When was Cornelius saved?

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fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
I searched and was surprised that I could find no thread which dealt with this issue.

Having recently come to a more sound position on the new birth, I still struggle tremendously with this question. When was Cornelius saved in relation to his hearing the Word? Is it true that even among reformed circles some claim that he was already regenerate before Peter came to his house? I have found several opinions in looking at this, and would like to know what you think.

1) Was he an Old Testament believer who had already been exposed to the Word at some time prior to Peter's arrival, as some say Acts 10:37 indicate?

or...

2) Was he regenerated without the Word at some point in the past? This point could be argued by Anti-Means folks or even those who allow for a time gap between regeneration and conversion.

or...

3) Was he saved when heard the Word through Peter?

I am greatly interested in your thoughts. Thank you.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Kevin,

I do not believe that Cornelius was regenerate but not yet born from above. There are two explanations for Acts 10:1-6. #1 Cornelius was already saved ~or~ #2 Cornelius was religious for the God of Israel, but not yet saved. I happen to believe it was #2. The first scenario presupposes that Cornelius, a Gentile, already knew the Gospel and had believed. I don't see evidence of that in the narrative. Scenario #2 makes the most sense. A love for the God of Israel, but lacking knowledge of the Gospel until it was preached to him by Peter.

I have never held to this view that someone could be regenerate and not saved. Sure, the ordo salutis places regeneration before faith, but the gap between them is imperceptible.
 

fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Bill. I think I must agree with you on this. But I would like to ask a question about some of your language.

I don't understand your first statement...

Kevin,

I do not believe that Cornelius was regenerate but not yet born from above.

Also, this statement...

I have never held to this view that someone could be regenerate and not saved.

Are you making a distinction between regenerated, being saved, and being born from above?

I only ask because sometimes I have thought that the 'word' saved in scripture refers to the actual 'deliverance' aspect of one who has been quickened.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I am of the opinion that Cornelius was already regenerate. The significance of the event, as I read it, was twofold: (1) He learned that the substance behind the OT shadows had now arrived, which no doubt was a joy to him, and (2) his house were the first non-proselyte Gentiles to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating that the Gentiles could experience this as well. He was sort of an inter-Testamental believer, in my opinion, like Simeon and Anna, except for being a Gentile.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Bill. I think I must agree with you on this. But I would like to ask a question about some of your language.

I don't understand your first statement...

Kevin,

I do not believe that Cornelius was regenerate but not yet born from above.

Also, this statement...

I have never held to this view that someone could be regenerate and not saved.

Are you making a distinction between regenerated, being saved, and being born from above?

I only ask because sometimes I have thought that the 'word' saved in scripture refers to the actual 'deliverance' aspect of one who has been quickened.

Kevin, thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my words. There is a view among some Reformed believers that a person can be regenerate but not a Christian. In other words, the sequence of the ordo salutis has not been completed. Their heart of stone may have been replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26), and therefore, they are illumined to the work of the Spirit of God. However, they are not Christians; they are not part of the invisible church. I strongly disagree with that viewpoint. I am using the word "saved" to denote a person who has repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ. That person is no longer just regenerate. That person is a child of God; completely delivered from the domain of sin and now a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
 

fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Bill. I think I must agree with you on this. But I would like to ask a question about some of your language.

I don't understand your first statement...

Kevin,

I do not believe that Cornelius was regenerate but not yet born from above.

Also, this statement...

I have never held to this view that someone could be regenerate and not saved.

Are you making a distinction between regenerated, being saved, and being born from above?

I only ask because sometimes I have thought that the 'word' saved in scripture refers to the actual 'deliverance' aspect of one who has been quickened.

Kevin, thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my words. There is a view among some Reformed believers that a person can be regenerate but not a Christian. In other words, the sequence of the ordo salutis has not been completed. Their heart of stone may have been replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26), and therefore, they are illumined to the work of the Spirit of God. However, they are not Christians; they are not part of the invisible church. I strongly disagree with that viewpoint. I am using the word "saved" to denote a person who has repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ. That person is no longer just regenerate. That person is a child of God; completely delivered from the domain of sin and now a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

So you're saying that a regeneration and 'being saved' are different? The former being the first work of God upon the soul, and being saved the effect? If so, unless you say it's only a logical order then you seem to be similar to those certain reformed people whom you say you disagree with, who do hold to a chronological order. Please don't let me misrepresent you if I am in any way. I'm just trying to learn more about the ordo.

Now, as for this time gap that they hold to, did not Berkhof believe the same? I think I remember reading such in his Systematic Theology.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Bill. I think I must agree with you on this. But I would like to ask a question about some of your language.

I don't understand your first statement...

Kevin,

I do not believe that Cornelius was regenerate but not yet born from above.

Also, this statement...

I have never held to this view that someone could be regenerate and not saved.

Are you making a distinction between regenerated, being saved, and being born from above?

I only ask because sometimes I have thought that the 'word' saved in scripture refers to the actual 'deliverance' aspect of one who has been quickened.

Kevin, thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my words. There is a view among some Reformed believers that a person can be regenerate but not a Christian. In other words, the sequence of the ordo salutis has not been completed. Their heart of stone may have been replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26), and therefore, they are illumined to the work of the Spirit of God. However, they are not Christians; they are not part of the invisible church. I strongly disagree with that viewpoint. I am using the word "saved" to denote a person who has repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ. That person is no longer just regenerate. That person is a child of God; completely delivered from the domain of sin and now a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

So you're saying that a regeneration and 'being saved' are different? The former being the first work of God upon the soul, and being saved the effect? If so, unless you say it's only a logical order then you seem to be similar to those certain reformed people whom you say you disagree with, who do hold to a chronological order. Please don't let me misrepresent you if I am in any way. I'm just trying to learn more about the ordo.

Now, as for this time gap that they hold to, did not Berkhof believe the same? I think I remember reading such in his Systematic Theology.

Kevin, there is a theological precision in the ordo salutis and then there is the practicum. Yes, regeneration must take place before faith, but in all honesty that chronological distinction doesn't even register as a blip. I hold to the position that entire ordo salutis is one event rooted in Gods's effectual call. Where I differ with some others is that I do not believe it is possible (and I don't believe scripture supports it) to be regenerated and yet not exercise saving faith in that blip of time I was referring to. From a logical point of view I just can't see a bunch of Christians in some sort of pupa state. A person is either a Christian or they're not.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
For the record, I am not one of those who thinks regeneration can occur without saving faith being exercised. I think Cornelius was the equivalent of an OT saint until Peter told him Christ had come and with that the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit even for Gentiles.
 

APuritansMind

Puritan Board Junior
This quote from Matthew Henry may be helpful:

"Now here are two things very surprising, and worthy our consideration—[1.] Cornelius prays and gives alms in the fear of God, is religious himself and keeps up religion in his family, and all this so as to be accepted of God in it, and yet there is something further that he ought to do—he ought to embrace the Christian religion, now that God has established it among men. Not, He may do it if he pleases; it will be an improvement and entertainment to him. But, He must do it; it is indispensably necessary to his acceptance with God for the future, though he has been accepted in his services hitherto. He that believed the promise of the Messiah must now believe the performance of that promise. Now that God has given a further record concerning his Son than what had been given in the Old-Testament prophecies he requires that we receive this when it is brought to us; and now neither our prayers nor our alms can come up for a memorial before God unless we believe in Jesus Christ, for it is that further which we ought to do. This is his commandment, that we believe. Prayers and alms are accepted from those that believe that the Lord is God, and have not opportunity of knowing more; but, from those to whom it is preached that Jesus is Christ, it is necessary to the acceptance of their persons, prayers, and alms, that they believe this, and rest upon him alone for acceptance."
 
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au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Right, and the same could be said for, say, John the Baptist. He was regenerate, but he couldn't very well deny Jesus once he made himself known as the awaited Messiah.
 

fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
I think one thing to consider is that Cornelius was a transitional figure in going from the Old to the New Testament. Therefore, it might be unsafe to be dogmatic about any position that we hold in regards to him.

The two things that I find difficult to crack are the piety with which he possesses before Peter's arrival, and the words of Peter in vindicating his ministry to this Gentile amongst the brethren; namely, that of Acts 11:14:

"Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved."

If he was saved before, then what do these words mean?

The case of Cornelius is very personal to me. In my background I was taught an "Anti-Means" position which held that the gospel played no role in the new birth experience. I have lately had to correspond with some who have used Cornelius as their "proof" text. Even if he was already saved before Peter's arrival, I still do not think it is enough to overthrow the abundance of evidence set forth in the New Testament which clearly show the use of means as the ordinary method, as our forefathers stated.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Kevin,
This is a "visible-invisible" thing. We are, absent the revealing nature of Scripture, left with no more than Cornelius' profession of faith.

Lots of people profess faith, lots of people who are never going to be seen in heaven.

For this cause, we preach the gospel, and we never quit encouraging "believers" to keep believing the saving Word. "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." If Cornelius really wanted to be saved, after he had supposedly been adhering to the faith of Israel, then he needed to "keep" believing in that same source of Truth, which now pointed (in fact it always had pointed) to Christ. But this was new revelation. Either hold on to it, with the same tenacity (or more!) than before, or he and his will be lost.

We firmly believe in "the perseverance of the saints," however, we always remember the objective realities that run through the TULIP are not visible to us. They are all ascertained by faith. The fact is, the Means we use to call people to faith must (in God's providence) actually be used by us.

The words to the Jailer are Paul's words to me, his fellow-elder: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
People can come to true faith even today with only the Old Testament Scriptures in their hands.

All they need to be saved in the ordinary way by God's special revelation and by the Holy Spirit, is a sure text from God's Word that God is willing and able to save sinners.

How many Old Testament saints knew that the Messiah was going to be called "Jesus"?

Cornelius already had the Gospel that was necessary for his salvation, as did, e.g., Isaiah and all the OT saints, as does anyone today who only has a Old Testament but has never seen or heard the New Testament. :2cents:
 

captivewill

Puritan Board Freshman
I searched and was surprised that I could find no thread which dealt with this issue.

Having recently come to a more sound position on the new birth, I still struggle tremendously with this question. When was Cornelius saved in relation to his hearing the Word? Is it true that even among reformed circles some claim that he was already regenerate before Peter came to his house? I have found several opinions in looking at this, and would like to know what you think.

1) Was he an Old Testament believer who had already been exposed to the Word at some time prior to Peter's arrival, as some say Acts 10:37 indicate?

or...

2) Was he regenerated without the Word at some point in the past? This point could be argued by Anti-Means folks or even those who allow for a time gap between regeneration and conversion.

or...

3) Was he saved when heard the Word through Peter?

I am greatly interested in your thoughts. Thank you.

He was as safe as he ever needed to be when he was named in Christ from the foundation of the world.
 

fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
I appreciate everyone's responses but now let me ask this.

I have been in contact with some who use Cornelius as their 'poster-child' for their persuasion that gospel means are not employed by the Lord in regeneration/conversion. We know the bible clearly teaches the use of means, but how would you respond to one who leaned heavily on Cornelius in order to disprove it?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I appreciate everyone's responses but now let me ask this.

I have been in contact with some who use Cornelius as their 'poster-child' for their persuasion that gospel means are not employed by the Lord in regeneration/conversion. We know the bible clearly teaches the use of means, but how would you respond to one who leaned heavily on Cornelius in order to disprove it?

Let me ask this, how was the gospel not the means of Cornelius' conversion.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I appreciate everyone's responses but now let me ask this.

I have been in contact with some who use Cornelius as their 'poster-child' for their persuasion that gospel means are not employed by the Lord in regeneration/conversion. We know the bible clearly teaches the use of means, but how would you respond to one who leaned heavily on Cornelius in order to disprove it?

The Good News is in the Old Testament scriptures. There is enough for the Holy Spirit to save someone there. Also in the Old Testament ceremonies properly carried out there was plenty Gospel.

There is lots of Gospel in the Law, and the Prophets and Writings. Without the New Testament you would not know that the Messiah's name was going to be "Jesus of Nazareth", but you do not need to know this to be saved.
 

captivewill

Puritan Board Freshman
I appreciate everyone's responses but now let me ask this.

I have been in contact with some who use Cornelius as their 'poster-child' for their persuasion that gospel means are not employed by the Lord in regeneration/conversion. We know the bible clearly teaches the use of means, but how would you respond to one who leaned heavily on Cornelius in order to disprove it?

We must carefully understand the differences between justification and regeneration.
Cornelius' story reveals his regeneration but he probably was yet to fully learn to understand his
justification. But clearly he was named in Christ from the foundation of the world.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
We must carefully understand the differences between justification and regeneration.
Cornelius' story reveals his regeneration but he probably was yet to fully learn to understand his
justification. But clearly he was named in Christ from the foundation of the world.

If Cornelius was regenerate then he was justified. You can't have one without the other.

I'm sure he had a lot to learn from Peter and the other Apostles about both justification and regeneration in the clearer and fuller light of the New Covenant.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The two things that I find difficult to crack are the piety with which he possesses before Peter's arrival, and the words of Peter in vindicating his ministry to this Gentile amongst the brethren; namely, that of Acts 11:14:

"Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved."

Typically the New Testament authors used "saved" to mean spared on the day of judgment, rather than regenerated, although obviously you need the latter to get the former. This is why we don't allow Arminians to use Rom. 10:9 to prove that faith precedes regeneration:

Rom. 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

It isn't saying, "You will then be born again," but "You will be saved on the last day."
 

fralo4truth

Puritan Board Freshman
That's a very interesting observation Austin. If it be true that the word 'saved' as used by New Test. authors mostly has reference to the consummation of our salvation at the last day, and that this is under consideration in Acts 11:14, then it really clears up a lot for me.

So would you say the same is true for such passages as Rom.1:16, 1 Cor. 1:21? I have always looked at 'saved' in those places as making reference to the happenings of the new birth.

Now 1 Tim. 4:16 I view differently. I think the reference there is definitely to the sanctification phase of our salvation and its ultimate consummation at the last day.

I would be interested to know if there are others here who agree with you, especially Acts 11:14; that this is not referring to the regeneration of Cornelius, but to his salvation in the future sense.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
So would you say the same is true for such passages as Rom.1:16, 1 Cor. 1:21? I have always looked at 'saved' in those places as making reference to the happenings of the new birth.

I would say the word "saved" is loaded with meaning in the Bible and covers a wide range of things in the grand plan of salvation. Just because when Paul says "thou shalt be saved" he is specifically referring to deliverance on the last day does not mean that I need to deny that new birth is truly salvation (and I know you weren't saying otherwise). I view the word "saved" holistically, I guess. Context will reveal exactly how it is being used, but in any case the word is loaded with meaning. I would say we need to be careful to look back to the Prophets and Psalms, etc. in determining the full range of the word and not beginning with the New Testament. That is a very real hermeneutical danger for us.

In Cornelius' case, I think it suffices to say that he must believe in the gospel to be saved. I cannot conclude that he was certainly unregenerate before he heard about the fulfillment of the promises, because the text in numerous ways indicates otherwise (see especially Acts 10:2, 10:31, and 10:35), but I can safely say that Cornelius needed to believe in the gospel and not reject it, just as the same was true of John the Baptist, who was regenerate from the womb but could not have rejected the Messiah when he saw him and then claim he could be saved without Jesus.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
I think one thing to consider is that Cornelius was a transitional figure in going from the Old to the New Testament. Therefore, it might be unsafe to be dogmatic about any position that we hold in regards to him.

The two things that I find difficult to crack are the piety with which he possesses before Peter's arrival, and the words of Peter in vindicating his ministry to this Gentile amongst the brethren; namely, that of Acts 11:14:

"Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved."

If he was saved before, then what do these words mean?

The case of Cornelius is very personal to me. In my background I was taught an "Anti-Means" position which held that the gospel played no role in the new birth experience. I have lately had to correspond with some who have used Cornelius as their "proof" text. Even if he was already saved before Peter's arrival, I still do not think it is enough to overthrow the abundance of evidence set forth in the New Testament which clearly show the use of means as the ordinary method, as our forefathers stated.

He could have been speaking of salvation in the complete sense of fully realized glorification in heaven. We are saved and we are also being saved. Scripture uses the term in both senses. That's why it is not a presumption of an unregenerate state when I say to strangers, "May God save you."
 

baron

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not sure if I should post this question here or start a new thread.

I have a question regarding Cornelius in Acts 10 and Synergism. If he was not saved before Peter came to him then can we say that he cooperated with God? In verse 5 he is told to send men to Joppa for Peter. In verse 7 & 8 he sends a devout soldier and two house hold servants. Could not Cornelius say that he cooperated with God because if he did not send the men Peter would not of came? So by cooperating with God he helped in his salvation. Or am I confused about synergism?

I hold to the view that Cornelius was saved prior to Peters coming.
 
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