UNDER GOD'S MORAL REGIME
ONLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE CAN BE SAVED
Throughout this discussion we have constantly kept in mind the fact that God has a moral government and that His creatures have been endowed with the power of choice. The Lord never forces anyone's will. All moral suasion and influences are brought to bear to induce men to exercise their power of choice and to accept the truth and the Saviour in order that they might be saved. But under such a regime as God's moral government the Lord will not force anyone's will. Should He do that, He would be violating the very principles upon which His kingdom is founded. Such a procedure would make His government collapse instantly. Man's trouble is that he wills not to come to Christ. "Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me; 40 and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life" (John 5:39,40).
We are told that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but might have everlasting life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
According to Hebrews 2:9 Christ tasted death for every man. From II Peter 3:9 we learn that God is long-suffering "not wishing [not planning, lit. trans.] that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Again, from I Timothy 2:4, we learn that God would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. The final invitation to one and all to come is found in Revelation 22:17: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely."
From the verses which have just been quoted, it is abundantly evident that God will not force anyone's will, but that the invitation has gone out to one and all to come and partake of the water of life freely. This invitation is given upon the basis of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ tasted death for every man, that He abolished death, conquered him who had the power of death, disarmed all the evil wicked spirits and forces, and is conqueror of death. He is now the life-giving Spirit and offers life and salvation to all.
Since God, as we have seen above, desires the salvation of every soul, we may be certain that He does everything in His power--short of forcing the will of the individual--to bring all to a saving knowledge of Himself. Concerning men who want the truth and will accept it when it is given to them, Isaiah declared: "The way of the just is uprightness: thou that art upright dost direct the path of the just" (Isa. 26:7). The "just" of this passage are those who are living up to the light they have and are desirous of receiving more light. God therefore directs their paths into the way of truth and righteousness. An excellent example of this principle is the case of Cornelius of whom we read in Acts, chapter 10. This man was a heathen who was walking in all the light that he had and was praying for more. God answered his prayer by instructing him to send for the Apostle Peter, who spoke to him words whereby he and his house could be saved (Acts 11:14). One can believe only by hearing the message regarding the Saviour. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: 13 for Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:12-17).
The Lord Jesus assured all who long for righteousness that they shall be filled: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6).
God will either send the gospel to every soul in the world who is living up to all the light that he has, and who will receive it, regardless of circumstances, or He will bring such a one to the place where he can hear of and receive the Saviour and His full and free salvation, as in the case of Cornelius.¹
While all the principles which are expressed in the quotations above are true, literally true, yet we must recognize the doctrine that is set forth in Romans 8:28-30: "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren: 30 and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Before the foundation of the world God, being omniscient, did both see and know to the end of time every person who would accept the truth and be saved. Everyone of these who are foreknown are also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, "that he might be the first-born among many brethren"; and all whom He has foreordained, He calls; all those whom He calls, He justifies; and all whom He justifies, He glorifies. The same number that is foreknown is also glorified--not one more, not one less.
Everyone who has come to the Saviour and has been genuinely born again, been regenerated by the power of the Spirit of God, is in the list of those that are foreknown and also in the list of those that will be glorified forever and ever.
Theologians have never been able to solve the problems of the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man. Both doctrines are taught in the Word of God. We accept with unqualified faith these two propositions and believe them with all our hearts.
I. HOW TO BE SAVED
God is the Supreme Being, the Creator and the Preserver of the universe, and the one in whom all people live, move, and have their being. Of one man, Adam, God made "every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said. For we are also his offspring. Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man. The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:26-31).
From this quotation we see that God is our Creator. From this angle it is clear that we are His children, though we are in the fallen state:
2 And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: -- but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
Since we are His offspring and are in a lost and undone condition, He yearns to save and to bless everyone regardless of race or color, riches or poverty, social or cultural status. He is longsuffering toward the world, "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9b). To all who are burdened with sin, who are weary, and who are heavy-laden, the Lord Jesus extends the following invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Salvation is a free gift of God, "For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). God therefore sent His Son into the human realm in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He sent Him into the world to save all who will believe--simply trust Him--and accept Him as their personal Saviour, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: 9 because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: 10 for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: 13 for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:8-13).
When our Lord died on the cross, He paid the price for the redemption of every soul in the world. He therefore commissioned His disciples to go forth and proclaim redemption through His shed blood to all nations: "And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20). According to this passage, they were commanded to teach and to make disciples of all nations, baptizing all who accept Christ as their Lord and personal Saviour. Then they were to instruct them to observe and practice in their daily lives all the things which He commanded. A person must accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Deity from the depths of His heart, trusting Him to perform what in John 3:1-8 is called the new birth:
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
When he thus receives Jesus as his Lord and personal Saviour, in faith doubting nothing, the Holy Spirit cleanses, purifies, and regenerates the heart. The Holy Spirit dwells therein and empowers the yielded soul to observe the commands of Christ.
In preaching the gospel to the lost, the Apostle Paul declared that he "shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:20,21). He presented his message concerning redemption through Christ in the same way to Jews as he did to Gentiles. When he was with the Jews, he became as a Jew and when he was with Gentiles, he became as a Gentile (I Cor. 9:20-22). He adapted his personal approach to and recognized the intellectual and spiritual condition of the one to whom he was bringing the message. In doing this, however, he never violated any principle of morals, ethics, or the Word of God; neither did he change in anywise his message regarding Christ. To all--both privately and publicly--he stressed the point that all men must everywhere repent toward God, and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He assumed that his hearers believed in the existence of a Supreme Being whom we call God, and to whom each one is personally responsible for his life and conduct. Sin and wrong-doing always blind the mind and prevent anyone's seeing things in their true light. Moreover, all sin, regardless of its nature, is, in its final analysis, against God. Men must therefore repent toward God, against whom they have sinned. David recognized this fact and said:
"Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
And done that which is evil in thy sight;
That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest,
And be clear when thou judgest" (Ps. 51:4).
Having thus repented toward God, they are then to put their faith in Jesus Christ, God's Son and the Saviour of the world who purchased redemption for all on the cruel cross of Calvary by pouring out His life's blood in our behalf. On the one hand, salvation is a matter of the pure sovereign grace of God; on the other hand it is of pure faith on the part of the sinner. There is absolutely nothing which one may do to commend himself to God. Abraham simply believed God. He did not even so much as turn his hand upside down. His faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness (Gen 15:6). In the Apostle Paul's commenting upon this thought, he declared:
4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, hath found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not toward God. For what saith the scripture? And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. Even as David also pronounceth blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, And whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom, the Lord will not reckon sin (Romans 4:1-8).
Salvation is either a matter of grace, pure sovereign grace; or it is of works, of reward. It cannot be of grace plus works. The terms, grace and works, are mutually exclusive. Salvation is of grace wholly and entirely, or it is of works, that is, of merit. According to the Apostle's inspired declaration, it is a matter of God's grace, of which one partakes by simply believing. This position the Apostle affirms in Titus 3:4-8:
But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I desire that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men (Titus 3:4-8).
According to this statement God saves us by His kindness, that is, His grace. The merits of work done, even in righteousness are excluded. He therefore, according to His mercy, saves us through cleansing from sin by regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts, chapter 2, we have a record of the first gospel sermon preached after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. This message of life was preached by the inspired Apostle, Peter, on the day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. A full account of the circumstances that led to the delivery of this message and of the results flowing therefrom is found in the second chapter of the Book of Acts.
The message spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit went home to the hearts of the audience. We are therefore told that "when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call, unto him" (Acts 2:38,39). In our seeking to understand the significance of the Apostle's language, let us remember that the Jews were schooled in terms of Old Testament phraseology. He therefore clothed his message in words that they could easily understand. Let us also remember that the risen, glorified Lord commanded His Apostles to baptize all those accepting Him as Saviour. Peter therefore instructed those who received Jesus as Lord and Christ (Messiah) to submit to baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ." Some Greek texts have "upon the name of Jesus Christ." This phrase is an echo from the Old Testament. Men began in the days of Enosh "to call upon the name of Jehovah" (Gen. 4:26). To call upon the name of Jehovah was to look to Him in worship, adoration, and praise. Peter commanded those who wished to be acceptable to God to repent of their sins and to be baptized; but, in doing this, he emphasized the thought that they should look to Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as God, and rendering worship and praise to Him as such. To all thus receiving Him as "Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:36) and rendering divine adoration and worship, he promised they would receive remission of sins and the Holy Spirit. Thus, when properly understood, this verse teaches that men are saved by their recognition of Jesus Christ as God and worshiping Him as such. In other words, men could repent of their sins and be baptized--just as Peter here commanded--and at the same time not recognize Jesus as Lord and Christ and not call upon Him in worship as their God and Saviour. Apart from the recognition of Christ as the divine Saviour, formalities and ceremonies avail nothing. Even genuinely repenting and submitting to baptism, simply because Christ commanded it, without recognizing His deity, would not save any person. There are men who deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet recognize His authority as a great teacher. These could repent toward God and by the authority of Christ submit to baptism, but they would never be saved approaching God in this way. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). With such a thought as this in mind, Peter told his audience that they would have to recognize the deity and messiahship of Jesus in sincere worship in order that their sins might be forgiven them. This interpretation of the passage is in harmony with all the teaching of the entire Word of God.
But let me hasten to add this warning: Since baptism is not a saving ordinance, some people have come to think very lightly of it. Unfortunately, many ignore altogether the Lord's instructions regarding it. This should never be. There is only one attitude to take, which is expressed in such words as these: "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Let us be willing to follow the Lord in everything which He has commanded, recognizing Him and His authority in all things. Submitting to baptism in the name of Christ is but an open confession in the form of an overt act, declaring one's faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. (See Matt. 28:19,20.)
In the eighth chapter of Acts we have an account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, who probably was a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and who had gone to Jerusalem to worship the true God. Here is the account:
But an angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza: the same is desert. And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship; and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some one shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other? And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached the gospel to all the cities, till he came to Caesarea (Acts 8:26-40).
This man was living up to all the light he had and evidently was searching for more. The Lord knew ahead of time that this truth seeker would read the scroll of Isaiah. He also knew the very time and place where he would be when he would come to chapter 53. He therefore told Philip, the evangelist, who was in a revival in Samaria, to quit, go, and preach to this man. The Lord timed all events and circumstances connected with the case so that Philip might meet the eunuch at the psychological moment--when he would be reading the prophecy concerning the Servant of Jehovah, who allows the stroke of judgment to fall upon Himself, in order that those who accept Him and His atonement might go free. The eunuch believed the Word of God and was convinced that Philip had correctly interpreted Isaiah's prophecy as being fulfilled in Christ, "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). As to whether or not Philip taught him that those who accept Christ should be baptized, the record does not say. It is more than likely that, since the Christians at Jerusalem were, according to Acts, chapter 2, assembling daily in the Temple area, the eunuch had heard the Apostles preach and had learned from them concerning baptism during his stay there. Being an earnest, sincere man, doubtless he inquired into their beliefs; and hence when Philip had shown him that Isaiah 53 was a prophecy of Jesus, and when they came to a certain water, he requested to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ: that is, recognizing Christ as the Lord and Messiah of his life, as well as his personal Saviour. Having accepted Christ and become a new creature in Him, the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
In Acts 16:19-34 we read of the conversion of a Roman, the Philippian jailer:
But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they laid hold on Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers, and when they had brought them unto the magistrates, they said, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive, or to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent their garments off them, and commanded to beat them with rods. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison-house were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the jailor, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. And he called for lights and sprang in, and, trembling for fear, fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. And they spake the word of the Lord unto him, with all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately. And he brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God (Acts 16:19-34).
This straightforward narrative is very clear and calls for little comment--for the one who has no theory to support, but who is seeking the truth with reference to how to be saved.
When the earthquake occurred--which without doubt was a direct act of the Almighty in answer to the Apostles' prayers and for the forwarding of His cause at this place and time--the jailer concluded that the prisoners had escaped. Knowing his accountability to his superiors in the government, he called for a sword in order to kill himself. Paul shouted, "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here" (Acts 16:28b), for all the-prisoners were still in the jail. He rushed in, fell down before Paul and Silas; then brought them out, and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house."² The man asked the Apostles a direct question--what would he have to do to be saved. The inspired apostles replied, telling him how to be saved: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Their instructions on this point are in keeping with all the Scriptures. Men are saved simply by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes we are told that the formula for salvation is faith plus obedience. Had this theory been correct, Paul would have told the Philippian jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and obey Him, and thou shalt be saved." But, someone informs us that obedience is but faith in action! That is true, but not in the case of accepting salvation; for, as we have already seen in Romans 4:1-8, salvation is a matter of pure faith, not of works. If it is of faith, then it is not of works; and vice versa. But does not faith manifest itself in obedience? Most certainly. But the faith which saves, rather, that takes hold of the Saviour who saves, is a simple trust in Him to save. The Redeemer paid the complete price for man's redemption, and nothing that man can do or say can make the atonement more efficacious.
That saving faith is thus to be understood is very apparent from a study of Hebrews, chapter 11. In this marvelous revelation Paul gives us examples of faith. In verse 3 he declares, "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God ..." Is faith here at the very beginning of the discussion thought of as putting itself forth in action, in obedience to something God has commanded? Such an idea is excluded. The faith that saves is the same type of faith as that which understands that the Lord framed the worlds by the Word of God, Christ, the Living Word. We simply accept by faith that proposition. We then adjust all our thinking in accordance with that faith. In verse 11 the writer declares, "By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed ..." Sarah was barren. The Lord promised that she should become a mother in her old age. Though she could not understand how this could be, she believed the promise. When she took that attitude, God gave her power to conceive. Hence we are told that she "received power to conceive ..." In verse 22 we read, "By faith Joseph, when his end was nigh, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones." Joseph simply believed that, according to the promise of God, the Hebrews would leave the land of Egypt on schedule time. Believing the plain, unvarnished word of God, he therefore gave commandment concerning the removal of his bones to the land of his fathers. Faith here is simply trusting God, believing what He said. His faith expressed itself in giving this command. In the latter part of this chapter--especially from verse 33 on--we see the heroes of faith who were not in a position to perform any great exploits, but who simply endured affliction by faith. Look particularly at verse 35: "Women received their dead by a resurrection ..." They simply believed God's promise. When they took that attitude, God fulfilled His promises to them. In the light of all this data and much other that could be produced, we come to the conclusion that faith, saving faith, is one that simply trusts Christ for salvation. A person therefore takes hold of the promises by faith. When he thus accepts the Saviour, the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart and implants new life in the soul.
¹ 10 Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision openly, as it were about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying to him, Cornelius. And he, fastening his eyes upon him, and being affrighted, said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are gone up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and fetch one Simon, who is surnamed Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. And when the angel that spake unto him was departed, he called two of his household-servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; and having rehearsed all things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
Now on the morrow, as they were on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour: and he became hungry, and desired to eat: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance; and he beholdeth the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth: wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts and creeping things of the earth and birds of the heaven. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean. And a voice came unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, make not thou common. And this was done thrice: and straightway the vessel was received up into heaven.
Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate, and called and asked whether Simon, who was surnamed Peter, were lodging there. And while Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. But arise, and get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting: for I have sent them. And Peter went down to the men, and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius a centurion, a righteous man and one that feareth God, and well reported of by all the nation of the Jews, was warned of God by a holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words from thee. So he called them in and lodged them.
And on the morrow he arose and went forth with them, and certain of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And on the morrow they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his kinsmen and his near friends. And when it came to pass that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and findeth many come together: and he said unto them, Ye yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come unto one of another nation; and yet unto me hath God showed that I should not call any man common or unclean: wherefore also I came without gainsaying, when I was sent for. I ask therefore with what intent ye sent for me. And Cornelius said, Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, and saith, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call unto thee Simon, who is surnamed Peter; he lodgeth in the house of Simon a tanner, by the sea side. Forthwith therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all things that have been commanded thee of the Lord. And Peter opened his mouth and said,
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him. The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all.) -- that saying ye yourselves know, which was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days (Acts chapter 10).
² This verse has by some been interpreted to mean that a man's household will be saved by his own faith. This interpretation is contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures in general. Men are saved by faith--their own faith and not that of another: "... for by grace have ye been saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8).
(Continued on the next page)