At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. - Acts 10:1-2, ESV
Do Some People Deserve Salvation?
Luke's description of Cornelius at the beginning of Acts 10 makes him sound really wonderful. Here was a man who did not know Jesus, who needed to have the Gospel preached to him by Peter, and yet was devout, prayerful, God-fearing and generous. It almost seems like Luke is trying to build a case for why Cornelius deserves salvation. Is that how we're supposed to read these verses?
Like many things in the Bible, what may seem evident on the surface is not always correct. The Bible is very clear that no one on their own deserves salvation, or even desires salvation, for that matter:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” - Rom. 3:10-12, ESV
So, what is happening in Acts 10 with Cornelius, then? It certainly seems like he is understanding and seeking God, doesn't it?
Simply put, what is happening in Acts 10 is that God is in the process of graciously drawing Cornelius to Himself. On our own, we do not seek God, but God moves the hearts of those whom He is saving, drawing us to Himself, sometimes for a long time before He actually brings us to faith, repentance and salvation in Jesus.
Of course, people may appear outwardly religious and moral for other reasons, too. Sometimes people who are the most outwardly respectable and religiously inclined can be more deeply furthest from God. The scribes and Pharisees are sad examples of this principle, as are many church-going professing Christians in the world today.
We can never know someone else's heart. Only by God's grace and the searching ministry of the Holy Spirit can we ever hope to know our own hearts. But God knows all hearts, those who are His, those whom He is drawing to Himself and those who are hardened against Him. And it is His grace that alone can change and save anyone's heart.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your saving grace. Thank You that You looked in love on our stubborn, sinful hearts and had mercy on us. Thank You for drawing us to faith in Jesus and saving us from ourselves. Please have mercy on those we love who do not know You, whose hearts You have not yet won. Bring them to Christ, we pray, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Prayer Based on Proverbs 13:10-18:
By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.
Heavenly Father, we need You to give us teachable hearts,
tosave us from our own foolish insolence and show us Your truth.
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Lord, keep us from the foolish dreams for quick wealth,
and from the dream that somehow money will solve our problems.
Make us diligent and careful stewards of what You entrust to our care.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Lord, we know that our hope in Christ is not a hope in vain,
and that all of our heart's deepest desires will be met in Him.
Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Father, we have so much to learn from the wise,
so make us mindful of their wisdom and open to Your teaching.
Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
but a fool flaunts his folly.
Lord, keep us from folly and from selfishness,
that we may exercise good sense and act with knowledge in all we do.
A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
Let us be those whose lips bear the Good News,
bringing life and healing to all who hear,
and let our ears be attentive to truth and sound instruction,
that our lives may bear the fruit of righteousness for Your glory.
In Jesus' name, Amen.