A Portrait of God’s Saving Grace

Acts 10

April 12, 2015 AM

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland


I.       Introduction (Ephesians 2:8,9)


A.    March is our month for specially focusing on the Gospel of Grace that we all needed to hear and believe!

B.     Grace, God’s grace is what every person in this massive planet of 7 billion people needs


1.      Not more religion, more education, more politicians, or more entertainment

2.      We need grace - God’s grace


C.    What is Grace? Let’s remind ourselves…


1.      Kindness, when we deserve wrath


a.       If someone is gracious, they are meek, humble, treating someone very well, even when they don’t deserve it

b.      Grace is not given to good people

c.       Grace, like Mercy is reserved for people who do not deserve kindness


2.      Grace Starts and Ends with God – He is the Source of the grace all men need


a.       It is not something any of us just have already

b.      Listen to 1Pe 5:10 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

c.       How about John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

d.      That means, God is THE only source of grace! Not Mary, the saints, the church, or of yourself


3.      Free! (Eph 2:8,9; Romans 3:24)


a.       Grace means GIFT!

b.      It cannot be earned, merited, lived up to, or bought!

c.       That doesn’t mean it is free of cost – just free to YOU!

d.      Grace costs! And it cost the Son of God EVERYTHING!

e.       2Cor 8:9  For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

f.       We often think Jesus BECAME poor when he was born… No! He emptied all of His Grace onto worthless sinners like you and me, and ended up poor, so that WE could be made RICH in Him!


D.    Let’s watch God paint an amazing portrait of what grace looks like in the life of an Italian man named Cornelius


II.    Background (Acts 10:1,2)


A.    One Individual


1.      A solitary man – God notices just one person, no matter where they are, or who they are!

2.      Named Cornelius – He knows your name!

3.      A Roman Centurion


a.       Military man – a fighter, killer, enforcer of Roman rule

b.      Part of the Italian band or regiment, stationed in northern Israel near Galilee


4.      Italian – European

5.      Very powerful man – could have just about anything he wanted


a.       People feared him

b.      He was a force to be reckoned with

c.       But he was known for something else than his weapon and might


B.     Very Devout


1.      Great contrast – very unexpected that such a man would have been religious

2.      Romans were pagan from birth – taught about the Greek gods

3.      And the new Roman gods

4.      But they also learned of the gods of the people they ruled

5.      This man had heard about the God of the Jews


a.       One all powerful God

b.      Who made heaven and earth in 6 days

c.       Who spoke directly to Abraham

d.      Gave Abraham a son at 100 years old

e.       And protected Abraham’s descendants in Egypt

f.       Powerfully brought them out of slavery, through the Red Sea and into Canaan, their Promised Land!


6.      He was seeking to know this God!

7.      Actually FEARED the God of the Jews – strange for such a powerful military man to actually fear something he cannot see

8.      He saw the needs of the Jewish people as worthy of giving his money to – alms – charity

9.      And all of his prayers were to only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!


a.       Never to idols, statues, saints, angels

b.      ONLY to God


10.  This man is very wise, and VERY devout – if only MORE people were like this man!


C.    He was Lost


1.      Just like Nicodemas, and Saul of Tarsus, and everyone you know who is working so hard to be good – without Jesus Christ in their lives, they are lost!

2.      His own goodness, and prayers, and giving and best efforts could never be enough to make up for all his sins and murders and killings and lusts and abuses

3.      This “good” man, was lost

4.      He didn’t need to work harder at being good – He needed God’s grace!


D.    Let’s look and watch God’s grace at work in this man’s life


III. Message – Grace At Work!


A.    Grace was Already at Work!


1.      None of what Cornelius was already doing was his own doing

2.      It was actually him responding smartly to God’s work in him (John 6:44)

3.      Nothing happens in your life as an accident

4.      It is the grace, goodness, kindness of God that is constantly working, drawing you to Himself (Romans 2:4)

5.      God had brought Cornelius all the way from civilised Italy, to the back of beyond in Galilee

6.      And his life would never be the same!

7.      Don’t ignore the fact that God is constantly at work, taking you where you would never have known to go

8.      Don’t blow it by always forcing your own way, and ignoring what God is trying to do in your life and home!


B.     Grace Caused Cornelius to Worry (Acts 10:3-8)


1.      The angel scared Cornelius – had never talked with one before

2.      What Cornelius was already doing would never be enough

3.      He was never going to be able to make up for all his past sins

4.      He would never be good enough to enter into the presence of almighty God

5.      He needed help

6.      And the angel could NOT help him – angels don’t preach the Gospel – people do – Christians do

7.      Cornelius needed to meet a Christian, who would tell him how to be born again – saved (Cf 11:13,14)

8.      The Holy Spirit’s greatest work is getting men and woman to fear not being good enough – so that they will seek to be saved, not by their own righteousness, but by God’s grace!

9.      So Cornelius immediately sent 3 of his servants to travel 30 miles south along the coast to Joppa.


a.       Told Cornelius where to look

b.      Who to look for

c.       And what to expect of Simon Peter when he meets him


C.    Grace Remembers the Cross (Acts 10:4; Luke 23:33,34)


1.      God back for a moment and look at verse 4 – what a strange phrase. A memorial? A memory? What memory? What was God remembering? What did Cornelius’ prayer remind God of?

2.      Where Jesus, the only perfect and sinless person who had ever lived was unjustly crucified by both religious and pagan people

3.      By both the Jews and by the Romans

4.      There, surrounding Jesus, hanging alone on that cross were dozens and dozens of Roman soldiers and even a Centurion or two

5.      And when Jesus cried out to God to forgive THEM… God took note

6.      And was reminded of that prayer by His Son on the cross when Cornelius would pray

7.      And THAT drove God to make sure Cornelius got the opportunity to get forgiven!


D.    Grace Caused Peter to Care (Acts 10:9-23)


1.      Peter was content to care about Jews


a.       He travelled all over Israel, teaching the Jewish people that they need to be born again

b.      Peter no longer fishes for fish – he is a full time preaching, soul-winning church starter

c.       He had his start in Jerusalem, back on the day of Pentecost, and 3,000 Jewish people responded to Peter’s preaching, and got saved!

d.      Peter was quite content. Thought that was all he had to worry about – hard-hearted Jews, who needed to repent and believe on their Messiah, Jesus


2.      But Jews aren’t the only lost people who need to get saved!

3.      This was probably the hardest work of the Holy Spirit – getting Christians to care about people they normally overlook – people who they think would never be interested in getting saved

4.      God Changed Peter, so that God could Save Cornelius

a.       Peter is up on the roof of the house he is staying at – Simon the Tanner


1)      He skinned animals and used their skins for the making of clothes and shoes

2)      Most people thought tanning to be a very low form of a job

3)      Peter didn’t mind though – amen!


b.      While up on the roof, he gets burdened, motivated to pray – not something normally done at noon, in the high heat, but he feels pushed to pray!

c.       And at the same time, Peter all of a sudden gets hungry

d.      And God showed Peter something in this thoughts – like a trance


1)      A tablecloth dropping down out of the sky full of food

2)      But NOT the kind of food he had ever eaten before!

3)      Animals that were unlawful for a Jew to eat, unclean, unhealthy


a)      Like roasted pig

b)      Like crawly bugs

c)      Like horses

d)     Like buzzards

e)      Meats and animals that you just are not normally supposed to ever eat - unlawful

f)       And yet, there they laid right in front of him running around on that table cloth


4)      And then God Himself commanding Peter to stand up and kill those animals and eat them!

5)      Gasp! What?


e.       And Peter like a bullet shook his head and told God NO! I won’t! I can’t

f.       I have NEVER eaten anything of the world (common), or unclean

g.      God then explains, don’t label something common or unclean if I have cleansed it!

h.      God did this THREE times! You kind of have to repeat things to a stubborn man!


1)      Three is a big number with Peter!

2)      Denied Jesus three times before he realised what he was doing

3)      Jesus was in the tomb three days before he rose again

4)      Jesus asked Peter three times if he really loved him

5)      Yes, THREE will usually ring a bell with Peter!


i.        None of this made any sense to Peter


1)      Being commanded to eat what God had told him already not to eat of

2)      Being told that God had cleaned what once had been filthy and wrong

3)      Something had changed, but Peter couldn’t figure it out


j.        All this happened so Peter would understand what God was about to do in his life – get him to care for his enemy!


1)      A Roman enemy – who was part of the system that killed His Lord

2)      A mortal enemy – someone who could kill a Jew on the spot

3)      This man Cornelius NEEDED someone to tell him how to be saved, just as much as all the Jews


5.      So Peter, reluctantly YIELDS, and GOES to find Cornelius (Cf Matthew 28:19,20; Acts 1:8)


a.       God never commanded people to go to a church to find Him

b.      God commands Christians to go to the world, to preach His Son

c.       Peter meets the servants of Cornelius

d.      And the next day, leaves for the 30 mile journey to go find him! What a distance for one soul!!!


E.     Grace Thrills A Seeking Sinner (Acts 10:24-27,33)


1.      Cornelius was not satisfied with his blind grasp for God

2.      He was not resting on his own goodness

3.      Just the thought that someone was coming who would tell him how to be saved from hell, and be forgiven of all his sins thrilled him!

4.      He couldn’t wait

5.      That’s when you know GRACE is at work in someone’s life – there is hope, and excitement

6.      So, he gathered all his family, and all his servants, and as many of his friends as he could – maybe 30,40 people!!!

7.      Maybe a little too excited – as soon as he saw Peter, he fell down and WORSHIPPED him!


F.     Grace Changes Everything and Everyone (Acts 10:28)


1.      It changed Peter didn’t it?


a.       From a brash, loudmouthed, arrogant fisherman who under pressure, abandoned his best friend he ever had when he denied knowing Jesus and left Him to die alone!

b.      To a powerful, faithful preacher of the Gospel, unafraid of the religious leaders

c.       And to an obedient servant of the Lord – willing to do what doesn’t make sense!

d.      Thank God for God’s life changing, heart changing, attitude changing GRACE!


2.      It saved Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9

3.      It changed the nation of Israel – never the same after Jesus!

4.      It fulfilled all the requirements of the Law – now a whole New testament was being written and preached everywhere

5.      And it was about to change the world – starting with one lost man named Cornelius!


G.    Grace Accepts Those That Seek God (10:34,35)


1.      God is no respecter of persons – not partial to a race, or to a language. Not interested in your colour or your heritage

2.      Grace accepts PEOPLE, not PERFECTION


a.       Whether Jew, or Gentile

b.      Pagan or Devout

c.       Atheist or Agnostic

d.      Young or old

e.       Wicked or selfrighteous

f.       Irish or Nigerian

g.      German or Korean

h.      We see nationalities, colours, languages, cultures

i.        God sees eternal, never dying souls, who need Him!


3.      God seeks for someone, anyone who is seeking for God – truly seeking – not in word only


a.       But fearing God

b.      And trying to do right – even though failing

c.       Just hungering to know the God who is REAL, and who cares!


4.      One note – God cannot do anything with someone who doesn’t want to be saved – doesn’t want God around


a.       Same with a relationship - you can’t expect someone to stay around when you don’t WANT them around and are always driving them out of your life!

b.      Don’t be stupid and keep resisting God’s kindness to you (Acts 7:51)


H.    What Grace Did That We Cannot Do (Acts 10:36-43)


1.      God, in His grace gave the whole world Jesus (Acts 10:36-38)


a.       Grace Gave Jesus to the Whole World – the greatest gift ever given – Christmas

b.      Everywhere Jesus went, He was a gift – a blessing – a benefit


1)      Not just to the Jews

2)      But to those even who oppressed the Jews – the Romans


c.       That certainly must have perked up Cornelius’ ears


2.      Grace Makes Peace, not Condemnation (Acts 10:36)


a.       Peace between us and God

b.      Through the blood of the cross (Col 1:20)

c.       Gives us the Peace OF God – no more fear of death, dying, of hell, wrath of God, of the unknown

d.      Only God, in His KINDNESS would do such a thing as give us peace, when He SHOULD seek to punish us!


3.      Grace willingly, and freely Paid All Debts (Acts 10:39,40)


a.       All sins (Acts 13:39)

b.      No priest, no offering, no sacrifice, no religion can pay what we owe God for our sins (Heb 10:10-14)


4.      Grace sends Witnesses, Soul-Winners to lost people (Acts 10:41,42)

5.      Grace put every man’s destiny in the hands of Jesus (Acts 10:42) – not in ourselves, or in our stars


a.       HE is judge of the living and the dead

b.      You now only have to deal with Jesus


6.      Grace Absolutely Forgives (Acts 10:43)


a.       “The Remission of sins”

b.      Removal of all records against you and me

c.       All Jewish sins, Roman sins, past sin, present sins, and future sins

d.      All remitted – all removed and forgiven

e.       And best of all – forgotten (Heb 10:17)

f.       Grace does that!

g.      YOU and I never could earn that! Never could be worthy of it

h.      If you only realised just how LOST you are – even though religious, smart, educated, wealthy, successful… you really are:


1)      In debt to God

2)      Spiritually dead

3)      Far away from God

4)      Blind

5)      Filthy rags

6)      Ruined


i.        And it THAT kind of a person that God can forgive! If someone would believe it!


I.       Grace Wins (10:44)


1.      All of God’s efforts, Peter’s efforts actually paid off, without Peter even expecting it

2.      As a matter of fact, Peter didn’t know if any of this was making sense to Cornelius, or to anyone in his house – they weren’t Jews, who grew up with the Bible taught to them

3.      But it did!

4.      They all had heard of Jesus, and heard about His crucifixion in Jerusalem just a few years earlier

5.      They heard about the soon return of Jesus, and were worried that they were on the wrong side of that battle!

6.      So, in his heart of hearts, Cornelius did what every human being must do before they miss the chance – must believe on the Lord JESUS CHRIST

7.      How do we know?

8.      Because the same gift that God gave to His faithful Apostles in Acts 2 – the supernatural gift of speaking in other languages – he has now given to a house full of dumb, ignorant, pagan Gentiles

9.      Simply because they repented of their own sins, and believed on the same Saviour that Peter and everyone else had

10.  If you have the same Saviour, you get the same gifts!

11.  God’s Grace saved a common, unclean, lost man named Cornelius that day!


IV. Conclusion


A.    Cornelius is just like most people here…


1.      Individuals – God notices you!

2.      You have a name!

3.      You could be very important, very successful, or a nobody

4.      Italian, French, American, Ghanan, German – doesn’t matter

5.      Very Devout, not very devout – at least are you seeking to know God?

6.      He was Lost

7.      He needed God’s grace!


B.     What is Grace?


1.      Kindness, when we deserve wrath

2.      From GOD! Grace Starts and Ends with God – He is the Source of the grace all men need

3.      Free! (Eph 2:8,9; Romans 3:24)


C.    How Does Grace Work in OUR Lives?


1.      It is Already at Work!


a.       Don’t ignore the fact that God is constantly at work, taking you where you would never have known to go

b.      Don’t blow it by always forcing your own way, and ignoring what God is trying to do in your life and home!


2.      It will cause you to Worry and be concerned about important things – like death, and hell

3.      Grace is a result of Christ’s prayer at the Cross – “forgive THEM!”

4.      It Causes Christians to Care about the people they easily overlook


a.       People different than them

b.      Not worth caring about as far as we think

c.       Believing they won’t be interested


5.      It Excites and Gives hope

6.      Grace Changes Everything and Everyone as it works

7.      Grace Accepts Those That Seek God


a.       All God wants to know is whether you want HIM

b.      He definitely wants YOU!


8.      It Does ALL that We Cannot Do


a.       Through Jesus, God now can…


1)      Make Peace, not Condemnation

2)      Pay off all our debts


b.      It Finds US

c.       Put every man’s destiny in the hands of Jesus

d.      Absolutely and Completely Forgives


D.    But it CAN’T Work until you Believe It


1.      GRACE can save anybody!


3.      Not Works, lest any man should boast

4.      But you must accept it as the free gift of God’s Son, given as if just for you (John 1:10-12)