GETTING THE MESSAGE/Peace through Jesus Christ
All the saving blessings of God come through the gospel. Peter, a Jew, is explaining the gospel to Gentiles. He had been summoned by messengers to the home of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, and when he arrived he found a large crowd of the family and friends of Cornelius.
Peter summarizes the gospel in verses 36-43. He says the word of the gospel is good news because it proclaims “peace through Jesus Christ.” It is a sad truth that we are estranged with God in heart and mind. But God takes the initiative to make peace with us: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
When Christ was born, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Christ is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). It is a wonder to have peace with God. There is no father like God for love. You cannot love your own soul the way God does. So this is the peace you must make sure of.
The peace of God makes God the object of our love and delight. It is in God that we find rivers of joy and contentment. He gives us unsearchable riches (Ephesians 3:8). He knows what is best for us, and how to best comfort us. Conversely, there is no peace with God outside of Christ. God commands us to repent and come to Christ because we will remain His enemies if we do not. A blessed command!
Peter tells the people assembled about the love of Christ: “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10: 38). To be oppressed by the devil is a doleful condition. But the Lord Jesus has power over all evil powers. Everything Peter says commends Christ to the assembled crowd.
In verse 39, we read: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” It conveys the sinfulness of man to put to death the righteous Lord Jesus. It also reminds us that Jesus bore the curse of God for sin in our place, because the Scripture says, “He that hangs on a tree is cursed of God.” Jesus had committed no crime that deserved death, but the Lord laid the iniquity of us all upon Him.
The Lord Jesus did not remain dead though. Peter says, “But God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (verse 41). It must have been an incredible experience to eat and drink with the resurrected Jesus and hear his explanations of all that had taken place.
The resurrection of Christ means his death was approved of by God as atonement for sin. He destroyed the works of the devil and has taken away the sting of sin which is death. His resurrection means all who believe in him are justified before God, and that they will also one day have their bodies raised from the dead unto glory. They also will have the privilege of eating and drinking with the Lord.
Peter testifies that the apostles were witnesses to the work the Lord Jesus did, the death he died, and the resurrection of Christ. He points to the prophets in the Old Testament as witnesses also, who wrote of Christ before he came into the world.
So men have to reject these witnesses as false if they refuse the gospel. They have to deny their need of the sacrificial death of Christ and believe that the things Jesus did and said are of no consequence to them. Worse, they have to imply Jesus was false.
Peter says that the Lord “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead.” It is a terrible thing to reject so great a Savior and so great a salvation. You and I will be judged by the Lord as either friend or foe. So pay careful attention to Peter’s sermon. Those hearing him at Cornelius’ home responded in faith. They are in heaven with the Lord now.
Peter closes his sermon with “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” It is an amazing thing to think of your sins wiped away, and you are welcomed into the presence of the Lord. I should say amazing grace, because that is what is offered in the gospel.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Union.