Cornelius the Centurion

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by JohnB, Apr 3, 2005.

  1. JohnB

    JohnB
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    I have asked this question in another thread, but it has been either assiduosly ignored or avoided.

    This is not a trick question, I am genuinely interested in an answer from a Calvinistic perspective.

    How do Calvinists explain the story of Cornelius in Acts 10-11 in regard to total inability.
    Cornelius is described as a God fearing, devout gentile who prays to God. Yet he is unregenerate. The angel who God sends to him explains that he will hear the gospel by which he "will be" saved (future tense.)Acts 11:14

    Now, I understand that in Calvinism, regeneration precedes faith. And Cornelius seems to have displayed faith prior to his regeneration. How could this be?

    I could understand if he was responding to "prevenient grace." But grace is Calvinism is either common or efficacious. And man cannot respond to common grace.

    After a lengthy proof of the fact that Cornelius could not be saved prior to Peter's message, John Piper, in a sermon on this passage, says:

    "Here's my suggestion. Cornelius represents a kind of unsaved person among an unreached people group who is seeking God in an extraordinary way. And Peter is saying that God accepts this search as genuine (hence "acceptable" in verse 35) and works wonders to bring that person the gospel."

    "So the fear of God that is acceptable to God in verse 35 is a true sense that there is a holy God, that we have to meet him some day as desperate sinners, that we cannot save ourselves and need to know God's way of salvation, and that we pray for it day and night and seek to act on the light we have. This is what Cornelius was doing."

    There is no doubt to me that God seeks all men: though nature, through conscience, through the Word and through the incarnation of the Christ who came to bring light to the world. That Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. And since God sought us first, all men can now seek God.

    But in Calvinism, how could Cornelius seek God without first having the regeneration of efficacious grace?
     
  2. TCassidy

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    Yes, he was a pious man (Greek eusebhs). But is being pious the same as having faith in Christ as Lord and Savior? I don't think so.
    Cornelius did not seek God. God sought Cornelius and sent Peter, whom God had already prepared, to preach Christ unto him. All the bible says about him was that he was pious, that he feared God, that he was a good giver, and that he prayed. The same can be said of just about every Muslim I know, but they aren't saved nor are they seeking the True God of all creation. They, like Cornelius, are perfectly content with the god they have.
     
  3. icthus

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    Yes, he was a pious man (Greek eusebhs). But is being pious the same as having faith in Christ as Lord and Savior? I don't think so.
    Cornelius did not seek God. God sought Cornelius and sent Peter, whom God had already prepared, to preach Christ unto him. All the bible says about him was that he was pious, that he feared God, that he was a good giver, and that he prayed. The same can be said of just about every Muslim I know, but they aren't saved nor are they seeking the True God of all creation. They, like Cornelius, are perfectly content with the god they have.
    </font>[/QUOTE]This is what I would call a distortion of the facts, and a typical Calvinistic answer!

    The Bible clearly says that Cornelius "feared God with all his house...and prayed to God always" (10:2). How you can say that he was not seeking the True God is beyond me! This is completely a twisting of what it clearly says in Scripture, because it does not support the Calvinistic nonsense of inability, etc.

    If you guys would simply open your eyes to the plain teachings of Scripture, and not trying to spin everything as Calvinistic, the you just may learn something

    Listen to what Scripture goes on to say about God's dealings:

    "Then 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 accepted by Him" (verses 34-35)

    Now, the Calvinist who cannot accept the facts of Scripture, will twist this to say, that the "he that feareth Him", is the elect, which is of course a distortion of the plain teaching of the Bible. But, do we expect the Calvinist's to be honest in what they believe?
     
  4. TCassidy

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    I am sorry my honest answer offended you so much that you have to make such scurrilous accusations against me. It certainly was not my intent to be offensive. Also it strikes me odd that my response is labeled as being "typical Calvinistic" when I am neither typical or Calvinist. [​IMG]
    Well the main reason I don't think that is seeking God is that it doesn't say he was seeking God, only that he feared God and prayed. Couple that with the clear statement of the bible in Romans 3:11 that "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" and I am sure you will see why I believe Cornelius was not seeking God. You see, I believe the bible when it says there are "none that seek after God." I just accept God's word as the final authority on the matter.
    Well, the fact that the bible clearly says that there are none that seek after God pretty much concludes the whole matter for me. You are, of course, free to believe whatever you want to believe, but as for me, I hope you don't mind if I just take God at His word and believe that none seek after God and that would include Cornelius.
    Please forgive me but I thought I was open to the plain teaching of scripture when it says "none seek after God."

    As to spin, I don't have to spin anything, not being a Calvinist and not getting my understanding of doctrine from Calvin but from the bible, the word of God.
    Well, I don't know of anyone what says what you have claimed they say, but I am sure you are an honest man so you must know some Calvinist who has made such a statement. However, I wouldn't say such a thing, but I would say that everyone who fears God and works His righteousness is acceptable to God. Of course my understanding of that is based on the Lord Jesus Christ's words in John 6:29 when He was asked how they might work the works of God He responded by telling them, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." I am absolutely certain that all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior sent by the Father to redeem believers are acceptable to Him and none will be excluded.

    God bless and I hope you are having a glorious Lord's day.
     
  5. Wes Outwest

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    Romans 3:11 is Paul quoting Psalm 14:1-3. David is speaking of the Nation of Israel, and to the GODLESS who are devouring the people of God. It is the Godless, not the unbeliever, who do not seek God. The Godless of our day includes the ACLU that is doing all it can to stymie Christian Faith in America.
     
  6. LaymansTermsPlease

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    Hey, I'm not a Calvinist by any means, but had some thoughts on this one.

    Wouldn't "fearing God with all your house" and "prayed to God always" describe the Pharisees (who certainly weren't on the right path and might have thought they were seeking God, but were missing his new revelation of the messiah).

    Or better yet, let's not be so harsh as the Pharisees, but just say some run of the mill devout jew of the day. I'm sure there were many who feared God and prayed sincerely. Well, fearing God, but rejecting His son...(or never hearing of His son) wasn't going to help these sincere folks. They could go on making all their animal sacrifices, and praying, and miss the boat without Jesus.

    Again, I'm no Calvinist, but it looks pretty clear that God chose to give Cornelius a special vision, that God specifically told Cornelius to send for Peter, and that God told Peter to come to Cornelius.

    Hmmm.. God, God, God...looks to me like God was the prime mover in everything [​IMG]

    Sure Cornelius prayed and fasted and such, but God chose to hear his prayer and remember his alms at this particular time, and reveal Jesus to him via Peter. How many other jews earnestly seeking God missed hearing about Jesus, or even rejected Jesus and chose to "earnestly" seek after God the same way they always had? Many, I'm sure despite the apostles' best efforts.

    While I don't think the Cornelius passage proves anything about free will, I do think it's a wonderful account to prove that salvation and baptism of the Holy Spirit can happen without physical water baptism (love to talk to folks I know who are Church of Christ about this one and the thief on the cross). [​IMG]
     
  7. Wes Outwest

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    Hi Laymenstermsplease,
    Would you also apply that principle of your understanding to Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Joshua, Moses, Caleb, Ruth, Samual, Daniel, David, etc.?
     
  8. JohnB

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    No one can seek God.
    All dogs are brown.
    Look, here's a Dalmation, it's not brown.
    Well, er... it's brown on the inside.

    So Cornlius was honored by God though he was really no different than the "brood of vipers" and "sons of your father the Devil" Pharisees?

    Look, even John Piper, who I respect as one of the foremost proponents of Calvinism alive, had written that Cornelius did seek God and that his fear of God was acceptable. But he did not explain how this could be.

    So far, TCassidy and LaymansTermsPlease have not presented cogent responses.
     
  9. TCassidy

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    So you don't believe Romans 3:11 is "cogent?"
     
  10. icthus

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    So you don't believe Romans 3:11 is "cogent?" </font>[/QUOTE]Hi, you claim not to be a Calvinist, but certainly argue your position as though you are one!

    You, like the Calvinists, quote Romans 3:11 as though the whole purposes of God are summed uo in this one verse.

    I am of the opinion that this verse has been misunderstood, and therefore misused to support something that the Bible does not teach. I will not argue with the verse, as it is the Word of God in truth. However, its application can be seen another way.

    "there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God"

    Left to ourselves, there is not a single person who will ever turn to the Lord, this is an undisputed fact. The heart of man is in rebellion from the Lord, and naturally are against all that God stands for. There is no one who could wake up one morning and say, "I am now going to make a decision to follow Jesus as my Saviour and Lord". This is not possible. Jesus Himself teaches that, "No man can come to me, except the Father Who has sent Me, draw him..." (John 6:44). There is nothing within ourselves that can do this "drawing" to the Lord Jesus, we ALL need the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives BEFORE we can make any decision to follow Christ. Jesus also says in John's Gospel, that one of the works of the Holy Spirit, is to "reprove (convict) the world of sin...of sin because they believe not on me" (16:8,9). One of the ways that the Holy Spirit does this, is by the preaching of the Gospel, as Paul says: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God leading to Salvation, to everyone that believes..."(Romans 1:16)

    The Bible also says that we should "see the Lord while He may be found" (Isaiah 55:6) I also see from Acts 28, that Paul says, "well spoke the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet to our fathers: saying, go unto this people, and say, hearing ye shall hear, and not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive. Because the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (25-27). It is interesting of the change that Paul has made here. In Isaiah we read: "make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes..." (6:10). Paul says: "and their eyes THEY HAVE CLOSED" God did NOT close their eyes for them so that they could not believe the Gospel of Jesus, as the Calvinist would have us believe, for here it clearly says that "we close our own eyes" to the thrth.
     
  11. JohnB

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    Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Romans 3:11 (Psalms 14) is interpreted as an absolute and not as poetic truism. Let's assume that total inability is true.

    The answers thus far still do not provide a reasonable explanation of the story of Cornelius.
    A leading Calvinist has stated that Cornelius was clearly unregenerate yet was clearly seeking and fearing God.

    How can both total depravity and Cornelius's unregenerate seeking be affirmed without denying either?
     
  12. TCassidy

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    Amen! I am glad we finally agree!
    Amen! I am glad to see you have come around to my way of thinking!
    Yes, the Jews, who were already the people of God, were told to seek Him while they still could. That is good advice. The people of God should always be seeking the face of God.
    Uh, I don't know of any Calvinist who believes that God closed their eyes. The whole point is that the people of God closed their own eyes to the Lord.

    And, of course, God does not close the eyes of the lost. Their eyes are already blind to the truth of the Gospel. 1Cor 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
     
  13. TCassidy

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    What "leading Calvinist" has said that Cornelius was "clearly seeking" . . . God?

    I don't know of any Calvinist, leading or otherwise, who says that Cornelius was seeking God. The bible doesn't say he was, but rather, the bible says exactly the opposite, that no man seeks after God.
     
  14. JohnB

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    Did you read my initial post!?!? I have two citations from John Piper. But, so that you don't have to scroll up, I will re-post them below:

    "Here's my suggestion. Cornelius represents a kind of unsaved person among an unreached people group who is seeking God in an extraordinary way. And Peter is saying that God accepts this search as genuine (hence "acceptable" in verse 35) and works wonders to bring that person the gospel."

    "So the fear of God that is acceptable to God in verse 35 is a true sense that there is a holy God, that we have to meet him some day as desperate sinners, that we cannot save ourselves and need to know God's way of salvation, and that we pray for it day and night and seek to act on the light we have. This is what Cornelius was doing."

    Again, these are quotes from John Piper, not me.

    TCassidy, could you refer me to any commentaries that state that Cornelius was not seeking God, as you contend? I am genuinely interested in reading support for your assertion.
     
  15. TCassidy

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    Just because a man fears God, prays, and gives alms does not mean he seeks after God. Cornelius was "what was called a proselyte of the gate, though not a proselyte of justice, because he had not entered into the bond of the covenant by circumcision." (Adam Clarke).

    To say that because he feared God, prayed, and gave alms that he was seeking God has no more foundation that saying that a Muslim who fears God, prays, and gives alms is seeking God. In fact just the opposite is most likely true. He is quite content with his religion and doesn't want anyone, even God, interfering with it.

    If Piper believes that the I will have to say Piper is wrong.

    If Cornelius wanted to know more of God it was because God was drawing him to Himself. This is evidenced by the fact that God had already called and prepared Peter to bring the Gospel to his unsaved man.
     
  16. JohnB

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    TCassidy,

    Thanks for the response. I find it very novel.
    Could you cite any profs or pastors who have held this view?

    Your citation of Clarke in no way indicates that Clarke believed Cornelius was not a seeker. Your quotation is from a paragraph in which Clarke explains why Cornelius was a good choice as the first Gentile convert, that he was not yet a circumcised proselyte.

    Clarke says that pious means that he "worshipped the true God" and that his fear of God meant that he would not "dare to offend his Maker and His Judge."

    I agree that Cornelius was seeking God because God was drawing him.(John 12:32) None of us would seek Him unless he sought us first. Thank God, He sought us first! And he is constantly seeking the lost (Luke 15)! Now all men can respond to His light!(John 1:9) And, if you had read my first post, you would see that is what I believe.

    Calvinism teaches that drawing is ONLY effectual. Regeneration precedes faith. Under Calvinism, Cornelius would have had to have been regenerated in Acts 10:2. But he was not.(Acts 11:14)

    I cited Piper as a standard. If you want to diasgree, fine. But if you are going to have your own unique flavor of Calvinism, that no other Calvinists share, then it would be pointless for me to argue from an objective standard.
     
  17. TCassidy

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    Uh, well, me!
    But you still assume that Cornelius had faith in Acts 10:2 when we know he didn't because he didn't get saved until later. God can draw men to Himself without regenerating them. Once God has drawn them to Himself, He gives them faith to believe and repentance to turn from their wicked life. It is that repentant faith that we call "the born again life."
    First of all John Piper does not do my thinking for me. Secondly I don't have any flavor of Calvinism for I am not a Calvinist. Calvin was a baby-sprinkling heretic! Thirdly I don't look to the writings of men to establish my objective standard. I look to the word of God for my standard. If you wish to discuss the writings of men, find, but don't expect me to accept them as my source of faith or my standard for the establishment of doctrine. My bible does that.
     
  18. JohnB

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    TCassidy,

    Thanks again for your thoughts. In my first post, I asked for an explanation of Acts 10-11 from a Calvinist.

    Since you are "not a Calvinist" and have your own blend of theology (which is fine with me.) and believe that God draws without regenerating, you are indeed not a Calvinist by any standard definition.

    So, no offense, but I will wait for someone who is a professed Calvinist to answer my questions.
     
  19. whetstone

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    Good question. I reread the story- and it's a good one. I think the most important thing to recognize is that Calvinists (by and large) do not claim that a person cannot want to be saved, or that a person cannot excercize faith- we simply state that such faith and desire comes from God initially. The passage assuredly says God had heard Cornelius's prayers and saw his alms, but this has nothing to do with Cornelius acheiving faith on his own. God had to put Cornelius into a family or situation where he would have heard about the Lord- and had to have drawn Cornelius and put a seeking desire in his heart. This passage is no problem at all to Calvinism.

    I think the problem that arises for anti-Calvinists who bite at the bit is that they equate the gradual giving of light to an elect unbeliever with actual salvation. Of course Cornelius wasn't a believer before Peter went to see him- and Calvinism doesn't say he was a believer. He was simply on the road of being eneabled and drawn by the Holy Spirit. When God changed Cornelius's wants- Cornelius changed his will and sent for Peter. Sometimes (like the book of Ruth) the entire workings of God's hand aren't EXplicitly stated, but IMplicitly stated. [​IMG]

    God bless.
     
  20. whetstone

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    I'm a Calvinist by the way [​IMG]
     

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