In the study of this chapter, we shall attempt to answer the following questions—When was Cornelius saved? To what was he added after he was saved? Why was there any question on the part of the Jews concerning his admission into fellowship with the Pentecostal church? Why was he baptized with water?

First, we call attention to the fact that Cornelius cannot be duplicated today. We mean that there are no Gentiles of our time who are devout worshippers of God, giving much alms to the people of Israel, and who fast and pray “at the ninth hour.” He and his household were the first Gentiles to be brought into kingdom blessings with the people of Israel without circumcision. We are now living almost 2000 years this side of God’s dealings with Cornelius, and He is not dealing with sinners today as He dealt with Cornelius and his household. A careful study of the following scriptures of this lesson will help you to realize the truth and importance of this fact.

We know from verses 1 to 2 that Cornelius was “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.” It is evident, however, that the good traits mentioned in these verses were not sufficient to give Cornelius peace with God. He needed something more. This is why God gave him the vision of verses 3 to 6 wherein he was instructed to send for Peter. The vision follows—

“He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.” Now, turn to Acts 11:13-14, and read the testimony of Peter as to what he heard from the lips of Cornelius when he visited his home on the day of his new birth—”And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”

The above quotations make it plain that Cornelius was not saved when he saw the vision, and was assured that his prayers and alms had gone up for a memorial before God. God had recognized him as one who was willing to accept the truth, but it was in his plan that by the mouth of Peter he should hear words whereby he and his house should saved. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Now let us carefully read the Word that Peter was speaking when Cornelius was saved—”Then 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 accepted with Him. The Word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:) that Word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost 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 land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify that it was He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all of them which heard the Word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak in tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:34-46).

We emphasize the fact that while Peter was saying, “Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins,” the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the Word. This means, according to verse 45, that “the gift of the Holy Ghost” was poured out upon them. Peter had said in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” It is evident that no one could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost before they were saved. This fact is proven by Galatians 4:6—”And because ye are sons, God hash sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father.” This helps us to understand that Cornelius was saved the very instant he heard from the lips of Peter the words—”Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.”

To What Was Cornelius Added?

The six Jewish brethren that accompanied Peter to the house of Cornelius (Acts 11:12) were “astonished” when they saw that the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:45). They remembered how the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Jews and the proselytes on the day of Pentecost, and throughout the eight years between Pentecost and the conversion of Cornelius; but they were astonished when He came upon uncircumcised Gentiles.

The Jews who were eyewitnesses to this astonishing fact were not the only ones who were astonished and surprised at this new movement of the Holy Spirit. Read the first 18 verses of chapter 11 for a clear understanding of the effect of Peter’s ministry at the house of Cornelius upon the brethren in Judaea.

Peter bore a testimony concerning the conversion of Cornelius and his household before a Jewish council of apostles and elders. His message follows—”And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethern, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the Word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7-9).

Since God “put no difference between” Cornelius and the believing Jews, he must have been made one with them. Now the question is, just what company of saints were they? After Cornelius and other Gentiles were added it was a mixed group of both Jews and Gentiles; before he was added it was a group of Jews and proselytes (Acts 2:10).

James gives us more light concerning this mixed company of Jews and Gentiles in Acts 15:14-18—”Simeon (Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.”

These words of James give us to understand that the company of saints to which Cornelius was added are known as “a people for His name.” He also emphasizes the fact that the calling out of this people was in full agreement with “the words of the prophets,” and was to immediately precede the building again of “the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down.” These facts, of course, assure us that this company of saints could not have been the body saints of the mystery which had been “hid from ages and from generations” (Colossians 1:24-26).

The fact that the company of saints to which Cornelius was added were “a people for His name” suggests that they are the bride of Christ. The fact that their calling was according to prophecy rules them out of the body of Christ. The prophets speak of the bride but not of the body.

“Can Any Man Forbid Water?”

After Cornelius and his household heard the words whereby they were saved and manifested the gift of the Holy Ghost by speaking with tongues, “then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord”(Acts 10:43-48).

Peter’s actions on this occasion were in keeping with his ministry as custodian of the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Baptism with or in water was used in connection with the manifestation of Christ to Israel (John1:31). There was nothing to hinder the practice of the same with these Gentiles who were included in the “promises made unto the fathers” and who were made to rejoice “with His people” (Romans 15:8-11).

Let us remember that Cornelius and his household were the first of a certain company of Gentiles who are to be blessed with Israel as “a people for His name,” and that their out-calling is in full agreement with the “words of the prophets,” and that after their number is completed, Christ will return and “build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down”(Acts 15:16).

Cornelius and his household received two baptisms—Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-46); and water (Acts 10:47-48). This was not forbidden because of their identification with Israel and the kingdom. Later, during the present dispensation of the “mystery,” God said “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). A change was made in God’s program between the conversion of Cornelius and the writing of Ephesians 4:5. Both Holy Spirit and water baptisms were permitted when Cornelius was saved and when Paul wrote I Corinthians 1:17; but only one baptism is included in God’s plan for the saints to whom Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:5. This helps us to understand such scriptures as Colossians 2:8-10 and verses 14, 15 and 20-23 of the same chapter.