y sermon today centres around an Italian military general by the name Cornelius who lived in the 1st century. He was the Roman military attaché to the Jewish land. Israel was under the colony of Rome at the point in time, the same way Nigeria was under the colony of England at a time. This story is recorded in the book of the Acts of Apostles chapter 10
The record has it that this Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. He also fasted often.
One afternoon about three o'clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. "Cornelius!" the angel said.
Cornelius stared at him in terror. "What is it, sir?" he asked the angel.
And the angel replied, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a leatherworker who lives near the seashore."
Cornelius, in spite being a devout, God fearing man, who shared his wealth with the poor and prayed regularly was still asked by God to seek for another messenger of God. Why? The reason is what I want us to look into next with the guide of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray.
Cornelius, a high ranking military officer of good reputation, well-spoken of by people, in fact people who were not of his own tribe nor from his native country but complete strangers; in spite being a devout, God fearing man, who shared his wealth with the poor, who did not miss any prayer time and who fasted often, was still asked by God to seek for another messenger of God. Why? It is because he still lacked something. He lacked something, which his tall status and wealth could not purchase.
What could he have lacked? We shall find out from the counsel of Peter to him.
As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants and he sent them off to Joppa to look for Peter.
But there was another big problem. Peter being a Jew, by the law of his religion was not permitted to have anything to do with Cornelius who is a gentile.
Anyone who was not a Jew was called a gentile. Some people of certain religions today will hardly have anything to do with other people who do not belong to their religion, so is the religion of the Jews, which is Judaism. Judaism does not allow a Jew to visit with, enter the house of or eat with anyone whose religion is not Judaism. So, God had to take care of this problem before the envoy of Cornelius would reach Peter, otherwise, Peter was not going to attend to the envoy of Cornelius.
Peter was hungry shortly before the envoy of Cornelius would arrive. So God made Peter to fall into a trance where all kinds of four footed animals and birds, which his religion declared un clean and were forbidden to eat, descended before him and a voice asked him to kill and eat them. Peter promptly replied "No Lord, I have never in my life eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws" The voice spoke to him "What God has cleansed, do not call it unclean" The incidence occurred three times, yet Peter protested each of the times and the sheet, which brought the animals was pulled up again to heaven.
As Peter ruminated about what the dream could mean, the envoy of Cornelius arrived and his mind of understanding opened and he promptly understood the lesson of the trance and he had no further argument as to why he should not attend to his gentile visitors.
Actually, few years before this incidence, shortly before Jesus was murdered, He encountered a Samaritan woman, call her a gentile and Jesus told the woman that the time was near, when religious worship by outward appearance would give way to worship in the spirit. i.e the practice of worship at a particular location, praying facing a particular location, refusing to eat certain food or meat will no longer be the requirement of true worship by God. One would expect someone of Peter's status to have understood this, being one of the closest to Him. Now God had to teach him, one on one basis and he understood it promptly.
Now, what is the reason why Cornelius being a devout, God fearing man, who is well-spoken of by people, who were not even of his own country, who shared his wealth with the poor and who did not miss any prayer time, who fasted often, was still asked by God to seek for another messenger of God. Why? What did he still lack?
What Cornelius lacked can be found in the address of Peter to him and his household.
Peter in brief, recounted the story of the coming of Jesus to the earth, how His shed blood alone makes peace between God and man. That Jesus is the one who all the prophets spoke about, that everyone who believes in Him will have their sins forgiven through His name. That God had ordained Jesus to be the judge of all-the living and the dead.
This interprets that all the religious services of Cornelius including his many fasts could not earn him entry to heaven and rest at the end of the earth except he wears the righteousness of God, provided by the blood of Jesus Christ. This confirms a verse in the Bible, which states that "All our righteousness are like a filthy rag in the sight of God" The best of our religious service cannot secure us a place in heaven. Not the labour of our hands can fulfill God's demands of righteousness. The best of our religious zeal cannot, all for sins cannot atone, only the name and blood of Jesus can.
No angel will be likely sent to you as it was with Cornelius in order to make you decide for Christ. This inspired message you are listening to is all you need. It is my prayer that you will not ignore this counsel. Everyone will be the architect of his own fortune.
Let us pray.
(Text of my Sunday broadcast on KW FM 99 on Jan 27 2013)