First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, August 1, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Cornelius: A Glimpse of God’s Grace!”
Since the beginning of this summer, we have been studying together the book of Acts. Acts is an incredible and exciting account of the gospel’s progress. We have seen the movement of Jesus of Nazareth growing from Jerusalem to Judea, all the way to Samaria in Acts 9. Then in Acts chapter 10, we get to see another watershed moment, a historic moment. As we get to Acts chapter 10 and read the story of a man named Cornelius, we witness how the gospel of Christ breaks all the geographical, social, political and cultural barriers that stood in the way. So who is Cornelius and what can we learn from him?
Who is Cornelius?
This is how Luke introduces Cornelius to us in Acts 10:1-2, “In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.”
Cornelius was a Roman official, a military man, who was stationed in Caesarea. Luke tells us that he was a centurion, which means he was the commander of a century, or a hundred soldiers in the Roman army. Cornelius wasn’t a Jew, and for sure he wasn’t part of any Jewish religious group. Though he was a Gentile, Luke tells us on Acts 10:2 that Cornelius was “a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. What a great way to capture the life of this man!
Cornelius was not an Israelite, but he feared the God of Israel. He did what was right in God’s eyes – he feared God, gave to the poor, and prayed always. We don’t know how he come to believe in the God of Israel and whether he ever went to a synagogue or not, yet, his life says a great deal about his faith.
The story of Cornelius is a reminder that God’s love for people knows no bounds. God knows every single person on the face of this earth, and the Almighty has a way to capture our attention and bring us to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The story of Cornelius is a reminder that God indeed works in mysterious ways. His grace reaches those whom we think are too far away. Later in this same chapter, in Acts 10:34-35, Peter said in his sermon, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Two short lessons as we examine this man’s life today.
First: God Takes Note of our Prayers and Giving
This is what we read in Acts 10:3-4, “One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” Two important elements of a good and balanced spiritual life are emphasized here: prayer and giving/generosity. “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
Cornelius’ life reminds us today to cultivate a life of prayer, especially private prayer, your time with your Father in heaven, and to also cultivate generosity, a life of giving. Both are equally important. Some people pray but they don’t give; others give but don’t pray; some don’t do either. Prayer is not a substitute for giving, and giving is not a substitute for prayer. Cornelius gave generously and prayed regularly to God. “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God, Cornelius,” said the angel in Acts 10:4.
Often times, we let the devil deceive us that God is not paying attention to our prayers or giving. Friends I want to assure you today that those prayers and tears we shed before the Lord, they don’t go unnoticed. We read these words in Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” The Bible teaches us in Hebrews 4:13 that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.” Our Father in heaven sees what is done in secret and He will reward us. Don’t let the devil discourage you. Your prayer and generosity are not a waste. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Second: Cornelius’ Faith was not Kept in a Closet
I like the dynamic nature of Cornelius faith. In Acts 10:2, Luke made sure to tell us that Cornelius “was a devout man who feared God with all his household.” When God told him to call for Peter, he waited eagerly along with “his relatives and close friends”
Cornelius was a man whose faith in God wasn’t kept in a closet. He wasn’t ashamed to fear God in the sight of His household. He wasn’t ashamed to fear God in the sight of His soldiers. He shared his faith with his family and influenced his relatives to fear God. His faith in God spread like wildfire to his closest and most intimate interactions. If you continue reading the rest of Acts 10, you will know that when an opportunity to hear God’s message came to him, he invited everyone he knew.
I think we ought to be like that. We ought to desire to see our families saved and rejoicing in the truth of Christ. We ought not to keep the love of God to ourselves but share it with our families and friends too.
Friends, it wasn’t easy to believe in the Almighty God and to follow Christ two thousand years ago and it’s not today. In fact, it has never been. It wasn’t easy for Cornelius, and it will not be easy for us. I assure you Cornelius faced and endured lots of mockery, but he stood his ground and so should we. One of the things I like about the book of Acts is the fact that it’s a continuous story. The work is not finished yet. The Kingdom of Christ continues to grow and story continues to unfold, and like Cornelius, we must all do our part to advance the work of the gospel. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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