Cornelius and Total Depravity

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Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have heard the story of Cornelius used as evidence against Total Depravity. Any thoughts on this? Was he saved before Paul came? If not, why were his prayers and offerings favorable before God?


Thanks,
Joel
 

FrozenChosen

Puritan Board Freshman
I think you'd have to be pretty creative with those passages to try and argue against Calvinism. In one sense, it points to Unconditional Election, in that God is the God of Jews and Gentiles, and that ethnicity isn't important for salvation.

Peter was the apostle who came to Cornelius, not Paul (was this what someone told you, or did you typo?).

I would suggest that Cornelius WAS saved before Peter arrived at his house in Caesarea. That doesn't damage the idea of Calvinism in any way. Cornelius is described as being "a devout man, who feared God with all his household, and gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God." (ESV, Acts 10:2)

Cornelius may have been a proselyte. He may have been like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to test the apostles.

It is important to note that Cornelius shows signs of being sanctified, and not false piety. Cornelius was a centurion, and his behavior as described in Acts does not coincide with the descriptions of centurions I've read elsewhere.

Hope that helps.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:5dd71a3b48="FrozenChosen"]I think you'd have to be pretty creative with those passages to try and argue against Calvinism. In one sense, it points to Unconditional Election, in that God is the God of Jews and Gentiles, and that ethnicity isn't important for salvation.[/quote:5dd71a3b48]

Agreed.

[quote:5dd71a3b48]
Peter was the apostle who came to Cornelius, not Paul (was this what someone told you, or did you typo?).[/quote:5dd71a3b48]

Hehe, sorry, typo.

[quote:5dd71a3b48]
I would suggest that Cornelius WAS saved before Peter arrived at his house in Caesarea. That doesn't damage the idea of Calvinism in any way. Cornelius is described as being "a devout man, who feared God with all his household, and gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God." (ESV, Acts 10:2)[/quote:5dd71a3b48]

But that does not seem to accord well with verse 14 of chapter 11. "and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household." This would seem to imply that he was not saved prior to Peter's coming.

If that is the case, then the problem is that this man is described as one fearing God, and that he had favor before God for his prayers (his prayers went up as a memorial).

Joel

Cornelius may have been a proselyte. He may have been like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to test the apostles.

It is important to note that Cornelius shows signs of being sanctified, and not false piety. Cornelius was a centurion, and his behavior as described in Acts does not coincide with the descriptions of centurions I've read elsewhere.

Hope that helps.[/quote]
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Any other thoughts on this?

Here is my dilemma:

As indicated by Chapter 11, Cornelius was not saved prior to the coming of Peter. But it speaks of him as one who feared God and prayed to him. And it seems to indicate that God saw these prayers favorably. If so, how does that fit with Total Depravity? As I understand it, TD says that men are without the capability to please unless He enables them by His Spirit. They do not seek Him without His Spirit first regenerating them. If that is the case (and I believe the Scriptures do teach that), then what is going on with Cornelius here? Because it would seem that he is an unsaved guy seeking God, and even doing something that God sees favorably.

Thoughts?

Joel
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1) We are not obliged to think that the Holy Spirit was nowhere present in Cornelius' life and house prior to Peter's arrival, or the angel's visit. He had apparently been working there and on the persons in that house for who knows how long, bringing them to a point of readiness to receive the message of salvation at the appropriate time.

2) We must take OT dynamics into account here as well. Gentiles from ancient days (e.g. Naaman, the Syrian) had devoted themselves to the God of Israel, serving him in what limited capacity as they could under the restrictions of the Old Covenant. Becoming fully Jewish (by circumcision) wasn't always possible, but God had clearly drawn outsiders into the "orbit" at least of the church. This is evidenced most clearly in the existence of the Temple's Court of the Gentiles. Eunuchs and lepers could never enter fully into the OT church's life, but this was not the same as being a castaway.

So, we find Cornelius providentially brought to Palestine, and there (perhaps) he is drawn to the virtuous life of some devout Jews. He reads or has read and taught to him the OT Scriptures. He begins to fear the Lord according to the light shown to him (Acts 10:2).

3) Remember too, that it is in the knowledge of Jesus that we are saved. And so it was for every holy Jew who heard of Jesus only after his ascension. They were the elect while they lived ignorantly of his life and ministry and even death. Certain ones may have even died in that state after Christ's earthly mission was accomplished, still "hoping" for that promised salvation. And entering heaven, discovered that their hopes had been realized even while they breathed.

Yet, for every (already) OT believer that heard the saving Word of Christ, no less than the ungodly who heard and turned to Christ in faith, it was nothing less than SALVATION for him at that moment, when he embraced this new, fulfilled reality by faith. So it is with Cornelius. The message that comes to him is the SAVING message of Jesus. And it does save him.
 
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