This devout man was Cornelius who was a Roman centurion of the Italian Cohort living in the ancient coastal city of Caesarea. God sent a man in bright clothing instructing him to send for Simon Peter, an apostle of Christ, residing in the city of Joppa. When Peter came, he declared a message for this man, his family, and friends to be saved (Acts 11:12–14).
What was that message? Peter declared that he and his company are witnesses of all that Jesus did. Peter reminded Cornelius of what Cornelius knew about Jesus being anointed by the Holy Spirit and that Jesus went about doing good and healing all. From this affirmation, Peter testified that Jesus died by being hung on a tree, and that God raised Him on the third day. God chose those who ate and drank with Jesus after He rose from the dead to become witnesses. Jesus commanded witnesses like Peter and his associates to go and proclaim the message to the people revealing that Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Peter concluded that those who believe in Jesus receive the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’s name. Cornelius, his family, and friends heard and believed this gospel message. Because God gave Cornelius and his household the Holy Spirit upon believing, Peter concluded that he could not withhold water for baptizing them, so he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:34–48).
Many people today believe that good people die and go to the good place. Most people see themselves as going to that good place. However, this belief alone excludes salvation coming from Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection. The life of Cornelius revealed that the faithful rather than the “good” have eternal life and forgiveness of sins upon baptism in Jesus's name.
Are you a good person who prays, gives, and knows about Jesus? That did not save Cornelius and his household. Like Cornelius, God wants you to be saved by hearing, believing, and obeying the message of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:17; 1 Cor 15:1–4). The record of Cornelius’s salvation teaches the truth. (1) God does not save a good person for their good works, but God saves those who believe the gospel, find forgiveness in Jesus’s name, and faithfully obey God. (2) Sharing the gospel is as simple as sharing Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. (3) Forgiveness in Jesus’s name includes the command for the faithful to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
The churches of Christ encourage you to believe Jesus resurrected, confess faith, repent of sins, be baptized, and live faithfully (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom 10:9–10). As Christians, we urge everyone to read the Bible and meet with a church of Christ every first day of the week (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Heb 10:24–25).