Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 9, 1953
NUMBER 48, PAGE 2-3a

What Was The Prayer Of Cornelius And How Answered?

E. G. Sewell

We are left to gather from the history of the case generally, what Cornelius prayed for, and the facts show us plainly how his prayer was answered. Many, without studying the case at all, take it for granted that he prayed for converting power, for pardon, and in the next place, as the angel said to him that his prayers were come up for a memorial before God, that therefore the Lord answered his prayer by sending converting power directly from above, to convert and save him. But a careful examination of the case will show to any unprejudiced mind that such is not the case — that he did not pray for converting power to be sent directly, and that such was not sent. In the language of the angel to Cornelius, we get a clue at the design of his prayer. The angel said, "Send for Peter, who shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." Taking this language of the angel as an index to what Cornelius prayed for, we must conclude that he was praying for light, praying to know what to do, and the answer comes in and says Peter will tell you. All take it that the prayer of Cornelius was answered. And as all believe this, then we can tell by the answer what the prayer was, although the prayer is not given. We will therefore have to conclude with certainty, either that the prayer of Cornelius was not heard and answered at all, or else that he prayed for information regarding the plan of salvation and what he was to do. For all that was in the answer was to tell him where to find a man to tell him what to do, to tell him words whereby he and his house should be saved. The answer therefore to his prayer was to be found, not in some direct power from above, but in what Peter was to tell him, in the words that Peter was to speak to him, thus to direct him where and how he was to find salvation. Cornelius had already heard something of Jesus, and the salvation that was preached through him, as we learn from some remarks made by Peter when he went to his house. But he had not heard enough to understand the matter, to know how he and his house were to be saved, and this is just what Peter was to tell him. This makes a very satisfactory conclusion as to what Cornelius prayed for. The light, the information necessary, the converting power was to be found in the words of Peter, for the angel said, as we learn from Peter in eleventh [chapter] of Acts, "who shall tell thee words whereby thou, and all thy house shalt be saved." The converting power, instead of being in some sort of abstract power sent directly from above, was to be in words, telling him plainly what he was to do to be saved. But it may be asked, could Peter speak words that could carry converting power with them? We will see. Christ, before He was crucified said to Peter, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:19) This passage gave to Peter the power to bind or loose in earth or heaven, and surely converting power could be found in such words as those. But that we may get still nearer the matter, and see it still more clearly, hear the words of Jesus in the commission to Peter, and all the apostles, "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." No one can doubt that there is converting power in these words. This explains how what Peter was to bind on earth should be bound in heaven. And the only difference between Peter and the other apostles was in the fact that he was to be the first to preach the gospel, both to the Jews and Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. And the privilege to be the first to open the kingdom to Jews and Gentiles is what was meant, as we understand it, by the promise to Peter of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

These apostles were to preach the gospel everywhere, to every creature, with the promise to all, he that believes and is baptized shall be saved — that binds the matter, both in heaven, and on earth. And on the other hand, he that believeth not shall be damned — this again binds the matter of condemnation both in heaven and on earth. Eternal ruin is unchangeably fixed upon him who refuses to believe the Gospel. With these passages before us, no one can doubt that the words Peter preached had converting power in them. And not only did they have converting power to those that would believe, they had condemning power to all that would not believe. And this is a fearful thought to those who have not confidence enough in the words of the apostles to obey them.

Vast numbers of the people turn away from the word of God, as being wholly insufficient to save them, and suppose that God will send converting power directly down. Thousands of preachers everywhere are thus teaching the people, and turning away their ears from the truth. Surely such do not realize the power of eternal condemnation is in the words of the apostles, and that there is no power in the universe that will save those who reject the words preached by them. If Cornelius had refused the words spoken by Peter, no power would ever have saved him at all, for the only promise was, "he shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shalt be saved." It is therefore not only true that there was power in Peter's words to save Cornelius and his house, but there was power in his words to condemn them forever if they refused. For Peter was required to preach the gospel, and it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, and likewise the power of God to the condemnation of all who believe in it. All that was necessary therefore for the salvation of Cornelius and his house, was that the gospel, which is the power of God to the salvation of believers, should be preached to them. And this work of preaching the gospel was a work that had to be done by men as guided by the Holy Spirit. Angels were not commissioned to preach the gospel, and hence the angel that appeared to Cornelius did not preach the gospel to him, did not tell him what to do, but told him where he could find a man that should tell him all that was necessary for him to do to be saved. Neither did the Holy Spirit in the days of the apostles ever go and preach the gospel to a single man except through men. Hence the Spirit did not go alone to Cornelius. But Peter, a man in whom the Holy Spirit was, and through whom it spake, was to be sent for in order that words, containing converting power, might be heard at the house of Cornelius. And when those words were heard, they were the words of the Spirit, for the apostles spake as the Spirit gave them utterance. Therefore the preaching of Peter was to be the answer to the prayer of Cornelius, and was to contain everything necessary to save him. And we may safely say that words that would be sufficient to save Cornelius and his house, would be sufficient to save all others that would receive them as they did. Therefore if people now desire to know what to do to be saved, instead of praying directly to God for it, they should go to the words of Peter and the other apostles, and from their words learn what to do. For in those cases the Lord sent the information, and even if He were to send it again, directly from heaven, He would not send anything different from what He sent then, for God will not contradict Himself, and besides, whatever would save men then, will save them now and till the close of time, and no new revelations are needed. And if ten thousand angels were sent directly from heaven to tell men what to do to be saved, they would only repeat what the apostles said, and we have that already, and why not take that and go by it. And it is a solemn truth that those who refuse to receive and obey what the apostles preached have no promise of salvation at all, but are under the sentence of condemnation by words that are bound both in heaven and on earth.

But still it is claimed that the words preached by Peter were insufficient for the conversion of Cornelius, that therefore the Spirit had to be poured out upon them to make the matter effectual. But the language says positively that Peter was to tell them words whereby they should be saved, which shows plainly that the words preached by Peter were sufficient for their conversion, their salvation, and therefore the outpouring of the Spirit on that occasion must have been for some other purpose — not to save them, for the words spoken by Peter were to do that. And besides, the outpouring of the Spirit on that occasion was miraculous, enabling those who received it to speak with tongues; and if that be necessary to save men, then all are lost now, for no such thing occurs now, nor has such an event occurred since that day.

But a close examination of the case will show to any one that the miraculous outpouring of the Spirit at the house of Cornelius was to witness, both to the Jews and Gentiles, that the Gentiles were to be equal with the Jews in the blessing of the gospel of Christ. The Spirit witnessed this to six Jewish brethren that were with Peter at the house of Cornelius, and when the matter was reported at Jerusalem by Peter, and confirmed by the six, as is found in eleventh chapter of Acts, the church there held their peace and said, "then hath God also granted the Gentiles repentance unto life." And in fifteenth [chapter] of Acts Peter says of the Gentiles, God "bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did unto us." Such then was the purpose of the miraculous outpouring of the Spirit at the house of Cornelius, and as the testimony was full on that day that God extended the gospel to the Gentiles and Jews alike, it never needed to be repeated, and it never was so far as the Bible records. Cornelius and his household heard the gospel preached by Peter, and obeyed its requirements, including baptism, and were thereby saved, according to the commission given to the apostles by Jesus Christ — saved just as all others were, and are to be saved to the end of time. The answer therefore to the prayer of Cornelius was sufficient to save him and all others that will obey it.