The Gospel spreads to the Gentiles

fullsizerenderAnother week means another Sunday is coming and I get another opportunity to invest the message of the Gospel in the lives of my 2nd grade Sunday School class. I love these kiddos and it is neat to see how God is working in their lives through His Word and how He is using them to get the message of the Gospel out to their generation.

So far, we have learned the following lessons since the beginning of the new year.

This coming week, we are going to see how the Gentiles receive the Gospel in Acts 10

I. Cornelius seeks after God

The chapter opens up with a description of Cornelius. He is a foreigner (foreign to Israel) living in Caesarea, a coastal metropolis during the 1st Century A.D. This is a luxurious city. Cornelius is an Italian soldier who is stationed in Israel, right next to the Mediterranean Sea. He seems to be well off because of his position in the military. He has a home, a family, and servants. Acts 10 goes on to reveal more about this man:

1 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort,

2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually .

22 They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.”

45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Cornelius is a faithful man. He has obviously learned about the God of Israel while living among the Jews. He is faithful to his country. He is faithful to his job. He is also faithful to his family. Cornelius care about the people who serve him and those whom he serves. The Bible teaches us that Cornelius respects God, even though he is not familiar with God’s teachings. He is willing to learn. We also discover that Cornelius manages his household well and that he is trying to teach his household to respect God too. He is doing the best he can with the limited information that he has. Cornelius is in a position of ruling over the Jews yet, he feels compelled to give, specifically to those over whom he rules. Cornelius has a tender heart. Although he does not yet know God, he is searching for God and God is going to answer Cornelius’ prayers. Praying is something that Cornelius does daily. He also has a good reputation with others. The people over whom he rules speak well of him. This is extremely rare. How many employees speak well of their managers, even though they work the job of their own free will? The Jews had no choice. Cornelius was over them. Yet, they realized what kind of man he was. Finally, Cornelius was a Gentile. In the eyes of the Jews, Gentiles were simply fuel for the fires of hell. God had a different view of Cornelius. God wanted Cornelius to hear the Truth so that he could believe, receive the Holy Spirit, have his sins forgiven, be baptized, and have eternal life. This is God’s will for all people, both Jews and Gentiles. Peter, the man who God will use to lead Cornelius to Christ had to learn this about God. He did learn and later wrote a letter stating:

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (II Peter 3)

There are two ways that we know that Cornelius is searching for God yet does not know Him yet. The first way is revealed in verses 25-26.

25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him.

26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”

Cornelius does not yet know that God is a jealous God who does not want His worship to be given to another. Man is not to worship idols and Cornelius is trying to turn Peter into his idol. Although his intentions are noble, he is completely wrong. He needs to be taught the Truth about who God is and what He wants from people. Secondly, Cornelius has never been taught the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter explains it to him later on in the chapter. Up to this point, Cornelius is a good man but he is not a saved man. His sins have not been forgiven. He has not been released from his past so that he can follow Christ. This is where Peter comes to the rescue, by the mercy, grace, and will of God.

II. Peter preaches the Gospel

First, before Peter is even willing to enter the home of a Gentile, God has to teach him that all people are precious in His sight and that He desires all people to be saved. God does it in a dream. God’s conclusion to Peter in verse 15 is

15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”

As I referenced earlier from Peter’s second epistle, Peter understood the message and then began to teach it to others vis his letters. Verses 34 and 35 are very important for all to understand.

34 Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly  understand now that God is not one to show partiality,

35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.

The half brother of Jesus, James, had to write to Jewish believers and explain this same idea to them. God does not show partiality. God does not show favoritism. He wants all people to be saved by hearing and accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When Peter enters Cornelius’ home, he is greeted by a crowd. Peter takes full advantage of the crowd, like he did on the Day of Pentecost, and preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

39 “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.

40 “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible,

41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus was anointed by God to enter human history and offer a way of forgiveness of sins a path to reconnect with God. Jesus came to this earth and served His creation, not for His own benefit but, for their own good. The people whom Jesus came to serve, crucified Him on a cross. This crucifixion paid the price for the sins of mankind. For three days, Jesus was in the grave but, on the third day, He rose from the dead to give sin and death their final blow. He conquered them both for us and our benefit. Jesus then visited His disciples and turned them into witnesses of His resurrection. After this, Jesus sent out the disciples (believers) to all the world to proclaim the message of the Gospel of Christ. Peter was one of those witnesses and now he is testifying to the Gentiles (the ethnic groups). They now have a chance to hear the message of the Gospel and make a decision to accept or reject the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Have you received forgiveness of sins? Are you sharing the path to forgiveness with others? The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in one of his letters, the letter he sent to the church in Rome.

8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart “-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
15 How will they preach unless * they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10)

The words in all caps are direct quotes from the Old Testament. This has always been God’s plan. He wants to send His message of forgiveness to all mankind. The question is, “are you willing to be the messenger?”. Peter was willing. Paul was willing. What about you, are you willing?

III. The Gentiles believe

Just hearing the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not enough. A decision has to be made once understanding comes.

43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

The decision is to believe the message of the Gospel or not to believe the message of the Gospel. In this case, Cornelius believes the message that Peter proclaimed. The people of Cornelius’ household believe the message of the Gospel. How do we know that the Gentiles believed the message of the Gospel and received forgiveness of their sins? We know this because they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8, the Ethiopian believed and then was baptized. In Acts 9, Saul believed, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then was baptized. We see this same pattern in the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house. They all heard the message preached by Peter. They understood the message from the Old Testament. They believed the message, received the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins, and then were baptized. They asked Peter to stay with them longer so that he could continue teaching them, equipping them to be witnesses for Christ and make disciples. In fact, this is what Jesus had told Peter to do just before He ascended to the Father in heaven.

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Peter had done what verse 19 teaches. He had to stay to do what verse 20 teaches. As a Gentile Christian, I am so thankful for Peter and his changed heart. I have benefitted greatly from his understanding the fact that the Gospel is for all men, both Jew and Gentile. Are you seeking to make disciples of all kinds of people? May the Lord help us take the baton from Peter and do our part to pass it on to the next generation!

One comment on “The Gospel spreads to the Gentiles

  1. Pingback: Paul’s Missionary Journey | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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