Follow the Cornelius' Model
Acts 10  
 

By Paul Robison

Here's an interesting comment: “One preacher, who preaches in a number of [Gospel] meetings each year, related to me about preaching in a meeting which he felt 'had been kept a closely guarded secret.'  It seems that even other congregations in the town were not made aware that the meeting was being held.  Announcements had been made only from the local pulpit.  Nothing on the property indicated an event.  Beyond this, nobody had bothered to noise it abroad.  Needless to say, the meeting was poorly attended.  Most likely, some of the brethren felt that they had selected the wrong man for the meeting.  The preacher likely felt that his time would have been better spent somewhere else.  I am sorry to say that at times, some brethren appear to feel that we have no responsibility beyond seeing that we have some [extra] preaching in our building from time to time. [We seem to think]: 'If people are as interested as they should be, they will find out about this [on their own] and come [to it].  If they don't, then we have done all that is expected [by God] of us.  'After all,' we tell ourselves, 'you can't [force] people come'” (Rader).  I hope we aren’t like that.  The book of Acts has been called “The Holy Spirit's Handbook For Evangelism” because “it tells about the spread of gospel and the establishment of church through the accounts of conversions.  One of the most spectacular accounts is that of a Roman officer whose name was Cornelius” (Seaton).  An angel helps to prepare the audience, and the Holy Spirit helps to prepare the evangelist, and the result is what might be called “history's first Gospel meeting,” especially for the Gentiles.  Someone has observed: “Good gospel meetings don’t just happen.  Successful meetings are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of both the visiting preacher and the local church” (Ibid.).  So let's look at Acts 10:24-33 and see four actions that went into making this a fruitful Gospel meeting.  “And the following day, they entered Caesarea.  Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.  As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.  But Peter lifted him up, saying, 'Stand up; I myself am also a man.'  And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them: 'You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or to go to one of another nation.  But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.  Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for.  I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?'  So Cornelius said: 'Four days ago, I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour [3:00 p.m.] I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said: “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.  Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter.  He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.  When he comes, he will speak to you.”  So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come.  Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.'”
 
The first action towards a fruitful Gospel meeting is: Ask for the Holy Spirit's help!  We see very clearly in this account that God and Holy Spirit are the real heroes of this conversion story.  God worked with Cornelius, and the Holy Spirit worked with Peter.  It was no accident that an angel told Cornelius where to find Peter, and it was no accident that the Spirit sent a vision three times to Peter to help him to understand that no man is unclean and all are worthy to hear the Gospel, whatever their ethnic background might be.  This is a common pattern in the book of Acts.  The Holy Spirit works to get the unbeliever and an evangelist together: the apostles with the huge crowd at Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter and John with more Jews (Acts 3-4), Philip with the Samaritans and then with the eunuch (Acts 8), Ananias with Saul (Acts 9), Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene with the people of Antioch (Acts 11), Paul and Barnabas with Sergius Paulus and with people in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13-14), Paul and Silas with Lydia, a jailer, and people in Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus (Acts 16-19), Paul with a Jewish mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21-22), Paul with the rulers Felix, Festus, and Herod Agrippa II (Acts 24-26), Paul with Jews at Rome (Acts 28).  Now if the Holy Spirit worked that diligently throughout the first century to get unbelievers and evangelists together, couldn't He work just as diligently in our century to get unbelievers and evangelists together too?  Ask for the Holy Spirit's help!  There was a lot of racial prejudice that had to be overcome in Cornelius' situation, but the Spirit helped to make it happen!  When Peter declared: “But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean,” it was the Holy Spirit who had been Peter's teacher!  In fact, look at verse 19: “While Peter though about the vision, the Spirit said to him: 'Behold, three men are seeking you.  Arise, therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”  After the same vision three times and now three visitors, Peter was beginning to get the picture that the Holy Spirit was opening the doors to the Gentiles.  Unfortunately, we still have a lot of racial prejudice right here in this city, but the same powerful Holy Spirit can help that barrier to be broken!  The apostle Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.  For in fact, the body is not one member but many.”  Now just substitute “Jews and Greeks” with whatever ethnic groups you want, and the passage will show that all people can be united in the church.  Jesus commands us to preach the Gospel to every person, no matter their race, gender, or status.  Ask for the Holy Spirit's help! Now look at an interesting passage in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  What does that phrase “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” mean?  Some say that Paul is referring to miracles here.  Paul didn't use eloquent speech like the well-know Grecian orators of this day, but he relied on miracles to back up his message.  This is certain a possible interpretation, but there's a problem with it.  When you look at Acts 18:1-18, which tells about Paul's establishing the church in Corinth, you don't find a single reference to any miracle being performed in Corinth!  So here's another possible interpretation.  Paul is saying that he didn't rely on Grecian oratorical techniques, but he preached the Spirit-inspired truth and power-filled Gospel about Jesus.  The Corinthians then saw God's hand in all of this and put their trust in Jehovah God rather than in their pagan gods.  Now why even bring this up?  Because Brother Phil Sanders is going to be doing the same thing that Paul did!  He is not going to work miracles or to try to flatter our audience with eloquence or techniques, but He is going to preach the Spirit-inspired truth and power-filled Gospel to persuade them to put their trust in God!  Ask for the Holy Spirit's help!  Follow the Cornelius model!
 
Next, find the right speaker!  We notice in this account how an angel directed Cornelius exactly to right place to find the right evangelist for the message that He wanted preached: “Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.”  Now we also know that the Spirit had been preparing Peter for this mission as well since he would be preaching to a Gentile audience.  Someone observed: “What made Peter the right man for this meeting was that he preached the Gospel and told them words by which they would be saved (Acts 11:14).  The right kind of preacher is one who will preach the Gospel” (Seaton).  Find the right speaker!  And this is exactly what Brother Phil Sanders will do at our Gospel meeting.  What a blessing it will be to have him with us!  He will be the right speaker!  He is well-educated having studied at 3 of our brotherhood schools under solid teachers.  He is a good family man with a marriage of 38 years, with 4 daughters, and with 7 grandchildren.  He is a good preacher, has been doing it for 38 years, and worked with one congregation in TN for 13 years.  He is an accomplished author, having written 3 books: Postmodernism in the Church, 2000; Let All the Earth Keep Silence, 2006; Evangelism Handbook of New Testament Christianity, 2009.  By the way, that first book was one I drew from heavily when I gave you all some lessons on postmodernism.  He has also written numerous articles for brotherhood publications.  He is a good teacher, and has taught in 3 brotherhood schools and continues to teach in 2 of them.  Currently, he is working with the “In Search of the Lord's Way” nationally broadcast TV program along with Brother Mac Lyons.  He preached his first sermon on that program on Feb. 1, 2009.  Several members come to me from time to time asking: “Did you hear Brother Phil's sermon today?  It was right on target!”  Find the right speaker!  Brother Phil has told us that he is excited about coming.  His theme is going to be: “Why I Am A Christian”. Here's the topics of the sermons he'll be preaching on Mon-Wed. evenings: “God Wants Your Heart,” “Will Jesus Really Help Me?,” and “Five Minutes After Death”!  Now don't those sound like topics where the Gospel is going to be proclaimed with forcefulness and love?   Find the right speaker!  Now let me ask something here: Was Peter effective in his preaching?  One brother answered that question in this way: “... Peter preached the gospel to all who were there assembled, with the amazing result that the total company obeyed the gospel, the same being perhaps the only occasion ever known in which an entire company of many souls unanimously accepted the truth” (Coffman).  “The purpose of a Gospel meeting is to save sinners and edify saints.  Only the word of God has the power to do this.  The power is in the word of God, not the speaker.  But the word of God is [diminished] unless the speaker can make it understood” (Seaton).  Brother Phil will make it understood.  Find the right speaker!  Follow the Cornelius' model!
 
Next, invite others to come.  Notice again what Cornelius did.  Verse 24 states: “Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends.”  Now, who did Cornelius ask?  The text says that he asked “his relatives and close friends.”  Now why in the world would Cornelius do that?  Well, that's usually the people we have the most influence over isn't it?  Are you going to invite your relatives and close friends to come to our Gospel meeting?  Verse 27 informs: “And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together.”  I’m not sure how many is “many”.  Now how did Cornelius get such a large group to come to his house?  He didn't have a telephone, or a computer, or a pager.  So how in the world did he do it?  Undoubtedly, he went to them, looked them in the eye, and said something like this: “The Lord God has answered our prayers, and an angel told to get a man named Peter, and he is going to be here in a few days and tell about how to be saved.  Don't miss this great opportunity!  Be at my house on Thursday at the ninth hour.  See you then!”  You see, the great thing Cornelius did have was a big heart and a concern for other's spiritual welfare.  Invite others to come!  One congregation that held a Gospel meeting asked their visitors to sign a visitor's card and to indicate how they found out about the Gospel meeting.  Here were the results: 2% from a sign in a members' yard, 3% from another congregation's bulletin, 11% from an ad in a newspaper, 13% from the local church's bulletin, 14% from a card sent by a member, 20% from an announcement made at another congregation, 37% from a personal invitation given by a member (Rader).  You see, about 50% came because members invited them, either by letter or personally.  Folks, Cornelius wasn't a rocket scientist; just your average Roman soldier.  Folks, we can do it too.  We've got some postcards on the tables in the foyer.  All you have to write is: “Dear Friend, Please come!  Warmly, your name.”  Now you can actually write more, but something very short will get the job done!  But you know, you'll probably have even better results if you look those relatives and friends in the eye while you ask them.  Note when you compare percentages, asking directly is two to three times more effective!  See, this evangelism stuff is really hard isn't it?  That’s what Satan wants us to think.  Invite others to come!  Follow the Cornelius model!
 
Next, show a desire to learn!  Look also at verse 33: “So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.'” Listen closely to this verse: “We are all present …,” and you need to be present for every service.  You can’t claim that something is special if you don’t plan to support it with your attendance.  Here's a little parable to consider: “Once upon a time all the residents of a certain little Italian village where all invited to a great feast.  Each one, according to the story, was to bring a bottle of wine.  It was all to be poured into a huge barrel.  One said to himself, 'If I fill my bottle with water and empty it into the barrel, no one will notice.'  But when the time came to draw off the wine, lo and behold, only water came forth.  Each one had said to himself, 'My contribution will not be missed . . . it is so small.'  One member of the church feels that his presence will not be missed at the Gospel meeting, but when others feel the same way, and many miss the services, the power of the church to win souls is greatly diminished” (Spears).  And here’s why: no matter what the event, there is something exciting about a full auditorium—it sort of speaks for itself!  All are anxious to see what will happen.  Show a desire to learn!  “We are all present before God . . .”  “Cornelius was not having a social gathering. He wasn't providing entertainment for his friends and family.  They had all come together for a very specific purpose, and it was to hear Peter speak the [Gospel that could bring salvation] to them” (Ed).  Our meeting will be not only a great opportunity but also a limited one; the Gospel will be preached, and souls can be saved, but it’s just for several days! Will we ignore this spiritual feast or will we take advantage of it?  Show a desire to learn!  “We are present before God to hear . . . ”  Cornelius and his family and friends came together to hear the Word of God from an evangelist.  We need to manifest this same attitude.  We should be willing to listen attentively, to evaluate the message, and to apply its challenges.  Show a desire to learn.  “We are present before God to hear all the things commanded you by God.”  “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23).  God's Word, His incorruptible, living, and enduring Word, brings about the new birth!  Great transformation can take place!  The power of Gospel will be proclaimed effectively and persuasively!  Don't you want yourself and others to be lifted up, built up, and pumped up by the inspired commands of Jesus that Brother Sanders will be proclaiming?  Show a desire to learn! Follow the Cornelius model!
 
A gospel preacher wrote this on his blog: “I’m enjoying a 5 day Gospel Meeting.  Two nights of the meeting are down and three still to go.  Most churches don’t have Gospel Meetings anymore because they don’t feel like it’s effective ... The thing I find interesting is that the Highland church, where I’m at now, still has a very successful meeting.  The building is full every night.  They start months in advance advertising, inviting the community and talking it up.  Every member goes ALL out to make their Gospel Meetings successful.  So much for my old thought of, ‘The days of the successful Gospel Meetings are in the past’” (Morgan). Did you catch it, brethren?  Our gospel meeting will work if ALL of us will work to make it work!  Ask for the Spirit's help!  Find the right speaker! Invite others to come!  Show a desire to learn!  Follow the Cornelius' model!
 
Let's pray:  “Holy Father, thank You again for Your Word.  Thank You for this example of conversion that we have considered today.  We ask for the Spirit’s help and for Brother Phil to be blessed as he prepares.  Help us to invite others and to show a desire to learn.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
“And Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).  One person replied to preacher's blog just mentioned with these words: “I was at this church this morning ONLY for the reason of the Gospel meeting, the good food, and to visit family, but the message I heard was so impacting on my life!  It was a renewing of my spirit today that I have needed.  Many things in the lesson touched my life in a positive way.  So if one person was touched and spoken to, I would have to say, 'WHAT A SUCCESS!'”  Peter commanded his listeners to be baptized in the name of the Lord.  Will you obey Peter's command?  Get out of the sinning business, be immersed to wash away your sins, and start living according to Jesus' teaching!  Let Jesus transform you!  Become a Christian today!