Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Reflecting upon lifestyles
Acts 10:1-8

warm up

Have you ever met someone that you thought, because of their lifestyle (activities, habits, etc), must be a Christian only to learn that they were not? If so, what were some of the noticeable things about them that made you think that he or she was a Christian?
Have you ever met someone that claimed to be a Christian but found that their lifestyle left you wondering? Why?
wise up

    Attitudes and morals are often reflected in the "lifestyles" of people. Close scrutiny of the way one lives (their actions, habits, language, manners, morals and ethics) can reflect the "heart" of an individual. Like it or not, we all have a lifestyle that is either a good example to those around us or a poor example. 

I. Cornelius was devout: Vs. 1-2
   1. Today we may think of a "centurion" as someone who has lived 100 years or more, but in the first century it was a soldier who commanded 100 men. Cornelius evidently was a Roman soldier and served in an "Italian band."  He was the first "Gentile" (non-Jew) to have the offer of salvation through Christ offered to him. But he was not a typical Roman, typical Gentile, or typical commander when it came to his lifestyle. Read verse 2 again and then list and discuss the qualities he already possessed even before becoming a Christian.
    2. What does the word "devout" mean? How would our neighbors know if we are "devout?" How would they know if we were not devout? What three actions are mentioned in verse 2 that give clues as to why Cornelius was considered "devout?" Would those same activities or the lack of them give others a clue about us?  
    3. As a class, discuss what it means to "fear God?" Can it mean to be afraid? Can it also mean to reverence and venerate? Can it include both? Should it?
    4. According to Vs 2, Cornelius was also a very generous man. After reading verse 7, discuss what we should probably conclude about his financial status. Does one have to be rich to be charitable? Was his prayer life haphazard or persistent? Does one have to be a Christian to pray? 
According to verse 22, Cornelius also had a good reputation among the Jews. How important is one's reputation and why is it important? 
Just based upon his outward actions, his devotion to God and charity toward others, what would you conclude about this man? Don't you wish everyone was like him in these things mentioned? But looking ahead at Acts 11:13-14, was this good devout man saved? Was he a Christian? Can one be a wholesome, devout, God fearing, prayerful and caring person and still not be saved?  (Obviously, there is more to being a Christian than just living a good and godly lifestyle.) We may know of people today that might argue that they are just as good as any Christian. And they may be even better than many. But the question is not "Are they good people?" The question is "Are they washed in the blood of Jesus?" 
    7. It is interesting that back in Acts 2:5, those Jews that heard the first gospel sermon by Peter were also said to be "devout men from every nation." Obviously God wanted the gospel (good news) and its offer of salvation through Christ to go to those who were most receptive and God fearing first. This may be why he chose Cornelius to be the first Gentile convert to Christ.

II. Cornelius was directed: Vs 3-6 
   1. Just as we noticed with the Ethiopian in Acts 8, God in his providence allowed seekers to be given an opportunity to hear and learn his will. In this unusual case, He gave Cornelius a vision telling him to call for Peter who would tell him what he "ought" to do. Just as in other cases of conversion, the information regarding what must be done was not given by Jesus himself, or even by an angel. The gospel was to be taught and preached by men. (Cf., Mark 16:15-16.) Today that same message given by Peter to Cornelius needs to be heard, received open mindedly, and obeyed by all those who are like Cornelius today. (Good people but not saved people.)
Why was Peter chosen to be the one to instruct Cornelius? (Consider Matthew 16:19.) According to verse 6, why did Cornelius need to call for Peter?  What are the implications of the word "ought" as used in the KJV. Compare Acts 11:14 to Acts 10:6. Does this imply, when it comes to salvation, that there are things that we "ought to do" as well as "believe" taught in the gospel?

III. Cornelius was decisive: Vs. 7-8
   1. There was no hesitation on the part of Cornelius to do exactly what he was instructed to do. Like the commander that he was, he followed orders and sent two trusted servants and a devout soldier on this most important mission.

wrap up

   1.  Lifestyle is important. As Christians we should try to "equal or exceed" the example set by Cornelius and other non-Christian (but good people) when it comes to being devout, God fearing, generous and prayerful. But as important as a good lifestyle is, it is not in itself sufficient. We still need the grace and forgiveness of God that comes only through our faith in Christ and obedience to his gospel. We too need to hear and obey the words, the truths and instructions that Cornelius needed to hear and obey in order to be saved.


  Please read Acts 10:9-23 for next week    copyright 2001