Jerry C. Brewer
If I were to describe a religious man to you, I wonder what you would think of him. Let me do that, then you tell me what his condition is. Is he lost or saved? This man was called devout. That word means, “Earnestly religious; pious; reverent. Warmly devoted; heartfelt; sincere. Containing or expressing devotion, especially religious devotion” (Britannica World Language Dictionary). Wouldn’t you like to know a man like that? Many of us have had parents who were devout and who were morally upright people and we are thankful for that.
It was also said of this man that he “feared God.” Solomon wrote that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). That means that without reverence for God, one has no desire to know of Him and His will. One who fears the Lord will desire to know more about His will for man. Jesus described such a man as hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt. 5:6). That describes the man I’m talking about. He hungered for the word of God. Wouldn’t you like to associate with a man who feared God and sought to do God’s will? I would. That kind of man would surely be a kind friend.
This man was also described as a charitable person. Not only was he described as charitable, but it was said that he gave “much alms” to those in need. He did not give a mere pittance of his possessions, but gave much. He must have been a kind, compassionate man who was esteemed by all who knew him. He had a big heart that was willing to share what he had with those less fortunate and it could surely be said that this pleased God.
This man was also described as a man of prayer. The Bible tells us to, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer is the means by which we make our wants and wishes known to God and through which we offer the praise and thanksgiving of our hearts to Him. James said, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16). Prayer should be offered each day for the blessings which we receive from God, and this man did just that. In fact, it was said that he, “prayed to God always.”
Now, from the above description perhaps you have arrived at a conclusion about this man. What do you think of his spiritual condition? You say, “Well, he was devout so he must have been sincerely devoted to God.” You would be correct. He was. You say, “He feared God and wanted to know of God’s will for him. He was a seeker of Truth.” You’re correct. He was that kind of person. Then you say, “He was generous and gave a lot of money to charity to help others, so he must have had a kind and compassionate disposition.” You would be correct. That’s exactly the kind of man that he was. Finally, you say, “Well, he prayed always to God, and a man of prayer has to be a good man.” Again, you are correct. Now, tell me what you think of his spiritual condition. Was he saved or lost? I can imagine you grinning as though I’ve asked a dumb question. “Of course, he was saved,” you say. “Any man who is devout, fears God, gives to those less fortunate, and is in daily prayer has to be a saved man.”
That is the general assessment of the world regarding salvation from sin. Moral goodness, uprightness of life, kindness to others, and prayer are the things that make one right in God’s sight, according to the world’s standard. But this man of whom I am speaking was lost in sin. You see, one is not saved because he is a “good man.” If that were the case, Christ would not have had to die for our sins. We could have just “been good.” The name of this man of whom I am speaking was Cornelius and you can read about him in Acts 10. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that saves from sin, not our goodness or morality.
Cornelius, was told to, “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” (Acts 11:13-14). Cornelius did not object to these instructions. He did not say, “Listen! I am devout, pray every day, and give much money to the less fortunate. Don’t tell me I have to be saved!” You see, Cornelius “feared God” and had a desire to know how he could please Him. He did not trust in his own goodness or feelings, so he sent for Peter who came to his house and preached Christ. As a result of his desire to know God’s will, Cornelius and his kinsmen were baptized into Christ where they received the benefit of His saving blood (Acts 10:48; Rom. 6:3-5).
A great tragedy of our time is that the denominational industry has convinced people that obedience to the gospel in baptism is unnecessary—that all one has to do to be saved is to pray, or live a good life, or give money to charitable causes. Yet, I challenge anyone on earth to point to a better moral man than Cornelius—a good moral man who needed to obey the Gospel in order to be saved.
What about you? Are you a good moral person? That’s wonderful. Do you pray? Are you generous with your blessings in helping others? Those are all good things, but they do not bring forgiveness of sin or put you into Christ where salvation through His blood is located (Eph. 1:7). Only baptism does that (Rom. 6:3). Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) as that good man Cornelius did, and you will be saved from sin as he was, by obeying “words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”