Were it not for grace,
I can tell you where I'd be:
wandering down some pointless road to no where
with my salvation up to me.
And I know how that would go,
the battles I would face—
forever running, but losing the race
were it not for grace.
- "Were It Not For Grace"
David Hamilton & Phil McHugh
In this week's Wednesday Bible story, we meet a man named Cornelius. Luke tells us that Cornelius was a captain of the Roman guard. He was not a Jew, but he was a good man who tried to please God, who kept regular hours of prayer and gave generously to the poor—two things that he had noticed that observant Jews did in order to worship their God. In Luke's day, Cornelius was called a "God-fearer." Not included by birth in God's chosen people, but someone who did everything they could to please this God and be accepted by him.
In this week's story, as Cornelius is devotedly at his prayers, an angel appears to him.
"Your prayers and your giving have brought you to God's attention.
Send to Joppa for a man named Peter. He can tell you how to have life with God."
- Acts 10:4-5, 11:14
Though this story is primarily about Peter's vision—how God gave him permission to go to the house of Cornelius and share the good news of Jesus—there is a chilling truth embedded in it.
You and I are surrounded by God-fearers. People who know a little about God—maybe correct information, maybe misinformation. People who want to be considered "good." People who try very hard by good behavior, good deeds, good values, to be good enough for the God they understand. People who line up in our pews every Sunday and sing all the songs. Who sign up to volunteer and lead and serve. Who establish charities and work for social justice. Who read devotional books every morning. People who chalk up good deeds, but have no personal relationship with the God they fear. They are missing a crucial piece of truth: that a relationship with God comes by grace, offered at the hand of his Son. Not by works—but by the loving act of God. That there is so much more than doing for God; there is being with God and being loved by God.
Would God point to you and say, "She can tell you how to have life with me?"
Let us who know the gospel of grace set the God-fearers free from the gospel of "try harder."
Click here to listen to this week's story and download the Bible study.
Who will you tell this story to?