Cornelius's Fear

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fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
Cornelius is definitely an interesting figure in the Bible. The scriptures state that there is no fear of God before the eyes of lost (Rom. 3:18). However, it is said of Cornelius that he "feared God" (Acts 10:2), which some have taken as evidence against total depravity, or concluded that he was regenerate before Peter came to him.

How do you explain Cornelius's fear of God in light of Romans 3:18, if we feel that Cornelius was yet unconverted at the time, which most(?) Calvinists would conclude?
 

SinnerSavedByChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
Great point Kevin. Some have also used a similar argument against Total Depravity by saying "AHA DAVID obviously wasn't talking about all people in Psalm 14, since He feared God and had understanding of God!!!!"

And against all of these accusations is the simple answer: God had elected them for His good purpose, regenerated them in due time so that they might believe on Him who justifies the ungodly.
 

MarieP

Puritan Board Senior
It could also simply be a reference to Cornelius being a "God-fearer"- a Gentile who was a monotheist and in other ways sympathetic to the Jewish religion without becoming a full proselyte.

But he also prayed to God always- he was probably a true believer. It's hard to systematize the people who lived between the Old and New Covenants...did those under the Old Covenant and the covenant of grace have to be "regenerated" and "converted" after the inauguration of the New Covenant?

Though it begs the question, what caused the God-fearers from becoming full proselytes?
 
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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
It could also simply be a reference to Cornelius being a "God-fearer"- a Gentile who was a monotheist and in other ways sympathetic to the Jewish religion without becoming a full proselyte.

Bingo. Scholars still debate whether 'God-fearers', when used by Luke, is a technical term referring to proselytes or something else. There is extra-biblical evidence that there were many Gentiles who did not become full proselytes but went to the synagogue and tried to live according to Jewish law but never submitted to circumcision. This made them ripe for conversion to Christianity and explains the Jews' frequent envious reaction to that conversion. The Jews had been working hard to get these Gentiles to make a full commitment to Judaism and then Peter or Paul comes along and converts them to Christianity in one sermon!
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
This made them ripe for conversion to Christianity and explains the Jews' frequent envious reaction to that conversion.

Yep. This explains much of the hostility of the Jews in Acts 13-14, during Paul's first missionary journey. The Gentiles had been coming to synagogue services for a while, but without becoming full converts. Paul and Barnabas come in preaching the gospel, with great success. Enter envy.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
This made them ripe for conversion to Christianity and explains the Jews' frequent envious reaction to that conversion.

Yep. This explains much of the hostility of the Jews in Acts 13-14, during Paul's first missionary journey. The Gentiles had been coming to synagogue services for a while, but without becoming full converts. Paul and Barnabas come in preaching the gospel, with great success. Enter envy.

It is a good warning to us in the ministry as well.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I think Cornelius may have been a truly believing God-fearer.

Gentile God-fearers were only allowed onto the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple.

In the New Testament there is spiritual equality between Jews who believe and Gentiles who believe. See Ephesians 2:11-22.

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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Someone who had true faith in God as his Saviour from sin, and sought to obey the moral law by God's grace; who had heard about the promised Messiah, but didn't yet know it was Jesus of Nazareth.

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fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
Someone who had true faith in God as his Saviour from sin, and sought to obey the moral.law by God's grace; who had heard about the promised Messiah, but didn't yet know it was Jesus of Nazareth.

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So in your opinion, he was already regenerate?
 

GloriousBoaz

Puritan Board Freshman
Its similar to Apollos preaching then have Pricilla and Aquila finish out his understanding which at the time was incomplete but I always assumed he was saved. Or the people in Acts 19 who like Apollos only had the baptism of John but had heard of Jesus yet something seemed to be lacking yet, maybe since scripture says eternal life is to know God, that they didn't know Jesus well enough for saving knowledge, that is to say they knew His name but didn't know Him. They didn't know He was God or all the prophecy about Him, Him being a suffering servant. It's late so fix me if I'm wrong there.

I'd say the answer is probably this:

It could also simply be a reference to Cornelius being a "God-fearer"- a Gentile who was a monotheist and in other ways sympathetic to the Jewish religion without becoming a full proselyte.
Someone who had true faith in God as his Savior from sin, and sought to obey the moral.law by God's grace; who had heard about the promised Messiah, but didn't yet know it was Jesus of Nazareth.

Another thought and again straighten me out if i'm wrong, actually this has been an intense subject of reflection for me over the last few months and I'm still seeking answers.

Is it a difference between being circumcised of heart and being fully regenerate or are those terms synonymous? If Cornelius was just circumcised of heart and not full out born a new from above it would fit with the two quotes I quoted above, but I don't honestly know systematically what circumcision of the heart is. I've been taught different things on that growing up, just like Abraham's bosom, or Sheol, it seems I've gotten conflicting definitions growing up on those terms and their systematic theological importance.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
So in your opinion, he was already regenerate?

This was my question as well. Was Cornelius converted before Peter's arrival?

Yes. It was possible to come to saving faith with only the OT Scriptures, you know, and may still be, if the Holy Spirit bleses them to a soul without the NT Scriptures. See e.g. Simeon, Anna and Nathanael.

Verse 4 says, "Thy prayers and alms are come up for a memorial before God." Sounds like he was regenerate.

In verse 35 Peter says that Cornelius and his household are accepted by God and in verse 36 he says that Cornelius and his household know the word which God sent unto the children of Israel, the OT, which is full of Jesus Christ.

Then Peter apprised these already believing Gentiles of NT revelation.

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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Its similar to Apollos preaching then have Pricilla and Aquila finish out his understanding which at the time was incomplete but I always assumed he was saved. Or the people in Acts 19 who like Apollos only had the baptism of John but had heard of Jesus yet something seemed to be lacking yet, maybe since scripture says eternal life is to know God, that they didn't know Jesus well enough for saving knowledge, that is to say they knew His name but didn't know Him. They didn't know He was God or all the prophecy about Him, Him being a suffering servant. It's late so fix me if I'm wrong there.

It's a bit different in these cases since they already had NT revelation, whereas Cornelius didn't until the Apostle Peter arrived.

Another thought and again straighten me out if i'm wrong, actually this has been an intense subject of reflection for me over the last few months and I'm still seeking answers.

Is it a difference between being circumcised of heart and being fully regenerate or are those terms synonymous? If Cornelius was just circumcised of heart and not full out born a new from above it would fit with the two quotes I quoted above, but I don't honestly know systematically what circumcision of the heart is. I've been taught different things on that growing up, just like Abraham's bosom, or Sheol, it seems I've gotten conflicting definitions growing up on those terms and their systematic theological importance.

Being "circumcised in heart" in the OT or NT means that that person is converted/saved.

In the New Testament, post-Pentecost, all true believers are also baptised with the Holy Spirit by the ascended Christ into Himself.



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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Then Peter apprised these already believing Gentiles of NT revelation.

If so, would the same be true for the many others who 'feared God' or 'worshipped God' such as those in Antioch Pisidia, and Timothy, and Lydia etc.?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Then Peter apprised these already believing Gentiles of NT revelation.

If so, would the same be true for the many others who 'feared God' or 'worshipped God' such as those in Antioch Pisidia, and Timothy, and Lydia etc.?

You would have to examine the extant biblical data on these, which may be more scant than what we have for Cornelius.

I certainly do not see why there should not already have been true believers of an "Old Testament type" among the Gentile-Godfearers of the first century, before the New Testament revelation reached them, if God's OT revelation was doing its work among them by the blessing of the Spirit.

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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
true believers of an "Old Testament type" among the Gentile-Godfearers of the first century,

I think that is what we are all saying. However, if the events in Acts 10 and 11 do not give account of the first Gentile conversions it is hard to explain why Luke dedicated so much ink. In addition, Peter's rehearsal of the events in chapter 11 make it sound like a conversion.

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
 

GloriousBoaz

Puritan Board Freshman
I certainly do not see why there should not already have been true believers of an "Old Testament type"
Peter's rehearsal of the events in chapter 11 make it sound like a conversion

That's what I'm trying to work out because to me this was for sure the "opening sale" showing the inclusion of the gentiles into the church.

But you have those old testament saints who were really saved and therefore circumcised of heart (regenerate in your estimation) but not filled with the Holy Spirit. So what do we call people who were totally made new, born again, new creatures, redeemed, translated from the kingdom of darkness to light, metamorphosized, etc but not indwelt? (i hope there is no harshness to my tone, this is a genuine question i've been struggling with and I think it bears theological weight on the initial question of the thread)
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
So what do we call people who were totally made new, born again, new creatures, redeemed, translated from the kingdom of darkness to light, metamorphosized, etc but not indwelt?

Who exactly are you describing? Cornelius? Peter?
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I certainly do not see why there should not already have been true believers of an "Old Testament type"
Peter's rehearsal of the events in chapter 11 make it sound like a conversion

That's what I'm trying to work out because to me this was for sure the "opening sale" showing the inclusion of the gentiles into the church.

But you have those old testament saints who were really saved and therefore circumcised of heart (regenerate in your estimation) but not filled with the Holy Spirit. So what do we call people who were totally made new, born again, new creatures, redeemed, translated from the kingdom of darkness to light, metamorphosized, etc but not indwelt? (i hope there is no harshness to my tone, this is a genuine question i've been struggling with and I think it bears theological weight on the initial question of the thread)

OT saints were indwelt by the Spirit. The distinction between OT saints and NT saints is more subtle than the way you're expressing it.

The OT saints were indwelt by the Spirit but were more dependent on outward ordinances and had less of the "raw material" of the Spirit's inscripturated revelation by which He could minister to them.

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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The Apostles were very slow learners as we know. They should have realised from Jesus' commendation of the centurion's faith in the Gospels, that the gospel was for the Gentiles, and that they could attain to repentance unto life.

The fact that the Spirit came upon those in Cornelius's household in a very clear manifestation was proof that they had either had faith before, like Cornelius seems to have had, since God received his works (in Christ), or that some of them believed there and then, on Peter preaching to them.

I don't see how Cornelius was unconverted, since it is impossible for unconverted men to please God, in any true spiritual sense.


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Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
OT saints were indwelt by the Spirit.

Can you give me some scripture references of some OT saints being indwelt? Thanks.

Look up OT references to "Spirit" in a concordance and find the relevant ones.

Remember that we Reformed are interpreting those references in the clearer light we have about soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and the teaching about the Holy Spirit's work we have in the NT.

The Dispensationalist who says e.g. that the Holy Spirit could come and go from the believer in the OT, is either

(a) Positing a radically different kind of saved sinner in the OT, that didn't need the constant indwelling of the Spirit not to fall away completely - which is impossible.

(b) A radically different salvation, which meant that the Spirit could come and go and the individual was still saved - which is impossible.

(c) A radically different God who does not want to always dwell in His people, and can abandon them completely from time to time - which is impossible.

One text which shows that the OT saints had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit but, like us, they were less aware of His presence at some times than others, is Psalm 51:11.

David had done so wickedly, that he was afraid that the Holy Spirit would be taken away completely, but of course David was a believer and that was impossible, although there must gave been little of God's felt comfortable presence at this time.

Certain Dispensationalists will use this text to argue that the Spirit could leave OT believers completely, which is a travesty of the unity of God's salvation, of the Church and of the Scriptures.

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GloriousBoaz

Puritan Board Freshman
Yeah I agree dispensationalism is garbage, but what about the fact that the Holy Spirit dwelt in the tabernacle and temple in the OT, doesn't that signify He didn't dwell in humans as the temple? And what do you think about luke 17:21 and eze 36:27 future tense, and heb 8:7~13. curious what your thoughts are. I grew up learning the Calvary Chapel teaching that there is a distinction throughout scripture that in the OT the Spirit was "with". in the NT the Spirit is "in" and at the baptism of the Holy Spirit the Spirit then is "upon". I don't hold to this distinction anymore but I don't necessary see proof that OT saints are indwelt. Thanks
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
You'd have to ask a more subtle exegete than I, like the Rev. Bruce Buchanan. If he doesn't answer this thread, then send him a private message with your question.

I'll only say that therevwas an emphasis on the Spirit indwelling the Tabernacle because it was typological of Christ and His Church. This didn't mean that the Spirit didn't also indwell true believers.

Also, you have to interpret the OT data in the clearer light on sotrriology (doctrine of salvation) and pneumatology ( doctrine of the Holy Spirit) that we have. It is impossible to see how a sinner could remain saved if the Spirit left him completely.

Some of the cases of the Spirit's work in the OT are of special.common grace fittings e.g. Balaam and Saul, on unregenerate men, rather than a work of salvation. The Holy Spirit sometimes gifted unregenerate men for the mediatorial tasks of prophet, priest or kimg over Israel. This gifting could be withdrawn.

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GloriousBoaz

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the reply, i'll give the reverend a shout if he doesn't end up seeing this thread. The only OT saints that I recall explicitly stated are filled with the spirit are Bezalel, Oholiab and Elizabeth and Zecharias. There might be more thats all I recall.

It is impossible to see how a sinner could remain saved if the Spirit left him completely.
Thats the rub huh? lol
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Thanks for the reply, i'll give the reverend a shout if he doesn't end up seeing this thread. The only OT saints that I recall explicitly stated are filled with the spirit are Bezalel, Oholiab and Elizabeth and Zecharias. There might be more thats all I recall.

It is impossible to see how a sinner could remain saved if the Spirit left him completely.
Thats the rub huh? lol

Also, do a search on the Puritanboard for the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament or similar search terms. The subject is bound to have been discussed here before.

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earl40

Puritan Board Professor
This made them ripe for conversion to Christianity and explains the Jews' frequent envious reaction to that conversion.

Yep. This explains much of the hostility of the Jews in Acts 13-14, during Paul's first missionary journey. The Gentiles had been coming to synagogue services for a while, but without becoming full converts. Paul and Barnabas come in preaching the gospel, with great success. Enter envy.

It is a good warning to us in the ministry as well.

I hope you don't preach one ought to be circumcised. lol
 
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