The Christian must labour to rightly divide the word, so as not to misrepresent God and His truth. If we put forth anything as doctrine, we must strive to ensure, as God enables, that our words are truly in accordance with Holy Scripture, with the whole counsel of God found therein. Yet, we all see in part; none have a perfect understanding of all doctrine. As a result, we should be prayerful, patient, humble, fearful (in the godly sense), and yet diligent in seeking out God’s truth, reasoning it out with one another, challenging one another (in love and humility), and really striving to being good Bereans.
We must also ask ourselves, ‘does this matter really glorify God?’ Is there any real benefit to the brethren in hammering it out? Do we have an opportunity to see and understand Christ, and the Godhead of whom He is the fullness bodily, when we discuss and contemplate the issue? In this case, I trust the answer is yes! Why? I aim to get to that towards the end of this article. In the meantime, if God puts it on your heart to read this,
Consider Acts 10:22…
“And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a JUST [righteous; G1342; dikaios; δίκαιος] MAN, and one that FEARETH GOD, and OF GOOD REPORT [G3140; martyreō; μαρτυρέω] AMONG ALL THE NATION OF THE JEWS, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.”
Cornelius, A Just/Righteous Man
Notice first that Cornelius was a just man; where have we heard that before? The first New Testament use of that term is found in:
The same word used to describe Joseph (husband of Miriam/Mary), an Old Testament-type Gospel believer, was used to describe Cornelius. Both believed upon the true God and Savior; both were looking for that Divine Messiah who was to come; both lacked the full Gospel details that we have in our day (via the completed word); but both were Gospel believers in the same sense as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, et. al. We read in Galatians 3:11 “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, the just [G1342] shall live by faith.” All of these holy men of old, along with Cornelius, lived by God-wrought faith. Yet, where does such faith come from? Is it natural to the carnal man? Of course not. We read in Romans 10:17 “So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” These men had faith because they heard God’s word with God-given, spiritual ears to hear. Now were they first quickened, and given the power to hear? Absolutely; no one can hear with spiritual ears to hear, without first being quickened. Nonetheless, the faith associated with being just only comes from hearing (and thus believing) the word of God, whether spoken to them directly (as with many of the early Old Testament saints) or via holy writ alone (as it is in our day and as it was in theirs, for many).
Cornelius, A Devout/Godly Man
Seing that Cornelius was a just man, and thus walked and lived by faith, with a faith that can only come from hearing God’s word, consider the next point in light thereof:
Acts 10:1-2 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band], 2 [A] devout [godly; G2152; eusebēs; εὐσεβής] [man], and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Notice that Cornelius was a devout/pious/godly man; can one be experimentally godly/devout towards God, apart from the word of God, and the Gospel of God? The answer is no; there is no godliness, no true devotion to God, apart from His word of truth.
Now the first New Testament use of that term devout (G2152) is found in the passage immediately above (concerning Cornelius). However, the next use of that term is in the following passage:
Acts 22:12-14 “And one Ananias, a devout [godly; G2152; eusebēs; εὐσεβής] man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt [there], 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, THE GOD OF OUR FATHERS hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.”
Ananias was a devout/godly man, like Cornelius, and we know that this word devout rightly relates to the term godly, per the following passage:
2 Peter 2:7-9 “And delivered just [righteous; G1342; dikaios; δίκαιος] Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous [just; G1342; dikaios; δίκαιος] man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed [his] righteous [just; G1342; dikaios; δίκαιος] soul from day to day with [their] unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly [devout; G2152; eusebēs; εὐσεβής] out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished…”
So we see that the same words for righteous/just and devout/godly, used for Ananias, were likewise used for Cornelius. This further evidences the fact that Cornelius, like Ananias, was the equivalent of an Old Testament, Gospel believer (a Yahweh/Jehovah Elohim worshiper; one awaiting the coming of the Messiah/Christ). They both held to the Gospel, albeit in a more concealed form; hence the need for further New Testament revelation.
Cornelius, A Man Having A Good Report Amongst The Jews
This part may appear more speculative; however, I believe it stands. It is my firm belief that for the Jews to have a good report of Cornelius (a gentile), and Ananias, neither of them could be pagans. This belief is reinforced by the use of the prior words we saw to describe them (just/righteous and devout/godly). That term good report comes from the Greek word martyreō [G3140; μαρτυρέω], from whence we get the English word martyr, and it means to bear witness/record, to testify, etc. The Jews bore witness of Cornelius because he prayed to Jehovah/Yahweh (not Zeus/Poseidon), feared Jehovah/Yahweh (not Hades/Apollo), and worshiped Jehovah/Yahweh (not Hera, Hermes, or Artemis). Clearly Cornelius was amongst the Jews, and no doubt heard both Old Testament scripture from them, and biblical discussions from them, and knew the true and living God and of the Messiah that was to come.
Cornelius, A Man Who Feared God
Scripture states that Cornelius feared God [phobeō; G5399; φοβέω; to fear, to be afraid, to be afraid of; from whence we get the English word phobia]. To fear God (with a right, holy, and spiritual fear) is to know Him; one cannot rightly, or truly, fear God, or know God, apart from His holy word, and the Gospel found therein. Those who do not know Him through His word may fear Him carnally, slavishly, when in certain situations or predicaments; however, they do not fear Him with a holy awe, reverence, and felt since of nothingness before a thrice holy, and all majestic, God.
Proverbs 2:1-7 “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth [cometh] knowledge and understanding. 7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: [he is] a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
To have and understand the fear of the Lord, per the above, clearly requires hearing and receiving the word, hiding it in one’s heart, crying out after it, as one seeks it diligently. The word of God, and the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding associated with it (when Holy Spirit-wrought), leads to the fear of the Lord. There is absolutely no fear of the Lord apart from knowing the Lord and hearing His word. God’s word and His fear are intricately yoked. Thus, the law of God (when spiritually discerned) is yoked with the fear of God; not the abrogated commandments/ordinances/rituals but the whole of Scripture still in effect for us today, with all the imperatives, admonitions, reproofs, promises, and other encouragements found therein. The law, in this regard, is synonymous with the word of God, as is the instruction of wisdom as we read in:
Proverbs 15:32-33 “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. 33 The fear of the LORD [IS] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility.
Likewise, the instruction of wisdom (Proverbs 15:33) is synonymous with the law of the wise, which (again) ties into the fear of the Lord:
Proverbs 13:14 “The law of the wise [IS] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:27 “The fear of the LORD [IS] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Regarding Hebrew (Synonymous) Parallelism (i.e. using different terms to relay the same truth), and other keyword associations, consider the following which also clearly yokes the word (in its various forms) with the fear:
Psalm 19:7-11 “The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The FEAR of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there is] great reward.”
Proverbs 1:7…29-30 “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction… 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.“
Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do [his commandments]: his praise endureth for ever.”
Proverbs 4:5 “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.”
Job 28:28 “And unto man [God] said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding.”
Psalm 34:11 “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.“
In the above, we clearly see the fear of the Lord yoked to doing his commandments, and doing his commandments is yoked to the word that reveals those commands (God’s councel, teachings, judgments, etc., all proceeding from His mouth, being His spoken/written words). Likewise, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and that knowledge is paralleled with the words wisdom and instruction. When blessed of God, wisdom and instruction come via the word of God, as Proverbs 1:1-7 establishes.
Consider also the following, which yokes the word of God with the Spirit of God:
Proverbs 1:23 “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.”
Isaiah 59:21 “As for me, this [is] my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My Spirit that [is] upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”
John 3:34 “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto him].”
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life.”
1 Corinthians 12:8 “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;“
Ephesians 6:17 “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:“
Cornelius, A Man Who Prayed and Gave Alms.
According to Acts 10:2 Cornelius was a man who gave much alms [mercy, pity, charity, donations] to the people and who prayed to God alway, in such a manner, that ‘his prayers and his alms came up for a memorial before God’ per verse four. Note the following passages:
John 9:31 “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”
Proverbs 28:9 “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer [shall be] abomination.“
Zechariah 7:11-13 “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12 Yea, they made their hearts [as] an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. 13 Therefore it is come to pass, [that] as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts…”
Isaiah 59:2 “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid [his] face from you, that he will not hear.”
Proverbs 15:29 “The LORD [is] far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.”
God hears the righteous; He hears the prayers of those who hearken to His words; but He abominates the prayers of those who will not heed His counsel. This is a fearful, terrifying truth, but one that needs to be proclaime and heeded. It is a blessed honour and mercy to have one’s prayers heard by God.
In the context of Cornelius, we see that for Cornelius to be heard, for His prayers to reach unto God favourably, Cornelius had to have been one who was (1) justifed and sanctified in Christ but also one who was (2) a hearer, and doer, of God’s word. Again, there is no subjective/experimental righteousness before God, experiential devoutness/godliness before God, or a willingness on God’s part to hear the prayers of someone, apart from His holy and blessed word (applied to, and made active in, their life, by the Holy Spirit, in light of eternal vital union with Christ, and in light of His finished work on Calvary’s cross on the sinner’s behalf).
We must put away mysticism and false notions; God’s holy word (the Bible) is intimately yoked to every aspect of a Christian’s life and salvation. It is not enough to simply say “I know God, I am called by His Name;” for (per Psalm 138:2) God has magnified His word above all His name. His word is vital, it is essential, to every aspect of a quickened saint’s spiritual life, well-being, and growth/progress.
Cornelius, A Man Born Of Water (The Spiritual Word of God) and The Holy Spirit
We know that by The Spirit, the third person of the Triune Godhead, God the Holy Spirit is in view. However, what is the water? Some say it is the physical water associated with water baptism. Others say it is the amniotic sac that ruptures when a mother is about to give birth (hence the “water breaking”). It is my strong belief, however, that the water is the word of God in general, but particularly, the Gospel truth revealed therein, through the work of the Spirit of God (who is typified by the wind, seeing that both the Greek word, and the Hebrew word, for wind, is the same as the Greek/Hebrew words for spirit/Spirit).
The following passages clearly evidence that God’s spiritual water is the word of God (when spiritually applied to quickened hearts/minds by the Spirit of God):
John 3:5-8 “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born [begotten; G1080; gennaō; γεννάω] of water and [of] The Spirit [G4151; pneuma; πνεῦμα], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born [begotten; G1080; gennaō; γεννάω] of The Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind [sameG4151; pneuma; πνεῦμα as Spirit] bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of The Spirit [same G4151; pneuma; πνεῦμα as wind].
Psalm 147:15-18 “[The LORD] sendeth forth His commandment [upon] earth: His word runneth very swiftly…. 18 He sendeth out His word, and melteth them: he causeth His wind [Spirit; H7307; ruwach] to blow, [and] the waters flow.
1 John 5:6-8 “This is he that came by water and blood, [even] Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness [same word martyreō; G3140; μαρτυρέω; as in the good report section], because the Spirit is Truth. 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
[Note: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the three divine Persons of the One Triune Godhead, subsisting in perfect unity as the One, and only, perfectly divine, spiritual being. Thus, the references to the Father, Son, and Spirit are references to that which is spiritual. For The Spirit, water, and blood to agree in one, they (the water and blood) must also be spiritual, i.e., they must be spiritually-discerned/ascertained. The water represents the Holy Spirit as He works via the living word (for the Lord Jesus, as we read above, stated that the words he spoke were both spirit/spiritual and life) and the blood represents the totality of the sacrificial, substitutionary, atoning, and propitiatory work of Christ]. The living word, and the living waters, thus, are one and the same seeing that, per Matthew 4:4 “…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.“
John 7:37-39 “In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
John 6:63…68 “It is The Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life… 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
John 4:10-14 “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water… 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Proverbs 10:11 “The mouth of a righteous [man is] a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Proverbs 18:4 “The words of a man’s mouth [are as] deep waters, [and] the wellspring of wisdom [as] a flowing brook.
Proverbs 13:13-14 “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded. 14 The law of the wise [is] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.”
Ephesians 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her; 26 That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 That He might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Ezekiel 36:24-27 “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them].”
Isaiah 44:2-3 “Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, [which] will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring…”
Titus 3:4-6 “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour…”
Now if any doubt that the water, spiritually reckoned, is the word of God spiritually applied, and that a Christian is born again / begotten / regenerated / quickened in close conjunction with the word of God, consider the following verses (in light of what was already written in the section immediately above):
1 Corinthians 4:14-15 “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn [you]. 15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet [have ye] not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have BEGOTTEN [born; G1080; gennaō; γεννάω] you through the GOSPEL.“
1 Peter 1:23-25 “Being BORN AGAIN [begotten again; G313; anagennaō; ἀναγεννάω], not of corruptible seed [G4701; spora; σπορά], but of incorruptible, by the word [G3056; logos; λόγος] of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word [G4487 rhēma (not “logos”); ῥῆμα] of the Lord endureth for ever [Isaiah 40:7-8]. And this is the word [G4487 rhēma (not “logos”); ῥῆμα] which by the gospel is preached unto you.
[Note 1: Regarding the use of “the word”/ rhēma [G4487] notice the following important passages:
Romans 10:8, 17 “But what saith it? The word [rhēma / G4487] is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word [rhēma / G4487] of faith, which we preach; … 17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhēma / G4487] of God.”
Ephesians 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word [rhēma / G4487]“
Ephesians 6:17 “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhēma / G4487] of God:”
[Note 2: The LITV/KJ3 renders v25b as “And this is the Word announced as gospel to you…” in keeping with the following:
Isaiah 40:6-11 “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people [is] grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings [NOTE: synonymous with announces the gospel (LITV/KJ3) or preached the gospel (KJV) in 1 Peter 1:25], get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift [it] up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong [hand], and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry [them] in his bosom, [and] shall gently lead those that are with young.”
This evidences that the word in view (in 1 Peter 1:25) is not separate from the Gospel but that this word was preached/announced/declared as the Gospel, the glad tidings, or good news]
[Note 3: Some claim that the seed, and the word of God, in 1 Peter 1:23, which reads “being born again, not of corruptible seed [G4701; spora; σπορά], but of incorruptible, by the word [G3056/logos] of God,” refers to Christ. The problem is that (1) Christ is not referred to as the spora/G4701 but as the sperma/G4690 (as in Hebrews 2:16 “For verily he took not on [him the nature of] angels; but he took on [him] the seed of Abraham“) and (2) the context of 1 Peter 1:23-25, and other relevant passages, makes it clear that God’s written/spoken/preached word (the Bible/Gospel) are in view. The phrase word of God, even when logos is used (as opposed to rhēma), often means the spoken/written/preached word. If you doubt this, click here for a passage list (“logos of God”) that clearly evidences this.
Moreover, note again that the word seed in 1 Peter 1:23 is G4701/ spora; it is used nowhere else in the New Testament. However, the root verb from whence it derives [G4687; to sow/seed; speirō; σπείρω] is found more frequently, and clearly evidences that the seed in view is the spoken/preached/written word of God (though this word is also the root word for sperma/G4690 which is often used to refer to the Lord Jesus… context is key to hammer out the nuances). Consider the following passage:
Matthew 13:3-9…18-23 “And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower [G4687/speirō] went forth to sow [G4687/speirō]; 4 And when he sowed [G4687/speirō], some [seeds] fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear….
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower [G4687/speirō]. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth [it] not, then cometh the wicked [one], and catcheth away that which was sown [G4687/speirō] in his heart. This is he which received seed [G4687/speirō] by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed [G4687/speirō] into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed [G4687/speirō] among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed [G4687/speirō] into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth [it]; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.“
Clearly the seed is the word, and when that word is spiritually applied to a quickened heart, it endures/abides/lives forever. Again, it is a dangerous thing to try to separate The Word (God the Word made flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ) from the word (the Bible and the Gospel it reveals).
The Answer To The Title Question
The scriptural evidence, I believe, is overwhelming. Based upon God’s sovereign choice of words, it should be clear that Cornelius was just like any other Old Testament believer; he absolutely knew the Gospel before Peter came but he knew it like Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, and Isaiah would have known it (as opposed to how Paul, John, Peter, Luke, or Matthew (post-cross) would have known it). So to answer the question in the article title, Was Cornelius Born Again Apart From Believing The Gospel Truth?, the answer is clearly no… he was not born again apart from hearing (before, or at some point in close proximity to his quickening) the Gospel truth. Cornelius was indeed born again before Peter came, yet this is not the same as being born again whilst ignorant of Gospel truth. Cornelius would have already known the essence of the Gospel, just as all of the Old Testament believers would have. He wasn’t worshiping pagan idols, he wasn’t bowing to Demeter, or Helios, or Hades. Cornelius absolutely would have not only known of Yahweh/Jehovah (via the Jews who gave him a good report) but he would have prayed to Him, and worshiped Him, and Him alone.
I do not claim to know the precise timings and mechanisms of experiential regeneration/quickening. Though I believe that quickening occurs in close proximity (time-wise) to hearing the true Gospel (if one had never heard it before), I also believe that Nicodemus was born again before he fully left the Pharisaic sect. I also believe that Saul, turned Paul, was born again at some point during the Damascus Road visitation (i.e. right when the Lord appeared to/spoke with Him on the road to Damascus, or at some point within the three days thereafter):
Acts 9:3-9 “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord [said] unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought [him] into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”
Acts 9:17-20 “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. 19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. 20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
However, we must remember that we live in a completed-canon period; the Bible is complete; there is no additional revelation to be received. Comparing how God saved Paul (after He appeared to Him on the road to Damascus), or Nicodemus (after He spoke with him in person), or comparing how God saved anyone else in the Old Testament and/or Acts transitionary period, is problematic at best and potentially dangerous at worst. We have the more sure word of truth, without need for (or the posibility of) direct appearances, visions, and extra-biblical revelations. Those individuals in the Bible who are often referenced to promote some extended gap period (between their quickening and conversion) did not have the completed word.
So again, deeply consider, we now have the word of Truth as a whole, with the Gospel truth declared therein, and I believe that God uses Gospel truth (in close proximity to quickening), to bring His people into the fold. It is dangerous to teach that one can promote doctrine diametrically opposed to the Doctrine of Christ whilst nonetheless being a born again/quickened/regenerate child of God. Again, is there a growth period? Of course! Nicodemus needed it, Paul needed it, and even the Apostles (just think Peter and Thomas) needed it. However, there is a world of difference between (a) needing to grow in truth and (b) promoting error that outright denies the Truth.
In closing, if any find fault with the above, believes anything to be in error, or believes that they can shed further light on the topic, light that may run contrary to my arguments/conclusions above, please feel free to comment or otherwise respond. All I ask is that you keep (1) the glory of God and (2) the edification of the saints in mind.
To God be the glory, in Christ Jesus; Amen.