Is it correct that before the Gospel, the Gentiles were still under the Patriarchal law?


I read your article on Cornelius - a devout man. I have been taught that Cornelius, a Gentile, was still under the Patriarchal law since the Law of Moses was give to the Jews. This was the beginning of the change when the gospel was offer to both Jew and Gentile. Is this correct?


It is a good basic summary of the situation. In talking about the Gentiles, Paul stated,

"For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel" (Romans 2:12-16).

Though the Gentiles did not have Moses' Law to consult, they still knew right from wrong on at least a basic scale. As an example, I doubt you will find many who don't understand that murder is wrong, or that stealing another person's possession is wrong, etc. Paul's point is that even holding people to those basic standards still resulted in everyone being guilty of sin. A bit later he shows that having the law spell out right and wrong for men didn't improve the situation all that much. People still continued to sin.

Cornelius was a good man and he apparently was learning from the Old Law and trying to follow it even though he wasn't a Jew. For that he was commended by God.