So a few weeks later, we had heard about an open house that the mosque was having for the community. Some friends and I went. I was so impressed with there devotion and hospitality toward us. Now, granted, one organized question and answer panel with someone can not show you the true life transforming work of their worldview and religion, which I consider a very important factor of true faith. Still, it raised some questions in my mind that I haven't been able to let go of. The main question being, "How does God view those who are outside of a life in Christ yet pursue righteousness with all that they know to be true?" I have wrestled with this for quite some time. Then I came across Cornelius.
Cornelius was a God fearing man, but was neither a Jew nor a Christian (Acts 10:1-2). He was not able to practice Judaism but he led his household in fearing God, gave alms, and prayed continuously (v.2). He saw a vision, telling him to send for Peter. Peter, at this point, did not fully understand the way that God works in the hearts of man. He still had in his mind that salvation was only for the Jews. Then God came to him in a vision, telling him "what God has made clean, do not call common." This meant that all men were welcome to receive salvation in Christ and that Peter was to bring the message to the Gentiles too!
When Peter is explaining this dream to Cornelius, he says, "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." Does this mean that people can earn salvation apart from Christ? Warren W. Wiersbe makes a keen observation about Cornelius;
The difference between Cornelius and many religious people today is this: he knew that his religious devotion was not sufficient to save him. Many religious people today are satisfied that their character and good works will get them to heaven, and they have no concept either of their own sin or of God’s grace. In his prayers, Cornelius was asking God to show him the way of salvationWe also must recognize that after Peter had said this, he preached the gospel to Cornelius. Before he could even finish, the Holy Spirit came on Cornelius and his whole house!
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
From this passage I notice two things: First, God honors a broken and contrite heart that fears him (Psalm 51). Second, while a God-fearing heart opens someone to the gospel, salvation comes through Christ alone. We see this is Acts 11:13-14, which says that Peter will declare to them a message from which they will be saved.