Often today we hear some sincere person exclaim, “You know, so and so seems to be such a good person and they seem to be such a good family, don’t you think that they are saved people?” This statement or one similar comes up very often in conversation today. The question deserves a Biblical answer not an emotional one, as many are prone to offer. What does the Bible say about sincerity, honesty, and good morals?
Perhaps the best illustration in the Scriptures of God’s attitude toward the honest, sincere, moral person is revealed to us in Acts 10, please read the following quotation before we discuss it further:
Acts 10:1-6, “Now (there was) a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian (band), a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision openly, as it were about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying to him, Cornelius. And he, fastening his eyes upon him, and being affrighted, said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are gone up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and fetch one Simon, who is surnamed Peter: he lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side.” (ASV)
1. Cornelius was a good, sincere, honest, moral man but he was not saved from his sin – See qualities in 10:2.
2. In 10:4 we see that God took note of his good deeds and morality but encouraged him by the angel to do more than that. There is a lesson here for all people of all ages.
“THERE IS MORE TO SALVATION FROM SIN THAN BEING GOOD”
3. In 10:5, 6 the angel instructs Cornelius to send to Joppa and request that Simon Peter come to his home and tell him what he needed to do further, See verses 5, 6 above.
In this introduction to the context of chapter 10 we clearly see that Cornelius was a good, sincere, honest, moral man and yet God sends an angel to instruct him on what he needed to do further. Today we have God’s Written Word (i.e. the Bible) to guide is in understanding what the will of the Lord is. But at the time contemporary with Cornelius the written word was incomplete.
Whenever Peter received the messengers from Cornelius he acted according to his instructions from God and came to the home of Cornelius:
Acts 10:17-35, “Now while Peter was much perplexed in himself what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood before the gate, and called and asked whether Simon, who was surnamed Peter, were lodging there. And while Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. But arise, and get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting: for I have sent them. And Peter went down to the men, and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius a centurion, a righteous man and one that feareth God, and well reported of by all the nation of the Jews, was warned (of God) by a holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words from thee.So he called them in and lodged them. And on the morrow he arose and went forth with them, and certain of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And on the morrow they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his kinsmen and his near friends. And when it came to pass that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and findeth many come together: and he said unto them, Ye yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to join himself or come unto one of another nation; and (yet) unto me hath God showed that I should not call any man common or unclean: wherefore also I came without gainsaying, when I was sent for. I ask therefore with what intent ye sent for me. And Cornelius said, Four days ago, until this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel, and saith, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call unto thee Simon, who is surnamed Peter; he lodgeth in the house of Simon a tanner, by the sea side. Forthwith therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all things that have been commanded thee of the Lord. And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him.” (ASV)
In this portion of the 10th chapter we can see that Peter came to the home of Cornelius, the Centurion rehearsed the things that had happened to him earlier, and Peter then exclaimed “But in every nation he that feared him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him” (10:35). This exclamation from Peter simply indicates that Cornelius, as with everyone, may be saved from sin by “fearing God and working righteousness.” (I.e. reverencing God and obeying Him).
Peter, after arriving at the home of Cornelius began to preach Jesus to him and his assembled family. At the conclusion of the sermon by Peter Cornelius and his family were baptized for the remission of sin as the Jews were on the Day of Pentecost earlier, see Acts 2:38. Notice the instructions of Peter at the close of his sermon at the home of Cornelius: Acts 10:47-48, “Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” (ASV)
We see that at the conclusion of the sermon in Acts 10 Cornelius and his family were baptized, but why were they baptized if their goodness, sincerity, honesty, and good moral could save them from sin? It is a Biblical fact that salvation from sin is acquired through belief, repentance, confession and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and in no other way (cf. Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Peter 3L21). Therefore, Cornelius and his family were saved from their sins, not by their good deeds, etc., but by their willingness to obey the instructions that came from God via Simon Peter. Please notice the statements in the Bible that establish the necessity of obedience over all other considerations:
1 Samuel 15:22, “And Samuel said, Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Job 36:10-12, “10 He openeth also their ear to instruction, And commandeth that they return from iniquity. If they hearken and serve (him), They shall spend their days in prosperity, And their years in pleasures. But if they hearken not, they shall perish by the sword, And they shall die without knowledge.” (ASV)
Acts 5:29, “But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.” (ASV)
2 Thessalonians 1:8, “rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus:” (ASV)
Hebrews 5:9, “and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;” (ASV)
1 Peter 4:17-18, “17 For the time (is come) for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if (it begin) first at us, what (shall be) the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” (ASV)
Indeed, it is good to be honest, sincere, and morally correct, but man is instructed to obey God’s instructions too if he desires salvation from sin. Regardless of ones apparent goodness one cannot be saved from sin without coming to Christ on HIS TERMS (cf. Hebrews 5:8-9, “though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation;” (ASV)