Preaching to Cornelius

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Preaching to Cornelius

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2023 · 19 February 2023

There are some people who say that the resurrection was not real. But the people wanted Jesus to be alive and so in a series of psychic experiences they induced some kind of fantasy in their minds that resulted in a renewed sense of missionary zeal and spiritual self-confidence. They say that it is the Christian establishment that has transformed the human Jesus into a divine Son of God.

Where do they get these conclusions? “Newsweek” acknowledges, quote, “that there have been no new data on Jesus since the gospels were written.” end quote. Where are they getting these ideas? The answer, it’s the same liberal damning lies that come from those who deal with Jesus not on an intellectual basis, or on a historical basis, or on a scholarly basis, but purely on a moral basis.

They do not like the Jesus of the New Testament because He confronts their sin and He threatens judgment. And consequently, they, wanting to hold to their sin, invent a Jesus more to their liking. I’m going to take you to what the Bible teaches. Turn to Acts 10 and we’re going to look at those verses together. Peter is preaching to a group of Gentiles who really have no connection with Israel.

Acts is the chronicle of the church after the resurrection of Christ. It tells the story of the preaching of the gospel and the building of the church in those early years. After His suffering on the cross, after His death, He was placed in the grave, He arose from the grave. He presented Himself alive over a period of forty days to His disciples, demonstrating that He was risen by many convincing proofs.

In Acts 10, Peter this time is preaching to a Gentile and his household about the resurrection. Now let us look at this simple message. I want to make sure that you understand what the gospel of the resurrection is. And I want to simply ask you three questions: Why this good news is good news? Who makes it possible? And how can I participate in it?

Three reasons why this is good news. One, God is partial to no one. Two, God welcomes sinners. Three, God makes peace with them. God is an impartial judge who receives sinners and makes peace with them. You can have a relationship with God in which He ceases to be your judge and becomes your friend and your Savior. You need that because you are under judgment and so was I.

Verse 34, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” Now that is a statement about the essence of God’s nature. God is impartial. God has no favorites. Now, what does that mean? That means that God judges everyone the same without respect for who they are or what they have accomplished or what their social or economic status might be.

That is why the Bible is clear that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. No one does right. And so God as an impartial judge holds everybody to the same standard, and is forced to damn everybody, culminating in eternal punishment. It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been at being nice or kind to others. If you are short of the standard of God, you’re doomed.

When Peter says that God is not one to show partiality, he is not simply talking about judgment, but he is talking also about salvation. God is also impartial in that regard. And that is the primary emphasis here. Peter is beginning to understand that God’s grace can be extended to all men without regard for their circumstances, or their morality or immorality, or their nationality.

Romans 10:12 says, “There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.” In Deuteronomy 10:17 it says, “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality.” According to Romans 3:19, “the whole world is accountable to God.”

But then it says there is “righteousness for all from God, through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe; for there is no distinction.” All have sinned and come short. And all can be redeemed who come, there is no distinction. There is the good news that man in the condition of sin under the judgment of God, can come to a God who will not refuse him on the basis of any distinction.

Verse 35, “But in every nation whoever fears God and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” This is a very important verse. Now he’s preaching this to Cornelius and his family. He’s preaching the gospel to an unsaved Gentile. Over in Acts 11:12 it says, “The Spirit told me to go without misgivings. And these six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house.”

He’s reporting the whole account of what happened with Cornelius. And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and have Simon who is also called Peter brought here and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” Please notice that fearing God and doing what is right is not necessarily equal to salvation.

It does put a person in a position to be welcomed by God. It is a pre-salvation condition, effected by the power of God and the work of the Spirit. Paul in Romans 1 says, “Because that which is known about God is evident within them. Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, so that they are without excuse.”

The next verse says they had better “honor God and give Him thanks.” This is describing what theologians call general revelation. That means that every one of us has a mind and with human reason we can ascertain that God exists. You look at the created world and it tells you there is a mind. You look at the character of this world. It’s full of beauty, full of intelligence, full of love and full of power.

Here was a man who had reverence for the Creator, not only the beauty of the created order but the tenderness and the kindness that comes through and the compassion made visible in this world through human life and family. In fact, if he didn’t acknowledge God he would be inexcusably blind and under the wrath of God. So an unregenerate person not only can but must fear God.

Secondly, not only did Cornelius fear God but he did what was right. As much was possible in him, he followed the second revelation that God has built into every person, not only reason, but God has written His law in every heart which is activated by their conscience. Cornelius was a pagan without the Scriptures, but he understood God from the creation and from the law in his heart.

And so he feared the God who created this universe. And he acknowledged what was right and wrong according to the law written in his heart and attempted to live by it. He is the kind of man described in Romans 2 as a man who though not having the law does instinctively the things of the law. Here is a man who is a pagan living up to the light he has received from God.

What about the people who never hear the gospel? How are they ever going to be saved? Like Cornelius, if they live up to the light that they have and reverence the God of creation and try to live according to the law written in their hearts, then God will respond to that as He responded to Cornelius. In every nation there are people who fear God and try to do what is right and they are welcomed by God.

The third component is God seeks to make peace with them. Verse 36, “The Word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ.” General revelation is not enough. So, God sent the Word, first to the sons of Israel. And the message is there can be peace through Jesus Christ. Scripture says that God is the enemy of unforgiven sinners, and vice versa.

If once you ever sin, you are disqualified. God is your judge. But He welcomes those who fear Him, who seek to do what is right and He makes peace with them so that the hostility is over; enemies become sons and daughters, family. That’s what we were learning in 2 Corinthians 5 where it says God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. God is the only one who can initiate such a reconciliation.

God seeks to be reconciled to sinners. He doesn’t want to be your enemy, He wants to be your friend. He doesn’t want to be your judge, He wants to be your master. He doesn’t want to curse you, He wants to bless you. He doesn’t want to give you hell, He wants to give you heaven. Peace with God, that’s the message. Who makes this possible? It says it in verse 36, “Through Jesus Christ.”

He is Lord of all. And to call Him anything less than that is blasphemous. He is Lord of all, He is God. There’s no way that we can be reconciled to God on our own and yet God wants it to happen. Who is going to make the reconciliation possible? And the answer is Jesus Christ. Verse 37, “that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached.”

Verses 38, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” You know how it all started in Galilee and how there was the baptism which John proclaimed. His baptism was a sign of an inward repentance of people turning from sin to be ready for the Messiah.

And that symbolically took place at His baptism. And the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.” And the Spirit descended like a dove and He was anointed for ministry. John 3:30 says, “He must increase while I must decrease.” And the spotlight went from John to Jesus and God anointed Him with power with the Holy Spirit.

He is God who came into human form, was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, and anointed with power. Jesus went about doing good and healing those who were oppressed by the devil. It shows us there not only the goodness of God but the power of God over the kingdom of darkness. He came into this world to show us what God was like. He destroyed the kingdom of darkness.

Verse 39, “And we are witnesses of all the things He did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” We have seen it all the way along. Then the climax, “And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.” Cornelius knew that. He would have been aware of that since he was a centurion. He would have been ranking enough to have heard, if not directly, indirectly, what was going on.

But Peter here lays the blame on the Jews. The Romans actually did it but it was the will of the Jews. And history is absolutely clear. And then verse 40, “But God raised Him up on the third day and showed Him openly.” Here is the common denominator in all apostolic preaching, the physical resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.”

If Christ stayed dead, He did not make a satisfactory atonement for our sin. So we are still in our sin. If there is no Savior, why be religious, why study theology, why have any Jesus at all? Christianity is meaningless if we’re all still in our sin. And all those who have fallen asleep in Christ in the past are in hell because if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are, of all men, most to be pitied.

Verse 41, “not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” After the resurrection Jesus was seen by over five hundred believers over a period of 40 days, so they can preach the resurrection. Why? Jesus said it in Luke 16:31, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not believe though one be raised from the dead.”

Verse 42, “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” Why? Because faith comes by hearing the Word. If they won’t believe the Word, they wouldn’t believe it, although Christ was raised. They don’t believe today. Jesus said to them, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

So you tell those sinners that the One who was crucified and the One who rose again is their judge. They don’t render a verdict on Him, He renders one on them. You tell them that. That’s a warning part of the gospel. That’s the fear part of the gospel that this Jesus whom you killed is now alive. He’s ascended to the Father. He is now your judge and the judge of everyone living and dead.

Verse 43, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” There’s only one escape from the judge and that is if the judge will forgive us. We are all guilty because we all come short of God’s standard. Isaiah said He shall bear their iniquities. Jeremiah said, “I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sin no more.”

Micah said, “Who is a pardoning God like You who gives grace?” The prophets predicted that One would come who would forgive sin. And Christ came and died, paid the penalty for your sin and, consequently, your sins having been paid for, God can forgive. Somebody else took your place. What does it take? It says simply in verse 43, “Everyone who believes in Him.” Let us pray.


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