Rev. Erik Veerman
Peace with Jesus Christ
We’re near the end of Acts 10, verses 34-43. You’ll find that on page 1092 in the church Bible.
As a couple quick reminders. This chapter is a transformational chapter in Acts and really the Bible.
At the beginning of chapter 10, God had given Peter a vision to teach him that faith in Christ is not limited to specific people group – not limited to the Jewish people. No, rather the Gospel hope in Christ is for all nations, and peoples and languages.
But rather than just say those words, God demonstrated that truth. He brought together the apostle Peter who was Jewish and Cornelius, a Roman Centurion who was a Gentile.
God broke down the dividing wall of hostility between them. Cornelius even tried to worship Peter, but Peter wouldn’t have it. No, he shared what God had revealed namely that “God does not show partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him”
There’s no place in Christianity for prejudice, nor for racism, nor for discrimination based on income or careers – no, all people are made in God’s image, and all people need the hope of Christ.
And it’s the Gospel - salvation and forgiveness in Christ - that breaks down those walls. And that’s why our vision and mission as a church is a Gospel centered one and includes a desire to reach our neighbors and the nations with the hope of Jesus.
That was last week, and that brings us to our text this morning. It’s Peter’s full sermon to Cornelius and his family. We read verses 34 and 35 last week, but we’ll read them again this morning since they are part of what Peter said to them.
May the Lord bless to our hearts and minds the reading of his word.
What is the Gospel? If a classmate, or co-worker or neighbor asked you to define what the Gospel means, what would you say? That’s an important question because the Gospel is at the heart of the Christian faith.
Not only that, there are multiple uses of the word Gospel out there – Even cultural idioms like “that’s the Gospel truth” …meaning whatever is being spoken about isn’t just true, it’s unquestionably true. Of course, that doesn’t capture the focused Biblical meaning.
Besides that, there are also some understandings of the Gospel that are really false Gospels. And if we don’t understand the Gospel corrrectly, we risk being led astray or leading other astray.
The word “Gospel” is used just about 100 times in the New Testament. That includes several times in Acts. It’s generally used in a couple different ways in the Bible. In the first four books of the New Testament, which are about Jesus’ life and ministry… by the way, we call those books, “the Gospels” – In them, the word “Gospel” is used in a broader sense – Jesus life and ministry and His kingdom. But as we get into the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, the word “Gospel” focuses on how God accomplished salvation. For example, in Romans 1:16, the apostle Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
The word Gospel itself means “good news.” You’ve probably heard me say that before. So part of the Gospel is that it is “news.” It’s meant to be shared.
In short, Knowing what the Gospel is, and what it isn’t is critical. This morning, that’s our main focus.
Now, you may be thinking “wait! I don’t see the word ‘Gospel’ in these verses this morning.” Well, it’s actually there. If you look down at verse 36 – you’ll see the phrase “good news.” That’s the same underlying word in Greek as Gospel. it says “preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ.” So what Peter is preaching to Cornelius and his whole household is the Gospel.
I would even put it this way - this is one of the clearest and succinct testimonies of the Gospel in the book of Acts. It’s so helpful for us… because, first, it hits upon all the central elements of the Gospel… and second, Peter is declaring it to these people, who have never heard of the Gospel.
So, we learn what it is and are encouraged in how to share it.
But before we even go there – before we work through what the Gospel is and what it isn’t.
Let’s first consider what’s been spiritually happening in these interactions.
God has clearly been at work. Yes, in the visions and bringing Peter and Cornelius together, and teaching Peter about the Gospel to the nations. But God has also been at work in Cornelius’s life - really, his whole family. Cornelius was seeking God and seeking truth. Remember, it says Cornelius was a God-fearer. That’s not just a general term. It specifically meant Cornelius believed in the God of the Old Testament Scriptures. He wasn’t a convert to Judaism – no, he didn’t become a Jew. But he was seeking the one true God. And Cornelius was praying to Him.
Now, before the end of chapter 10. Cornelius was not a believer in Jesus, yet. Do you get that? Yes, the Holy Spirit was working in his life. God was bringing him to the place where he would hear the Gospel and believe. But Cornelius wasn’t there yet.
And I want you to think about this – the angel appeared to Cornelius. And what did he say? He said, “Go find Simon Peter!” But what didn’t the angel say? He didn’t say “let me tell you what the Gospel is!”
No, that wasn’t the angel’s job! Peter’s job was to preach Christ. God in His perfect will uses us and calls us to be the messengers. Angels were messengers, too, just not of the Gospel message.
We read Romans 10 earlier this morning. “’everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” There’s our word again – “good news” Gospel.
You see, we are the ones called to preach the good news - to be the ones that share and declare the hope of Christ. That’s why Jesus called his disciples and us to go to the ends of the earth. That’s why we desire to share the peace of Christ with our neighbors… and why missions – Gospel missions to the ends of the earth – is our responsibility – the collective responsibility of the church.
The good news is that Cornelius and his household were being prepared to hear the good news. And so when Peter faithfully responded to God’s call and preached the Gospel – they believed.
What is the Gospel?
So then, what is the Gospel? And what isn’t the Gospel?
Let’s begin with what it is.
I thought it would be helpful to answer 4 questions from these verses: What? Who? How? And… Now what?
So first, what? And I would say, verse 36 really encapsulates what the Gospel is – it says the good news is “peace through Jesus Christ.” Peace with God. The Gospel brings peace. That implies we don’t have peace without Jesus. That’s true. Without Christ, we are not at peace with God. The apostle Paul called us enemies of God before being reconciled to him through Christ. Not being at peace with God is to be separated and alienated from Him. it’s a tragic and fearful thing not to be at peace with God. Every human being is unsettled when not at peace with God. For some, it becomes a matter of trying hard to win peace with him – but that doesn’t work. Others suppress the fact that they are not at peace with God… and they are angry, or resentful, reckless, and hopeless. Not at peace.
But the Gospel bring peace with God - Jesus reconciles us to Him… restored us to a place of honor in his sight. Peace with God is what we ultimately need. And the only way to have this peace is through Jesus. Peace with God our foundational need – and Christ is the only one who can accomplish it for us.
That brings us to the next 2 questions. Who? Who is Jesus?… and how? How did he accomplish this peace?
The true gospel message needs to answer the who question. Who is Jesus?
Well, that’s what Peter told Cornelius next. And it’s encapsulated in the 5 words at the end of verse 36. “He is Lord of all” That is a powerful statement. Peter was saying that Jesus reigns over “all” – everything is his. It’s all under his dominion. There’s only one who has this overarching authority and power – God, himself. Peter was saying that Jesus is God.
Not only that, Peter also recognized the person Jesus – “Jesus of Nazareth” … and that Jesus was no secret to Cornelius to and his household. Verse 37. They would have heard of him, and about him, and what happened to him – being crucified - verse 38. So, yes, Jesus was God, but also a man. God in the flesh.
And Peter went on to confirm all this. Next he highlighted Jesus’ baptism and works. This affirmed Jesus identity. If we were to go back and read about Jesus’ baptism – We’d read that a voice from heaven exclaimed, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am pleased.” God the Father’s was confirming Jesus as God – His son. And God the Father anointed Jesus with the fulness and power of the Holy Spirit.
There’s one more quick thing at the end of verse 38– Jesus even had power over the devil. Another confirmation of his identity as God
The one who came as a man to bring peace – is God. And I want you to jump down to verse 42. Peter here highlighted Jesus own teaching about himself. Jesus taught that he was the ultimate Judge. As it says, “Judge of the living and dead.”
Beloved, the Gospel message includes this warning. It needs to include it - that God is the great judge. Jesus is the one who will judge. I know that it can be hard to speak about the severity and wrath of God and the consequences of sin… but without talking about God’s hatred of sin… without speaking of Jesus, who in the end will judge the living and the dead – a judgment that will lead to heaven or hell. Without that, the Gospel is incomplete. The good news is good news because of the bad news.
Jesus Christ – the eternal God who came to us as Jesus of Nazareth is Lord of all and ultimate judge.
But now let’s get to the heart of the Gospel – the “how?”
How did God accomplish peace with him?
Peter told them – Jesus death and resurrection. You see that at the end of verse 40, Jesus was put to death – they killed him. And it says this – he was put to death by “hanging on a tree.” Now, it was a wooden cross, so yes, made from a tree, but that phrase alludes to the curse that Jesus received. To quote Galatians 3, “Christ ...became a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’”
When Jesus died on the cross, he took on the curse of sin – that curse is what had separated us from God. In other words, Christ bore that curse for us, in our place, so that we may have peace with God. That’s how God did it!
And you can’t separate Jesus death from his resurrection. No, they go together – Jesus overcame the sin and curse by being raised from the dead. And he really was. He physically was raised up. Peter told them that he and many others witnessed Jesus in the flesh. And notice, Peter even said that Jesus ate and drank with them – verse 41 – in other words, Jesus was physically raised from the grave. The resurrection was a real historical event – and Peter wanted them to know that. Without the cross, there is no Gospel peace. And without the resurrection, there is no confirmation of that Gospel peace.
You see, we can’t take away the “who” of the Gospel message, Jesus – son of God… and we can’t take away the “how” of the Gospel message – the cross and the resurrection – because they give us the “what” of the true Gospel message – peace with God.
Now – Now what?
And that leads us to the last question - the now – now what?
We’re down to verse 43. “To him [to Jesus] all the prophets bear witness.” In other words, all the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament point to Christ. Remember, Cornelius and his household are gentiles – like you and me. But Peter pointed to the Scriptures as a confirmation of the Gospel. That’s why, as I’ve said in the past, there’s no such thing as a “New Testament Christian.” No, a believer in Jesus should care to know the whole Bible.
That brings us to the last few words of Peter’s sermon… in them, he shared who this peace with God is for… and how to respond. The now what? He said, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
It does not say “everyone receives forgiveness of sins.” No, “everyone who believes in him.” This is part of the Gospel message. In order to be at peace with God through Jesus… for Jesus to judge you as having peace. You need to believe. And part of believing is seeking his forgiveness. That’s the last phrase here. Having faith in who Jesus is, how he accomplished peace for you… and then coming to him with your sin. The word repent is not here, but it’s implied in the forgiveness of sins. Part of believing is turning from your sin, from your self-centeredness, from your unbelief, from your rejection of God and his commands… and then believing in him and his forgiveness.
Beloved, this is the true Gospel – Peace with God, through Jesus, the eternal Lord who became man, who took on the curse of our sin on the cross, who defeated death and is risen – that everyone who believes in him and seeks his forgiveness, will be saved.
But you say, “wait, this sound a lot like the Gospel that Peter was preaching to the Jews and Jewish leaders.” Yes, it does! Because it is the same Gospel! The one true Gospel. Even though Cornelius and his family were not Jewish, yet the same peace of Christ is for them – and it’s for you. And here Peter could hardly finish his words, when Cornelius and his family believed!
There was a great response… the Holy Spirit had prepared their hearts and minds to hear this good news. And as soon as Peter declared these words – they responded. Next week, we’ll see that - the result of this great Gospel testimony – and we’ll work through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The good news of peace through Jesus Christ.
Not the Gospel
But before we end, there are several false Gospel’s out there. Each one undermines or questions one of these main Gospel elements. And let me say, these are cunning, and deceptive, and they can sound attractive, even sensitive – but they don’t stand up to the test of this clear Gospel message.
• One type of false Gospel denies the physical resurrection of Jesus – oh, you’ll hear words that sound familiar. Like “I believe Jesus rose, he was resurrected in my heart and mind – and he lives.” Or some may say that “Jesus was spiritually resurrected.” But when you ask whether Jesus physically rose from the dead, you’ll either get answers that avoid the question, or answers that try to explain away the problem. Friends, if Christ was not raised in the flesh - then we would not be here – and our faith would be in vain. But he was raised! 500 people witnessed him with their eyes and fellowshipped and ate with Jesus, and embraced him. Denying the real bodily resurrection of Christ is a false Gospel.
• Another false Gospel is denying Jesus as fully God – this is the false Gospel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others. It denies Jesus own teaching that he is God, it denies the teaching all throughout the New testament especially in John, and Colossians, and Hebrews, and Revelation, and it strips the cross of its power.– How could Christ give us peace with God is he was not God? The curse of sin could not be atoned for. Denying Jesus as God is a false Gospel.
• Next, a Gospel that denies God as judge is a false Gospel. This one may sound appealing and alluring. Some would say, “God cannot be like that – he can’t be a judge – that would go against his character – in the name of love, God accepts you.” This false Gospel is cunning. It undercuts the necessity of the Gospel. It goes against all the teaching in Scripture on God’s holiness and justice - his hatred for sin. This is the false Gospel that many denominations in the US have bought into. One denomination wanted to put the hymn “In Christ Alone” in their hymnal – it’s one of the most popular hymns today – but they asked to take out the lyrics that say, “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied” The authors of the hymn, the Gettys, refused to give in – because it’s true – Jesus satisfied God’s wrath on the cross – that’s the love of God. God’s justice is real. His holy wrath against sin is true. To deny God as judge is to believe in a false Gospel.
• This next one may strike a little more close to home. There is a false Gospel in cultural Christianity. I grew up in a very secular environment – in southern New England. I didn’t know many Christians in my school. When I first moved to the Atlanta area – that was over 25 years ago. At first I thought, “wow, there are a lot of Christians here” – over time I realized, “wait, there are a lot of people who say they are Christians.” People think, to be a Christian is to go to church usually, and to try to be a good person, usually – or to try to make up for failings by doing good usually. Friends, this is not the Gospel. God’s grace does not depend on anything in us – we can’t be good enough. No, this kind of cultural Christianity strips the Gospel of the need for forgiveness of sin – it’s not the Gospel. If you believe you are saved because of some goodness you think you have… or what you do or occasionally do, then you are not believing in the true Gospel – and Christ, who is the eternal judge, sees right through that. Instead, come to him with your life, with your sin, with this false works-based salvation – and believe in the only savior.
• And there are more false Gospels out there… such as thinking that everyone is saved. That goes against verse 43 – belief in Christ is necessary. Or a false Gospel that ignores people’s moral choices - lifestyles that go against God’s commands. That’s also a false Gospel because it doesn’t include repentance of sin. It denies sin and the need for forgiveness. That also goes against verse 43
• And there are others.
Let me close by asking – where are you with the true Gospel? Have you been caught up in the allure of false truths or partial truths that don’t capture the heart of the Biblical faith? Or maybe you’ve never come to Christ to receive the offer of peace with God. Come to him with your unbelief… come to him with your false belief, come to him with whatever sin… and know that Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave to bring you peace with God. And as Peter said to Cornelius, “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”